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Our complete guide to Ambleside, The Lake District

Welcome to our complete Ambleside, the Lake District travel guide! After spending time in this vibrant heart to the Lake District, we’ve assembled tips and information to help you make the most of your visit. Ambleside is a beautiful village with an abundance of things to do. Stone-walled houses line the streets and its cosy cafes and restaurants come alive during the tourist season.

It’s also home to one of the most impressive waterfalls in the entire region, Stock Gyhll Force. Stop by for a morning of sightseeing or base yourself in Ambleside for easy access to the rest of the Lake District.

In our guide, you’ll find our top tips for visiting, recommendations on the best restaurants, cafes, hotels, bars and B&B’s, plus much more insider information to get you ready for your trip.

When’s the best time to visit Ambleside?

Ambleside guide - Shows the town from above

Being deep within the rolling hills of the Lake District, it can get quite chilly and rainy in Ambleside during Autumn and Winter. This can present some amazing scenery and frosty nights in, but it isn’t the best climate for exploring the outdoors. The summer months of July and August, plus bank holidays can be very busy.

Therefore, we recommend visiting between the months of March and June, or September. Weather is mild and clear, and it isn’t too busy.

Where in the Lake District is Ambleside located?

Ambleside sits within the very centre of the Lake District and is known as one of the most central locations. You have the magnificent Windermere Lake a few minutes’ drive to the south and other villages, mountains and lakes nearby. It’s regarded as one of the best places to base yourself for exploring the Lakes.

The Best things to do in Ambleside

Stock Ghyll Force Waterfall

In our opinion, Stock Ghyll is one of the best things to do in Ambleside. Walk 10-minutes north-east of the town centre and you’ll encounter a nature trail. Trek across rocks and up to the top of the hill to be greeted by the impressive Stock Ghyll Waterfall. You really wouldn’t think a waterfall of its magnitude would be a stone’s throw from town. The walking route takes around 40-minutes to complete.

Things to do in Ambleside - Shows Stock Ghyll Waterfall
Waterhead Pier

Walk down to the lake shore and enjoy a peaceful picnic or warm drink. Ambleside Town is cheery and welcoming, but it can get busy during the tourist season. A stroll by the pier at Waterhead is a great way to start your morning!

The Bridge House

As you pass through Ambleside, you’ll likely notice the fairy-tale-esque ‘Bridge House’ and wonder what it is. This 17th century stone house sits on top of a winding stream, right in the centre of town. It’s a long-standing building of importance in the town and has a rich history.

Things to do in Ambleside - Susie standing by The Bridge House
Ambleside Climbing Wall

For all you adventurers out there that want a rainy-day challenge, head over to Ambleside Climbing Wall for a couple of hours of wall ascents. It suits both beginner climbers and those with experience. It’s one of the best things to do in Ambleside for those that want a cool adrenaline inducing activity.

Browse the local shops

Ambleside is full of independent gift shops, adventure clothing retailers such as Mountain Warehouse (there are so many of these types of stores) and our personal favourite, confectionary shops. Buy freshly made fudge, sweets and other tasty treats to take back home. After exploring many of the towns in the Lake District, we found Ambleside to be one of the best for shopping.

Best things to do in Ambleside - Shops and restaurants
Rothay Park

If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Ambleside town, stroll 5-minutes to Rothay Park. It’s the largest green area in town and the ideal place to relax. Go for a morning stroll, take the kids to the outdoor play area or enjoy a picnic. The green scenery is a welcome escape, especially on a warm day.

White Platts Recreation Ground

If you’ve visited town and fancy doing something a little more energising with your family, head to White Platts Recreation Ground. It has a small mini golf course, bowling green and lots of grassed areas for a picnic or ball sports. It’s one of the best things to do in Ambleside on a sunny day.

Ambleside attractions - Shows White Platts Mini Golf
Armitt Library Museum

An unusual but highly interesting place to visit for history lovers, is the early 1900’s Armitt Library. It’s dedicated to preserving English heritage and is full of interesting facts. The classic library interior is also cool to see.

Zeffirellis Cinema

In the evening after dinner, life is quiet in Ambleside and many tourists retreat to bed, ready for an early start the next day. We highly recommend checking out Zeffirellis one evening. It’s a small, cosy, independent cinema that has a line-up of all the latest movies. Snuggle up and watch a film with your favourite snacks and drinks.

Nearby attractions

Rydal Water

If you arrive in Ambleside from the north, you’ll pass through Rydal Water on the way. This scenic lake is one of the smallest lakes in the district. It’s one of the best walks in the area for those that want to take it at an easy pace, crossing countryside, lake shores and forested areas. You’ll also walk by an impressive cave opening! Aim to spend around 2 hours exploring Rydal Water.

Windermere Lake

Windermere Lake needs no introduction! It’s the largest body of water in the Lake District and the most popular place to visit. Ambleside sits at the very top of the lake and you can reach it from its Waterhead pier. Drive south-east or west and you have more excellent views of the lake and plenty of water sports activities.

