Bowness-On-Windermere To Hill Top (National Trust), Via Claife Viewing Station

Boats on Windermere

Boats on Windermere

When beloved author Beatrix Potter died in 1943, she bequeathed thousands of acres of the land in the Lake District to the National Trust. She also left the charity her home, Hill Top, and all its contents. Today, the property is open to the public just as she left it, and it’s a lovely little house to explore. Because Hill Top is located on the western shore of Windermere where the roads are narrow and space is limited, parking at Hill Top can be very tricky, especially during the peak period. With this walk, you can leave the car in Bowness-On-Windermere and enjoy a gentle and pleasant stroll through the countryside to the house.

The walk includes a crossing on the Windermere Ferry over to Sawrey on the western shore. You will then walk up to the Claife Viewing Station, a Victorian tourist attraction, before proceeding on to Hill Top, passing a couple of pubs along the way. Once you have finished at Hill Top, you can simply retrace your steps. This walk does include some sections on quiet, narrow rural roads. Much of the route is suitable for those using all terrain pushchairs but you will need to carry it up steps at points and over gates.

Quick Facts

Distance: 4-miles round trip

Time: 2-3 hours with children, plus time at Hill Top

Terrain: Woodland paths, road, and steps in places

Suitable For: Older Children, Younger Children with Assistance, Babies & Toddlers in Carriers, All Terrain Pushchairs with Two Adults

Parking: Pay and display parking at Ferry Nab, Bowness-On-Windermere, LA23 3BF

Facilities: Toilets at start and at Sawrey Ferry House; Courtyard Café at Claife Station, and two pubs along route

The Windermere Ferry

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Looking back at the Mallard from Ferry House, Sawrey

There is a large car park at Ferry Nab in Bowness-On-Windermere where you can park all day for £8 (prices correct September 2019). From here, you can board the Mallard, a chain ferry that sails back and forth across Windermere to Sawrey throughout the day. A crossing takes 10 minutes and you can expect to wait a maximum of around 20 minutes to get on board when you arrive.

The ferry takes cars, cyclists, foot passengers, and even horses. As of September 2019, a single crossing costs £1 per pedestrian with children under 5 travelling for free. When you arrive at Sawrey, leave the boat and start your walk along the road, passing a number of buildings.

Walking Along Windermere Shore

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Boats on Windermere

Once you have passed the buildings, after a short distance the road veers to the right and on the right hand side there is a gate leading onto a path with a sign pointing to Hill Top and Claife Heights. Take this path and follow it as it leads along the shore of Windermere. This is a delightful spot for admiring the many boats on the lake, and during the late summer this small patch of woodland is bursting with blackberries. The path leads out onto a small, narrow road.

The Courtyard Café

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Entrance to the Courtyard Café

Turn left onto the road and directly ahead of you is a mock castle gate. Go through the gate and you will find yourself at the Café in the Courtyard. This is a small café that is owned by the National Trust and run in partnership with the Lakes Catering Co. There are tables inside and out, and you can get light lunches and delicious cakes here. It’s worth noting that the café does not have toilets - the nearest ones are back at the Ferry House where you left the boat.

Claife Viewing Station

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The Claife Viewing Station

Continue past the café on a gravelled path that begins to ascend gently up the hill. Towards the top, take note of the turning on your left for Hill Top, as you will be taking this shortly. For now, continue along the path to the top where you will reach the Claife Viewing Station. This unusual building dates back to the end of the 18th century when the Picturesque Movement saw the start of the Lake District becoming a fashionable place to visit.

The station’s purpose was to “frame” different parts of Windermere, with large windows featuring different coloured glass to enable visitors to experience what the view might be like during the different seasons. It has recently been restored by the National Trust, and although the coloured glass has gone, there is a box of coloured lenses for visitors to look through.

Through the Car Park

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The Start of the Roadside Path

Once you have finished at Claife Station, head back to the path that you arrived on, but now turn right, signposted for Ash Landing Nature Reserve and Hill Top. There is a fairly steep descent down a set of steps and pushchair users will need to carry their pushchairs at this point. At the bottom of the steps, turn right, again signposted for Hill Top.

Follow this path through the woodland and it will lead you down to a car park. Go straight through the car park to the other end. You can now choose to continue straight along the roadside path, or exit the car park onto the road, turn right along the road, and around 50 metres on the left there is the entrance to the Ash Landing Nature Reserve that offers an alternative route.

Far Sawrey

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The Entrance to Far Sawrey

If you chose the roadside path, follow it to its end and go through a gate that brings you out onto the road. Cross over the road to the other side where there is a gap in the wall and two gates. The one on your right is signposted for Hill Top with a National Trust plaque. If you went through the nature reserve, simply follow the main path through the reserve and this will bring you to a gate at the end.

Go through the gate and to your left is the gate with the signpost and National Trust plaque for Hill Top. Go through this gate and follow the path along the wall with the road on the right hand side. It ends at another gate that brings you out onto the road at a junction. Ignore the turning on your left and head straight on, into Far Sawrey.

The Track Around the Village

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The Narrow Path Past the Holiday Cottages

Walk along the road for about 100 metres (this is a quiet road but children need supervising carefully) until you come to a bench on the right hand side next to the entrance onto a track, with a signpost point the way to Hill Top. Turn onto this track that takes you around the village avoiding the road and follow it through woodland until you come to another narrow road with houses on your left.

Cross straight over this road and go through the gate on the other side. Follow the path that runs along the edge of a field and go through another gate at the end. You will walk past some stables on your left and the path becomes a narrow road briefly before ending at another road which is actually the driveway for some holiday cottages. Turn right towards the buildings and immediately on your left is a narrow path signposted for Hill Top that takes you past the holiday cottages.

The Cuckoo Brow Inn

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The Cuckoo Brow Inn

The path opens out onto another holiday cottage driveway. Keep going straight to re-join the path and it eventually becomes a larger track. This leads back down to the road. Turn right onto the road and ahead of you on the right is the Cuckoo Brow Inn.

This ancient and characterful inn serves up delicious food twice a day and is worth a visit. Opposite the inn is a turning signposted for Hill Top. Take this turning and follow the narrow lane past some houses and presently you will see Saint Peter’s Church on an elevated position on your left.

Through the Field

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The Gate by the Stream

On the road, almost opposite the church and on your right hand side, is the end of some terraced houses with a gate and signpost marking the entrance to a path. Turn onto this path and you will now be in a field. Follow the clear path through the field, going over a small bridge before the path joins the edge of a stream and runs alongside it.

Continue along the path until you come to a gate. Go through the gate and instead of crossing back over the stream on the bridge to your right to rejoin the road, turn left and go through the gate with the National Trust plaque marking the way to Hill Top. This takes you onto a path that runs alongside the road, with a wall between the path and the road.

Hill Top & Return

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Hill Top

The path ends at a gate that takes you back out onto the road. You will now need to walk a short distance along the road into Near Sawrey, but traffic does move slowly here. Continue along the road and Hill Top is on your left hand side. However, due to its popularity, there is a timed entry system in operation for the house. To get tickets, you need to continue past the house along the road, passing the pub, the Torver Bank Arms, which was featured in one of Beatrix Potter’s books.

You will arrive at the car park on the left and it is at the end of this car park where you will find the ticket office. Once you have your tickets you can explore Hill Top’s gardens at your leisure until it is time for you to enter the house. Your return journey is via the way you arrived, though during the summer months a mini bus operates between Hill Top and the ferry point.