Top 5 walks from Windermere and Bowness


estled in the heart of the stunning Lake District National Park, Windermere and Bowness are two of the most picturesque and popular destinations to stay when visiting, and with good reason. With direct rail services from Manchester, Liverpool, London and Birmingham, as well as being a stone’s throw from the M6, they’re the gateway to the Lake District from further South.

Both towns offer a wealth of natural beauty, outdoor activities, and cultural attractions without having to get back in the car and rightly draws visitors from all over the world. One of the best ways to explore the area is by foot, and self-guided walks are a great way to discover hidden gems, take in the best local scenery and find adventure!

In this post, I will share the top 5 best self-guided walks from Windermere and Bowness, all of which can be accessed on foot or by hopping on a bus, providing a detailed guide to each one, as well as tips for preparation and additional information to make your trip as enjoyable as possible. No more Googling 'lake district outdoor activities near me' or 'Lake District easy hiking routes' because it's all here for you to see!

The Top 5 Self-Guided Walks from Windermere and Bowness in 2023

1. Orrest Head

Start / End Point W3W:
OS Grid Reference: SD 4130 9873
Distance 3.5Km
Time 1 Hr
Difficulty Moderate
Height Gain 167m
Best For Views north into the Lake District, Diverse surroundings, Following in Wainwright's footsteps
OS Maps Route Link: View the route on OS Maps

This is a classic route with a slight variation so you get to see the best bits of Orrest Head which most tourists will miss out on.

Starting from the main road opposite the Tourist Information centre head right towards Kendal and the M6. Head up the hill past the turning for the Windermere Hotel and look out for a public footpath sign pointing left through a gate and up the hillside. 

Follow the path to another gate and head up the hill with the dry stone wall on your left. Follow this to a viewpoint looking back over Windermere and Bowness. 

When you’ve finished digesting the view, continue along the same path to a third gate. Go through the gate and into the trees. Follow this path for around 500m to a kissing gate. 

On the other side of the kissing gate there’s a stile in the wall. Head over this and pick either route on offer. Choosing the right hand route is more 'off-road' but also a little shorter than the left, however, both will get you to the top. 

This is the spot Alfred Wainwright (who is synonymous with Lakeland walking) came to on his first trip to the Lake District. The view you see before you towards the Langdale Pikes is what inspired him and changed his life forever. 

To continue on our route, continue in the same direction we came up this hill so we start to defend down a grassy slope towards a kissing gate and a stile. Take the kissing gate and head up to a plateaux with a 2” high wooden post showing you the way. If you’ve got a dog with you, this field tends to have sheep in it so ensure yours is on a lead.

Heading downhill again towards the next kissing gate and a steeper hill. Hug the right wall into the corner of the field and yet another kissing gate (2 more to go!) This field can also sometimes have sheep or cattle in. 

Head through this kissing gate and make your way onto the nearest rocky track which heads left and downhill. 

The track will take you over a small stream with a foot bridge and onto our penultimate kissing gate. Follow the stone wall on your left to your last kissing gate and then onto the gravel path which continues down the hill. 

Near the bottom of the hill and about 50m before the cattle grid turn left onto another gravel track. Follow this to a black metal gate and a small cascade of water. Your final destination is around a kilometre away. Follow the road noise to make it back to our start point and the end of the route.

2. Brant Fell

Start / End Point W3W: dignify.stupidly.withdrew
OS Grid Reference: SD 406 967
Distance 2.6Km
Time 1 Hr
Difficulty Moderate
Height Gain 125m
Best For Views Over Bowness, Rock hopping
OS Maps Route Link: View the route on OS Maps

This is a great route to get above the towns and gives some of the best views over Lake Windermere and the southern Lake District, rivalled only by Gummer How to the south. However, unlike Gummer How, it is still accessible on foot from Bowness-On-Windermere.

It does come with an abrupt uphill start, but when that's over you're done for gaining height and get to enjoy the views all around the local area.

Navigating to the start point is fairly straightforward from the jetties in Bowness. Head towards the centre of town and turn uphill between Vinegar Jones' chip shop and the Hawkshead clothing company. This road is marked as Kendal Road and the A5074. Turn left immediately and follow the appropriately named residential street, Brantfell Road to its end. Here you'll find a gateway to a public footpath; note, this is also the starting point of the Dales Way - more on this another time.

This walk starts as it does for the Dalesway long distance route to Ilkley.

From the gateway, head uphill through the field to a second gate. Pass through it, turn right and head up the gravel track past seating built into the dry stone wall and another gate. Beyond the gate is a viewpoint - as marked on any OS map with the traditional conventional sign. 

Once you’ve finished admiring the view, continue in a similar direction towards another gate. On the other side is an open field with a taller peak. Note: Dog owners beware, this field is often occupied by sheep. Make your way up to top of the obvious hill and the best view around. You will now be at the summit of Brant Fell. 

