Windermere - Coniston - Langdale drive

A drive around central Lakeland through some of the best scenery in the area. There is a Beatrix Potter theme, visiting a number of locations associated with the famous author. A short car ferry trip across Windermere lake is also included.

Full drive depends on Windermere Ferry running - check Ferry details below





Route Map




Summary of main attractions on route (click on name for detail)
Distance Attraction Car Park Coordinates
0 miles Bowness-on-Windermere N 54.36591, W 2.91993
1.6 miles Windermere Ferry, Ferry Nab N 54.35423, W 2.93101
2.1 miles Harrowslack, Windermere N 54.35592, W 2.94245
4.0 miles Hill Top, Near Sawrey N 54.35247, W 2.97133
4.9 miles Esthwaite Water N 54.35029, W 2.98460
6.9 miles Hawkshead Village N 54.37410, W 2.99679
9.5 miles Tarn Hows N 54.38708, W 3.03905
11.8 miles Coniston Village N 54.36892, W 3.07347
12.5 miles Coniston Water N 54.36460, W 3.06779
20.3 miles Blea Tarn N 54.42939, W 3.08752
22.1 miles Old Dungeon Ghyll N 54.44420, W 3.10281
25.8 miles Elterwater Village N 54.43387, W 3.03789
30.2 miles Waterhead, Ambleside N 54.42116, W 2.96284
32.9 miles Townend N 54.41128, W 2.91571
35.3 miles Holehird Gardens N 54.39602, W 2.91472
36.6 miles Rayrigg Meadow picnic site N 54.37897, W 2.91924
37.6 miles Bowness-on-Windermere N 54.36591, W 2.91993



The Drive

Distance: 0 miles         Location: Bowness-on-Windermere, Rayrigg Road car park          Coordinates: N 54.36591, W 2.91993

Bowness-on-Windermere centre
Bowness-on-Windermere lakeside
Bowness-on-Windermere is probably the busiest town in the Lake District and at times the crowds can be oppressive but it is an interesting place in a great lakeside setting with plenty of attractions. The World of Beatrix Potter attraction is one of the more popular and is opposite the car park. The town centre itself has numerous shops, cafes and pubs where you can easily spend some time exploring before wondering down past St Martin’s Church to the nearby lakeside area.

The picturesque lakeside area is slightly separate to the town centre but often just as busy. There are a number of jetties where you can catch one of the many Windermere lake cruises. Beyond the jetties is Glebe Road which forms a popular loop along the lake shore. Within this loop is a large open recreational area known as The Glebe. The grassy area provides lovely views up the lake and there are various activities available such as mini golf and tennis. Beyond The Glebe is Cockshott Point which also has some good open grassy areas and a footpath along the attractive lakeshore. There are a number of shops, kiosks, cafes and pubs around the lakeside area. Rayrigg Road car park is pay and display with toilet facilities.



Travelling:

Leave the car park and turn right on the A592 towards the centre of Bowness town. Shortly come to a mini-roundabout and turn right towards the lake, still the A592. Drop down the hill to enter the often busy lakeside area. After a short distance the main road turns away from the lake but you can take the right turn here and follow the Glebe Road loop which gives some good views of the lake as you pass various shops and cafes. The road soon brings you back to the A592 where you turn right towards Newby Bridge. Very shortly take the first right turn on the B5285 towards the ferry which leads past a car park and some public toilets on the right before reaching Ferry Nab where the Windermere ferry departs.

Distance: 1.6 miles         Location: Windermere Ferry, Ferry Nab          Coordinates: N 54.35423, W 2.93101

Windermere Ferry
The Windermere ferry travels across the middle of the lake between Ferry Nab and Ferry House, thus saving a journey of about 15 miles on roads around the top or bottom of the lake. There has been a ferry here for over 500 hundred years, early boats were rowed across the lake, a steam ferry was introduced in the 19th century and more recently the ferry is diesel powered. The current vessel ‘Mallard’ was built in 1990 and can carry up to 18 cars and over 100 passengers. It uses fixed underwater cables to steer across the lake although in rough weather services are often suspended and technical issues can also sometimes prevent it running. To confirm if the ferry is running call 07860 813427 or check the live webcam at Ferry House. There is a service from each side approx every 30 minutes from early morning until late evening but waiting times can be lengthy at peak periods. There are toilet facilities and limited refreshments on both sides.

