I shouldn't really feature Ambleside's famous smallest house, it being so much ON the tourist track and not the sort of thing I promote but what the heck. Once in a while I've got to go with the flow....!!!
Situated on the left of the main road to Keswick, after you have turned left in Ambleside for the large car park.
It sits on a little bridge over Stock Ghyll and is undoubtedly one of Ambleside's best known features. It was built in the 16thC. as a summerhouse for Ambleside Hall, in an apple orchard and went on to be used as a store for the apples. At some stage in it's life it is said to have been home to a very large family. Well, that must have been fun!!!
In 1956 the National Trust took over and it became the very first of their information centres. Today, it remains a National Trust info and gift shop and advertises "Free admission." Wow, would anyone join the N.T. if they had to pay to enter the building before they even thought about joining up??
This is a pleasant, relatively easy uphill walk from the centre of Ambleside, starting from behind the Salutation Hotel. Walk a short distance up Stockghyll Lane and follow directions to the left, through a small gate.
The walk follows the tumbling beck all the way, passing some beautiful riverside properties on the opposite bank. It's only about a 15 min walk on a well marked path which divides and crosses the river by a lower bridge and again at the top. For the best views of the 18 metre falls, keep to the right hand side path where you'll come to a viewing area. Once above the falls, cross over the bridge to the opposite side for a slightly different view, thus making it a circular walk (I never like to return anywhere by the same route!!!)
Best viewed after plenty of rain, although we visited after some heavy rainfall and I wouldn't say the falls were anywhere near to being in full spate. The river gorge is a beautiful green haven created from a variety of typically English trees.
The little lake at Grasmere, a village to the north of Ambleside, is one of the gems of the Lakeland scenery; indeed, Grasmere is an excellent centre from which to visit some of the points of interest in the district. Wordsworth’s cottage stands half a mile outside the village.
Within easy reach of Ambleside are Coniston village and lake, upon which a little steamer plies. Near the head of the lake is Coniston Hall, now a farmhouse, but for long the seat of the Le Flemings, a well-known Westmorland family.
Among the numerous other places of interest near Ambleside are Hawkshead, the scene of Wordsworth’s school life, and a most charmingly picturesque village; Patterdale and the surrounding district; Langdale Pikes, Shap Fells, and Stockgill Force, a fine waterfall 150 feet high.
Or, you could take advantage of one of the many cruises in the area.
Windermere Lake Cruises trace their origins back to Victorian days, steamers and launches carry over 1.35 million visitors each year. The steamers have saloons, promenade decks, teashops and licensed bars. A fleet of passenger launches supplement the service. Boats operate an extensive route network linking the main settlements. A popular outing is the 45-minute Islands Cruise from Bowness, which passes wooded islands and secluded bays. A 40-minute trip from Ambleside offers free entry to the Lake District Visitor centre at Brockhole with its exhibitions, playgrounds, gardens and restaurant.
The main cruise operates daily throughout the year between Ambleside, Bowness and Lakeside, except christmas day, this takes 3 hours but passengers may get on and off the vessel, if they wish, to sample the delights of the steam railway, aquarium, the world of Beatrix Potter attraction, Ambleside museum and the little towns and villages around the lake.
If you're looking for somewhere to eat, the White Horse Hotel is recommended, especially if you're into quality pub food.
In a town of around 2,000 regular inhabitants there are ample choices to make due to the fact that the place relies heavily on tourism for its income.
The forestry skills of the local people, developed over the centuries in the production of charcoal , were exploited to coppice hundreds of acres of woodland. These were ideally placed to supply the demand for millions of bobbins for the new spinning mills. Harnessing the motive power of that commodity which in the Lake District is never scarce, water, bark and bobbin mills sprang up along every riverside, giving birth also to machine tool manufacture, mainly in the form of lathes to turn the wood for bobbins. A thriving trade in carrying and carting also developed and at last the area's road system evolved from muddy rutted tracks to reliable roads.
Alongside Stock Beck, in Ambleside, as it rises towards the waterfalls in Stock Ghyll Park, are tall dark walls among the trees, in which you can see holes which used to support the axles of waterwheels. From North Road bridge, you look upon a replica of the wheel which once served the bark mill. Local bobbin manufacture declined towards the end of the 19th century, when cheaper sources were found elsewhere, but at the same time the gunpowder industry was growing, with the main local factory at Elterwater, supplying mines and quarries.
This shot shows the back of Bark Mill, these days a noted supplier of sheep skins.
The famous Herdwick breed of Lake District sheep is said to have been introduced by Vikings. It is held by local historians that the name 'Ambleside' derives from a Viking named Hamel who owned land here known as his 'saetre', a Norse word for farm or pasture.
Ambleside can be found at the northern end of Lake Windermere, close to Waterhead, between Wansfell and Loughrigg Fell. Ambleside is also a convenient base for touring the central areas of the Lake District, Grasmere and the Langdale valleys being a short journey by car or bus. Ambleside began its prosperity during the reign of Queen Victoria with the growth of tourism.
Being a market town, Ambleside received its first market charter in 1650 with the centre of the town now being designated a conservation area. The Watermill and a few other buildings have survived from this time. One of the most popular buildings from this time and photographed is the Bridge House which spans the beck of Stock Ghyll, and was originally built as a private summer house by the owners of the nearby Ambleside Hall. Interestingly, this folly was built over the river to avoid land tax.
It is now a National Trust Information Centre.
For well over 150 years the town has earned a living catering for visitors, giving them mostly what they wanted, provided they didn't mind what they got.
The last twenty five years has seen a revolution in tourist provision however, as upgrading of catering at all levels has been led by the market and by encouragement from official bodies. Few could nowadays claim that they cannot enjoy the level of catering they expect. All sectors of the market, from campers to gourmets, will find satisfactory establishments in Ambleside and its outlying hamlets and villages.
Some wit labelled this place the "anorak capital of the world" which will give you some idea of the type of clothing you will find.
To get there by road, it's only 20 miles from the M6 motorway and is served by several bus services, including National Express. Rail travel is to Windermere, four miles away with easy bus and taxi access. There is a direct Manchester Airport/Windermere rail link.
You can park just outside of town for free and there's a horse drawn bus into the village.