Nearby Bowness and Windermere are popular villages within the Lake District National Park
Windermere is a small village situated on a hill to the east of a lake of the same name. Linthwaite House Hotel offers superb views of the lake which is the largest in England, at over 10 miles long. From Windermere, you can enjoy many different tours of the Lake District with tour companies such as Lakes Supertours, Mountain Goat or English Lakes Tours.
Bowness is somewhat busier than Windermere itself, bustling with activity throughout the year and offering a wide range of shops and tourist attractions. From here you can enjoy a cruise on the lake with Windermere Lake Cruises (and even make a trip to the Aquarium of the Lakes at Lakeside, on the western side of Windermere), enjoy a production at The Old Laundry Theatre, visit the Windermere Steamboat Museum or Amazonia World of Reptiles, or simply marvel at an indoor re-creation of the Lake District countryside at the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction. For more information, contact: Bowness Tourist Information Centre on: +44 (0)15394 42895 or: Windermere Tourist Information Centre on: +44 (0)15394 46499
10 Facts About Olde Bowness
1. Bowness grew up as a small fishing village round about the 11th century and stayed very much that way until the arrival of the railway in 1847. There was a lot of opposition from local people who thought it would bring hordes of unwelcome visitors. One of the most ardent campaigners against the railway was William Wordsworth who lived at Rydal Mount near Grasmere. He did not want "uneducated persons" to see his beloved lakes. Despite this opposition the railway company went ahead. As a compromise the station was built 1 mile from the lakeshore at the nearby village of Birthwaite although later it was thought this might confuse visitors to the Lake so the name was changed to Windermere. The two towns of Windermere and Bowness now merge into one another about half way down the hill. The arrival of the railway opened up the area not just to visitors but to the Lancashire industrialists, men who had gained great wealth from the cotton industry. They built large mansions around the shore of the lake, many of which today are hotels.
2. Windermere is 10 ½ miles long and is England's longest lake. It takes its name from a Viking chieftan called Vinandr - hence Vinandr's Mere became Windermere. The Vikings settled in Cumbria in the 10th century from Ireland and the Isle of Man. They left a legacy of place names and language still used here today. Some examples are: Fell = hill, beck = stream, tarn = small lake (means "teardrop" in Norse) holme = island, ghyll = ravine, howe = small hill, thwaite = clearing The lake was formed 10,000 years ago during the last ice age when the glaciers melted in the high fells and pushed south across Silurian slates, gouging out a deep elongated hollow which became the Lake. The Lake is fed by many rivers including the Rothay and the Brathay and the southern outflow is the Leven. There are 14 islands all except one called Holme the Norse word for "island". The Lake is well stocked with fish including pike, perch, salmon and trout and a rare fish called the "char". This was very popular in London in the 18th century when it was served potted in butter in special shallow dishes. The journey by packhorse could take up to 3 weeks!
3. The Lake has frozen over several times during severe winters and Frost Fairs were held. Special trains brought visitors from Manchester and in 1895, 100,000 people came to skate on the ice. Bands played, bonfires were lit, there were ice yacht races and they even skated at night with lanterns. The last time the Lake froze was in 1964.
4. In the 19th century there was a craze for Regattas with all kinds of rowing and sailing races, sideshows and musicians and a procession of decorated barges. The regatta in 1825 was organised by a man called John Bolton from Storrs Hall. He invited many famous literary figures of the time to celebrate with him including William Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott. Although he was a great local benefactor and built the Grammar School in Bowness, his fortune was founded on the slave trade. Some of the slaves found their way back to Storrs, smuggled up the lake by boat then by an underground tunnel which ran from the lakeshore through the grounds of the Hall to the cellars. A slave girl is supposed to have put a curse on the house that it should never pass from father to son and it never has.
5. There has been a ferry on the Lake for over 500 years which crosses at the narrowest part at Ferry Nab to the south of Bowness. Today it's powered by diesel and runs on steel hawsers but it was once a flat bottomed wooden boat with long oars which could carry quite a lot of people as well as a carriage and horses. Back in 1635 there was a terrible storm, the ferry capsized and 47 people and 11 horses returning from a wedding in Hawkshead were drowned.
6. Pleasure Steamers have been on the Lake since 1845 when the Windermere Steam Yacht Company was formed. In 1985 Windermere Lake Cruises took over the steamers with three beautiful old boats called Tern, built in 1891, Teal in 1936 and Swan in 1938, together with a fleet of more modern boats. One of the piers is called Esperance Pier and is named after the Steamship Esperance on display in the Windermere Steamboat Museum and the oldest yacht on Lloyds Register of Shipping. It belonged to a man called William Henry Schneider who in 1860 lived in a house on the lake shore which is now the Belsfield Hotel. He was Chairman of the Barrow Steel works, started the shipbuilding industry there and was a shareholder in the Furness Railway. Every day he would board Esperance for the journey across the Lake while his butler, Pittaway, would carry his breakfast on board laid out on a silver salver. At Lakeside he would board his private train to take him to his office in Barrow. The only remaining part of this line is now the Lakeside to Haverthwaite railway.
7. Windermere's largest island (38 acres) is called Belle Isle and can be seen clearly from the Promenade. In 1774 the island was bought by Thomas English who built the famous round house designed in the Italianate style with a magnificent dome and classical portico. However, those locals again, William Wordsworth and Co, had a lot to say about this monstrosity spoiling the natural look of the landscape. He said it looked like a canister in a teashop window and only needed a label saying "Souchong". Poor Mr. English couldn't stand the ridicule and although it had cost him £6,000 to build, he sold it to the Curwen family for £1,700. The Curwens were wealthy owners of the Workington coalmines and Isabella Curwen was heiress to the estates. The island together with the round house was a wedding present in 1781 when she married her cousin John Christian. The island was named Belle Isle after Isabella and John Christian also added Curwen to his surname when he became MP for Carlisle in 1786. He kept a fleet of sailing vessels crewed by his private navy all dressed in scarlet livery and planted thousands of larch trees on the rocky slopes of Claife Heights behind the island.
8. The oldest part of Bowness dates from the 17th century and is the area behind St. Martin's Church known as Lowside, where the houses are huddled together for protection against the weather. The pub called The Hole in't Wall was once called the New Inn built in 1612. It acquired its nickname because the landlord used to pass beer through a hole in the wall to the blacksmith next door. In the 1850's the landlord was Thomas Longmire, a champion wrestler who won 174 wrestling belts.
9. In 1840 Bowness had a royal visitor when Queen Adelaide, the widow of William 1V arrived here by boat at the spot now known as Queen Adelaide's Hill, a scenic viewpoint. Several establishments changed their name in honour of the visit including the White Lion which became the Royal Hotel and The Ship public house which became known as The Royal.
10. The gem of Bowness is its little church dedicated to St. Martin, a Roman soldier who split his cloak in half with his sword to give to a beggar. There is a carved wooden statue of him inside the church dating from the 17th century. The original 13th century church burnt down and was rebuilt in 1483, later restored in the 1870's. The East Window has some of the oldest glass in England dating from 1260, believed to have come from Cartmel Priory. One of the panels depicts the coat of arms of the Washington family, ancestors of George Washington, the first President of the U.S.A. The mullet and bars were reputed to be the inspiration for the design of the American flag. In the churchyard is the grave of Rasselas Belfield, a slave who escaped from a ship and gained his freedom.
10 Facts About Olde Bowness - Courtesy of Jo Dadley, Blue Badge Guide (Engish Lakes Tours)