Boat services across the Lake District
The Lake District is a wonderful place to visit and the best way to travel around is by public transport so you can fully appreciate the scenery and visit the many attractions. You also avoid the hassles of driving and parking which all helps to save the precious environment by reducing vehicles across the area.
Perhaps the most enjoyable form of public transport is a boat cruise on a Lake District lake. There are public boat services on four of the main Lake District lakes; Windermere, Derwent Water, Ullswater and Coniston Water. They all provide wonderful scenic boat cruises, often used for pleasure but most also connect with buses or trains allowing onward travel across the area.
There are descriptions of each lake, the various cruises on offer and where they stop along the way. The interactive maps show all boat stops on each lake. Where the stop is near a town or attraction, a link is included for further details.
Many cruises operate throughout the year with increased frequency between Easter and November. There are links to cruise operator websites for current timetables and further information.
Current timetables: Boat services are recommencing throughout April 2021 and temporarily may be different to those described below due to Coronavirus restrictions. Check operator websites for detail.
England’s largest lake at over 10 miles long and up to a mile wide. The northern end of the lake is the most spectacular, backed by Lake District mountains, but the low hills that surround the rest of the lake are also very attractive. The central area of the lake around Bowness has several islands and is often busy with boats. The shoreline at Bowness can also get very busy, as can Ambleside at the northern end. Both towns are popular destinations for visitors with plenty of attractions. The rest of the lakeshore is relatively peaceful, particularly the western side where there is some good walking and cycling along the shore, especially between Wray Castle and Ferry House.
Windermere Lake Cruises
Windermere Lake Cruises operate a number of different cruises around Windermere lake, daily all year unless specified. No cruises 25th December. There are various ticket offers available including cruise combined with Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway, Lakeland Motor Museum or Lakes Aquarium. Windermere Cruise highlights.
Red Cruise. Cruise around the northern half of Windermere lake calling at Bowness on Windermere, Windermere Jetty Museum, Brockhole visitor centre and Waterhead (Ambleside). Frequent cruises per day all year, more between Easter and November. 70 minute round trip, includes commentary. Some services travel between Bowness and Waterhead only.
Yellow Cruise. Cruise around the southern half of Windermere lake calling at Bowness on Windermere and Lakeside. Several cruises per day between Easter and November, less outside that period. Does not operate during the week in January. 90 minute round trip, includes commentary.
Green Cruise. Seasonal cruise around the northern end of Windermere lake calling at Waterhead (Ambleside), Wray Castle, Brockhole visitor centre. Several cruises per day between Easter and November, more in school holidays. Does not operate outside that period. 50 minute round trip.
Bowness to Ferry House. Seasonal passenger service from Bowness Pier 3 to Ferry House, adjacent to Windermere Ferry landing. Service forms part of the ‘Cross Lakes experience’ connecting with the 525 bus service at Ferry House for onward travel to Hill Top and Hawkshead. Frequent daily service from Easter to November.
Lakeside to Fell Foot Park. Seasonal passenger service linking Lakeside and Fell Foot Park at the southern end of Windermere lake. Frequent daily service from Easter to November. Two services per day are extended 30 minute cruises around the southern end of the lake.
Bike Boat. Seasonal service between Brockhole visitor centre and Bark Barn which takes up to 12 bikes and links cycle paths on both sides of Windermere lake. Operates daily during May and summer school holidays, weekends inbetween. No service beyond summer holidays. Several boats per day when operating. Also connects with 599 bus service at Brockhole which can carry 2 bikes.
Windermere Vehicle & Passenger Ferry
Windermere Ferry provides a vehicle and passenger ferry service across the middle part of Windermere lake, between Ferry Nab (near Bowness) and Ferry House. Operates every 30 minutes from early till late, all year except 25th/26th December. In rough weather services are often suspended and technical issues can also sometimes prevent it running. To confirm if the ferry is running call 07860 813427 or check the live webcam at Ferry House. Operated by Cumbria County Council. Connects with the 525 bus service at Ferry House for onward travel to Hill Top and Hawkshead.
Affectionately called ‘the Queen of the Lakes’, it is certainly in an unbeatable position nestling in the jaws of Borrowdale with fabulous views in all directions. Wherever you look there are great sights, Skiddaw, Cat Bells, Borrowdale and Lodore Falls to name but a few. The main centre is Keswick which also has some wonderful lakeshore access and is the base for lake cruises. Away from Keswick much of the shoreline has public access with a popular 10 mile walk around the whole lake. The busier shore is the eastern side, mainly because the valley road runs alongside making access easy. The western shore is more peaceful but still easily accessible by boat.
