Few places are as good for blowing away city cobwebs as Ambleside, which was once home to English poet William Wordsworth. Sitting pretty in the heart of the Lake District, this Cumbrian town is surrounded by a picturesque mix of soaring fells, tumbling waterfalls and glassy lakes – the landmark one being Windermere, England’s biggest.
No surprise, then, that outdoor pursuits rule the roost, and most of the town’s attractions – from the outdoor shops to the post-hike pubs – revolve around bracing walks. Visit in summer to join the throngs of friendly ramblers; visit off season to wander lonely as a cloud.
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A perfect day in Ambleside
For fine dining, try The Old Stamp House – the lunch tasting menu is inspired by Cumbria and peppered with words like jus and emulsion. For good honest grub, Great North Pie Co will see you right. Its pastry-wrapped fillings include classics such as beef mince and onion, as well as specials like saag aloo.
If you didn’t come dressed for the great outdoors, get kitted out at The Climbers Shop, where you’ll find experts in all things outdoorsy. Grab a walking map from Fred’s Ambleside Bookshop, fill your (walking) boots with Cumbrian cheeses from Stockghyll Fine Food, and boost your refined sugar reserves at Old Bank House Chocolate Shop.
Walk to Stock Ghyll Force and marvel at the 70-foot waterfall – it crashes down a hillside just minutes from the town centre. Follow the marked path from Stock Ghyll Lane, and you can walk a circular route in around 30 minutes. For more of a scramble, drive half an hour to Keswick and tackle Catbells fell.
Sat on a crossroads in what feels like the absolute middle of bloody nowhere, The Drunken Duck is a haven of fireside seats, muddy dogs and delicious grub. Whether you’ve hiked the fells to reach it or been dropped off in a taxi, there’s a sense of it being the only outpost of civilisation for miles around. The welcome is heartfelt and rooms here are all about comfort, with views across the hills. The best bit? Breakfast, where you can fill up on treats like toasted fruit loaf and pancakes topped with chestnut custard and stewed plums. No, you’re dribbling. From £125 a night.