Welcome to our guide to what to do in and around the Lake District town of Ambleside, courtesy of local resident Dot. Located within the Lake District National Park, Ambleside is compact enough for most of these recommendations to be reached on foot. Last updated: November 2012.
Five special things to do in Ambleside
1. Explore ancient woodland: Skelghyll Woods is less than a mile from Ambleside and contains plenty of trails looping around beautiful scenery. Watch out for Cumbria’s tallest tree and the beautiful view from Jenkyn’s Crag. The woods are managed by the National Trust (click here for the NT’s website on Skelghyll Woods).
2. Take a hike: Ambleside is a base for plenty of Lake District walks. These include the picturesque Ambleside to Troutbeck route outlined on the National Trust’s website (click here for route details), and more demanding routes such as the Fairfield Horseshoe (click here for route details).
3. Raining again? Visit Zeffirelli’s, an independent cinema with five screens, showing a mix of mainstream movies and special cultural events. There’s also a restaurant (see below for more details). Click here to visit the Zeffirelli’s cinema page to see what’s on.
4. Stroll to Waterhead: Taking a day off from hiking? A ten to fifteen minute walk from the town centre takes you to picturesque Waterhead, a cluster of piers on the shore of Lake Windermere with a beautiful view of the lake, bobbing boats and the mountains beyond. Steamers sail from the piers down to Bowness. You’ll also find a lovely café, a pub (see below) and a large car park in case you’re travelling from elsewhere or don’t fancy the walk.
5. Visit Bridge House: It’ll only take you five minutes, but Bridge House can’t be missed. Originally built as an apple store, this quaint little building is built on an arch over the river in the centre of the town. It’s a great location for taking photographs, should unusual buildings be your cup of tea. Click here for more details about Bridge House.
Click here to browse our atmospheric pictures of the Lake District. Or carry on reading below for cafe and restaurant recommendations…
Recommended Ambleside restaurants, cafes and pubs
Spaghetti and jazz: As we mentioned, Zeffirelli’s is an independent cinema which also hosts a restaurant, café and jazz club. The jazz club is open on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, while the café sells delicious pastries for a late breakfast. The restaurant is bustling, with comfy curved booths, and offers tasty, inventive Mediterranean-style food. Click here for Zeffirelli’s website.
Hic! The Drunken Duck is a homely, unpretentious gastropub and micro-brewery located in the hills above Ambleside. (It’s where the North Shore team stay whenever we’re on a photoshoot in the Lakes.) The staff are very friendly and the food is outstanding. Click here for the Drunken Duck website.
Bistro dining: The Glass House is located in a beautifully restored former mill, which now houses a bright, upmarket restaurant featuring a modern bistro menu. A nice place to go for a special meal. Click here for the Glass House website.
Great all-rounder: Lucy’s on a Plate is a relaxed, friendly place; a café by day and a restaurant by night. Another good place for breakfast – at any time of the day – or for good quality dinner options from an ever-changing menu. Click here for Lucy’s website.
Relax by the lake: The Wateredge Inn at Waterhead is a small hotel and pub located right on the shore of Lake Windermere. Its best point is a large outside seating area, where you can sit on a sunny day and watch the waters sparkle. Click here for the Wateredge’s website.
Shops in Ambleside
Like most towns in the Lake District, Ambleside is amply supplied with gift shops and stores selling outdoor gear. Noteworthy shops include:
The Attic: A beautiful, eclectic gift shop, full of charm and interesting bits and bobs (there are also equally beautiful branches in Windermere and Grassmere).
Wearings bookshop and Fred Holdsworth Books: Ambleside is blessed with two independent book shops. Wearings, which doesn’t have a website, is on the main road towards Windermere, while Fred Holdsworth can be found on the market place.
The Bath House: Part of a small chain of three shops, the Bath House sell their own gorgeous skin care and bathing products.
Interesting websites to visit from here
Pictures of the Lake District: Browse our contemporary prints of the Lake District.
The Cumbria Directory: Contains a short history of the town.
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