I was very lucky recently to win a prize during a weekend celebrating Cumbria and giving a much needed PR boost to our flooded county. Our prize was a Freedom of the Lake family pass with Windermere Cruises, we hadn't been on the steamers since 2013 so it was a big treat.. We were unable to use them on the original weekend as my daughter was in hospital so they kindly gave us a pass for any day this year. This meant we were able to use them during our Easter holidays.
The trip did not start in a promising fashion as when we got to Bowness the boats were not sailing due to the fog on the lake:
We decided to wait and hope that we would get our day out! There was time to see whether the children would have been underwater in the last two floods. Looks like my daughter would have had her head clear but her little brother would have been in deep water (hence the sad face!):
In the end we didn't have to wait as long as we feared and were on board the Teal and ready to go:
Despite the reduced visibility it was a lovely cruise down from Bowness to Lakeside which is the most southerly point the steamers get to. We passed one of the other steamers on our way:
It was a shame there weren't more people on the steamers but at least it meant there was no juggling for position to take photographs at the bow:
It was also very easy to get up close for a snap of Teal's very own Herdwick Blue Ewe from the Go Herdwick art trail. Not something you see every day and we now have a spotter's map so that we can cross off all the ones we can find:
My mum treated us all with entry into the Lakes Aquarium which is at the ferry terminal. The only way to slow my children down through the exhibits is to make use of whichever free quiz sheet they are currently offering. This gave us plenty of time to stop and read about the inhabitants of the aquarium plus a chance to take some photographs of things like this scary piranha:
When we came out the sun had emerged from behind the clouds and it was much easier to see the fabulous views up Windermere:
The other tourist attraction at Lakeside is the steam railway which runs from Hatherthwaite. We last took a ride on the trains for my son's 4th birthday. So it was just a case of trying to get a photograph of the engine amongst the crowds of tourists on the platform:
We were then able to take the next leg of our Freedom cruise this time it was the Swan:
A second Go Herdwick is on this vessel. This one is in honour of the Chinese tourists and is called 国色Guo Se - meaning 'national beauty'
It wasn't really warm enough to stay on deck but the windows in the saloon provided great views (and kept us out of the odd shower):
Our second disembarkation was at Waterhead which is the nearest part of the lake to Ambleside. We had time whilst waiting for our next boat to have a selfie with another Go Herdwick. This one was at the Regent Hotel and is called Ewe of the Bay:
We also had time to spend on the beach which is a perfect spot for trying stone skimming:
Then it was time to board the smallest vessel of the day the Queen of the Lake:
Queen of the Lake has one level and at full capacity can hold 84 Passengers. Unfortunately this vessel is not wheelchair accessible and there are no onboard facilities.
Queen of the Lake was built by Watercraft of Molesey, in 1949. The boat is 49.8ft in length and weighs 13 tonnes. On board it is manned by a crew of 2 and can reach a speed of 10 knots.
This voyage took us much closer to the water and it kept fairly close to the shoreline as we headed over the lake to Wray Castle (if you arrive by boat you get in free!).
Having been to the castle on the Easter Weekend we knew the outdoor area had been improved. So after an obligatory National Trust cake and coffee we headed out in the play area. The new style tyre swing was a lot of fun for both children (photos from my mum!):
There had been a huge queue for the boat when we arrived so we made sure we were at the jetty in plenty of time. Time even for a rare photograph of me on a day out!
We transferred to one of the more modern Miss Cumbrias for our return voyage from Waterhead to Bowness. It has a lot more glass than the other vessels:
Back at Bowness there was time for a quick foot dip before our lift home:
I can definitely recommend a day cruising around Windermere on the various boats!