Local experts share their favourite spots to eat, drink, stay and walk

Ambleside has a long history of welcoming visitors to the Lake District – dating back to the 19th Century. “It’s a perfect situation for any outdoor activity as we are at the heart of this outdoor playground” says local Pete Kelly. “We can hike, climb, run, swim and bike from the doorstep in most cases.” Pete has lived in Ambleside for 13 years and, along with his wife Andrea, runs the specialist open water swimming company Swim the Lakes. Pete is also a qualified mountain leader and runs navigation courses and guided walks. Here, he shares some tips for visitors to Ambleside.

High-level walk

The Fairfield Horseshoe – 17km, 1088m of ascent
“This is the classic walk from Ambleside and it deserves its reputation, with great views all the way around. It takes in eight different summits (Nab Scar, Heron Pike, Great Rigg, Fairfield, Hart Crag, Dove Crag, High Pike and Low Pike) so it’s a great choice for people who are ticking off the Wainwrights. It starts and finishes in Ambleside and whichever way you go round, you get a real sense of achievement and of being among the high mountains. If you do it clockwise it gives you an excellent excuse to pop into our favourite pub, the Golden Rule to warm your feet by the fire and sink a good pint of ale.”
RELATED: Walking the Fairfield Horseshoe

Low-level walk

Tour of Loughrigg – 17km, 600m of ascent (inc Loughrigg)
“Starting and finishing in Ambleside, this is the perfect walk for when the clag is down on the fells higher up. It takes in the idyllic Loughrigg Tarn and Loughrigg Terrace, including a huge cave which you can walk right into, at Rydal, and returns via the ancient Coffin Route. It passes Rydal Water, one of my favourite lakes, and a good pub or cafe stop just when you need it (Badger Bar and Rydal Hall tearoom). You can, of course, include the summit of Loughrigg, only a small hill but one with fantastic views on a clear day. You can also swim in the tarn and lakes along the way!”

Eat and drink

“The Rattle Gill Cafe has the best wholefood, coffee and cake in town. It’s the choice of all the local walkers, climbers – and the mountain rescue team – so they know all about outdoor appetites. There are so many good places to eat but my faves are Zeffirellis and Matthews. You can always get a table at Zeffs and the food and service is consistently good. It’s actually vegetarian but no-one really notices, because the pizzas are the best for miles around. They also have a slightly posher sister restaurant, Fellinis, which does Mediterranean-influenced food. And they have five cinema screens so you can treat yourself to a good film at the end of the day. At Matthews you get real chefs’ cooking at really normal prices. I really like the Walnut Fish Bar too – good for when I’ve had a long day on the hill or in the lake and can’t be bothered to cook.”


“We have our own self-catering apartment, Milliner’s Cottage. The Gables, Rothay Garth and Melrose House are also friends of ours and offer great B&Bs, while the team at Zeffirellis have just opened Ambleside Manor, which is very stylish and grand but won’t break the bank.I like the hostels too, especially the YHA and The Backpackers. But my all-time favourite has to be The Old Dungeon Ghyll out at Langdale. They just don’t make hotels like that anymore and the staff are so eccentric it’s worth the stay just for the entertainment.”

While you’re here

“Here in Ambleside we have a lovely little museum, the Armitt, which has hundreds of Beatrix Potter’s scientific paintings and drawings, and a collection of the letters of A. Wainwright. Of course, this is the perfect location for accessible, clean outdoor swimming and we have such a variety with our becks, tarns, waters, lakes, gills and pots. If you haven’t swum outdoors in the Lakes you haven’t lived! It perfectly complements walking in the area too and is a great way to ease the legs after a hard day on the hill.”