4 Day Itinerary
We are often asked for ideas of things to do whilst people are here in the lakes so we thought we would put together a couple of suggested itineraries for 3 & 4 night stays:
Exploring without using your car – ideas for a 4 night itinerary
Three full days based in Ambleside doesn’t mean that you have to travel further afield and use your car – there are plenty of attractions on your doorstep as well as public transport options. Not only will you be saving on mileage and CO2 but you’ll also be able to take in the views properly as you explore. Here are just a few of our recommendations, making the most of your arrival and departure days too.
Arrival day – Stagshaw Garden
Once you’ve checked into Elder Grove (any time after 3:00pm), Stagshaw Garden is a short walk south of Ambleside on the A591. It’s a National Trust property and a real haven of peace and quiet – just the place to recover after a busy drive to the Lakes. It’s an informal woodland garden with lake and fell views, rambling paths and unusual combinations of trees and shrubs – particularly rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas.
Full day 1 – The Fairfield Horseshoe
The Fairfield Horseshoe is definitely a walk for those with some experience – and for a day of good weather and plenty of hours of daylight. At 11.5 miles with 3,500 feet of ascent and descent, it’s a challenging day but one that takes in eight summits that are linked by an undulating ridge with excellent views in all directions. We love this walk and it’s amazing that it can be done from our doorstep at Elder Grove.
Many guidebooks recommend an anti-clockwise walk (Low Sweden Bridge, Low Pike, High Pike, Dove Crag, Hart Crag, Fairfield, Great Rigg, Heron Pike, Nab Scar) with a steep final descent to Rydal and a walk through Rydal Park back to Ambleside but it can be done in the opposite direction too – your choice.
If the weather turns or you’re struggling at all, there is a good path down at Scandale Pass into the valley at about half way.
As with many of the bigger Lake District walks, this one overlaps on to two of the Ordnance Survey Explorer sheets (recommended for walkers) with part on the NE sheet OL5 and part on the SE sheet OL7. We have a full set of reference maps at the B&B so that you can check before you buy.
Full day 2 – Loughrigg and The Armitt
A gentler walk today, combined with a bit of exploring in Ambleside. There’s a real gem of a fell that’s close to town and will give you a great two- to three-hour walk to stretch your legs. Loughrigg Fell (1101 feet) has a complicated plateau on top with fantastic views in every direction from the trig point at the summit and on the circular route around the top. You’ll see the best of Windermere stretched out to the south, Langdale and the Pikes to the Northwest and Helm Crag with its unusual lion and lamb rocks to the north.
We’d recommend the Lakeland Leisure Walks route card as a good place to start for the Loughrigg walk. The route sets off through Rothay Park (just down Vicarage Road from Zeffirelli’s) before heading up hill to the trig point on Loughrigg Fell. The descent follows the same path initially before heading slightly further west to Todd Crag and then down past Lily Tarn to rejoin Under Loughrigg Lane and back into Rothay Park.
The route is almost 5 miles so it’s a lovely way to spend half of your day, perhaps combining the walk with shopping and lunch in Ambleside and then an afternoon to explore The Armitt. Or swap them over if the weather’s looking better for the afternoon!
The Armitt is a museum, a library and an art gallery all in one and it is just a short walk from Elder Grove through the centre of town to the University of Cumbria Ambleside campus.
What started out as a subscription reference library for the town in 1912 has since grown into a real treasure trove. The Armitt has a number of Beatrix Potter’s scientific watercolours, particularly of fungi, and a growing collection of documents and work by the artist, Kurt Schwitters. Most recently, it has taken on a vast collection of mountain literature and photographs from the Fell and Rock Climbing Club (FRCC) of the English Lake District, a real insight into how outdoor pursuits have changed over the years.
Full day 3 – Lake cruise with either Wainwright inspiration or a boat museum
For a grand day out, we recommend that guests take a Lake Steamer from Ambleside (Waterhead) to Bowness-on-Windermere. This sailing takes about 35 minutes and there are various options from Bowness for your day.
You could stop off at the Lake District National Park Centre at Brockhole (with restaurant and lakeside walks) en route to Bowness or there are several circular cruise suggestions from Bowness including one that reveals the islands of the lake as well as the fell views from it!
You can find out more about the Windermere Lake Cruises, the timetable and costs at https://www.windermere-lakecruises.co.uk/
If you’d like a bit of time on land, the walk to the top of Orrest Head from Bowness (possibly using the bus up to Windermere Station from the jetty) is one of our favourites.
Alfred Wainwright’s first view of the Lake District apparently came from Orrest Head, a small fell with a great view across Windermere to the Langdale Pikes and much more. He made the short climb and the view inspired him to visit the Lakes often (later moving to Kendal) and then to create his famous Pictorial Guides.
Across from Windermere bus and train station, Orrest Head is clearly signposted, initially on a track up through the woods. If you descend the same way, you can either retrace your steps to Bowness jetty to sail back to Ambleside or there’s a regular 555 bus from the railway station, along the lake road to Ambleside.
Another option is to walk from Bowness to the Windermere Jetty Museum, home of steam boats and a brilliant trip for anyone who remembers Swallows and Amazons! The Jetty Museum was refurbished just before the pandemic so it still seems very new. There are regular Heritage Boat Sailings as well as lots to see in the museum itself – and it’s been described by The Times as “the most beautiful boat shed in Britain.”
You’ve crammed a lot into those three days in Ambleside and we hope you’ve had four great nights of sleep and some wonderful breakfasts too. If your homeward journey takes you south to the M6, we recommend that you call in to Plumgarth’s Farm Shop, just off the A591 at the roundabout with the Crooke Road (LA8 8QJ).
Known for its wonderful meat and butchery, you can also try local baking in the café and stock up on a range of Cumbrian delicacies and specialities before heading home.
Notes: As well as the Lakeland Leisure Walks guides, we’d also recommend carrying an OS map and having a look at the Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells, originally written and illustrated by Alfred Wainwright and revised more recently by Chris Jesty.