Attractions near Ambleside - Shows Windermere Lake from above

Drive 5-minutes down the road to Brockhole-on-Windermere for an afternoon by one of Windermere’s best shores. It has activities such archery, kayaking, clay pigeon shooting, electric go-karts, mini golf, a tree-top adventure park, and so much more! It’s a brilliant place for families.


A picture-perfect village and the former home of poet William Wordsworth, Grasmere is one of our favourite places in the Lake District. The town has a collection of scenic streets, cafes, shops and buildings to check out. It also has a huge lake with a walking trail. Aim to spend half to a full day here.

Shows Grasmere town from above
Wandsfell Pike

You don’t need to venture far from Ambleside for an excellent hike, high up in the hills. Wandsfell Pike is a glorious walking trail that’s easy to get to from the town centre. It provides a challenge for hikers with all levels of experience and has stunning views of Ambleside and Windermere Lake below.

The best Ambleside restaurants and cafes

It goes without saying that you’ll want to eat out and sample the foodie delights that Ambleside has to offer. It has plenty of light lunch bites, and several classier restaurants for an evening. See a list of our recommended Ambleside restaurants and cafes below. They all have excellent Tripadvisor reviews.

The Old Stamp House Restaurant
View on map | Tripadvisor rating 4.5/5

On first impressions, The Old Stamp House Restaurant feels homely and intimate, with bare stone walls and small wooden tables. It has a very ‘rustic’ appearance. When you see the food, you then know what it’s all about! Dishes are beautifully presented and rival that of a fine dining Michelin Star restaurant, making it one of the best restaurants in Ambleside for a romantic dinner or special occasion.

Matthew’s Bistro

Steak, fish, lasagne and curry. Matthew’s Bistro has a menu to suit anyone and each of their dishes is to a high standard. It’s a nice place for a casual dinner where you want excellent food with your partner or family, located in the centre of town. Save some room for dessert as their homemade options are to die for. Crumble anyone?

Great North Pie Co

Everyone knows that northerner’s love pies and this place has some of the best! They’re the perfect ‘hearty’ lunch for an active day in the Lake District and come in a variety of exciting flavours. We recommend Great North Pie Co for a quick lunch on the go. They have veggie options too!

Bar eS

Who would have thought you’d find a traditional Spanish tapas restaurant in the middle of the Cumbrian countryside? Bar eS does Spanish cooking fantastically well and has all the delicious tapas dishes you’d expect. Dimly lit with candles on an evening and with a nice outdoor area for during the day, Bar eS is the place to go if you want a vibrant evening out sampling different foods. This is probably our favourite Ambleside restaurant.

Fresher’s Café

Sometimes you don’t want to spend much time having lunch and would rather get out and explore. Fresher’s Café is a simple but welcoming local café that serves up quick but tasty food every day. Jacket potatoes, sandwiches, cakes and pastries fill the menu and they’re done very well. Sit outside in the sun and re-charge your batteries after a busy morning of sightseeing. It’s a great Ambleside restaurant for light bites on the go.

Ambleside pubs and bars – The best places to have a drink

Nightlife isn’t a big thing in Ambleside. It’s all about adventures during the day and relaxing in the evening in a nice restaurant. That’s not saying there aren’t some excellent pubs! Enjoy a drink in a beer garden or embrace the local atmosphere with a pub dinner and pint. Here are the best places to have a drink in Ambleside.

Golden Rule

Nestled on a side street, Golden Rule is a traditional Cumbrian pub full of local ales, but also international beers, wines and spirits. It has a no frills, rustic décor and is a cosy place to enjoy a drink at any time of the day. Sit outside in their garden area when it’s warm.

The Flying Fleece

The Flying Fleece is more of a restaurant (and a very good one), but it’s also a great place to relax with a drink during the day. It has a terrace of outdoor tables overlooking the old Bridge House by the river. It’s also one of the best Ambleside pubs to enjoy on a sunny day.

The Lily Bar

If you want a hearty pub lunch to go with your beer, The Lily is the place to go. Sample the local drinks and tuck into fish and chips, a Sunday roast and other British favourites. They sometimes have live music on an evening and the outdoor tables are a great place to sit on a sunny day.

Ambleside Tavern

Ambleside Tavern is one of the livelier pubs to visit during the tourist season. On an evening, both tourists and locals flock to the tavern for a pint and some live music. It’s a traditional British pub with a small interior.

Where to stay in Ambleside

Where to stay in Ambleside Lake District - Shows a riverside hotel

As we’ve already mentioned, Ambleside is one of (if not the best) places to stay in the Lake District. It’s central and within a short drive of most of the major attractions. It also has plenty of hotel, B&B and private rental options and it best suits those that want a small, boutique and cosy vibe over being out in nature. You won’t find any hot tub lodges here, but what you will find is a friendly atmosphere with lots going on!

The best Ambleside hotels

Rothay Manor

Grand in nature and decorated with calming shades of white, Rothay Manor is probably the most luxurious hotel in Ambleside. It sits on the main road running through the south-west of town and has an idyllic garden area to relax in. Combine that with top-notch food and spacious suites and you have one of the best places to stay in Ambleside. You’re in a quieter area of town, but close enough to walk to all major attractions.