Travelling:

From the ferry the road passes public toilets on the left and continues on a narrow headland for a short distance to a right turn towards Harrowslack which you take. Pass 'The Cafe in the Courtyard’ on the left and continue along the tree lined lakeshore to cross a cattle grid and Harrowslack car park is on the left.

Distance: 2.1 miles         Location: Harrowslack, Windermere          Coordinates: N 54.35592, W 2.94245

Harrowslack, Windermere
This National Trust car park gives access to the wonderful west shore of Windermere. This shore is much less developed and busy than Bowness across the lake and makes a good escape from the crowds. Across the road from the car park is Coatlap Point, an open area of grass and shingle shore with fabulous views across the lake, including Belle Isle in the near distance which is the largest island in the lake. The narrow dead end road runs approx 0.7 miles northwards following the attractive lakeshore and makes a pleasant walk with plenty of opportunity for a picnic and paddle. Beyond that a rough track continues northwards towards Wray Castle.

Back towards the ferry from the car park is Claife Viewing Station, built in the 1790’s it provided a wonderful viewpoint over Windermere lake and was a popular tourist attraction before falling into disrepair at the end of the 19th century. It has recently been tastefully restored and again provides wonderful and peaceful views over the lake with free entry. The Station is a short uphill walk from the road and from The Cafe in the Courtyard which provides refreshments. National Trust pay and display car park, toilet facilities at Ferry House.


Travelling:

Retrace your steps back past 'The Cafe in the Courtyard’ and turn right at the T junction. The road follows the lake a short distance and passes the National Trust car park at Ash Landing on the right before climbing steeply away from the lake. Once over the top there are some lovely views of wooded hills and fields as you pass through the small village of Far Sawrey with the Cuckoo Brow Inn on the right. Shortly, enter the neighbouring village of Near Sawrey, passing the pedestrian entrance to Hill Top and the Tower Bank Arms on the left. The car park for Hill Top is just beyond the pub on the left.

Distance: 4.0 miles         Location: Hill Top, Near Sawrey          Coordinates: N 54.35247, W 2.97133

Hill Top house
Hill Top, in the attractive village of Near Sawrey, was once the home of Beatrix Potter and is now a famous literary shrine to her. It was an old farm purchased by her in 1905 and many of her books are based on features around the property and in the village. The property is now owned by the National Trust and is kept exactly as she left it. The house is open daily, except Fridays, from February to November and is also open Fridays in the summer. Closed in winter. Admission fee to house which can be very busy and a timed ticket system operates. Entrance to the attractive gardens is free and these are open daily from February to December. There is also a shop and toilets. The nearby small car park is free for visitors to the property. The Tower Bank Arms next door is a quaint looking pub which also has connections with Beatrix Potter.

Travelling:

Turn left out of the car park and take the immediate left towards Lakeside. The narrow road descends with views towards Esthwaite Water ahead. Continue towards Lakeside and soon cross Cunsey Beck which is the outflow from Esthwaite Water. Follow the wooded lakeshore a short distance to a T junction and turn right towards Hawkshead. Esthwaite Water car park is a short distance on the right.

Distance: 4.9 miles         Location: Esthwaite Water visitor centre          Coordinates: N 54.35029, W 2.98460

Esthwaite Water
Esthwaite Water is one of the lesser known Lake District lakes, probably due to it being the only privately owned one with very little public access. However, it is still very attractive and is worth some exploring. This small visitor centre, set in woodland on the lakeshore with lovely views up the lake, offers a number of attractions for visitors and has developed from the original trout fishery. It remains a popular venue for fishing and boats can be hired for this activity. Also on offer is an Osprey Safari where you can self-drive a small electric boat around the lake looking for the Ospreys that are normally in residence between April and September. At any time of year the boat ride gives a great view of the different wildlife on and around the peaceful lake.

