Just one mile inland from Windermere and its expansive lake, Ambleside is surrounded by fells which not only make it an excellent destination for walkers, climbers and cyclists but the perfect place for a Roman fort built to safeguard Cumbria’s vital trade road. Today, this is just one area of historical interest in the charming Lakes town.
Home to the Brathay Exploration Group – a charity that seeks to involve young people in life-changing expeditions – and the ideal starting point for the Fairfield horseshoe hike or the Loughrigg Fell climb, Ambleside isn’t all about thrill-seeking. Those more interested in a lakeside retreat could stroll around the stunning Stagshaw Garden, visit the miniscule Bridge House that once squeezed in a family of eight or row gently around the nearby lakes.
Perhaps a nature walk is more your thing, in which case take a wonderful wander around Skelghyll Woods, home to some of England’s tallest trees as well as a variety of wildlife such as the majestic red squirrel. Venture to the top and you’ll be rewarded with views over Windermere from Jenkyn’s Crag.
A short amble from the village brings you to Stock Ghyll Force, an awe-inspiring 70 ft waterfall whose surrounding area, come spring, is awash with “a host of golden daffodils”, as Wordsworth – a member of Ambleside’s Book Society – observed nearby. Talking of Wordsworth, the famous poet had an office in Church Street, his last family home was at Rydal Mount & Gardens and there’s a chapel devoted to his memory in the beautiful blue stone St Mary’s Church.
St Mary’s is also one of five Cumbrian churches that observe the Rushbearing Festival. On the first Saturday of July the ancient tradition of spreading the floor of the church with rushes is represented by a cross made of rushes or flowers that is carried by parish children in a procession through the streets.
Children who take part in the Festival are often rewarded with Grasmere gingerbread; a local shortbread with a huge gingery hit, available from the nearby village, which should most definitely be sampled. Failing that, get your chops around some sticky toffee pudding that is said to hail from these parts or sample Cumberland sausage or saltmarsh lamb from one of the eateries that specialise in local delicacies.
Hardwicke Rawnsley, John Ruskin and Beatrix Potter also have associations with Ambleside and examples of their works and rare books can be found at the Armitt, a must-visit for book-lovers.
Book-worm or overtly outdoorsy, stay a while in your Ambleside holiday cottage and explore all that this beautiful region has to offer.