Audrey and I visited Brockhole on Windermere in April 2018. There is no fee for entrance into the grounds. We did pay for the ferry, you can find info here.
The final full day of our Lake District trip was upon us, I was drinking tea (with milk in, thank goodness), in our lounge at Fisherty Howe. Considering if a trip to Hawkshead just for an ice cream was too extreme. Given the rain in the forecast, I decided it was. But for those of you interested, the shop is The Little Ice Cream Shop, and it looks fabulous as well as being dog friendly inside and out. I may plan our next trip to the Lakes solely around visiting them!
I settled on a visit to Brockhole-on-Windermere instead. Being only a few miles from Windermere village, Audrey and I got the bus which turned out to be great move. This gave us flexibility, as I knew you can catch the ferry from Brockhole, but didn’t want to limit us to a round trip. They advise on their website that their car park often gets full, so public transport is encouraged.
- Dog Friendly Score: 9/10
- Gardens: 7/10
- Ferry: 9/10
- Value for Money: 10/10 (no entrance fee!)
- Suitability for kids: 10/10
- Blog On A Dog Approval Score: 7/10
Brockhole – The Lake District Visitor Centre
Despite having a fancy website, I was unsure as to what my experience would be at Brockhole. However, the ferry stop gave me a back up plan. If there was nothing there for us we could easily make our way somewhere else. Predominantly, I would say it appeals to families, as there are a multitude of activities on offer. These include a treetop trek and high ropes course, and an adventure playground. I won’t dwell on these, as this is not a family blog but I will say they looked impressive.
To this day, I remain stumped as to why it is called ‘The Lake District Visitor Centre’. There was no feel that this was about the Lake District really, to me it just felt like an attraction/family day out. I think the name is misleading, though presumably it helps them get more visitors.
The 30 acres that make up Brockmore slope down to the shoreline of Windermere, and enjoy views towards the Langdales. At the heart of Brockmore is an arts and crafts house with formal gardens. Built around this is a gift shop, cafes, outdoor activities like archery, laser clay shooting and pony riding, a woodland trail, mini golf, lake activities eg. kayak and boat hire as well as the playgrounds mentioned above.
Audrey and I arrived at a bus stop just a few metres from the entrance, helpfully there is a big map of the site, as it is somewhat confusing. Dogs do need to be kept on lead, and are not allowed in the playground areas.
What we did at Brockmore
We started off with a nice stroll around the formal gardens. Even though the whole place had a nice buzz of activity, the gardens were surprisingly quiet and calm which was welcome. Lots of photo opportunities presented themselves to us, Audrey no doubt rolling her eyes at how many times she had to ‘pose’. There is a cafe with a lovely terrace in the formal gardens, alongside the gift shop. Audrey and I headed on down to the shoreline, taking in more sections of gardens, and walking by the pony stables.
At the shore, we enjoyed the jetty, which compared to the jetty in Ambleside was blissfully quiet. Walking right to the end gave us stunning views, even on an overcast day. There were boats and kayaks for hire, and while I have seen several photos on Instagram of dogs calmly chilling out on kayaks/stand up paddle boards etc, I knew this would not be how Audrey would react so that was a no for us!
We followed a nice shoreline path through some woods, it wasn’t long but there were plenty of smells to engage Audrey, as well as some further opportunities for photos.
The path wound along the shore to the ferry stop at Brockmore. There is a staffed ticket booth here, so after enquiring about tickets and times, we left with 2 x tickets for a sailing to Ambleside. (Dogs travel free but get a ticket). One of the tickets was for one well behaved dog, which I made sure to show to Audrey so she knew no silliness allowed. Our sailing was half an hour away so we headed back up the hill, and made a stop at an outdoor cafe by the adventure playground. Audrey was welcome inside while I ordered (though no indoor seating), and the coffee and cake went down well.
Windermere Lake Cruises
Well behaved dogs travel for free on all of the fleet. They have lots of different options for journeys and routes, we chose a simple journey from Brockhole to Ambleside. I think it would be remiss to come to the Lake District and not spend any time on the lake. So if you are travelling with your dog this is an excellent option. Be aware that embarking is on an old fashioned ramp, in keeping with the traditional feel of the boat. I did pick Audrey up and carry her on, and the staff were very helpful and would assist if needed.
Would I visit Brockhole again?
If I was ever needing to entertain kids in the Lake District, then definitely yes. I think it would be a huge hit, though the activities are on the expensive side. For us, I would use Brockhole as a start or end point for a cruise, as it was so easy to get to on the bus. Being much less crowded than the stops at Ambleside and Bowness on Windermere makes it a less stressful event for your dog. The gardens were nice, though not remarkable enough for a trip in their own right. Combine it with the ferry though and it is an enjoyable way to spend a day.