The lake has close connections with both William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter, a shoreline walk follows in the footsteps of the latter and storyboards tell you about the different animals in her books. The small visitor centre at Esthwaite Water has a cafe, fishing tackle shop, picnic area and toilets. Open all year, cafe open Easter to November. Pay and display car park.


Travelling:

Turn right out of the car park, the road soon leaves the wooded lakeshore behind and good views open up over surrounding countryside, including glimpses of Esthwaite Water and Lakeland mountains in the far distance. After approx 1.8 miles you enter the outskirts of Hawkshead village and the road turns sharply to the right. Just beyond, take the left turn to Hawkshead, then the next left which leads to the village car park on the left.

Distance: 6.9 miles         Location: Hawkshead Village car park          Coordinates: N 54.37410, W 2.99679

Hawkshead Village from the churchyard
A quaint historic Lakeland village which has plenty of tourist shops, cafes and pubs. The Beatrix Potter Gallery owned by the National Trust is on the main street and you can see some of the original artwork by the famous author. Hawkshead Grammar School is now a museum dedicated to the interesting history of the school which educated some notable pupils including William Wordsworth. St Michael and All Angels church sits on the small hill overlooking the village and has a lovely churchyard where you can find some peace and enjoy the surrounding views. The car park is 'pay on exit' with toilet facilities.

Travelling:

Turn right out of the village car park, then quickly left at the T junction on the B5285 towards Ambleside. After approx 0.5 miles, take the left turn (still the B5285) towards Coniston. Continue up the hill for approx 0.8 miles to Hawkshead Hill where there is a right turn to Tarn Hows. After approx 200m, there is a T junction where you turn left and then immediate right towards Tan Hows again. This minor road winds up through the trees for approx 0.7 miles before a wonderful panorama opens up with Tarn Hows down on the right and various Lakeland peaks in the distance. Just as you leave the trees there is a disabled parking area on the right which provides a fabulous view from the car. The main car park is a short distance beyond the tarn on the left.

Distance: 9.5 miles         Location: Tarn Hows          Coordinates: N 54.38708, W 3.03905

Tarn Hows
One of the wonders of Lakeland and a beauty spot not to be missed. The tarn and surrounding woodland are very picturesque, set in a natural bowl with far reaching views to the surrounding hills from the higher paths. The main path around the tarn is well made and is well worth an hour of your time although it can be very busy. The area is owned by the National Trust but was owned by Beatrix Potter before that. The National Trust car park is pay and display with toilet facilities. There are no other facilities.

Travelling:

From the car park, turn left and continue on the picturesque minor road which is now one way. This road descends and loops back to the B5285 Coniston road. Turn right on this road and after approx 0.4 miles the road follows the lake shore and continues a short distance to Coniston village. Once in the village, take the first left turn and the car park is immediately on the right.

Distance: 11.8 miles         Location: Coniston Village car park          Coordinates: N 54.36892, W 3.07347

Coniston Village
The village of Coniston is in a picturesque location between Coniston Water and The Old Man of Coniston, the mountain directly behind. The village has a few tourist shops, cafes, pubs and access to some great walking country. The Ruskin Museum contains a wealth of local history including the 'Bluebird Wing' extension housing a display relating to Donald Campbell's exploits on Coniston Water and his boat 'Bluebird'. Although close to the lake, it is a short walk or drive down to the lakeshore area. The car park is 'pay on exit' with a Tourist Information Centre and toilet facilities.

Travelling:

From the village car park, turn left and continue on the B5285 which shortly meets the A593 in the village centre. Turn left, over the river and past the garage, then immediately take Lake Road on the left which leads approx 0.5 miles down to a dead end at the lake. The car park is just before the lake on the left.

