It was a cold, wet and incredibly windy day when we ventured into Ambleside. The kind of dreary weather that’s synonymous with the Lake District, or so I’m told. Nevertheless, this quintessentially Cumbrian town is well worth a visit no matter what the weather thanks to its history, an abundance of locally produced food, and more hiking trails than you could hope to walk in a lifetime. Here are the very best things to do in Ambleside and why you should consider a trip to the Lake District on your next voyage.
The pretty and natural woodland space of Stagshaw Garden is owned and managed by the National Trust. Just a short walk away from the centre of Ambleside, the green oasis is bursting with colour at any given time of the year. Created in 1957 by an employee of the National Trust, the woodland garden is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic or spend time with loved ones.
Visit the Armitt Library
The Armitt Trust and Library is located in the very heart of Ambleside. Open from Monday through to Friday, the museum was founded by Mary Louisa Armitt in 1909 and was supported by Beatrix Potter in its earliest days. Opened to the public in 1912, today the library hosts a whole range of exhibitions including paintings and other artworks from Cumbria and beyond.
Visit Rydal Mount
While the stunning house of Rydal Mount isn’t in the heart of Ambleside town itself, at 1.5 miles away, it remains close enough to be considered one of the very best things to do in this Lake District town. Dove Cottage is the most famous residence of William Wordsworth, but the poet likely spent more time in the lesser known Rydal Mount. Today, you can see the poet’s library for yourself, as well as his meticulously landscaped garden, study, and the writing set Wordsworth probably used to pen many of his most famous works.
Bridge House, Ambleside
In the very middle of Ambleside, there’s a little historic house built atop a bridge crossing the river that snakes its way through the town. Aptly named ‘Bridge House‘, the structure is one of the smallest buildings in the Lake District and was first built in the 17th-century for use as an apple store. Today the Bridge House is owned and managed by the National Trust and can be visited for free on select days of the week.
After you’ve visited one of the smallest buildings in Ambleside, why not head to one of the largest? Of all the best things to do in Ambleside, heading to the town’s very own castle is probably the most historical thing to do. Open to the public for a fee (and free for National Trust Members), Wray Castle is a neo-gothic former residence which was constructed during the Victorian era.
Enjoy some local food
The Lake District is well known for its local cuisine and Cumbrian specialities include sticky toffee pudding, Grasmere gingerbread, various meat cuts if you’re a meat-eater (including local lamb and Cumberland sausage), rum butter, and Kendal Mint Cake (a glucose base snack popular among hikers). Venture into Ambleside, and you’ll find dozens of eateries filled with regional foods that are well worth a sample.
Watch a film at the cinema
It may be true that most towns in the UK have a cinema. But what these picture houses do not have a claim for, is to be situated in converted churches! Zeffirelli’s Cinema is located next to a restaurant of the same name and shows a selection of box office hits, as well as a whole host of independent films. The cinema also has two screens just down the road, inside a former church!
Walk in Skelghyll Woods
While the town of Ambleside has plenty of quintessentially Cumbrian architecture, the real draw of this pretty lakeside settlement is its proximity to nature (as well as the fact that it’s one of the best towns in the Lake District!).
Wander out of any of the roads, little lanes and pathways that are used to reach the town, and you’ll find yourself face-to-face with bodies of water, perilously high peaks and lush green forests. Skelghyll Woods is just a short stroll away from Ambleside and the entire area is filled with hiking trails.
Soak up some history in Ambleside Roman Fort
When it comes to the North of England, the Romans are never far away. After all, remnants of the longest Roman structure still in existence, Hadrian’s Wall, is just a short drive away from Ambleside and the rest of the Lake District.
Currently managed by English Heritage, today little more than the foundations of Ambleside Roman Fort survive to this day. Galava Roman Fort in Ambleside was first built in AD 79 and is now owned by the National Trust, but remains free to visit.
Take part in some Watersports
You can’t visit the Lake District and miss all of the water activities on offer. Even though the name Lake District should be taken with a pinch of salt, the bodies of water in the Lake District are mostly known as ‘meres’, ‘tarns’, and ‘waters’ rather than ‘lakes’, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of things to do! From canoeing and kayaking to sailing to simply swimming, if you love any type of water activity, chances are you can do it in the Lake District! That is, if you brave the cold and wet weather!
Where to stay in Ambleside
As a medium sized Lake District settlement with a lakeside vibe, there are a number of places to stay in Ambleside, all at different price points. Here are the best places to stay in Ambleside based on location and web reviews:
Riverside B & B: As its name so suggests, the wonderful Victorian bed and breakfast accommodation offers a lovely escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life and can be found close to the water. Complete with free breakfast, these rooms are clean and comfortable.
Elder Grove: This five-star rated establishment is well-reviewed and can be found housed within a 19th-century B&B. Included amenities include WiFi.
Compston House American Style B & B: This quirky bed and breakfast has light, bright, and modern looking rooms and serves breakfast.
YHA Ambleside: For those who are visiting the Lake District on a budget, the Youth Hostel Association provides accommodation at an incredibly reasonable rate.