The Keswick Launch cruises around Derwent Water calling at the following seven jetties; Keswick, Ashness Gate (Ashness Bridge), Lodore, High Brandelhow, Low Brandelhow, Hawes End, Nichol End. Cruises start at Keswick and alternatively travel clockwise and anticlockwise around the lake.
The full cruise takes approx 50 minutes and you can hop on and off at any jetty. This is ideal if you want to combine a cruise with walking a section of the lakeshore footpath.
Frequent cruises per day between March and November and February school holidays. Weekend cruises at other times but can be closed during winter, check website.
A beautiful lake of many contrasts. The northern end is quite green and undulating, the southern end is very mountainous and spectacular. The western shore has a main road running alongside it, the eastern shore is less accessible and quite tranquil. There are two lakeshore villages where people tend to congregate, Pooley Bridge at the northern end of the lake and Glenridding at the southern end. Other than these, public lakeshore access areas are mostly found at various roadside locations along the western shore. The eastern shore has some fabulous footpaths but shoreline access is limited. The Ullswater Way is a relatively new 20 mile walk all around the lake. A stunning and demanding walk but you can do shorter sections of it as described in the guide.
Ullswater Steamers operate 3 different cruises on Ullswater lake. You can cruise the full length of the lake which takes an hour each way, stopping at Glenridding, Howtown and Pooley Bridge. Or you can cruise between Glenridding and Howtown, or Glenridding and Aira Force. Frequent cruises per day between Easter and November, less outside that period. Daily cruises all year except 24th/25th December. A popular day trip is to combine a boat cruise with a walk between Pooley Bridge and Howtown, Glenridding and Howtown or Glenridding and Aira Force.
A popular lake for boating and scene of one of the most famous boating incidents in history – Donald Campbell’s ill fated water world speed record attempt in 1967. The surrounding scenery is breathtaking with Coniston mountain range to the north, Grizedale Forest to the east and bracken covered Common to the west. The main centre is at Coniston village, situated between the lake and Coniston Old Man mountain. Lake Road runs approx 0.5 miles from the village to Coniston jetty which is the centre for lake activities. There are many fabulous lakeshore access points around the lake, all easily accessible from the jetties where the cruises stop and from the footpaths and roads which follow the lakeshore.
Coniston Launch operate a number of different cruises around Coniston Water, starting from Coniston jetty.
Northern Cruise. Cruise around the northern half of Coniston Water, calling at Coniston, Waterhead, Torver, Brantwood. There are regular cruises every day between February and November, outside that period a few cruises at weekends only. 45 minute cruise. Cruise forms part of the ‘Cross Lakes experience’ connecting with the 505 bus service at Waterhead Hotel, near Waterhead jetty. This jetty is closer to a bus stop than Coniston jetty.
Wild Cat Island Cruise. Seasonal cruise around most of Coniston Water, passing Wild Cat Island from Swallows and Amazons. Calling at Coniston, Torver, Sunny Bank, Brantwood. A few cruises per day from Easter to end October. 60 minute cruise.
Southern Lake Themed Cruise. Seasonal cruise around the whole of Coniston Water, calling at Coniston, Torver, Lake Bank, Sunny Bank, Brantwood. One cruise per day, Monday to Thursday from Easter to end September. Alternate themed trips, Swallows and Amazons or Campbells on Coniston. 90 minute cruise.
Steam Yacht Gondola
The famous and beautiful Steam Yacht Gondola is a rebuilt Victorian steam powered yacht, originally built in 1859 and now operated by the National Trust. There are regular cruises between Easter and end October but none outside that period. Cruises start from Coniston jetty and include commentary.
Head of Lake Cruise. Seasonal cruise around the northern half of Coniston Water from Coniston with request stops at Brantwood and Monk Coniston. A few cruises per day between Easter and end October. 45 minute cruise.
Full Lake Cruise. Seasonal cruise around the whole of Coniston Water on special themed cruises from Coniston with request stops at Lake Bank, Parkamoor, Brantwood and Monk Coniston. One cruise per day between Easter and end October. 1 hour 45 minute cruise.