Distance: 12.5 miles         Location: Lake Road car park, Coniston Water          Coordinates: N 54.36460, W 3.06779

SY Gondola & Brantwood
Yew Tree Farm
A scenic and relatively quiet lake made famous by Donald Campbell’s demise during his water speed record attempt in 1967. There are a number of attractions at this lakeshore access area including Coniston Boating Centre, operated by the National Park Authority, which has a good choice of boats and bikes for hire. Alternatively, you can sit back and enjoy a cruise on the lake, either aboard the National Trust’s Steam Yacht 'Gondola' or the Coniston Launch, although winter services are limited. Both boats stop here and at various points around the lake including Brantwood where the famous English art critic John Ruskin lived until his death in 1900. The Bluebird Cafe provides refreshments with a lovely view over the water and there are several picnic tables adjacent to the shore. The car park is 'pay on exit' with toilet facilities.

Travelling:

Travel back up Lake Road to the T junction and turn right on the A593, passing through Coniston village towards Ambleside. Approx 2 miles out of Coniston is Yew Tree Farm on the left which is a picture book farm and setting once owned by Beatrix Potter. The farmhouse was used as the double for Hill Top in the 2006 film ‘Miss Potter’. It is now a guest house. Approx 0.3 miles past the farm is Yew Tree Tarn which is man made in a lovely setting. There is a small layby to pull in and admire the view. Continue along the A593 which soon climbs over a small summit and approx 0.7 miles beyond that take the left turn towards Elterwater. This minor road descends sharply before levelling out alongside the River Brathay. You can park on the roadside here to access the impressive Colwith Force waterfall. A short but quite rough footpath leads to the waterfall, over the stile on the left.

Continue over the River Brathay and just beyond take the left turn to Little Langdale. The road generally climbs for approx 1 mile before reaching the hamlet of Little Langdale with the traditional looking Three Shires Inn on the right. Beyond this the road becomes quite narrow and twisty but the views are magnificent over Little Langdale valley, surrounding mountains and Little Langdale Tarn on the left. You can certainly appreciate the remote beauty of this valley. Not far beyond the Tarn, cross a cattle grid and take the right fork in the road towards Blea Tarn. The road climbs quite steeply in places, again with fabulous views. After approx 0.7 miles cross another cattle grid and Blea Tarn car park is immediately on the right.



Distance: 20.3 miles         Location: Blea Tarn         Coordinates: N N 54.42939, W 3.08752

Blea Tarn
Blea Tarn is in a fabulous setting on a high plateau between the valleys of Little Langdale and Great Langdale. There is a good footpath from the car park which leads a short distance down to the tarn. There are wonderful mountain views in all directions, particularly across the tarn towards the Langdale Pikes. The footpath crosses a bridge over the outflow stream which can then be followed downstream past some pleasing cascades and falls. The main path continues around the tarn thorough attractive woodland where there are benches to sit and enjoy the surroundings. National Trust pay and display car park, no facilities, the nearest are in Great Langdale.

Travelling:

Turn right out of the car park and continue along the narrow road which skirts around Blea Tarn plateau. The road soon crosses a cattle grid and a magnificent vista opens up over the head of Great Langdale valley. A long line of mighty mountains includes Langdale Pikes, Esk Pike, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and Pike o’ Blisco. Meanwhile the road begins to descend through a short, steep and twisty section which needs some care. There are very limited opportunities to stop on the hill with a few rough spaces from where you can enjoy the fantastic open views but be careful not to obstruct passing places. At the bottom of the hill, cross another cattle grid and continue across the valley floor for approx 0.4 miles to sharp right bend which points the road down the valley. Just beyond this is the turning for Old Dungeon Ghyll car park on the left.

