How I didn’t spend a single penny in a day at Windermere

Sometimes the universe grants you a huge boon.

Windermere was another one of my solo travels during my studies in the UK in 2017 and I visited the area for about 10 hours, before going northwards to sleep in Glasgow. The round trip I did at the time was Windermere – Glasgow – Balloch (Loch Lomond) – Stirling – Edinburgh, which can be done quite nicely with a train and local public transport. There is a great app for travelling with public transport in the UK, which allows you to find the cheapest options, especially if you travel at off-peak times.

Ordinarily, lake Windermere is a top tourist destination in UK, where there aren’t that many budget options for accommodation or activities. However, winter makes its own rules. Since I already paid for the trains at the start of the trip, I ended up paying a grand total of 0 £ during my visit to Windermere.

Bowness-am-Windermere

I had some breakfast packed to go when I started my journey in Leeds and I arrived at the Windermere train station at about 10am fed and remotely awake after taking an early train. I waited 35 minutes in the grey British weather for the bus to Bowness-on-Windermere and I was the only person there. Upon seeing me, the driver asked if I minded waiting for a bit more, and I got a free bus ride in exchange for patiently waiting while he smoked a cigarette.

That’s how I got to Bowness, which is the closest town to Windermere with access to the lake. I walked straight into the first cafe I saw and the middle aged lady there informed me they weren’t open yet. I must have made a very sad face, as she asked if I’d like a coffee anyway. We struck up a conversation and the coffee ended up being on the house, despite my protests. I walked around for a while, exploring the pretty little town and nature until I got hungry.

Figuring I’d find a cheap bite by the small port for the cruise boats I’d seen earlier, I headed back. Upon arriving I noticed a small souvenir shop and went in, intending to buy a postcard or a small token for my collection. I chose a beer coaster made of slate and went to pay. I think it must have been about 3£ or something, and the cashier had no change. Her POS terminal was broken as well, so I figured I’d buy it somewhere else. Apparently the universe was feeling very charitable that day, as she just gave it to me for free instead.

The lake cruise.

As I continued to look for food, I passed the Windermere lake cruises office on the pier, where a man was shouting at me if I wanted to take a lake cruise – the next one was leaving in 5 minutes. Since the weather was all gloomy and these things are always quite expensive, I politely declined. He kept shouting, saying I can go for free, because he saw no point in taking their huge boat out for only the 5 people who’d signed up.

So, I ended up taking a lake cruise, so far still with no dent in my wallet. It was a very nice cruise to Lakeside, a small settlement on the lake shore and it also included the return ticket. Since it was quite late in the day already and the cruise took a bit longer than 1 hour in one direction, I didn’t bother going off the boat in Lakeside and just stayed on it. The views in the rainy mist were actually quite magical. The islands and settlements on the shore kept appearing out of nowhere and the gloom somehow made the lake exist in a separate reality.

I was the only person onboard for the return journey and the driver came over with a box of KitKat chocolates, asking if I had any use for them because they had expired the day before and he couldn’t legally sell them anymore. After checking the date to make sure it was not a pity offer, both of us ate so much chocolate I felt sick on the train to Glasgow.

Snow at the end of my visit.

When I got back on land I caught the bus back to Windermere with the same driver (again free) and just as I was leaving it began to snow. The universe truly was on my side that day and I boarded the train with a warm fuzzy feeling in my chest.

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