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Hiking trail

Bowness to Ambleside

· 1 review · Hiking trail · South Lakeland
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  • Stone stile
    / Stone stile
    Photo: Macs Adventure
  • / Windermere shore side
    Photo: Macs Adventure
  • / Footpath to Orrest Head
    Photo: Macs Adventure
  • / Orrest Head route markers
    Photo: Macs Adventure
  • / The start of the track up to Wansfell Pike
    Photo: Macs Adventure
  • / Misty afternoons up in the hills!
    Photo: Macs Adventure
  • / Stockghyll Force
    Photo: Macs Adventure
m 700 600 500 400 300 200 100 -100 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 km

Take a ferry ride to Bowness on Windermere before embarking on your day's walk which takes in the hills and dales of this beautiful region.

15.6 km
4:15 h
644 m
603 m

Catch an early ferry from  Ambleside to Bowness  on Windermere before setting out from Bowness Bay and walking back to Ambleside.

After walking through Bowness on Windermere on footpaths, you will soon head into the hills on this delightful days’ walking. You will take in some of the most breathtaking views of the Lake District from vantage points such as Orrest Head (described by Wainwright after completing this walk as the  ‘introduction to a dream.’) This walk is actually known as the walk that inspired Wainwright.

Combine this with the high point of Wansfell Pike and this really does make for an exhilarating days walking.

Author’s recommendation

Much of the route passes through Red Squirrel Conservation Areas so keep your eyes peeled for this elusive little creature.

Highest point
482 m
Lowest point
36 m
Best time of year

Safety information

Check the weather forecast before setting out and listen to advice locals may offer you. When the route follows a road with no footpath remember to walk on the right hand side so you are facing any oncoming traffic.


Along with your usual gear for a day out in the hills remember to pack a wind/waterproof and an extra layer. The weather can change fairly quickly up on the peaks.

Tips, hints and links

Food & Drink

Many places to get lunch in Ambleside and Bowness, also a supermarket at Windermere Station with coffee shop just by the footpath to Orrest Head.


Points of interest

Views from Orrest Head

Orrest Head, above the town of Windermere is considered by many to be the best viewpoint over Lake Windermere. At 784 feet, some excellent views over the surrounding area can be had from its summit. On a clear day, the fell offers a 360° panorama, from the Yorkshire fells to the Langdales and Troutbeck Valley. Even Morecambe Bay is clearly visible. The well known author and walker Alfred Wainwright's first climb was Orrest Head, he walked to the summit of the fell in 1930, and felt greatly inspired by the view from Orrest Head. It remains today just as Wainwright would have seen it. A plaque to his memory stands at the summit. 

Stockghyll Force 

A spectacular 70 foot waterfall which may be viewed safely from a railed viewpoint. In spring the area under the trees is a carpet of daffodils. Stock Ghyll, a tributary of the River Rothay, tumbles down through a series of waterfalls to the centre of Ambleside. Once there were 12 water mills driven by the power of Stock Ghyll and other local becks, producing bobbins, processed fabrics, paper and ground corn. The mill nearest the road is the Old Corn Mill, on a site occupied by a mill since 1335. This was the old manorial mill, rebuilt in 1680 by the Braithwaite family of Ambleside Hall. The building was restored in the 1970s for use of shops. 

Wansfell Pike 

Enjoy views along Windermere and beyond to Morecambe Bay as well as panoramic views of surrounding hills and fells. Wansfell has an extensive summit ridge with two tops. The highest point of the fell is called Baystones with a height of 488 m (1,601 ft) while Wansfell Pike, which lies a kilometre to the south west reaches an elevation of 482 m (1,581 ft). Of the two summits Wansfell Pike is regarded as the “true” summit of the fell by many fell walkers because of its superior view, even though it is the lower of the pair.


Bowness Ferry Pier (39 m)
54.362555, -2.923011
30U 505002 6023863


Ambleside Tourist Office

Turn-by-turn directions

0.00 km - Start from Bowness Pier and follow the road TURN LEFT along the shoreline and then uphill through shops and past a church on your left to the mini roundabout.

0.25 km - TURN LEFT at Queens Square to walk along Rayrigg Road. Pass the museum and finally Rayrigg Hall/Farm. (Take care when crossing the busy road (A592) as the footpath alternates from one side of the road to the other)

1.55 km - TURN LEFT through the gate with a sign to “Low Millerground”. Stay on the left side of the field and go through the gate at the lakeside.

1.80 km - TURN RIGHT along the lakeside. Stay close to the lake until the path takes you to Low Millerground Cottage.

2.65 km - TURN RIGHT as the path winds around the house, crossing a stream and then uphill alongside the stream to the road.

2.80 km - Cross the road (Take care – busy road) and go STRAIGHT ON to continue on the footpath and then tarmac road uphill to reach the A591.

3.35 km - TURN RIGHT along the A591, walking uphill past the church to the traffic lights/pedestrian crossing.

