A quick guide to Ambleside, Lake District

Exploring Loughrigg Fell with Windermere in the background.

Written by Holly Brega who lived in Ambleside during studying her BA in Wildlife and Media at the University and has been coming here every year since she was a child.

Ambleside: With an average of 180 rainy days a year Ambleside I have to say is most probably one of the best places to be based when visiting the Lake District.

Surrounded by mountains and close to England’s largest natural lake, Windermere. This old market town is home to one of the campus’ for the University of Cumbria where students on Outdoor degrees are based. 

Looking towards the school, church and park. St Mary's Parish Church in Ambleside.
Looking towards the school, church and park

500 million years have produced this landscape, and more recently as the ice melted at the end of the last Ice Age about 12,000 years ago the climate grew warmer and plants began to grow. Most of the land here was then covered in forest and over time the neolithic people set up permanent homes (around 4,000-2,000 BC).

Overlooking Windermere water.
Overlooking Windermere

The land of Helvellyn and Fairfield are some of the most important areas for arctic alpine plants in the whole of England. Plants include saxifrages and downy willow. Damage mainly occurs with walkers and climbers, however there are many companies working on reducing footpath erosion in the Lakes.

A bridge you cross on the way up the Fairfield Horseshoe.
A bridge you cross on the way up the Fairfield Horseshoe

The Pale Tussock is part of the moth family, Erebidae. They are common throughout England and Wales in particular Cumbria and they prefer to live in bushy places like woodlands and hedgerows.

Pale Tussock caterpillar  (Calliteara pudibunda).
Pale Tussock caterpillar  (Calliteara pudibunda)

They are sexually dimorphic where the same species show different characteristics, as the markings are more extensive on the males, which I guess goes for many male species. 

Dung beetle (Geotrupes stercorarius)
Dung beetle (Geotrupes stercorarius)

This type of Dung beetle falls under the ‘tunnellers’ category. These mainly live under dung, so can be seen mainly around fields of cows in the Lakes.

These beetles live entirely on dung, from cow, sheep and deer to name a few. They are important for the ecosystem by putting the dung back into the soil and rejuvenating it. There was a raise in conversational concern after Natural England commissioned a range of reports to find out how they were doing and it came out that about 50% of dung beetles were scarce or threatened and this is down to agricultural practices.

St Mary's Parish Church Ambleside
St Mary’s Parish Church Ambleside

Historic people in Ambleside include William Wordsworth.

William Wordsworth work here as a distributor of stamps and lived in the Old Stamp House before moving to Rydal Mount with his family. The Old Stamp House is now a Michelin star restaurant and recently won an award for best restaurant in the world, but surely that is subjective so not entirely sure how legit that is. 

The Bridge House over the stream
The Bridge House over the stream

Harriet Martineau also lived here…

Harriet Martineau. Credit National Portrait Gallery
Harriet Martineau. Credit National Portrait Gallery

Harriet was a victorian superstar. She opposed the fact that her brothers were educated for a career and she was to just stay at home and become a wife. She wrote numerous articles for the Monthly Repository (a journal which supported the suffragettes, the abolition of slavery, national education and changes to the Poor Laws). She was deaf since a child so finding a job once her father died wouldn’t have been easy during those times, if it wasn’t for her writing. 

She moved to Ambleside in 1845 and designed her house after falling ill whilst travelling in Europe. She was so proactive and really deserves her own blog (I will have to get around to that).

She continued to write and whilst in the Lake District she wrote Eastern Life, Present and Past (1848) and History of the Peace (1849), Letters on the Laws of Man’s Nature and Development (1851),

View to Ambleside from the a route up to Loughrigg
View to Ambleside from the a route up to Loughrigg

How to get there 

The closest train station is Windermere then there are plenty of buses that go to and from Ambleside. 

Flying Fleece Lakeland Pub
Flying Fleece Lakeland Pub

The area of course wants more people to travel on public transport and whereas that would be great for the environment, if you want to go and do a long walk getting to and from  on a bus may not work with your route, or you might fear missing the bus on the way home which makes the walk not as enjoyable. However, there are many buses and so many routes that go from all towns and villages in the National Park. 

The Ambleside Inn, part of the Inn Collection Group
The Ambleside Inn, part of the Inn Collection Group

There are talks about potentially charging cars to enter the Lake District, but how they would actually keep on top of that or even set it up, verses the tourism that they may miss out on. There are many factors to consider and I will keep my ears open for updates. 

Sticky Toffee Pudding at the Ambleside Inn
Sticky Toffee Pudding at the Ambleside Inn

Walks 

Below are a few links to routes on OS maps of my favourite walks from the centre of Ambleside.

Walking up to Loughrigg with Ambleside in background
Walking up to Loughrigg with Ambleside in background

Additional Features 

Normally I’d spend the day in Ambleside when the weather is pretty rubbish up on the hills. So a normal day would start off getting a hot baguette from the Picnic Box, the standard being bacon, chicken, cheese, mayo and bbq sauce (no salad). This has cured many student hangovers..

The Picnic Box
The Picnic Box

The climbing wall at Adventure Peaks is then a good spot for an hour or so. Then a spot of shopping for more outdoor gear that I probably don’t need at Alpkit. A favourite spot was the attic in the Epi-Centre but now that has gone I don’t bother there so much. I can however comment on the service at Alpkit. The staff go above and beyond and the range of gear they have is continually changing and the women’s clothing isn’t all pink! Finally! 5/5 review.

Alpkit in Ambleside
Alpkit in Ambleside

Lunch in the Apple Pie Cafe is normally a good shout, the queues can sometimes be off-putting, but if it is really raining then you’ll want to sit indoors! 

The Apple Pie shop on the main throughroad
The Apple Pie shop on the main throughroad

After lunch we’d normally walk up to Stock Ghyll Force. It’s a pretty waterfall walk, especially in Autumn. We all know that the outdoors is great for mental health, and physical but no matter what the weather I always try to get outdoors, especially if we’ve made the trip to the Lakes, then making the most of it is a high priority. 

Stock Ghyll Waterfall
Stock Ghyll Waterfall

So overall, Ambleside will always have a place in my heart, but I will still continue to hold off going there in peak season.

Rothay Park in Ambleside in Winter
Rothay Park in Winter

Similar Blog: Read ‘A Quick Guide to Patterdale’ here.

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