Located near the town of Windermere, Ambleside is sheltered by fells on three sides and is surrounded by stunning scenery. Its maze of narrow streets and alleyways, which some are still cobbled, and lined with quaint old buildings that have been almost entirely given up for tourist accommodation. One well known building of Ambleside is Bridge House, a tiny 17th century house with two rooms, linked by an outside stairway. It is owned by the National Trust and was considered to be a summer house for the now demolished Ambleside Hall. Local legend tells that it was lived in by a Scotsman and his family in an effort to avoid paying land tax.
Ambleside is derives Old Norse from a Viking named Hamel who owned land known as his 'saetre', (pronounced 'sar-tre') a Norse word for farm or pasture. This is because there was a strong Viking presence in Cumbria. The famous Herdwick breed of sheep was said to have been introduced to Cumbria by the Vikings. Despite this Viking influence, settlements near Ambleside can be traced as far back as to 79AD under the Roman fort of Galava which resided in the area now called Waterhead at the head of Lake Windermere. Archaeological findings from these times can be found in the museum of Brockhole
The Old Courthouse in Church Street is the Tourist Information Centre. The Parish Hall, with old houses around on the hillside, was formally a typical primitive Lakeland parish church. Ambleside was also a place where the poet, William Wordsworth worked as a Stamp Distributor from 1813-1842 while he was living at Rydal Mount near the town of Rydal. He left his job after he was declared Poet Laureate in 1842. In fact, the site of the 19th century Parish church of St Mary the Virgin was said to have been chosen by Wordsworth.
The Lakeland District Heritage Centre is located in Ambleside and contains a lot of information of 5000 years of Lakeland life. With displays, exhibitions, video films, dialect recordings, a huge relief map, set pieces, murals, models and fascinating collections that convey a great experience of Lake District history.
The town itself has an excellent variety of sporting opportunities from the annual Ambleside Sports in August to the internationally famous sheepdog trials in Rydal Park.
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