Windermere from Brant Fell summit

When you’ve finished digesting the splendour that this viewpoint offers, continue in the same direction off the back of Brant Fell, taking time to explore the rock formations that are in the area. There are some enjoyable boulders to climb and scramble on here and come with good access and easy descent routes making them suitable for all. Do take care at the top as it can be gusty due to its exposed location. 

Follow the trodden ground down the hill away from where you came, winding around and to the left where you'll come to a gravel track (approx 300m from the summit). Bear right when you get there.

Heading downhill to the East will bring you to this track junction. Continue ahead until you reach the road.

After a short while you’ll reach a metal gate and a stile over the stone wall. On the other side is a narrow road. At the road turn left. Walk another 25m and see a public footpath sign on the left side of the road. Follow the sign through a kissing gate and into the field. 

Head up a small raise and with the wall on your left continue until you reach its end. Bear to the left as the field widens where you'll see a gate. If you get to a wire fence with a pond beyond it you've gone too far and have missed your turn to the left.

The path to take heads through the gate on the left.

The track you should be taking then heads slightly uphill and into some trees. The path weaves through the trees and opens out at a flat grassy area where it splits a man-made pond.

The view towards the man-made ponds. Caution: Sheep live in all of these fields

Continue on this track and through two kissing gates before turning left for the last time.

Follow the line of this track through no less than 3 kissing gates (including a really stiff one next to some steps - ignore these) before getting to familiar ground at kissing gate number 4. If you don't recognise where you are, just head through gate 4 and down the hill to where you started.

The junction of our outbound (path ahead) and return legs (from the gate on the left).
A welcoming sign for those having achieved 81 miles from Ilkely.

Heading downhill will put you back into Bowness and the opportunity for food, drinks and more adventures.

3. School Knott

Start / End Point W3W: dumplings.rocked.worms
OS Grid Reference: SD 415 974
Distance 5.2Km
Time 1Hr 30
Difficulty Moderate
Height Gain 160m
Best For Panoramic views, Peaceful trails
OS Maps Route Link: View the route on OS Maps

School Knott is not a fell you might have heard of, however, it gives stunning views towards the North and East of Windermere and is often a lot quieter than some of the other top 5 local self guided walks from Windermere and Bowness presented so far. If you've done the first couple of walks already this is definitely a good one to go for next.

Because of its location you'll need to commit to a short drive or accept a bit of a longer walk as this will start in a residential part of town between Windermere centre and Bowness.

The easiest way to get to the start point is by heading from Windermere at the southern end of the one way loop around its centre. Take the left split (just after the pedestrian crossing) and then turn left on to Broad Street. Follow this to its end, turn right and then left on to Park Road. Follow Park Road past the playground and up hill until the road starts to drop again. Park responsibly around the next bend. The start point is on the left hand side of the road and is marked with a public footpath sign.

The start of the walk on Park Road.

Take the path to the first junction, go left and then immediately right at a stone with two yellow painted arrows. The right path heads slightly uphill and back on itself to a gate. Head through the gate, putting dogs on leads and up the pretty field to an old metal fence and kissing gate. Our return leg will bring us back through the gate opposite but we'll head right along the road until the next road turns left and downhill.

The path to School Knott follows the Dales Way

Take the obvious gate off right after 100m and head through the field, following the path as it merges with another just before another gate and a small stream. Go through the gate and start to climb gently up a rocky path. Our next turning awaits approximately 300m further on and is marked by a public footpath sign post. Turn up hill  towards Hag End.

Take the path the Hag End.

The track continues gently uphill through a gate and onto a picturesque pond with fantastic scenery behind it. Continue to follow the trodden ground left of this and up to the summit of School Knott, passing through another gate on your way.

The view from the summit of School Knott looking towards Windermere and the Langdales.

When you've finished digesting this magnificent view, continue in the direction you ascended School Knott to descend, taking the trodden path towards Windermere. At the bottom of the hill there's a tall kissing gate and another viewpoint from a well positioned bench.

A well positioned bench looking north west towards the Langdales

Choosing the open-air trail or that through the woods to your left ends up in the same place as long as you head straight downhill. At the bottom of the hill there's another tall kissing gate, like the one you've just come through. Head through that and up towards the quaint white cottages.

Quaint cottages ahead on the return leg from School Knott.

Just beyond the cottages on the right is a steep set of steps down and across a small stream with a gate beyond. Head though the gate and into a field beyond. Continue to head straight on through the field. At the top of the slight raise in height you'll come to the gate we passed earlier on. Go through this, cross the road and back through the other gate we came through earlier to return to the start.

4. Cockshott Point to Claife Viewing Platform

Start / End Point W3W: mountains.soon.snored
OS Grid Reference: SD 397 965
Distance 4.2Km
Time 1Hr
Difficulty Easy
Height Gain 58m
Best For Lakeside views, Going on the Windermere Ferry
OS Maps Route Link: View the route on OS Maps

For those days when you don’t fancy much hill climbing, this route is an easy stroll from the busy waterfront in Bowness.

