- Windermere, Cumbria

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Lake Windermere
Lake Windermere
The town of Windermere was only a scattering of homes until 1847 when a railway came to the area and terminated here. The rail station was named Windermere, and the village obligingly changed its name from Birthwaite (meaning 'clearing in the birches') to match that of the station. The railroad brought hoards of holidaying Victorians to the lake. Hotels and guesthouses, built of the local stone and slate, followed. The Windermere Hotel, built in 1847 specifically for rail travellers, was ideally sited opposite the station. The town became such a popular destination that it was listed in an 1860 guidebook. Today, many of the former wealthy Victorians' homes are hotels and lodging houses.

School Knott, east of Windermere, provides a good spot for panoramic countryside vistas. Orrest Head (c750 ft high), opposite the rail station, is an ideal place to view the central fells, the Yorkshire Pennines, and the lakes.

Wordsworth wrote a poem about the view from Orrest Head:

Standing alone, as from a rampart's edge,
I over looked the bed of Windermere,
Like a vast river stretching in the sun. . . . .
The railroad never continued through the Lake District, partly due to Wordsworth. Although he loved the area himself, he didn't wish to share it with others and used his influence to help terminate the rail line at Windermere. He wrote:

Is there no nook of English ground secure,
From rash assault?. . . .
. . . .How can this blight endure. . . .
There are two churches in the town: St John the Evangelist and St Mary's, which has some Victorian stained glass windows.

Holehird Gardens, 1½ miles from Windermere, sit on a hillside at the southern end of Troutbeck valley. The ten acres of gardens, located on the grounds of a Grade II listed building - now an old folk's home - provide spectacular views across the lake to the fells beyond. A walled kitchen garden, rock garden, orchard, heathers and shrubs make for a peaceful stroll. The garden has a national collection of astilbes, hydrangeas and polystichum ferns.

Windermere, a mile from the lake of the same name, is not as popular as its neighbour, Bowness-on-Windermere, but has its own charms as a Lakeland get-away.

Fell Foot Country Park
Fell Foot Country Park
Fell Foot is an 18-acre restored Victorian park and garden under the auspices of the National Trust. Located at Newby Bridge off the A592 at the southern end of Windermere Lake, it provides walks with views over the lake and a large grassy area for picnics.

Travelling to Windermere:
During the busy season, don't take the main A591. You will end up in a slowly moving line of traffic on the highway. Instead take the less travelled A5074 or B5284. Buses and the railroad run to the town.

Destination guide and photographs by kind permission of Barbara Ballard of Destinations-UK

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