Distance: 22.1 miles         Location: Old Dungeon Ghyll, Great Langdale          Coordinates: N 54.44420, W 3.10281

Upper Great Langdale
Great Langdale is a wonderful Lake District valley with spectacular scenery all around. The green valley floor contains the pretty Great Langdale Beck and is surrounded by some mighty Lakeland mountains such as Langdale Pikes, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and Pike O’Blisco. The road runs along the valley floor making it easy to explore. Old Dungeon Ghyll is as far as you can drive up the valley and is a popular starting place for many mountain walks. A fairly level but rough track runs up Mickleden valley for just over a mile from the car park before it heads steeply upwards into the mountains. Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel provides refreshments.

Approx 0.7 miles further down the valley is Stickle Ghyll car park where the steep path up to Stickle Tarn and Langdale Pikes begins. Refreshments are available here at the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and Sticklebarn Tavern. Pay and display car parks.


Travelling:

Turn left out of Old Dungeon Gyhll and continue down Great Langdale valley with pleasing views of surrounding fields and hills. Pass Stickle Gyhll car park and continue for approx 1.7 miles to enter the village of Chapel Stile. In the village is Holy Trinity church up on the left, the village store, Brambles cafe and seasonal public toilets also on the left, followed by Wainwrights Inn on the right. Leaving the village you soon pass the Langdale Hotel Estate and not far beyond you reach the attractive open expanse of Elterwater Common and a cross roads where you turn right to Elterwater. Soon enter Elterwater village and arrive at a T junction at the village green. Continue ahead and the village car park is immediately on the left.

Distance: 25.8 miles         Location: Elterwater Village          Coordinates: N 54.43387, W 3.03789

Elterwater Village
Elterwater is a picturesque village at the entrance to the spectacular Great Langdale valley. Its old slate houses, clear fast flowing river, attractive village green and backdrop of surrounding hills is real Lake District. Although only small, the village attracts plenty of visitors being central to wonderful walking country. A good level walk follows the river downstream from the car park to Elterwater lake and beyond to Skelwith Force. Other footpaths lead up Langdale valley and surrounding hills. There are no shops in the village but refreshments are available at the popular Britannia Inn and adjacent Maple Tree cafe, overlook the village green. National Trust pay and display car park with adjacent toilets. There is a fair amount of free parking around nearby Elterwater Common.

Travelling:

Leave the village car park and turn right. The road continues to the right of Maple Tree cafe before leaving the village and crossing the attractive Elterwater Common with various free parking areas. In a short distance meet a T junction where you turn right. Before leaving Elterwater Common it is worth stopping to look back at the wonderful view of Great Langdale valley and Langdale Pikes. Continue over a cattle grid, the road meanders through some pleasant Lakeland scenery with glimpses of Elterwater lake then the River Brathay through trees on the right. Soon pass Silverthwaite pay and display car park on the left and the road descends to the hamlet of Skelwith Bridge which has a few attractions. On the right is The Talbot Bar and behind that is Chesters By The River which has a shop and cafe. Only a 10 minute walk up the river is Skelwith Force waterfall which is impressive in flood. At the T junction turn left towards Ambleside. Continue for approx 2 miles to the outskirts of Ambleside and a tight bridge over the River Rothay. Once over the bridge, the road bears left and becomes one-way. Get in the right lane which soon comes to a T junction. Turn right on the A5075 for approx 0.5 miles and Waterhead car park is on the left.

Distance: 30.2 miles         Location: Waterhead car park, Ambleside         Coordinates: N 54.42116, W 2.96284

Waterhead, Ambleside
Slightly south of Ambleside town, Waterhead has a lovely lakeside setting with plenty of attractions. Windermere lake cruises call at the jetty here and it is well worth taking a trip down the lake to Bowness or even Lakeside at the opposite end of the lake. The Wateredge Inn has a beer garden overlooking the lake and beyond this is Borrans Park which provides a scenic open grassy area with good lakeshore access. Beyond this again is the Galava Roman Fort (free entry) and although there are limited remains to be seen, it is a pleasant and interesting area to explore. The car park is 'pay on exit' with toilet facilities. There are a few small gift shops, stalls and cafes in the Waterhead area.

