Ambleside lies at the heart of the Lake District National Park at the head of Lake Windermere, nestling under a crown of fells, Loughrigg, Fairfield and Wansfell. Ambleside’s central location makes it an ideal spot from which to tour the Lake District. Its position at the gateway of the Langdale Valley is a major centre for walkers, rock climbers & those seeking good routes for mountain biking.
The Romans built a fort at Borrans Park, named Galava to defend southern Lakeland from invading Scots & Picts, and to guard the road to the Roman port at Ravenglass. Today, the earliest buildings in Ambleside date mainly from Victorian times.
Although Ambleside’s economy is derived mainly from tourism, it has also been associated with industry. Charcoal was produced at Ambleside, which was used in smelting the iron ore of Furness and west Cumbria. Timber works produced bobbins for the textile industry, machine tools were produced in Ambleside and quarrying and mining for slate and stone. Quarrying is still taking place in the area for the local grey green slate and stone, which make the local buildings so distinctive.
Bridge House is the one building unique to Ambleside, this tiny rough stone house stands on an arch over the river Stock Ghyll. Legend tells that a Scotsman built the two-roomed structure to avoid paying land tax. This quaint little building is now an information centre for the National Trust.
The Old Stamp House (now a solicitor’s office) was the poet William Wordsworth’s place of work in his capacity as Official Distributor of Stamps for Westmoreland.
The parish church of St. Mary the Virgin was built in 1854. Sir Gilbert Scott who designed the church gave it a handsome steeple, which towers above the roof tops of the houses, an unusual feature in the Lake District. The church contains a fine marble reredos (altar back) and memorial windows to Wordsworth and his family, in the Wordsworth chapel. A mural on the west wall by Gordon Ransom depicts the ancient Rush Bearing Ceremony.
The Rush Bearing ceremony, dating back to the Middle Ages, derives from the old custom of annually renewing the rushes, which were strewn on the church floor. Today children bear rushes and flowers in a picturesque procession to St. Mary the Virgin Church. The Rush Bearing Ceremony is held in Ambleside on the 1st Saturday in July.
Ambleside is also famous for its annual sports and sheep dog trials, which are held on the 1st Monday in August.
At the Armitt Ambleside Museum on Rydal Road, you can explore the local history, take an interactive bird’s eye view of the Lakeland landscape through the magic of photographer Herbert Bell and admire the treasury of Beatrix Potter’s rarely seen natural history watercolours.
Many lovely walks can be taken from Ambleside, one not to be missed is the walk to Stockghyll Force, a beautiful waterfall set in woodland one mile to the east of the village. The route starts behind the Salutation Hotel, which is in the centre of Ambleside.
At Waterhead pier rowing boats can be hired, or you can take a trip on one of the launches which sail on Lake Windermere, stopping at Bowness-on-Windermere or journey the full length of the lake to Lakeside at the southern end.
There are also 2 independent cinema's in Ambleside showing new releases along with arthouse & niche film collections.
The tiny village of Grasmere in the Lake District, is surrounded by Helm Crag to the north west, Rydal Fell and Nab Scar to the east, Yew Crag and Silver Howe lying west, with the River Rothay running by. Nearby Lake Grasmere is one of the Lake District’s smallest and most attractive lakes, with a pretty little island in the middle. This is the island of which Coleridge wrote,'We drank tea the night before I left Grasmere, on the island in that lovely lake, our kettle swung over the fire, hanging from the branch of a Fir Tree'. The area around village and Lake is noted for its tranquil and beautiful scenery and many delightful walks, which inspired much of the poet William Wordsworth’s best works, he described the area as 'the loveliest spot that man hath ever found'.
To the south on the outskirts of the village at Town End, you will find Dove Cottage where Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy lived from 1799-1808, and where in 1802 he brought his bride Mary. Before the Wordsworth family came to Dove Cottage it was an Inn, the Dove and Olive Branch, built in the 17th century. It became a favourite meeting place of many outstanding literary figures, such as Coleridge, de Quincey, Southey and others. Today Dove Cottage is preserved by the Wordsworth trust, it is open to the public, and has scarcely changed since these days. Adjacent to Dove Cottage is the Wordsworth Museum, which celebrates Wordsworth’s life and works, together with those of his contemporaries.
From Dove Cottage the Wordsworths moved to Allan Bank and later to the Old Rectory opposite St. Oswald’s church, before moving to Rydal Mount in 1813, which was his home until his death in 1850. Rydal Mount is now owned by descendants of the family and contains a fine collection of family portraits and many of the poet’s personal possessions. You can see the poet’s study and enjoy the beautiful garden, designed by Wordsworth, preserved as it was during his life. The house and garden are open to visitors throughout the year.
A short distance from Rydal Mount is the chapel where the Wordsworths often attended services. Dora’s field, which was purchased by the poet, lies beyond the chapel. Wordsworth intended building a house there, however the plan was not fulfilled and the field was given to his daughter. It is preserved by the National Trust and presents a tremendous display of daffodils each spring.
St Oswald’s Church is the burial place of William and his family, their grave is marked by a simple headstone, beneath the Yew trees in the graveyard.
Wordsworth’s son John, attended the tiny Lych Gate school in the village and William taught there for a short time. Today it is home to the celebrated Sarah Nelson gingerbread shop, which specialises in the local delicacy 'Grasmere Gingerbread'.
Grasmere Sports are traditionally held annually, on the Thursday nearest to 20th August and could be described as England’s equivalent of the Highland Games. Thousands gather to see Cumbrian Wrestling, the hound trail and to cheer on the athletes taking part in the fell racing, as they run to the top of Butter Crag and back down again.