Steam and Stories at Windermere Jetty Museum
Telling the story of England’s largest lake, the Windermere Jetty is also known as the ‘Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories’. Opened by then Prince Charles in 2019, its a sight to behold. Occupying a series of barn-like, copper-clad buildings on the shores of Windermere. The first contemporary building to be constructed beside the lake for several decades.
The Main Hall
The main, enclosed hall of the museum showcases a diverse fleet, ranging from sleek speedboats to an opulent Victorian steamer. Among this nautical array sits the tatty old rowing boat once used by Beatrix Potter and her husband, William Heelis. They would leisurely row on Moss Eccles Tarn during the balmy summer evenings.
Suspended from the ceiling is an early off-water glider, a testament to successful tests on Windermere in 1943. The museum also houses other fascinating exhibits, including the sketchbook of Arthur Ransome, the author behind ‘Swallows and Amazons’. Among the collection, visitors can find several ‘Windermere kettles’. These are copper urns ingeniously designed to boil five litres of water in just 10 seconds using steam from a ship’s boiler.
The Wet Dock of Windermere Jetty Museum
A massive wet dock is home to more of the museum’s impressive 40-strong vessel collection. This includes two boats featured in the 2016 film “Swallows and Amazons” and a classy motorboat from Florida named ‘Jane’. Like many of its nautical companions, ‘Jane’ has been meticulously restored to her former elegance. She now boasts the original rich red paintwork she wore proudly when first imported from the US in 1937.
The wet dock also harbors the 1902 steam launch, Osprey, a pioneer in the museum’s collection to ferry visitors on scenic cruises. Tickets are available for a leisurely 45-minute ‘heritage boat trip’. This tranquil journey meanders down the lake to Bowness. It circles around Windermere’s largest island, the privately owned Belle Isle. If you want to see the lake in style, this is the way to do it! There’s even a breakfast trip complete with tasty bacon or egg butties and a hot drink.
The Conservation Workshop
Visitors are welcome to visit the conservation workshop where experts work on restoring boats in the museum’s collection. A free talk is held once a day outside the workshop to help people understand what’s going on inside.
The museum site buzzes with events like ‘Jetty Gems’, featuring daily talks by an expert on a collection highlight. Occasional temporary exhibitions also pop up, adding a dash of the unexpected. Model boat fans are invited to sail their creations on the model boating pond, a space open to all at no charge. On Mondays and Thursdays, the pond transforms into the favourite gathering spot for the Windermere Model Boat Club members.
The Jetty Museum Cafe
Diners can visit the museum’s popular café, with its distracting picture windows looking out over beautiful Windermere, without having to buy an entrance ticket for the museum. Unlike in the museum itself, dogs are welcome in the café.
The Windermere Jetty is located about 1.5 miles from Windermere Railway Station and is a 15-minute walk from the middle of Bowness-on-Windermere. Windermere Lake Cruises’ red cruise also stops at the site on its way between Bowness and Waterhead at Ambleside.