A weekend in Bowness - we explore what's on offer when you stay lakeside
PUBLISHED: 21:49 11 January 2013 | UPDATED: 21:03 10 February 2013
Forty-eight hours is barely enough time to discover the charms of this lakeside town, as Roger Borrell discovers PHOTOGRAPHY: KIRSTY THOMPSON
The honeypot of Bowness has Beatrix Potter as its queen bee. Her legendry childrens books attract visitors from around the world, particularly the Far East.
So what are the chances of asking one of these visitors about the marvellous Miss Potter and getting a totally blank look? Slim you would think.
But now there is a new wave of tourism thanks to the booming economies of China and India. For most, Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggywinkle are joys that so far remain undiscovered.
In fact, when Lancashire Life chatted to a mother and daughter from China on the waterfront at Bowness, the name Beatrix Potter failed to raise a flicker of recognition. Weve no idea who you are talking about, one said. We come here because Windermere is famous in China.
Everyone involved in the tourist industry will hope she is right. There is no disguising the fact Bowness and the rest of the Lakes had a pretty torrid time in 2012. The abysmal weather combined with the negative impact of the Olympics meant visitor numbers were well down.
John Woodburn, the senior operations manager at Windermere Lake Cruises, said: 2011 was our best year with 1.35 million passengers, but this year the wet summer, the economy and Olympics effects has meant we have had considerably fewer.
To limit the decline, the team has been working hard to raise the profile of the cruises and offer passes at special rates for locals.
Despite the decline, Sue Fellows, Jayne Quinn and their colleagues at the tourist information centre on the have still been dealing with up to 2,000 inquiries every day. Fifty per cent are from abroad. With Japanese visitors its almost a pilgrimage to the place where Beatrix Potter lived, said Sue.
But in the last two years weve seen more Indian and Chinese visitors. Were going to have to work on some new language skills!
Places to visit
Once youve done the World of Beatrix Potter, beautiful Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts house and taken a trip on a Windermere cruiser, you might want to rest your feet at the cinema.
Step back in time, as the curtain opens on the Royalty, a magnificent picture house from the 1920s. Whats more remarkable is the stunning Wurlitzer pipe organ.
This instruments was rescued from a derelict London cinema and, once the pigeon dropping and dead rats had been removed, it was restored by church organist Mark Latimer and his dedicated colleagues. It took 25,000 and many hours to get the Ohio-built organ into pristine working order. In the bowels of the cinema are more than 1000 pipes.
We played to a full house for an hour before the Bond film was launched, said Mark. The audience went wild!
High and dry
This is one of the famous Windermere cruisers as youve probably never seen her high and dry and ready for a winter make over.
It was one of the more unusual sites we came across when Lancashire Life decided to spend a weekend in Bowness.
Normally, the Tern ferries up to 350 excited visitors from Bowness to destinations around the lake. It has been doing that since 1891 when it was built for the not so princely sum of 3,000.
But like all old timers, she needs occasional dose of tender loving care and this requires Lakeside operations manager Tony Stockton and colleagues, Colin Rankin and Alan Johnson, to carry out the delicate task of bringing Tern ashore on what looks like a semi-submerged rail track. The Term will spend three months out of the water while a team of 12 thoroughly check the hull, replace plates, test the electrics and carry out joinery repairs.
Finally, she will be painted green and white and returned to the lake looking, as Tony puts it, looking like a new pin. Not bad for a 122-year-old.
Places to stay
The four star Old England Hotel & Spa had an expensive refurbishment not so long ago and, as youd expect, there are plenty of guest houses. We liked the Laurel Cottage, a four star establishment in St Martins Square.
Eating and drinking
Porto Restaurant, which serves Mediterranean-style dishes, was a finalist in this years Lancashire Life Food & Drink Awards and the nearby Jacksons Bistro gets favourable reviews. Many of the nearby hotels specialise in fine dining, some of its award-winning.
As for pubs, the Hole in tWall in the historic Lowside area of town is a must visit. It has been celebrating 400 years as an inn the hole refers to the gap where the landlord handed ale to the thirsty blacksmith next door. Further up the hill is the Angel Inn dining pub.
More gift shops than you can shake a Peter Rabbit carrot at but our favourites were Huttons Chocolate, a hand made confectionery shop going back to the 1920s, and Richardsons Butchers, operating from the same site for more than 90 years and still making excellent pork pies.