A-Z guide to some of the town’s well-known landmarks,
some lesser known, and some of the best viewpoints
AMBLESIDE VIEW: There are many great places to view Ambleside, mostly involving climbing part or all the way up fells (Todd Crag on Loughrigg Fell, Wansfell Pike, the south ridge of Red Screes etc). Possibly the best view that involves less effort is this of the town from the road to Kirkstone Pass about half-a-mile out of town. Todd Crag is the high-point behind St Mary’s Church.
The ARMITT MUSEUM AND LIBRARY is one of the Lake District’s real gems. It was founded by Mary Louise Armitt in 1909 and, ever since, has been at the heart of Ambleside. The museum – on Rydal Road just past the Kirkstone mini-roundabout – has a permanent Beatrix Potter exhibition – she donated books and paintings during her lifetime, and on her death bequeathed her portfolios of natural history watercolours and her personal copies of her “little books”. The Armitt also houses a collection of works by Kurt Schwitter, the renowned German refugee artist who lived in Ambleside from June 1945 until his death in January 1948. In addition, the library contains around 11,000 books, including the complete library of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club of the English Lake District.
Scarcely a minute goes past in daylight hours when the BRIDGE HOUSE isn’t being photographed; 17th century building – once an apple store, once a toll booth – is probably the most photographed manmade landmark in the Lake District.
The Bridge House sits astride Stock Ghyll beside the Rydal Road bridge just a short walk from the traffic lights at the top of Compston Road. Naturally, here are a few photographs .
It’s not the only Bridge House in town – there is another, identical, that is quite a lot smaller! This is a scaled-down replica that can found outside a house on the Rothay Road one-way system just before the right-angled left turn around the White Platts recreation ground . . .
Still one the subject, there is one more Bridge House that we know of – a replica at Honister Pass outside the headquarters of the Honister Slate Mine company.
BUS STATION: There used to be a good old-fashioned bus station in Ambleside but that has long since been demolished (on its site is the Market Cross pedestrianised shopping area). The nearest thing to a bus station can be found at Kelsick Road, opposite the town library. This is the best place to catch a bus (shelters, seats, timetables etc).
The bus stop in Kelsick Road.
CHARLOTTE MASON (1842-1923) was born in Bangor, North Wales, and spent her adult life improving education in England at the turn of the twentieth century. In education circles she came to prominence between 1880 and 1892 when she wrote a popular geography series called The Ambleside Geography Books. She moved to Ambleside in 1891 and established the House of Education, a training school for governesses and others working with young children. After her death the distinctive white building on a rise above Rydal Road became the Charlotte Mason College; it is now part of the University of Cumbria campus in the town. She is buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s Church in the town, where there a sign indicates the location of her grave.
The Charlotte Mason building at the University of Cumbria.
Plaque on the building.
The wording on the headstone.
COMPSTON ROAD: When you are driving north through Ambleside on the one-way system, Compston Road is the straight street just after the White Platts ‘chicane’ (the sharp-left, sharp-right section), which gives a lovely view of a typical Lakeland fellside above the town, in this case the lower part of the south ridge of Red Screes
Looking up Compston Road.
The FAIRFIELD HORSESHOE is one of the most popular and well known of the higher ridge walks in the Lake District, and is visible from most parts of the town.
Looking for INFORMATION while you’re in Ambleside? Then try The Hub (also the location of the town’s post office), which is situated at Market Cross, right beside the Salutation Hotel.
The LIBRARY in Kelsick Road is also a useful place to find out more about the town.
LOW PIKE, and the higher fell behind it (amazingly enough, called HIGH PIKE!) are the two closest fells to Ambleside on the Fairfield Horseshoe so, consequently, appear much higher than they actually are (1,667ft and 2155ft respectively).
Autumn colours and a dusting of snow on Low Pike and High Pike. The distinctive rocks on the right are known as Sweden Crag.
The ridge-line in summer, viewed from near Miller Bridge . .
And the same view in winter.
The town’s MARKET HALL is a distinctive building at the sharp bend in the main road south through the town, just after the Salutation Hotel. It is now a thai restaurant. The town was granted a market charter in 1650,
MILLER BRIDGE is an attractive, arched stone bridge at the edge of Rothay Park and gives access to Under Loughrigg and the main route up Loughrigg Fell.
NAB SCAR, seen here above the rooftops of Ambleside looking towards Rydal Road, is the first fell on the Fairfield Horseshoe when climbed in the clockwise direction, with the ascent starting from Rydal.
NIGHT TIME in Ambleside gives the town a very different feel. This view is from the top of Church Street looking up Market Place.
NOOK LANE is an important street for fellwalkers – it’s the start of the path to Low Sweden Bridge and Low Pike.
The OLD METHODIST CHURCH in Millans Park (seen from the top of Compston Road on the left) is a splendid building that has been converted to residential use.
OPEN-TOPPED BUSES are not just confined to London! There’s a regular service that runs through the heart of the south lakes.
The PARISH CENTRE, located alongside St Mary’s Church near the Vicarage Road entrance to Rothay Park, is a splendid building offering excellent facilities.
The PEDESTRIANISED Market Cross shopping precinct used to be the site of the town’s bus station.
