The Lake District in England is the perfect place for “just a bit of a wander” as all of the hostel owners and locals have called it. This quaint phrase is just one more example of the differences between the US and England…and I have to say, framing a walk with the idea of “having a bit of a wander” sets the mood entirely different than, say, “going for a walk;” even “out for a stroll” doesn’t have quite the same charm.
With the wandering mentality front and center as I set out on the cruise of Windermere, the largest lake in England, I hit the ground wandering as soon as we docked in Ambelside, a small town a little ways up from the town of Windermere. Ambleside, like Windermere, is not actually at the water’s edge. Instead the town is a decent and solid 25 minute walk – a small trolley-like car loaded up the families and elderly for a few pounds each and I chose to hoof it up to the town so that I could explore the local parks and some neat Roman ruins. It’s a perfectly lovely walk for half of it – then rather fenced and decidedly not lovely for about 10 minutes until you reach the town center.
Getting lost seems to be the theme of my travels as readers well know, so let’s just say that I have really, really explored Ambleside. The tourist lady in Windermere hooked me up with a map of Ambleside and a rough route through the town and the best parks nearby and capped it off with a 45 minute walking loop to Ambleside’s waterfall.
The path to the waterfall out of town is not well marked. Not at all. But asking the locals for directions, backtracking, walking down the wrong small and tiny winding lanes and then finally locating the right street was half of the fun.
Ambleside is very touristy, I’m not going to lie. It was August, and the sidewalks were overflowing with sticky little children paying more attention to their ice cream cones than the sidewalk and I was forced walk in the road and mostly dodge the cars in the street – they were more accommodating than the frazzled moms pushing strollers and chasing after the above mentioned sticky toddlers!
But, I suspect that there are perfectly lovely places to shop for souvenirs (I am completely done with that thankfully!) all along the streets of Ambleside. And once the crowds got a bit overwhelming I just went for more of a wander straight out of town in hunt of the waterfall. There were surprisingly few tourists on the waterfall route considering how close it is to the town and I made quick work of the simple trail and then stopped to eat lunch near the river.
The waterfall is pretty; at this point I’ve seen quite a few spectacular waterfalls and this isn’t one of them. But it is nature and it was just nice to get out of the bustle and hustle of the town.
There are huge parks just on the outskirts of the town with parks and tons of green space for kicking a ball or setting up a picnic. After resting in the grass for quit a bit of time (the “rest” turned into an accidental and impromptu nap) I wandered by way back through the town and to the docks for the boat back to Windermere.
I wasn’t fortunate enough to visit many of the small Lake District towns dotted all throughout the region but a couple staying at the hostel came from that direction and was quick to tell me that the other towns have loads of charm and even more easy and scenic walks. The Lake District hostels were essentially fully booked while I was there so although I like to fly by the seat of my pants most of the time, I could have seen much more of the region had I planned it out a little better. Tops on my list that I missed was a trip to Hadrian’s Wall – that is very close to the Lake District and well worth the visit according to other backpackers.
Check out other tips and stories from the Lake District in England
Video Tour of the Lake District – Take a video look of the region!
Playing in Sheep Pastures – Hiking and walks around Windermere
Cruising the Lake District – Boating on Lake Windermere
…and more photos from the Lake District region