Travelling:

Leave the car park and turn left on the A5075 towards Windermere town. This immediately joins the A591 at the traffic lights where you continue along the lakeshore road. Soon pass the Low Wood Hotel with spectacular views across Windermere lake. Just beyond this take a left turn towards Troutbeck. The narrow road twists and turns up the steep hill, passing some fabulous properties including the prestigious Holbeck Ghyll Hotel. After approx 0.9 miles the road finally levels out and it is possible to stop and admire the great views down Windermere lake. The lofty lane continues through pleasant countryside for approx 0.6 miles to enter the village of Troutbeck and Townend car park is on the left.

Distance: 32.9 miles         Location: Townend          Coordinates: N 54.41128, W 2.91571

Townend
Townend is an historic Lakeland farmhouse preserved to show the lifestyle of the family who lived there for more than 300 years. The family moved out in the 1940’s and the property is now managed by National Trust. The attractive 17th century farmhouse retains many original features and was home to the Browne family who were fairly ordinary farmers with some fairly quirky interests as shown by the collection of books, carvings and artefacts in the house. You can wonder around the atmospheric farmhouse and there are tours available at certain times. Outside there is a pleasant garden and an impressive barn across the road. Open Wednesday to Sunday, March to October. Admission fee applies. Toilet facilities.

Travelling:

Turn left out of the car park and continue through Troutbeck village which has some wonderful Lakeland properties and impressive views over Troutbeck valley towards the mountains beyond. Soon reach the village shop and tearoom where refreshments are available. Immediately beyond this, take a right turn on a narrow lane which descends steeply then runs alongside Trout Beck, past some free parking, to a T junction with the main A592. To the left here is Jesus Church but the drive turns right and continues on the A592 with views back across the valley towards Troutbeck village, then ahead towards Windermere. After approx 1.5 miles the entrance to Holehird Gardens is on the left.

Distance: 35.3 miles         Location: Holehird Gardens          Coordinates: N 54.39602, W 2.91472

Holehird Gardens
Holehird Gardens are a spectacular attraction managed by the Lakeland Horticultural Society and maintained by volunteers. The 12 acre hillside site has a great variety of plants and features including a walled garden, rock gardens, water features and an impressive Hydrangea display. One of the best features are the superb views towards the central Lakeland mountains. The imposing Holehird House is adjacent which is now a private Care Home but the whole estate was originally a family home when built in the 19th century. Beatrix Potter visited the house in 1889 and 1895. The gardens are open daily through the year, dawn to dusk, although reception is only open April to October during the day. Limited refreshments are available in the reception, toilets are nearby. A small donation is expected from visitors for upkeep of the gardens.

Travelling:

Leaving Holehird, turn left and continue on the A592 for approx 0.7 miles to a mini-roundabout where the main A591 crosses. Take the second exit to continue on the A592 towards Bowness. Shortly, there is a layby viewpoint on the right with good views over the lake. Continue beyond this, down the steep hill and around a couple of bends to Rayrigg Meadow car park on the right.

Distance: 36.6 miles         Location: Rayrigg Meadow picnic site          Coordinates: N 54.37897, W 2.91924

Queen Adelaide's hill
A pleasant lakeside area with some good facilities and lakeshore walks. The wooded lakeshore has attractive views across the lake and some pebble/gravel beaches. There are several picnic tables and a childrens playground located in an open grassy area slightly away from the lake. Queen Adelaide’s hill is immediately behind the car park and the easily achieved summit provides great views over the lake and beyond. The car park is pay and display and has seasonal toilet facilities.

Travelling:

Turn right out of the car park and continue on the A592 towards Bowness. After almost 1 mile, you enter the outskirts of Bowness and soon on the right is Rayrigg Road car park.

Distance: 37.6 miles         Location: Bowness-on-Windermere, Rayrigg Road car park          Coordinates: N 54.36591, W 2.91993

Windermere from Claife Viewing Station
Return to start point.