Cockshott point is marked at the start of the route. Follow the obvious path and take the time to explore the area. There’s lovely views of Lake Windermere here and in summertime it’s a wonderful (if not, very busy) place to spend a lazy day paddling in the water and watching the world go by. 

Follow the shoreline for around a kilometre until you reach a T-junction on the track. Turn right and head on to the road. There’s now a bit on the road to get you down to the water’s edge and the Windermere car ferry. 

Crossing the lake on the ferry is easy and doesn’t take long at all. It will cost you £1 per person each way unless a recipient of a Blue badge, in which case it’s free. 

When you arrive on to the West side of the lake, follow the road until you come to a right hand turn on a tight bend. Take the turning and after 30m you’ll see signs for Claife Viewing Platform. 

Follow the signs within the National Trust owned park and up to the viewing platform. 

Claife Viewing Platform as seen from the ferry.

Our return route heads back over the ferry and to the T-junction but go past where we came and continue until a road after another 500m. At the road, you can either turn left and return to the starting point or add in an extra loop by crossing the road and taking a lap of the grassy field contained within a black fence. This extra loop takes you back to the nearby pay-and-display car parks and the shops and restaurants on the waterfront.

5. Windermere and Millerground

Start / End Point W3W: disengage.spending.clashing
OS Grid Reference: SD 413 984
Distance 5.5Km
Time 1Hr 30
Difficulty Easy
Height Gain 120m
Best For Lakeside views & Playgrounds
OS Maps Route Link:

Sometimes you might not want to go too far from the centre of town, perhaps because of the weather or maybe you've got something else going on in the day. This self guided walk from Windermere takes in some of Windermere's local scenery without straying too far from the centre of town at any point. It'll probably also give you some ideas for things to do in the local area on another day while you're still in the area.

Make a start from the southern end of the one-way loop around Windermere outside the Little Ice Cream Shop. With your back to the shop door, head left and downhill towards Bowness for half a mile or 10 minutes walking. When you see the Lakes Boutique Hostel on your left (on the corner Queen's Drive), look right for a bus stop. On the nearest side of the bus stop is a public footpath sign and a gate. The path beyond the gate takes you through two rows of houses. Follow this, heading through a second gate and into the woods. You'll soon hear and see a stream running through the trees. Follow the path and stream until you get to a small road. Turn right on the road for 450m to a left turning off it again. Follow this into the woods and an off-road track until you get to another road (Birthwaite Road) on a hill. Going downhill (left) you'll reach the main road to Bowness from Troutbeck/Ambleside - Rayrigg Road.

In front of you is Windermere Outdoor Adventure Centre, Millerground. We'll loop back here on our return leg but for now, head left along the road (use the pavement on the far side of the road) for around 200m until you see a bus stop, probably a load of parked cars and a gate into a field on the same side of the road. Take the gate into the field and cross it to another gate on the other side which gives access to a path running parallel with the shoreline of Lake Windermere.

This shoreline is usually really busy in the summer months as bathers come to take advantage of the water. Get here early if you want to have a good spot in the sunshine on a busy summer day. Our route ultimately heads right along the shoreline to a set of public jetties. Nearby there'll be some steps or a steep slope to a mowed field and a brilliant playground. The nearby buildings are owned by Windermere Outdoor Adventure Centre where you can hire standup paddle boards, kayaks, sailing boats and get tuition to use them too. They also, sell ice creams!

Once you've had all the fun you want to here, head north away from the playground and towards the nearby car park. You're then looking for a small gate in the corner of the car park which gives access to the small mound that overlooks the car park. Take the gate and zig zag your way up the hill and onto the tops. The view here is splendid.

The view of Lake Windermere from Queen Adelaide's hill above Millerground one special morning.

Continue along the length of the hill following the track to a gate that opens onto the road. Cross the road and take the path into the woods follow it up hill as it weaves around local houses until you reach a road junction (Ambleside Road and St Mary's Park) at a church. Cross St Mary's Park and look for the next public footpath which runs along the near edge of the church grounds and parallel with St Mary's Park road.

This footpath will weave through more houses and onto a wider road at the back of some of Windermere's nicest central properties (Old College Lane). When you get to Phoenix Way turn left onto it and then right so you're heading in roughly the same direction as you were on Old College Lane. Look out for a gap in the hedge that leads onto a running track. Cross the track and head up a small raise in the corner of the field to a gate next to another road. At this point you can either, turn right and head a more direct route back to the Little Ice Cream Shop or go left and take a quick spin through Windermere from the northern end.

Now the walk is done, don't forget to go and get yourself a (nother) ice cream.

If you've enjoyed any of these walks, perhaps you'd be interested in some guided walks too? 

I specialise in creating memorable experience for small private groups of explorers looking to enjoy their time together in order to celebrate an important life event (anniversary, birthday, family reunion etc).

These walks are unique because you get to take professionally captured photographs home showing what you did on your tour but also there's the option to have your own private chef for the day too.

For more information, click on the button below.

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Portrait image of Lake District photographer, Al Topping Photos & Film