The Fisherbeck

A long-standing classic hotel in Ambleside, The Fisherbeck has been welcoming and impressing guests with its hospitality for many years. It has recently been refurbished and has a good variety of rooms to choose from. What’s the best thing about The Fisherbeck? The view! It has stunning views overlooking the Fell and lake area. Go for a balcony room for the best experience.

Ambleside Salutation Hotel, BW Premier Collection

Part of the Best Western Premier Collection, the Ambleside Salutation hotel has a sauna, spa, swimming pool and rooms with hot tubs. Those facilities alone will give you a taste of the calibre of this hotel. It’s small, charming and located in the heart of town. It also has room options to suit all budgets and is one of the best places to stay in Ambleside for couples.

The best Ambleside Bed and Breakfasts

Riverside B&B

Nestled to the south-west of town but only a 10-minute walk away from the centre, Riverside B&B is one of the most charming places to stay in Ambleside. Its country-cottage façade is surrounded by neatly maintained gardens, where you can relax with a cup of tea after a long day of walking. It’s secluded, well maintained and its country surroundings make it our top choice.

Diamond Lodge Boutique Guest House

Diamond Lodge is decorated to a high standard, with a spacious, modern interior and lots of amenities. It sits on the main road leading into Ambleside from the south, so you have easy access to what the Lake District has to offer. Wake up to morning views of the Fell and enjoy being in the centre of town.

Haven Cottage

Roll-top baths, spacious rooms and high-quality furniture make Haven Cottage one of the most luxurious B&B options for stay in Ambleside. The cottage building is covered in green foliage and it has a nice outdoor patio area to enjoy breakfast on a morning. Tuck into their hearty Cumbrian breakfast on a morning.

The Lakes B and B

The Lakes B and B is a no frills but neatly maintained B&B right in the heart of town. You’re only a short walk away from the restaurants, cafes and shops and can truly embrace Ambleside life. The vibe of The Lakes B and B is friendly and welcoming – exactly what you want for a B&B. It’s affordable too!

Parking in Ambleside

Being a small town, parking in Ambleside can sometimes be hard to come by, especially during the busy tourist season and on weekends. You’ll find small car parks throughout town and may be lucky enough to grab a space.

We personally recommend heading straight to Rydal Road Car Park. It’s the largest car park in Ambleside and you’re more likely to find a space. View Rydal Road Car Park on Google Maps here.

We recommend downloading the PaybyPhone mobile app and setting up an account before arriving so you can pay with ease and extend where needed.

If you’re staying in an Ambleside hotel or B&B, they usually offer discounts on local parking if you buy a permit directly through the accommodation.

Our top tips for visiting Ambleside

Top tips for visiting Ambleside, Lake District - Shows a quaint town corner
  • If you’re visiting during weekends, bank holidays or the busy summer months, book restaurants and attractions in advance. It can get quite busy!
  • You’re probably visiting Ambleside in combination with other nearby towns and lakes. This is a great option. Combine Ambleside with Grasmere or Windermere and you can see both destinations in one-action packed daytrip. They’re very close to each other.
  • The best way to reach Ambleside is by car, however the local bus service is particularly good too. You can catch the bus to Ambleside from any of the main Lake District towns – Windermere, Bowness, Grasmere, Keswick, Penrith, etc.
  • Ambleside is one of the best places for shopping in the Lake District. If you see something you like, we recommend buying it. You likely won’t find it anywhere else. It’s the best place to buy gifts too.
  • Consider staying in a B&B or booking accommodation just outside of town to save money.
  • Visit on a weekday for less crowds. Monday – Thursday is the quietest time, no matter the month.
  • You’ll do a lot of walking whilst sightseeing in Ambleside. Take time out to relax with a coffee and cake in a corner café. There’s a lot of cafes to choose from and it’s part of the Lake District experience. 😊

That’s a wrap! We hope you found our Ambleside travel guide useful and can use it to plan your own trip to this beautiful area of the Lake District. Allocate enough time to see the main attractions and be sure to dine in at least one restaurant. The food here is excellent! Have any questions? Leave a comment below. 😊


Author bio:

An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.

Comments (4)

Recently returned from a most enjoyable stay at the Salutation Hotel! Highly recommended!

Recently stayed at The Lakes B and B. Had a fabulous stay. Every thing perfect. Claire and Eugene are the best hosts. Well deserved 5/5.

Just come across your article on Ambleside. It’s very informative and has lots of tips for visitors. Having lived and worked here for eight years we feel you have highlighted a beautiful place to visit in the lakes. We are obviously biased but we feel Ambleside has a lot to offer and caters for all kinds of tourists.

We would like to thank you for including our small bandb on your list. This is a first for us to find ourselves mentioned on a travel blog. We have worked so hard building our business from scratch. Our guests have always supported us with excellent reviews and by returning year after year.
Clare and Eugene The Lakes BandB Ambleside

We hired a campervan from Carlisle Campers ( and toured through many parts of the lakes over 10 days. We had an overnight stay near Ambeside and found that parking was awkward in the centre. So we parked about mile or so outside and used bicycles to get into the centre. This worked great and is a good tip for any other campers visiting Ambleside.

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