Ambleside is one of the best-situated communities in the Lake District for visitors seeking everything the national park has to offer. All the places described below are within a 30-minute drive of the town, many of them much nearer.
Edge of Ambleside…
The name of the road from Rothay Bridge (south) to Pelter Bridge (north), it also describes the strung-out community of homes and B&Bs along its length, the largest concentration of which is near the stepping stones over the River Rothay (some of which were washed away in the December 2015 floods) nearer the Pelter Bridge end. This road is popular with walkers and cyclists. Car access is restricted to those accessing their homes or B&B’s that lie along this road. Be aware that the police occasionally enforce this rule.
North of Ambleside…
Home of William Wordsworth who lived at Rydal Mount (open to the public) from 1813 to 1850. The hamlet also boasts the Old School Room Tea Shop on the ‘Coffin Route’ footpath leading to Grasmere, and imposing Rydal Hall, the gardens of which are open to the public and include ‘The Grot’, a stone-built summerhouse overlooking a waterfall.
The Badger Bar is a popular bar at Glen Rothay Hotel.
From Rydal, there are paths to Grasmere on both sides of Rydal Water, several ways of ascending Loughrigg Fell including visiting Rydal Cave, and, of course, the start (or finish) of the popular Fairfield Horseshoe ridge walk.
Nearby is Pelter Bridge, leading to Under Loughrigg.
Everyone loves Grasmere, which is not surprising considering its location in probably the most beautiful vale in Lakeland (though Keswick folk might challenge that assertion). William Wordswoth, who lived in the village for 14 years, described it as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found”. The village has many facilities and attractions for tourists, but parking can be a problem unless you are prepared for a 5-10 minute stroll into the village from the two laybys on the A591 where vehicles can park for free (one 250 yards north of the mini-roundabout near Dove Cottage, the other just north of the Swan Hotel).
For fellwalkers, Grasmere offers more Wainwright ascents than any other centre perhaps other than Patterdale. These are (clockwise from north): Helm Crag, Seat Sandal, Helvellyn (including Dollywaggon Pike and Nethermost Pike), St Sunday Crag, Fairfield, Great Rigg, Stone Arthur, Heron Pike, Nab Scar, Loughrigg Fell, Silver How, Blea Rigg, Sergeant Man, Tarn Crag, High Raise, Ullscarf, Calf Crag, Gibson Knott and Steel Fell.
North-east of Ambleside…
At just below 1500ft this is the highest road pass in the Lake District, where you will find the Kirkstone Pass Inn which is the third-highest public house in Britain (behind the Tan Hill Inn in the Yorkshire Dales above Swaledale, 1732ft, and the Cat & Fiddle Inn, 1690ft, in the Peak District between Buxton and Macclesfield).
There is a car park opposite which is used by walkers as the starting point for the ascents of Red Screes (west) and Caudale Moor (east).
Nearby, at the top of the descent to the Patterdale valley is the Kirk Stone, named after its resemblance to a church.
NOTE: Kirkstone Pass is easily reached from Ambleside via Kirkstone Road and The Struggle, but BE WARNED, this is a very steep, very narrow and very winding road and is no place for timid motorists who don’t know the width of their own car. A good tip is to put your wing mirrors in before taking this route to make it easier to pass an oncoming vehicle. An ALTERNATIVE way to Kirkstone Pass and the Patterdale Valley on a much better road is to take the A592 from its junction with the A591, at a mini roundabout between Troutbeck Bridge and Windermere village; this junction is known locally as Cook’s Corner.
East of Ambleside…
Unique and beautiful Lakeland village that hugs a fellside instead of sitting in a valley. The Mortal Man is a popular pub, but the Queen’s Head was largely destroyed by a fire in 2014 and has yet to be repaired. There is a tearoom and café. Interesting buildings include Jesus Church and Townend, a National Trust farm that gives a fascinating insight into 17th century life.
Troutbeck is the start of walks to several Wainwright fells: Wansfell, Sour Howes, Sallows, Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick, Thornthwaite Crag, Caudale Moor and Troutbeck Tongue.
West of Ambleside…
Attractive hamlet straddling the A593 and the B5286 but with no facilities. Opposite the turning to Hawkshead (B5286) a rough lane marks the start of a short walk to the fabulous viewpoint of Todd Crag and on to Loughrigg Fell. Home of Brathay Hall (Brathay Trust).
Village straddling two parishes at the junction of the A593 and B5343 where the A593 crosses the River Brathay. Nearby is the attractive Skelwith Force, and there are riverside walks including one via Elter Water (the lake) to Elterwater (the village). Skelwith (pronounced locally ‘Skellith’) is home to the imposing Skelwith Bridge Hotel and its Talbot Bar, and Chesters by the River, a large and popular café and gift shop.
From the village, there are routes to two nearby Wainwrights, Black Fell and Loughrigg Fell.
Pretty village set in a bowl. Wonderful view of the Langdale Pikes at the cattle grid on the B5343. Some limited accommodation and facilities. The Britannia Inn in the centre of the village is renowned. Nearby there is a National Trust car park. A popular low-level path links the village with Skelwith Bridge, visiting beautiful Elter Water. The village is the start of a popular ascent to Silver How.
Biggest village in Great Langdale with much evidence of quarrying on the fellside above. Has everything a small community needs: church, shop, café, school and pub (Wainwrights’ Inn) – but no public car park, so please be considerate to locals. Start of the ascents of Lingmoor Fell and Silver How.
The New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and Stickle Barn are at the foot of Stickle Ghyll, where popular footpaths lead to Stickle Tarn and Harrison Stickle (the highest of the Langdale Pikes). There are two car parks, one of which is National Trust (toilet block nearby).
The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel is a further two-thirds of a mile up the valley, where a steep and zigzagging road escapes from the head of Great Langdale left over to Blea Tarn and into Little Langdale. Next to the hotel are two car parks, one of which is owned by the National Trust. From here there are good paths to the popular fells of Bowfell, Crinkle Crags, Pike o’ Blisco and Lingmoor Fell and its rocky subsidiary Side Pike as well as a much-used route via Mickleden and Rossett Gill to Scafell Pike. There is also access to the Langdale Pikes.
South-west of Ambleside…
Almost a hidden valley, in that, from the turn-off the A593 south of Skelwith Bridge there is no apparent dale behind a low hill and screen of trees, the ‘village’ of the same name is little more than a hamlet. At the heart of it is the Three Shires Inn, and there is limited parking nearby. Slater Bridge and Cathedral Cave are popular low-level destinations and walkers who favour exploration might enjoy the search for Lanty Slee’s Cave, where the 19th century illicit whisky producer and smuggler kept his still. Wainwright ascents can be made of Holme Fell, Lingmoor Fell and Wetherlam.