Rydal Mount
Rydal Mount

Ambleside, at the heart of the southern Lake District, is beautiful but busy. Its scenic setting, one mile north of Lake Windermere, guarantees its popularity. Grey stone houses, B&B's, hotels, galleries, and shops catering to the tourists abound.

One would never guess from looking at its pleasant aspect today that Ambleside's past was partly industrial. Charcoal, used in the smelting of iron ore in Furness and west Cumbria, was made here. Timber for the bobbin mills was another product of the area. Machine tool manufacture, quarrying, and mining were all part of the picture. Local slate and stone are still used for buildings.

Both the Romans-they built Galava Fort at Waterside in AD79-and the Vikings (place names in the area show the relationship) found this an inviting area. But it wasn't until the advent of the railroad, in Victorian times, that large numbers of tourists were able to visit.

Inexpensive rail fares brought hordes of people to the Lake District, and Ambleside's popularity was assured. Charles Dickens was one tourist who didn't like all the other visitors and said so.

Stock Ghyll
Stock Ghyll

The 17th century slate-roofed Bridge House, so called because it is perched over the narrow Stock Ghyll, is a shop and National Trust centre. One room up and one room down, it's hard to imagine that a family once lived here, or so it's said.

Another rumour has it that a Scotsman (naturally!) built it over the river to avoid land taxes. Still another story says it was built as a summerhouse for the former Ambleside Hall or as storage for their apples. There's a charming tearoom just down the street and over a little bridge.

Lake Windermere presents an inviting aspect. Explore it by hiring your own rowboat or go on a launch trip from Waterhead, one mile south of Ambleside.

Stroll the walkway along the friendly harbour, home to ducks and swans. Landscaped gardens and park benches add to the ambience.

A bit of history, the Rushbearing Ceremony, dates back to medieval times when rushes were used to cover church floors. Dirt and debris lay on the floor until, once a year, the rushes were changed.

A procession on the first Saturday in July-children parade through the village carrying rushes and flowers-celebrates this custom. A mural of the ceremony is on display at the Early Gothic style St Mary's Church (1850-54). You can't miss the sandstone church's 180ft. (55m) spire.

Other interesting events in the area are the sheepdog trials that take place in Rydal Park on the second Thursday in August, and, on the first Monday in August, fell runners come out in full force to compete. Indeed, fell walking, not running, is a popular year-round pastime.

The poet Wordsworth and his sister used to walk into Ambleside from Grasmere to get their mail. When Wordsworth was Distributor of Stamps for Westmoreland (1813), he had his office in Ambleside. Both rock and mountain climbing are popular attractions.

Galava Roman fort
Galava Roman fort

Southeast of the village at Jenkins Crag (730ft-230m), there are views of the village and the hills. Stagshaw Garden, a woodland garden on a steep hillside contains rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. From the garden, walks lead through Skelghyll Woods and to the fells beyond.

A short walk from Ambleside's centre is the location of the 70ft. (21m) waterfall, Stock Ghyll Force, which used to power several mills. The old Corn Mill-there was a mill on the site as early as 1335-now houses shops.

Near Ambleside is Rydal Mount, home to William Wordsworth from 1813 until his death in 1850. It is little changed since that time and houses memorabilia of the poet. There are beautifully landscaped gardens and a walk on the property. The view over Rydal Water is said to have inspired Wordsworth's poetry.

Winter or summer, busy or quiet, Ambleside charms. Whichever way you turn, the beauty of the Lake District surrounds you.

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About Ambleside
Address: Ambleside, Cumbria, England
Attraction Type: Town
Location map
OS: NY3702
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express

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Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Wray Castle - 0.7 miles (Historic House) Heritage Rating

Stagshaw Garden - 0.8 miles (Garden) Heritage Rating

Ambleside Roman Fort - 0.9 miles (Roman Site) Heritage Rating

Brockhole Gardens - 1.4 miles (Garden) Heritage Rating

Skelwith Force - 2 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Stock Ghyll Force - 2.1 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Townend - 2.3 miles (Historic House) Heritage Rating

Hawkshead Old Courthouse - 2.3 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

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