Bowness-on-Windermere began as a small fishing village and the older character of the village can be seen in the narrow streets around St Martin’s church, now known as old Bowness. It was the rapid development of Windermere during the latter half of the 19th century that caused Bowness-on-Windermere and Windermere to become almost as one. Together they attract a large number of holiday makers.
While the town of Windermere lies approximately 1 ¼ miles, (2 kilometres), from the lake it is Bowness-on-Windermere that lies at the water’s edge. This often causes a little confusion for visitors as they wander around Windermere Village expecting to be by the Lake.
The town of Windermere takes its name from the lake and not vice versa as the town came into existence only after the arrival of the Kendal and Windermere Railway in 1847. Before that time, in the area, there was only a small hamlet known by the name of Birthwaite. The change of name was for commercial reasons, taking advantage of the new commercial appeal of the lake.
William Wordsworth was opposed to the coming of the railway and predicted that the influx of tourists would spoil the natural appeal of the lake. The railway opened the area up to all and the centuries old seclusion of the area rapidly came to an end.
Nowadays, for many, a visit to the Lake District means a visit to the twin towns of Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere, a tour of the shops and a boat trip on the lake.