Businesses in Bowness-on-Windermere Towns and Villages of Cumbria


(See also Windermere)

Windermere Lake By Barbara BallardBowness-on-Windermere is one of the most popular tourist spots in the Lake District, sitting as it does at Lake Windermere's halfway point. A long promenade skirts the lake providing views over the busy little pleasure harbour, lake, and surrounding fells. The town is vibrant with people and traffic in the summertime.

Both the Romans and the Vikings roamed this countryside. The Vikings gave the name Bull Ness (village where the bull is kept) to their village, and, over the years, the name was corrupted to become Bowness. Bowness was a quiet fishing village in a sparsely populated area until the advent, in 1847, of the railroad. Made popular by the Lake District poets, especially Wordsworth, Bowness grew quickly.

Like the town of Windermere, hotels sprang up at Bowness to accommodate the tourists. Wealthy industrialists built sumptuous mansions, now turned into hotels. The Belsfield Hotel was originally the home of H. W. Schneider, Barrow ironmaster and industrialist. In 1869 he came to Bowness and provided the initiative to improve the pier. He built almshouses, still standing on Craig Walk.

Steam Launch Bat 1891 Windermere Steamboat CentreLocated where, for many years, barges unloaded gravel dredged from the bed of Lake Windermere, the Steamboat Museum is full of history. Its collection of Victorian and Edwardian steamboats and motorboats will interest all history and boat lovers. It includes the 1850 SL Dolly, which is the oldest mechanically powered boat in the world. It lay on the bed of the lake for 67 years before being salvaged and restored to working order.

The TSSL Esperance, owned by Schneider, was used by him to travel to Lakeside each morning to catch his private train to work. The coal-fired launch, Branksome, made of teak, took Prince Philip on a tour of Windermere Lake. Beatrix Potter's rowboat is on show along with the oldest boat in the collection, a 1780 yacht. The wealthy Victorians often used their steamboats for weekend parties and teas.

Windermere Lake Cruise By Julian ThurgoodToday, steamers and boats still ply Lake Windermere, the biggest of the Lake District lakes, at approximately 11 miles in length. Boats from Bowness stop at Ambleside and Lakeside and make circle tours of the lake. A steam launch, the Osprey, can be rented for tours of the lake. A car ferry (one has operated here since the 15th century) takes Beatrix Potter lovers to the far side of the lake to visit her home.

Beatrix Potter Diorama By Barbara BallardThe Beatrix Potter Exhibition is a family favourite. There's an AV presentation on her life, a walk-through museum with dioramas of her books and favourite characters, a themed shop, and a themed tearoom.

One of the newest attractions of the Lake District (open July, 2001) is Blackwell-the Arts & Crafts House, a grade 1 listed building and one of the most important of England's Arts and Crafts houses. Designed by M. H. Baillie Scott, between 1897 and 1900, as a family home, it overlooks the Lake Windermere area. The house, itself a work of art, serves as a public gallery for craft and applied arts.

St. Martin's Bowness By Julian ThurgoodThe outstanding feature of Bowness's parish church, St Martin's, built in 1483, destroyed by fire, and restored and enlarged in 1870, is the East window, some of which dates from the 15th century and is thought to be from Cartmel Priory. Other features of note include a 13th century font, a 17th century oak chest, other stained glass windows and inscriptions dated c1600. One window shows the coat of arms of John Washington of Wharton, the great (x 10) grandfather Interior St. Martin's Bowness By Julian Thurgoodof George Washington. The 15th century rectory is the oldest inhabited house in the area. Behind the church are some 15th century tradesmen's houses.

Bowness caters to tourists with lots of eating places, accommodations and activities. The Hole in't Wall pub-its real name is New Hall Inn-is an historical pub. It received its nickname because of a thirsty blacksmith located next door. To facilitate his access to beer while working, the pub knocked a hole in the wall to pass the suds through. The blacksmith shop is now part of the pub and is very atmospheric with beamed ceilings and slate floors. A collection of chamber pots hangs from one section of the ceiling, and the old blacksmith bellows are part of the bar's decoration. The pub once belonged to a champion wrestler. Wordsworth's pub of choice was called the White Lion (now the Royal Hotel).

There are views over the area from nearby Biskey Howe and Post Knott. Bowness itself provides unforgettable vistas across Windermere Lake.

Photos by Barbara Ballard and courtesy of Julian Thurgood , Windermere Steamboat Museum

Bowness-on-Windermere is on the A592 1 mile (2km) South of Windermere.

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