PEGGY HILL is a short way to walk from North Street to Chapel Hill – it is steep in its lower section, hence this well-used hand rail.
A long time ago (1882) a POLICE STATION was built in Ambleside, as this stone sign in Church Street shows. A later police station was constructed on Rydal Road – this is now used as offices by Lakes Parish Council.
The ROOFTOPS of Ambleside are photogenic – at least, they often appear in photographs of fells. Here are some typical examples . .
Nab Scar above a rooftop at the start of Rydal Road.
High Pike appears over rooftops at the bottom of Compston Road.
Todd Crag and St Mary’s Church rise above a sea of rooftops around Church Street.
ROTHAY PARK is a lovely place for the whole family, just a short stroll from the centre of the town, with the main entrance near St Mary’s Church.
The SALUTATION HOTEL, after the Bridge House, is probably Ambleside’s most recognisable building.
SMITHY BROW is the name of the first section of the road to Kirkstone Pass from the mini-roundabout, and its steepness gives a hint of things to come. The well-known pub the Golden Rule is situated here.
Smithy Brown, looking towards Loughrigg Fell. It is only from this end of the town that the summit of Loughrigg Fell is visible.
ST MARY’S CHURCH is unmissable – a soaring spire that gives Ambleside an air of Victorian grandeur. It is the town’s highest structure. It was built in the 1850s to a design by Sir George Gilbert Scott which caused some controversy at the time, chiefly because of the rather ornate nature of the spire. He also designed the Albert Memorial in London’s Hyde Park and St Pancras Station. Inside is a mural depicting rushbearing, which was created in World War Two when the Royal College of Art was based in the town. The vicar of Ambleside, Henry Adamson Thompson, is depicted on the right hand side of the mural. He and his son, who was killed in the war, are both buried in the church’s cemetery.
Here are some pictures of this splendid structure:
STAMP HOUSE: a restaurant (appropriately called the Old Stamp House) now occupies the site of the town’s Stamp House at the top of Church Street where poet William Wordsworth held the grand title of ‘distributor of stamps for Westmorland’ for thirty years. A plaque on the wall commemorates Wordsworth’s rather mundane day job.
STOCK GHYLL hardly needs any introduction. It is the main beck through the middle of the town over which there are two bridges in close proximity (Rydal Road and North Street).
From Rydal Road bridge, looking upstream.
From the North Street bridge, looking downstream.
Stock Ghyll is, of course, famous for Stockghyll Force, a very photogenic series of falls located about a 10-minute walk from the centre of the town. The way there is to take the narrow road to the left of the Market Hall building and immediately turn left into Stockghyll Lane.
SUNSETS at Waterhead, looking across Windermere, are simply wonderful; there always seems to be a photographer around capturing the scene. Here’s the sun going down in winter.
SWEDEN BRIDGE LANE, a short walk up Smithy Brow and Kirkstone Road from Nook Lane, is the other way to get to Low Pike and the Fairfield Horseshoe, via High Sweden Bridge.
(THE) SLACK, linking Market Place with Compston Road, is probably Ambleside’s narrowest road open to traffic. Only good lorry drivers can make deliveries in this fashion .
THREE BUILDINGS from one viewpoint. St Mary’s Church and the Parish Centre have been mentioned earlier; the third structure is described by Alfred Wainwright in Book Three of his Pictorial Guide (Loughrigg Fell chapter, page 6) as ‘useful little building’. It is, of course, a public toilet.
VICARAGE ROAD, at the junction with Millans Park and Compston Road, is an important road – it leads to Rothay Park, Under Loughrigg and the main path to Loughrigg Fell from Ambleside. There is a fish and chip shop right on the corner.
Some of the WALLS around Ambleside are landmarks to remember . . .
A colourful wall at the bottom end of Cheapside (beside the NatWest Bank cashpoint).
Distance sign on Rydal Road
Lake Road, looking south.
Nook Lane, looking towards Smithy Brow.
Rothay Bridge (the road to Coniston)
Bottom of Stockghyll Lane.
The shapely summit of WANSFELL PIKE is in view from much of the town . . .
From Rydal Road (see those walkers on the top!) . . .
And from Vicarage Road.
In Victorian times if you were thirsty there was just one thing for it – the WATER TROUGH on Rothay Road (near White Platts recreation ground). The inscription reads: ‘Ho, everyone that thirsteth’. Needless to say, the water is no longer running.
WHITE PLATTS is a recreation area right beside St Mary’s Church that is popular among families, with activities such as crazy putting, pitch and putt, boules, bowls and tennis. It is a charming location.
Ambleside YOUTH HOSTEL, which recently underwent a major renovation, is actually in Waterhead. It’s right on Windermere, in the big building beyond the pier . . .
ZEFFIRELLIS (known as Zeffs by locals) has been in Ambleside since the 1970s. It’s a vegetarian/restaurant cinema halfway along Compston Road, but it’s a bit more than that – there is a jazz bar, and there is a sister restaurant (also with a cinema) called FELLINIS at the junction of Church Street and King Street. Zeffs also has a two cinema screens (the CINEMA BY THE PARK) in a converted church building just off the bottom end of Compston Road.
The main Zeffs complex.
Cinema by the Park.