Lake District – Lake Windermere Cruise & Steam Train

We arrived in Bowness-on-Windermere on a Saturday, spending the Sunday wandering through the town for a few hours, checking out the harbour, shops, cafes, bakery and possibly even the ice cream shop.

On the Monday, the forecast was early overcast, changing to sunny periods, which we thought was the perfect weather to spend a day exploring Lake Windermere, which at 10.5 miles is the longest lake in the Lake District. What better way to see the lake than spend a day with Windermere Lake Cruises, with Bowness being their major terminal.

Windermere Lake Cruises

Checking their website, I was amazed at the number of cruise options – individual cruises, day passes and combinations of cruises with 1 or 2 local attractions. We settled on the Freedom of the Lake & Steam Train, which includes 24 hours of lake cruises and a return trip on the Lakeside Steam Train. While the evening cruise is not normally included with the Freedom ticket, as they had low bookings that evening, they advised we were more than welcome to join the sunset cruise, which I thought was excellent customer service.

Lake Windermere Cruise – boat & bus routes

Being about the middle of the lake, Bowness is their major terminal, so was an excellent starting point for exploring Lake Windermere.

Bowness Pier with the Laura Ashley Belsfield Hotel in background

Departing our B&B (Virginia Cottage) for the short walk down to the pier, where we purchased tickets, before boarding the classic old motor vessel Teal.

 Teal – one the the 2 classic old cruise boats

Built by local shipyard Vickers Armstrong, the MV Teal was launched in June 1936, with a capacity of 877 passengers. Her most notable moment came in August 1956 when she carried Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Duke of Edinburgh from Ambleside to Bowness.

Smaller cruise launches at the other Bowness Piers before departure

Some of the many swans and ducks 

Departing Bowness, we headed south towards Lakeside, which is the terminus for the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. I sat out on the open area at the fwd end of the Main Deck, which provided an excellent viewpoint for taking photographs.

Departed Bowness pier before turning south

Approaching the cable ferry shortly after departing Bowness

Passing the MW Swan about 1/2 way to Lakeside

Judi just before she headed inside when wind started blowing

The overcast conditions persisted the entire voyage towards Lakeside, but I found it comfortable sitting outside until about a mile before arrival, when we hit strong head winds followed by a short, but torrential downpour.

Approaching Lakeside in strong head wind

Approaching Lakeside Pier with steam train arriving

Lakeside Pier and steam train

Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway

On disembarking from the boat, it was a short walk along the pier to join the steam train, which was already hooked up to the front of the carriages and ready for departure. With no reserved seating, you wandered along the platform until finding a carriage with empty seats.

The rail journey from Lakeside the Haverthwaite Station is only 3.2 miles, taking about 15 minutes.

Judi just after departure from Lakeside

After arriving at Haverthwaite Station, the engine disconnects and moves back to the opposite end of the carriages, prior to the return trip. This provided about 20 minutes at the station, so I disembarked to get some quick photos.

Steam Engine in Haverthwaite Station, before it disconnected

Looking along the platform at Haverthwaite Station

Steam engine ready for departure from Haverthwaite Station

At Haverthwaite Station, in addition to watching the steam engine move and re-connect, they have a small cafe with great cups of tea and scones, a gift shop and large shed with a number of other steam and diesel engines.

Stopped at Newbry Bridge Station during the return trip

View out of the carriage window

Returning to Lakeside, it was a short walk back to the pier to catch the next boat back to Bowness.

Disconnecting the engine after arrival Lakeside

Lakeside with everyone disembarking

While out driving one day, we stopped at Haverthwaite Station, sampling the wares at the cafe, visiting the gift shop and watching an arrival and departure. The following photos were taken that day, when we did not board the train. There is no cost to arrive at the station and watch the proceedings.

Windermere Lake Cruises

Joining the queue at the pier, the next boat was just commencing its approach to the dock.

MV Tern starting its approach to Lakeside Pier

The squall that hit on arrival Lakeside must have been the front passing through, as the weather had changed significantly – patches of blue sky, light winds and a significant increase in temperature. I sat out front again, but Judi decided it wasn’t yet summer, seeking refuge inside.

View up lake from Lakeside Pier

One of many smaller homes or caravans on the East shore

Heading North approaching the cable ferry

Approaching Bowness from Lakeside

On docking at Bowness a significant number of the passengers disembarked, before we departed, heading north to Ambleside.

Departed Bowness and heading north to Ambleside

Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain (3,200 feet)

Judi enjoying the trip up to Ambleside

Heading North towards Ambleside

Approaching Ambleside Pier

Docking at Ambleside Pier

We disembarked at Ambleside Pier, which is a small community about 1 mile from the actual town. After wandering around for about an hour we stopped at the Waterhead Coffee Shop for tea and a blueberry scone, with clotted cream and jam. We sat out on the patio, sipping the tea and enjoying the scenery.

Having finished our tea, we wandered back to the pier, catching the next boat back to Bowness.

One of the monster homes on the East Shore

After dinner at the pub next to the B&B, we headed back to the pier for the sunset cruise. Unfortunately, the overcast skies returned, so we didn’t see any sunset. The evening cruise stays much closer to the shoreline, providing great views of a number of the monster water front homes around the lake.

Enjoy a few additional photos from Lake Windermere.


This was a great day, with Windermere Lake Cruises operating a highly professional service. The ships were well maintained and spotlessly clean. If you are ever around the Lake District, I highly recommend spending a day cruising the lake.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.