Top Five Car-Free Days Out from Ambleside

We are delighted to introduce you to Dr and Mrs Eagle, regular guests to Waterhead. They share with us their top 5 car-free days out from the hotels in Ambleside, which adds to a relaxing stay in the Lake District. 

Waterhead Hotel
Waterhead Hotel

Having tried lots of places over the years Waterhead remains our favourite. It’s a luxurious break without the guess work of whether the bed will be comfy or the quality of food and wine or if the staff are friendly.  I’m quite fussy and like a quiet room, thick curtains and a powerful shower. Add to this a stunning view, fluffy towels and bathrobes, a library of DVDs, gingerbread and freshly roasted coffee! All of this adds up to a really relaxing break and that is why we keep coming back.

We love just parking the car when we arrive and then ignoring it for the duration of our stay. Here are out top five picks for car-free outings from Waterhead:

Winter views from Waterhead Hotel
Winter views from Waterhead Hotel

1. Stagshaw Gardens

Stagshaw Gardens (Credit: Wikimedia)
Stagshaw Gardens (Credit: Wikimedia)

Just off the main road into Ambleside and a few minutes walk from Waterhead, Stagshaw Gardens is a quiet gem. This rambling and informal woodland garden is a blaze of colour and beautiful scents in spring and summer.

We love the ‘secret garden’ feel with winding paths and unusual trees and plants. You can also sit and enjoy views out over the lake and mountains.

Created by Cubby Acland, a former National Trust agent, the garden has an outstanding collection of rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas and a stunning carpet of bluebells in the spring.

2. Walk to Grasmere via Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones over River Rothay ( Credit: Wikimedia)
Stepping Stones over River Rothay ( Image Credit: Wikimedia)

There are lots of lovely walks from the hotel and this is my very favourite.  Ilse and Alina at Waterhead Reception are happy to provide information on walks but there are also lots of walks to be found online.

As well as the famous stepping stones across the River Rothay this walk provides stunning views over Rydal Water and Grasmere, caves to explore under Loughrigg, a myriad of tearooms and art galleries in Grasmere village itself, Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount (both former dwelling places of William Wordsworth) and St Oswald Parish Church where you can view the grave stones of Wordsworth’s family.

 3. Boat Trip to Bowness-on-Windermere

Windermere Lake Cruises
Windermere Lake Cruises

Take a Windermere Lake Cruise from the pier across the road from the hotel. It takes just over half an hour to reach Bowness, a bustling touristy centre with a distinct holiday feel. There’s a lovely 10 minute walk from Bowness Pier along the lake shore to Cockshott Point to Windermere Ferry. Bowness is home to the famous The World of Beatrix Potter attraction which is hugely popular with families.

There is nothing better on a summer’s afternoon to break the journey on the way back at Brockhole and walk around the lovely gardens, drop into the Visitor Centre or, for the more adventurous, have a go at Treetop Trek Aerial Adventure!

4. Zeffirellis in Ambleside

Zeffirelli's Cinema and Restaurant ( Credit: Rose and Trev Clough)
Zeffirelli’s Cinema and Restaurant ( Credit: Rose and Trev Clough)

It’s always good to have a wet weather plan in the Lake District. Zeffirellis is not only a cinema featuring the latest movies and selected Art House films, but most Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays there is also live music in the form of  contemporary jazz and world music.

Keep an eye on their Special Events page as they regularly feature live recordings from the New York Metropolitan Opera. Coming up in January 2015 is The Merry Widow and on Valentine’s Day they are showing a Tchaikovsky double bill Iolanthe/Bluebeard’s Castle.

5. Bike Boat to Wray Castle

Wray Castle (Credit: Wikipedia)
Wray Castle (Credit: Wikipedia)

Another fantastic car-free day out is to take the new Bike Boat from Brockhole over to Wray Castle on the western shore of the lake. If you haven’t brought your bike you can hire one from Brockhole Visitor Centre. Wray Castle is a mock-gothic castle with turrets and towers. Kids will love the big empty rooms they can dress up and let imaginations run wild.

There’s a choice of cycle routes from Wray – the traffic-free shore path to Harrowslack is suitable for all ages and abilities and there are also quiet roads and bridleways for the more experienced cyclist. From Harrowslack, it’s a short car ferry ride back across the lake to Bowness where you can get the 800 Bike Bus back to Brockhole.

We’ve had some really fantastic celebrations at Waterhead over the years and we return for birthdays and anniversaries. Little gifts of cards, chocolates, flowers and my favourite tea are such thoughtful touches that have added to great holidays. However, it’s the staff that really make it – each one is professional but friendly and will go out of their way to make your stay memorable.

I think Waterhead should get the Mary Poppins Hotel Award – It’s “Practically perfect in every way”!

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