Spike, a six year old girl, on a boat on Lake Windermere and Stood in the Bluebells in Skelyghyll Woods in Ambleside
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Heading out onto the water – A family day out at Lake Windermere

We love family days out and over the last year we’ve done our best to enjoy what we could. While we’re still missing museums and indoor activities, we thought we’d take advantage of some things opening up over the bank holiday weekend and head up to Windermere for a family day out in the Lake District.

Getting into Windermere and parking up

We headed out early, thats my biggest tip for travelling to the Lake District with kids. Head out early. Windermere in particular gets busy later on and you can be sat in traffic for a while. We headed to Bowness to park in the car park next to Glebe Park. It was almost full when we got there. The pay machines were super busy and so slow too. I recommend paying by mobile if you do park there. The walk along this road, where the tourist information centre is, is always busy but has a great view of the lake.

Hiring a boat and the boat cruises

We should really have prepared ahead of our visit because everything is book in advance at the minute. We wanted to enjoy a Windermere Lake Cruises trip. However, there is no booking at the ticket kiosks for any of the boat trips, cruises or hire. We wanted to do the Islands cruise which we did when Spike was a baby and that wasn’t actually on. Then we went to hire a boat from and they were fully booked for the next 4 hours. In the end we decided to book in at the Ambleside end of the lake later in the afternoon. We just walked round the Bowness part of the lake and enjoy a touch of shopping and lunch. Until we’d have to drive the 20 minutes to Ambleside.

Lunch at Driftwood

After a little wander around the town, including a stop off at Fat Face naturally, we went for lunch. We were going to sit in the terrace of Driftwood fish and chips for lunch but had a change of heart as we ordered. It was such a nice day and the park being right next to the takeaway. So we went and sat under the blossom trees there. I ordered an adult chicken nuggets and chips to share with Spike, and T got a fish and chips. It wasn’t cheap but there was more than enough for us to enjoy!

Spike and Raimy under the blossom trees in Glebe Park in Bowness

An Amble up to Ambleside

We headed to the car park, where there was a queue to get in, to head up the lake to Ambleside. I prefer the Ambleside part of Lake Windermere as its so much quieter, but there is less to do. There are parks and plenty of walks, plus a garden centre and the pier for all the boat bits. But there aren’t as many shops or attractions there. We parked in the waterhead car park and grabbed an ice cream to enjoy by the shoreline. English Lakes Ice Cream is a must when in this area! I had Cookies and Cream and Caramel in a chocolate cone and naturally Spike had mint choc chip.

Windermere boat hire

We headed to the Waterhead kiosk for boat hire and spoke to the guys there. We’d booked it all online and it was a decent price at £38 for an hour for the two of us. Spike was free. We also paid a refundable £30 deposit for the boat which the guy gave us a ticket for. As long as that ticket is returned then we’d get that refunded he explained. There was also a number on the other ticket we were given which we were to call if we got into trouble on the water. We then went to the pier to have our safety talk and then got called down to the boat to be told how to drive it. It was super easy and soon we were out on the water!

Spike, Raimy and T having a laugh on our Windermere Boat Hire trip

Chilling on the Lake

We rode down towards the islands in the middle of the lake, being careful not to head close to any shores. While on our way we saw a beautiful bird hunting for fish and lots of people fishing too! We also saw Wray Castle behind the trees and the pebble beach we visited when we went there the year before last! We stopped the boat in the middle of the lake to just let us chill out and enjoy the peace and quiet. Or as much as you get when you’re on a boat with a 6 year old. And she even had a sneaky go at driving the boat while there was no other boats around. Spike loved waving at all the other boats and screamed with joy when the big boats went past making big waves. An hour was plenty of time for me but I think she would have stayed on for longer. She wasn’t happy when it was time to moor up!

A walk up Jenkins Crag

After our boat ride we grabbed a coffee and fed the ducks by the lake before heading up to Jankins Crag. This was meant to be a bit of a leisurely walk after our boat trip but I forgot that a Crag is basically a big hill. There is nothing leisurely about it… We headed through Skelghyll Woods which were beautiful as they were full of bluebells. Then up to the crag which had amazing views over Lake Windermere. We started the descent down the big hill and came across Stagshaw Gardens. This National Trust gardens is free to visit and is loved, there are so many cool things to see and lots of views over the lake. Spike was getting a bit tired by this point and there was more uphill in the gardens so while its recommended to also do the Ambleside Champion Tree Trail while you are on this walk, we gave it a miss!

Spike (6 year old blonde girl, Raimy, 32 year old red haired woman and T, 38 year old man with long brown hair stood at the top of Jenkins Crag in Ambleside

The end of our adventure

Once we did the loop of Stagshaw Gardens we headed back to the car for home. We love the lakes and there is so much to do up there that its never going to be a place we stop visiting. We’ve been to Windermere and surrounding parts of the Lake itself multiple times. But we will definitely be back! Spike wants to go on a boat again and we still want to do the Islands Cruise once it reopens. The World of Beatrix Potter looks good too but obviously isn’t open until May 17th so we’ll be going back to do that. I think the gardens and Jenkins Crag will offer a lot at different parts of the year but I’m glad we saw it in the Spring to experience all the bluebells! It was also a great return to Windermere after not being able to go up there for so long because of the lockdown restrictions too. Doing the boat hire and the Crag walk was easy in the one day so if you are looking for great things to do with kids in the Lake District I’d add them both to the list!