Ambleside is a small town at the northern end of Lake Windermere, centrally placed to explore the Lake District (the village of Waterhead falls between Ambleside and the lake itself).
While the purpose of a visit to the Lake District is usually focussed on enjoying the outdoors and the countryside, Ambleside itself is a traditional Cumbrian town, albeit now turned to tourism, and well worth exploring. It has a selection of shops, cafes and places to stay, with numerous pubs, restaurants, gift shops and outdoor-clothing shops in particular. Based around the market square in the centre the buildings mostly date from the Victorian era and add a historical charm to the town.
One curious local highlight in Ambleside is an old stone building on a bridge over a stream that now contains a national Trust Information Centre - not surprisingly it is called Bridge House! The Church of Saint Mary's also dates from the middle of the 19th century, the time of great expansion for Ambleside. Be sure to also follow the short walk to Stock Ghyll Force, a 20 metre high waterfall in a pretty wooded location.
One popular attraction close to Ambleside is Rydal House, a pretty Victorian house that was home to William Wordsworth for more than 35 years and is now open to the public.
Ambleside is also one of the stops for the passenger ferries that tour the lake (along with Lakeside at the southern end and Windermere on the eastern shore), and is an important centre for visitors wishing to hike, bike or drive the hills of the Lake District.