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Located within the Lake District, Windermere is England’s largest natural lake with its 14.73 km2 (5.69 sq mi) surface area. As the Lake District and its adjacent coastal areas turned into a popular holiday destination in the 19th century, the shores of Windermere became a prime spot for summer homes for wealthy families. Especially crucial for this development was the opening of the Kendal and Windermere Railway branch line in 1847, since this made the whole area much more accessible than before.
The area surrounding Windermere is popular for walking in hiking. The lake is largely surrounded by the foothills of the Lake District mountains, with some higher fells situated to the north and north-east.
The only town actually located on the lakeshore is Bowness-on-Windermere. The village Windermere is roughly a 20-minute walk from the lake if you start at Millerground.
Short facts about Windermere
|Surface elevation||39 meters
|Lake type||Ribbon mere|
|Maximum length||18.08 km
|Maximum width||1.49 km
|Maximum depth||66.76 meters
|Primary outflow||River Leven|
Geography & Nature
As the ice retreated at the end of the most recent ice age, this ribbon lake formed in a glacial trough. It is a narrow lake; less than a mile wide despite being over 11 miles long. Windermere has two basins: the northern one and the southern one. The northern basin is characterized by hard volcanic rocks, while the southern one features softer shales.
The lake is home to fish such as char, trout, pike, and perch.
Located between Morecambe Bay and the central fells, the lake is a popular stop-over for migratory birds.
There are eight islands in the lake, and many of them contain the word holme in their name. In Old Norse, holmr means small island or islet.
The largest island in Windermere is the privately owned Belle Isle, previously known as Lang Holme. This island, located opposite Bowness, is roughly one kilometre long and 40 acres in size.
- When England was a part of the Roman Empire, the Roman governor at Ambleside had a villa built on the island.
- In the 13th century, the island was the centre of the manor of Windermere.
- Belle Isle was named after Isabella Curwen in 1774 by her parents who had purchased it. From 1781, Isabella was the owner of the island. Her descendants lived on the island until 1993.
- The circular three-floor brick-house Belle Isle House was built here in 1774.
- At the time of writing, Belle Isle is owned by the Lefton family.
The other islands
|Lady Holme, previously known as St Mary Holme and Mary Holme||Named after the chantry that formerly stood here.|
|Bee Holme||This is only an island during high tide.|
|Birk Holme, also known as Birch Holme and Fir Holme|
|Lillies of the Valley (East and West)|
|Ling Holme||A small islet with just a few trees. Ling (heather) grow here, hence the name.|
|Hen Holme, also known as Chair and Table Island|
|Maiden Holme||The smallest islet of them all|
|Ramp Holme, also known as Roger Holme and Berkshire Island|
|Thompson Holme||This is the second-largest of the islands.|
Steamers, launches and ferries
Passenger services operate from Lakeside railway station at the lake’s southern end to Waterhead Bay near Ambleside in the north. A stop is made at Bowness, and some of the smaller launches also stop at Brockhole.
The Windermere Ferry is a cable ferry running across the lake from Far Sawrey on the western shore to Ferry Nab on the eastern side. It is large enough to carry cars, and the ferry forms a part of B5285.
During the summer season, two extra passenger ferries operate across the lake. One between Fell Foot Park and Lakeside station, and another one between Bowness and Far Sawrey.
The five major boating clubs on the lake are:
- The Lake District Boat Club
- The South Windermere Sailing Club
- The Royal Windermere Yacht Club
- Windermere Motor Boat Racing Club
- Windermere Cruising Association
Three Lakes Challenge
The 40-mile Three Lakes Challenge, also known as the Loch Lake Llyn Challenge, involves three swims:
- Swimming the length of Loch Awe in Scotland
- Swimming the length of Windermere in England
- Swimming the length of Llyn Tegid in Wales