3.70 km - TURN LEFT crossing the road at the traffic lights/pedestrian crossing then TURN RIGHT as soon as you have crossed the road. Immediately TURN LEFT sharply, to the tarmac road signposted “Orrest Head”. Stay on the tarmac road as it winds uphill, becoming a track to a 4 way junction of footpaths.

4.25 km - STRAIGHT ON as the track curves to the left around the hillside

4.40 km - When the track meets the wall, TURN RIGHT up the steps by the wall.

4.55 km - TURN LEFT through the gate and climb steps to the summit of Orrest Head. Spectacular views!

4.70 km - STRAIGHT ON heading North from the summit to descend the hill towards the white farmhouse in the distance. Funnel down between 2 walls to a gate and a stile.

4.90 km - BEAR RIGHT over the stile, signposted “Causeway”. Follow the grassy path to the road.

5.50 km - TURN RIGHT along the road.

5.70 km - TURN LEFT over the stone stile,signposted “Far Orrest ½ mile”.Follow the path, which curves round to the right and through the gate.

5.80 km - Go STRAIGHT ON to a gate in the corner of the field and then over a stile.

5.85 km - STRAIGHT ON to go over the stone stile in the apex of the wall (easily missed!!).

5.95 km - STRAIGHT ON keeping the wall on your right, over another stile and then following the footpath signs to go around the right hand side of Far Orrest Farm.

6.50 km - TURN LEFT to go through a gate. Then TURN RIGHT immediately following the signpost for “Garburn/Troutbeck” along a walled grassy path.

6.60 km - STRAIGHT ON through a wooden gate.

6.85 km - Go through a wooden gate and BEAR RIGHT across a field towards a road.

7.05 km - At the road TURN RIGHT and continue along the road until you see a public bridleway signpost pointing left.

7.20 km - TURN LEFT at the public bridleway signpost and walk gradually uphill, staying on the main path, ignoring gates on your left and right, to reach a gate.

8.05 km - STRAIGHT ON through the gate and the path starts to descend.

8.55 km - As you reach the pine trees on your left, ignore the path going down to your left. Keep STRAIGHT ON where another path merges from the left.

8.65 km - At the fork BEAR LEFT through the gate to head downhill towards the caravan park.

9.30 km - Just before you reach a gate TURN LEFT sharply and continue downhill.

9.45 km - STRAIGHT ON through a metal gate and then follow the public bridleway through the caravan park to reach a stone bridge with a shop on the right that sells a variety of refreshments!

9.70 km - STRAIGHT ON through the car park to reach a road.

9.90 km - TURN LEFT onto the road.

10.10 km - You will see a drinking trough on your right just before you reach the church. TURN RIGHT following the public bridleway sign keeping the wall on your left.

10.20 km - After the playground (on your right), BEAR RIGHT through a large gate (ignore the small gate to the right of this gate).

10.40 km - STRAIGHT ON through 2 more wooden gates.

10.45 km - STRAIGHT ON along a fenced path heading uphill with the stream below you to your left.

10.70 km - At a cross roads of paths with a signpost TURN LEFT.

10.80 km - About 20m after you cross the stream watch out for a public bridleway sign where you will TURN RIGHT uphill, ignoring gates to your left and right until you reach the road at the top.

10.90 km - TURN LEFT on the road then TURN RIGHT immediately, following the signpost for Nanny Lane through a gate between buildings heading up a steep gravel path.

12.10 km - TURN LEFT through a wooden gate which is clearly signed “footpath to Ambleside via Wansfell” and wind your way up to the summit of Wansfell where the views are fantastic looking over Windermere.

13.05 km - STRAIGHT ON through the black gate and descend straight on (to the right of the small knoll) to find a good path. BEAR LEFT on the path to continue downhill keeping to the right of a broken wall.

13.25 km - STRAIGHT ON down the path through the gap in the wall descending to cross a small

footbridge and walk down beside a stream.

13.95 km - At a wall TURN RIGHT through a gate on your right, still following the stream to a farm track. Cross the farm track and over the stile to Stockghyll Lane.

14.10 km - TURN LEFT along the lane.

14.35 km - TURN RIGHT along the footpath to go through the gate/ metal turnstile. Follow the path to Stockghyll Force where the path divides.

14.45 km - You have a choice to make here – only follow one option of the next sets of instructions. The paths rejoin lower down and then finish at the road. Option 1 is slightly longer but Option 2 gives you the best views of the falls.

Option 1 - TURN RIGHT to go over a bridge above the falls and then TURN LEFT down alongside the falls.

Option 2 - TURN LEFT and walk alongside the falls

14.85 km - TURN RIGHT and walk back into Ambleside.

15.20 km - TURN RIGHT at the main road junction to return to the Tourist Information Office

15.30 km - Your walk finishes at the Tourist Information Office.


all notes on protected areas

Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

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15.6 km
644 m
603 m
In and out Scenic Refreshment stops available Geological highlights Healthy climate


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