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.