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Boating on the Lakes

  • Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 26 March, 2024

You really couldn’t come to the Lakes and not get out on the water at least once. Thankfully, there’s plenty of opportunity to do so, with four of the major lakes – Windermere, Coniston, Ullswater and Derwentwater – all offering scheduled boat trips, along with the chance to hire your own rowboat, motorboat or sailboat if you prefer to travel under your own steam.

Who to go with: tour operators

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Keswick Launch, Derwentwater

  • Keswick, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

a wooden boat travelling across a lake

Experience

Explore the shores of Derwentwater – Beatrix Potter’s favourite lake – with a hop-on, hop-off Walkers’ Ticket, or just sit back and enjoy the views of the fells. Complete tours of the Lake take 50 minutes, or you can disembark at one of the eight jetties en-route.

Adult price 13

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 50 minutes

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Steam Yacht Gondola, Lake Coniston

  • Coniston, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

The Steam yacht Gondola sailing on Coniston Water in the Lake District, Cumbria

Experience

Cruise Lake Coniston in serious style on a 19th century steam yacht, complete with saloons, leather sofas and a viewing deck. A full lake cruise takes 1 hour 40 minutes, or there are shortert cruises around the north or south sections of the lake.

Adult price 24

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 1 hour 40 mins

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Ullswater Steamers

  • Ullswater, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

The Ullswater traditional steamboat travelling across Ullswater lake

Experience

Arguably the most atmospheric of all the Lakeland cruises, this fleet of period vessels mostly dates from the 19th century, and offers incredible vistas over Ullswater and the Helvellyn range. Tours run all year round; a one-way trip across the lake from Glenridding Pier to Pooley Bridge Pier takes an hour.

Adult price 12

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 1+ hours

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Windermere Jetty Museum

  • Windermere, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

Windermere Jetty Museum

Experience

Boat-lovers and history buffs should head to Lake Windermere’s excellent new boat museum dedicated to the history of boating on the lakes. It’s home to a collection of historical boats, and they run trips out onto Lake Windermere on one of two heritage vessels, MV Penelope II and SL Osprey.

Adult price 9

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 30 minutes

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Logistics

Price from: £5
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 4+
When: All year around
Duration: Any

Getting there & doing it

The widest range of trips are offered by Windermere Lake Cruises, which operates three colour-coded trips around Windermere, ranging in length from around half an hour to two hours. These are also the most popular, however, and on a busy day the lakeshore around Bowness can be uncomfortably crowded. The Windermere Jetty Museum also offers trip in summer on two of its antique boats.

Coniston has a choice of trips: the Coniston Launch, which operates modern electric-powered boats, and the vintage Steam Yacht Gondola, a beautifully restored vessel built in 1859 and now owned and operated by the National Trust. Both companies also offer trips to John Ruskin’s home at Brantwood, as well as special cruises exploring the lake’s links with Swallows & Amazons author Arthur Ransome.

The Keswick Launch is the one for walkers: you can buy a hop-on, hop-off ticket that allows you to disembark at various jetties around the lake, walk along to the next one and then catch the next launch onwards.

Handsomest of all are the Ullswater Steamers, a fleet of beautiful heritage vessels including the stately Lady of the Lake, allegedly the oldest working passenger boat in the world, originally launched in 1877. The steamers shuttle around the lake between Pooley Bridge and Glenridding, with stops at Howtown on the lake’s eastern side, and the popular waterfall at Aira Force.

When to do it

Most of the cruise companies operate year-round, although timetables are substantially reduced during the winter months. As elsewhere in the Lake District, it’s best to avoid summer if you possibly can.

Destination guides

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Lake District

  • Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

beautiful landscape in the Lake District

Destination guide

Imposing mountains, wild landscapes, tranquil lakes and picturesque towns combine to make the Lake District uniquely beautiful, and one of the best places in Britain for walking, climbing, boating and biking.