There is no denying that Windermere is a beautiful lake in breath-taking surroundings but there are times and places around the lake that can sometimes get so busy it is difficult to appreciate the scenery. We tested this walk on a lovely, warm, sunny Sunday in July: the hotspots were buzzing with life as usual but for seven of the eight miles we walked we did not see anyone else on our path. At times we were walking right along the shore of the lake with beautiful views across it and with only geese for company.
Another joy of this walk is the time you get to spend on the lake and not just looking at it; the walk includes two boat rides. We arrived at Lakeside, at the very southern end of Windermere and only a few miles from the sea at Morecambe Bay. There we boarded MV Tern and set sail for Bowness. We were on the second sailing of the day and the boat was quiet which meant there was plenty of space for us to explore. Tern was built in Wyvenhoe in Essex in 1891 and has been sailing up and down Windermere for over one hundred years. Sitting amongst all of her polished wood is a wonderful way to see the shoreline of the lake and the mountains of the central Lake District ahead.
Arriving in Bowness we could not resist the lure of ice cream so we wandered slowly along the shore, enjoying our treat and heading for our second boat ride of the day. We boarded a very different vessel this time: Mallard is a no nonsense modern car ferry which takes up to eighteen vehicles, every twenty minutes, across the narrowest part of the lake. There has been a ferry crossing the lake at this point for over five hundred years. In those days everyone was heading for the busy market town of Hawkshead but now the western side of the lake is much quieter, with fewer buildings and many more trees.
Our plan now was to walk along the western side of the lake and back to Lakeside. The first half of the walk was almost all following the edge of the lake: the water was twinkling in the sunlight, boats sailed quietly past and the wild flowers were in full bloom. Even better than the flowers we found lots of ripe, wild raspberries which were a welcome, refreshing treat on this sunny day. It is not always immediately obvious where the path goes so you will need to be able to read a map for this walk otherwise you might find yourself just walking along the road which is not nearly as interesting. There are a few ups and downs along the way but on the whole it is fairly easy walking.
As you head further down the lake the path heads away from the shore and up into the woodland. At Stott Park Heights we had wonderful views over the bracken and back down towards the lake. The path then continues to High Dam. The tarn at High Dam was man-made: a source of water to power the machinery at the bobbin mill just downstream, but nature has taken over and with its pine-clad shore it is now a beautiful place to have a picnic. It even featured in the Independent's list of the Top 10 Peaceful Summer Walks. From High Dam the path leads downhill, through the little village of Finsthwaite and back to Lakeside, where you can catch up with all of the other visitors who do not know the secrets of how to escape the crowds and still get to enjoy the beauty of Windermere.