Attractions

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Lakeland Motor Museum

The Lakeland Motor Museum is a great big barn of the place, filled to the rafters with items telling the story of road transport from the late nineteenth century through to the early part of the twenty-first century. There are a whopping 30,000 exhibits in total, ranging from bicycles to fire engines. And who can resist the lure of shiny sports cars?

Stepping into the vast main hall of the museum is an overwhelming experience – there’s so much to see. What to look at first? Luckily, there’s a one-way tour that winds its way past every single exhibit, so you won’t miss a thing. Classic vehicles from the early part of the twentieth century greet you as you enter the hall, quickly followed by luxury models and performance cars from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Mock shop fronts allow visitors another insight into past times, as they peer into toyshop windows or at garish outfits from the Swinging Sixties. A 1930s garage has also been recreated, complete with greasy tools and accessories. 

Upstairs are pedal cars, bicycles and Isle of Man TT motorbikes and film footage, as well as a display about the role of motor vehicles during World War One.

A separate building is devoted to the story of Malcolm and Donald Campbell who achieved several water speed records in the Lake District between 1939 and 1959. It contains full-sized replicas of the Blue Bird car in which Malcolm set a land speed record of 301mph in Utah in 1935; the Blue Bird K4 boat which broke the world water speed record for Malcolm on Coniston Water in 1939; and the Bluebird K7 jet hydroplane in which son Donald set seven world water speed records from 1955 to 1967. Sadly, it was in this latter vehicle that Donald lost his life while attempting to break the 300mph barrier on Coniston Water in January 1967. His boat lifted out of the water, did a backward somersault and then nose-dived into the lake.  

The museum is housed in a converted mill that’s located in a wooded valley beside the rushing waters of the River Leven. Displays explain the industrial history of the mill, including its incarnation as a packaging shed for the nearby ‘blue mill’ which manufactured a laundry pigment known as ‘Dolly Blue’.    

The Lakeland Motor Museum is located close to the southern tip of Windermere, about 9 miles from Bowness. Windermere Lake Cruises offers a ticket which combines entrance to the museum with a boat trip from Bowness to Lakeside. The museum is then a 35-minute walk from the Lakeside pier. 

If you’re feeling peckish, there’s a café on site, which you can visit without having to purchase a ticket for the museum. A small shop sells motoring memorabilia, books and gifts. A free children’s quiz is also available from the shop. Young visitors answer questions as they walk around the museum and then receive a souvenir medallion when they present the completed quiz to the reception desk on the way out. 

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Old Man of Coniston

Coniston Old Man is one of the most popular fells in the Lake District; visit the summit platform on a sunny day, whatever the season, and it will be thronged with walkers enjoying the extensive, 360-degree views. Not only are you able to look into the high, rocky heart of the Lakes, the Pennines are often visible and, on days when the air clarity is at its very best, you’ll be able to see the Isle of Man, Scotland and even Snowdonia in north Wales. 

So, is that why the Old Man’s so popular? After all, at 2634ft (803m), it’s not exactly up there with the biggies – in fact, it’s only the 31st highest fell in the National Park. Its popularity will have a lot to do with those views but it’ll also be partly to do with the ease with which it can be climbed. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re not used to fell-walking, it can be a tough old haul to the top, but it’s less than 2.5 miles from the centre of Coniston to the summit – following, for much of the way, ancient tracks once used by miners and quarrymen.  

If you don’t want to follow the ‘tourist route’ on to the fell though, there are other ways to approach the Old Man. If you enjoy striding out along superb, high-level ridges, combine it with a visit to Wetherlam and Swirl How to the north, or Dow Crag to the west. For a head-start on the crowds, consider staying at the YHA’s Coniston Coppermines hostel – it sits right at the rocky foot of the mountains, at almost 650ft above sea level.

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Windermere

Fed by rivers that come crashing down from the high fells, Windermere snakes its sedate way from Ambleside in the north to Lakeside in the south. From head to foot, it’s almost 11 miles, making it the largest natural lake in England. 

The wild western shore is the quietest. Draped in dense forest, low-lying hills drop abruptly to the water’s edge, leaving just a narrow strip of land along which public rights of way pass. The northern half of the lake is particularly popular with walkers and cyclists who can enjoy several miles of traffic-free routes. Bikes can be hired from Low Wray, Brockhole, Ferry Nab and Bowness. Attractions along this side of the lake include the National Trust’s unusual Wray Castle, a Victorian neo-Gothic mansion, and Claife Viewing Station, recently restored to allow visitors a unique perspective on the lake.   

With a main road running alongside it, the eastern shore is more developed. It’s here that you’ll find the tourist resorts of Bowness-on-Windermere and the adjoining Windermere village. Luxury hotels and expensive homes, all with breathtaking views across the water, are scattered along this shore. Public access is limited to a just a few places outside of the villages. From north to south, these include Holme Crag, the National Park’s visitor and activity centre at Brockhole, Millerground near Windermere village, Cockshott Point and the National Trust’s Fell Foot Park in the south.   

Fell Foot Park and Brockhole are among the many places where kayaks, canoes, rowing boats, motor boats and stand-up paddle boards can be hired – although not in winter. A range of vessels are also available from businesses at Waterhead, Bowness, Ferry Nab and Low Wood Bay, which is home to the Lake District’s only water skiing centre. In some cases, instruction is available, ranging from hour-long taster sessions to multi-day sailing courses. At Low Wood Bay, you can even try your hand at fly-boarding, flying above the surface of the lake on boots propelled by water-powered jet nozzles.

There are lots of places where owners can launch their own boats too, although permits are required for powered craft. There is a speed limit of ten nautical miles per hour, which drops to six miles an hour in some places.

Windermere Lake Cruises offer a gentler way of enjoying the Lake District from the famous lake. Boats operate all year round, serving various points along the entire length of Windermere. There’s also a council-run cable ferry that carries passengers and vehicles across the middle section of the lake in about 10 minutes. These also run throughout the year, weather and lake conditions permitting, with three ferries each way per hour.   

There are several islands on Windermere, most of which are little more than tree-crowned rocks. The largest of the lot by far is the privately owned Belle Isle, occupied by a neo-classical, domed house. Built in the 1770s and heavily influenced by the Pantheon in Rome, it’s thought to be England’s first cylindrical mansion. There is no public access to Belle Isle.