Canoeing on Windemere and its islands

Windemere canoeing
Go Lakes, 28 April 2011
Windemere and its islands

Start/Finish
: Ferry Nab - just off the A592 to the south of Bowness-on-Windermere (GR: 396 958).
?Distance: 8.5 miles?
Time: 4hrs?
Contact: Windermere Canoe Kayak, Ferry Nab Rd. Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 3JH, tel: 015394 44451

Windermere - or as it is often, but incorrectly called Lake Windermere - is the largest lake in England. It's a magnificent body of water over 10.5 miles long and up to 219ft in depth. First carved out over the course of several ice ages by the glaciers flowing down from the surrounding hills - which still make for a magnificent backdrop - it remains one of the best flat water paddling destinations in the UK.

A busy water based highway since Roman times, Windermere still hosts an immense variety of boats - from the three large ferries run by Windermere Steamers through to a whole range of all types of pleasure craft. It has seen world water speed record attempts, been a place where Sunderland Flying Boats were built and perhaps most famously featured in Arthur Ransome's Swallows' and Amazons' book; although the lake in these stories combined with features from Coniston Water.

Windermere will never be a true wilderness experience, but there are lots of hidden corners that can readily be sort out by the flat water paddler and it really is a great place to start this pursuit.

If you don't own a canoe or a kayak then there are a number of places you can hire them from including Windermere Canoe Kayak at Ferry Nab - just to the south of Bowness-on-Windermere. Here they'll rent out to you after you've either proved a minimum level of competency or been given a safety brief. You can then take to the water of Windermere.

1. Just north of Ferry Nab is a complex archipelago that includes all of Windermere's larger islands including Belle Isle, Thompson Holme, Hen Holme and Lady Holme - Holme is Norse for island. This makes for a satisfying initial objective and it is fun to make your way between them. While some have access, others are private so you do need to be careful about choosing a landing spot for lunch.

2. A better option for lunch and a way of lengthening your expedition is to head into Windermere's North Basin - the islands split the lake into two with a North and South Basin.First, head to the lake's western wooded shore, to paddle for 2 miles past Slape Scar, Red Nab and up to Wray Castle. From here, go across to the eastern shore and the Lake District National Parks Visitor Centre at Brockhole.

3. At Brockhole you'll find a beach, a jetty and access to the centre's extensive grounds - where you can either have a picnic or head off to the café. You'll also find an interesting information centre which will tell you about the area's geography, history and ecology.

4. It's then simple a matter of paddling south, to return to your start point.
Information provided by Cumbria Tourism

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