Windermere west shore walk

Windermere, Cumbria

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Deer grazing in the Claife Woods, Windermere © National Trust/ Paul Delaney

Deer grazing in the Claife Woods, Windermere

View of Wray Castle, Windermere © National Trust

View of Wray Castle, Windermere

Remains of earthen charcoal-burning platforms, Windermere © Pete Schofield, Oxford Archaeology North for the National Trust 2010

Remains of earthen charcoal-burning platforms, Windermere

Route overview

This is a wonderful linear low-level lakeshore walk, through woodland and parkland. It features great views of the islands, interesting woodland archaeology and the Victorian Gothic Wray Castle. Paul Farrington, National Trust Ranger says 'Wonderful family picnic spots are to be found at Harrowslack and High Wray Bay, just south of Wray Castle. Take some time to explore the gardens and parkland around Wray Castle; some of the impressive exotic trees in the grounds are county and national champions'.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Route of the Windermere West Shore walk in Cumbria
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Harrowslack National Trust car park, grid ref: SD388959

  1. Turn left as you exit the National Trust Harrowslack car park and follow the tarmac road through the farm land, with the lake on your right. After half a mile, cross a cattle grid and continue along the gravel track, past Strawberry Gardens caravan site. You will reach a wicket gate at a junction with a walled bridleway; turn left here (signed to Sawrey) through woodland and pasture. The track divides with a stony track to Hawkshead, marked with white-topped posts. Follow this, veering right at the ridge top.

  2. Continue straight ahead along the track through the woodland, eventually passing Bark Barn (built in the 19th century for storing oak bark before being transported to local tanneries for use in the leather industry) on your right and then Belle Grange House on your left. Continue along the gravel track until you reach the tarmac road, with Red Nab car park just to the right.

  3. Bear right through the car park and continue along the lakeshore, passing a low wooden barrier. Continue along this track, passing two small boathouses on the way, until you come to two field gates crossing the track - one with a stone squeeze-through stile next to it, the second with a footpath gate.

    Show/HideWildlife

    This area is one of the best places in Lakeland to see wild deer, as both red and roe deer live in the Claife Woods. Look uphill into the wood when walking along the lakeshore track - you may get lucky! On the lake, you are likely to see many geese. These will usually be a mixture of the native greylag (with their distinctive orange bills and pink legs and feet), and Canada geese (with their black heads and neck, white band around the chin and light brown bodies).

    Deer grazing in the Claife Woods, Windermere © National Trust/ Paul Delaney
  4. Just after the second gate, turn right through the footpath gate in the wall and walk through the parkland, past the third boathouse in High Wray Bay, keeping the lake on your right.

  5. Follow the lakeshore path through the parkland towards Wray Castle. After the short steep section of path, turn right at the brow of the hill and head towards the metal gate into Watbarrow Wood.

    Show/HideWray Castle

    This Gothic style folly was built in 1840 for the surgeon James Dawson of Liverpool, and was originally surrounded by mock ruins! Most of the money used to build it came from the family fortune of Dawson's wife, which was founded on the sale of gin. Wray Castle has been a family home, a Merchant Navy training college, and during the Second World War housed some of the Natural History Museum's exhibits. Look out for the mulberry tree in the garden, which was planted by the poet William Wordsworth.

    View of Wray Castle, Windermere © National Trust
  6. Keeping the lake on your right, follow the path through the wood until you reach a large boathouse. At this point you can follow the path by the railings up to the castle, or along to the wooden jetty at the second large gothic boathouse. At the junction turn right, walking along the road signed to Wray Castle and Ambleside, through the village of High Wray. Pass the village hall and after about 100 yards the road veers left. Turn right here and follow the footpath to the lake, after about ten yards go through the squeeze stile and little gate in the wall, down some steps and walk down the field keeping the wall to your left. Go through another wicket gate and follow the field edge down to a step stile in front of a boathouse on the lakeshore. Between Easter and 31 October you can collect the Windermere Lake Cruises Launch to Brockhole and Waterhead, where there are bus connections back to Windermere and Bowness. Alternatively retrace your steps back along the lakeshore to Harrowslack car park.

    Show/HideCharcoal-burning platforms

    These earthen platforms were used in the production of charcoal, which in turn was used to manufacture iron. 185 charcoal-burning platforms (some featuring stone revetment wall on their lower sides) have been recorded in these woods, and many are easily visible from the lakeshore track.

    Remains of earthen charcoal-burning platforms, Windermere © Pete Schofield, Oxford Archaeology North for the National Trust 2010

End: Harrowslack National Trust car park

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Distance: 4 miles (6.4km)
  • Time: 1 hour 30 minutes (one way)
  • OS Map: Explorer OL7 (The English Lakes south-eastern area)
  • Terrain:

    This linear walk includes some short, steep sections and follows a combination of tarmac, gravel and stoney track and includes some grassy parkland near Wray Castle. Dogs are welcome on leads.

  • How to get here:

    By bike: Kendal - Keswick cycle route passes through Windermere village (5 miles)

    By bus: Stagecoach in Cumbria 505/506 from Kendal to Bowness

    By train: Windermere rail station linked to Oxenholme station on main west coast line. Bus connection to Bowness Bay Stagecoach 505/506

    By boat: Windermere car ferry operates all year (except in high winds), Cross Lakes Shuttle (Windermere Lake Cruises) from Bowness Bay Pier 3 (pedestrian and cyclist shuttle operates Easter to October)

    By car: M6 Junction 36, A590 West, then A591 to Plumgarths roundabout, B5284 to Bowness B5285, Windermere car ferry. Alternatively via Hawkshead B5285

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