Windermere ferry

Windermere Car Ferry restarting following COVID-19

Following the easing of lockdown restrictions, the County Council believes the Windermere Ferry can now operate safely within the Government guidelines on safe working.

Strict measures will be in place on the Ferry to make sure the Government's social distancing guidelines are followed. These include:

  • A one-way system in the pedestrian area of The Mallard for staff only
  • Two-metre safe distancing markers on the ferry deck to allow pedestrians to stand safely during the journey across the lake
  • Signs reminding people to keep safe and keep their distance
  • Boarding and disembarkation will be controlled by ferry staff to make sure that social distancing rules are followed at all times.

To protect customers and staff during the pandemic we will no longer be accepting cash payments. Instead, customers in vehicles will be asked to pay by contactless card payment through the closed window of any vehicle, so protecting the public and staff. Vehicle drivers and any passengers must stay inside their vehicle while the ferry crosses the lake as a condition of travel.

To protect customers and staff during the pandemic we will no longer be accepting cash payments. Instead customers on motorcycles will be asked to pay by contactless card payment.

Motorcyclists with an open face helmet will need to either wear a face covering or mask, or close their helmet visor at all times while onboard the ferry. Motorcyclists must stay beside their vehicle throughout the crossing. These new measures will be a condition of travel.

To protect customers and staff during the pandemic we will no longer be accepting cash payments. Instead pedestrians and cyclists will need to use contactless payments at the 2 kiosks on each side of the lakeshore. These payments will be made through a glass screen to protect the staff and the public. Pedestrians and cyclists will also need to wear face coverings at all times whilst on the ferry as a condition of travel.

As a result of these additional requirements for loading and unloading, it may not be possible to keep to timetable, however the Ferry Captains will use social media throughout the day to update the public on crossing times. For updates follow @WindermereFerry on Twitter.


Windermere Ferry takes people, vehicles, horses and cycles across the lake. It links the busy eastern shore of the lake and the peaceful countryside between Windermere and Coniston on the west, where there are many attractions and facilities for walking, riding and cycling.  It carries up to 18 cars and over 100 passengers.

All organisations have to review the price of their fares on a regular basis and while we all do all we can to keep our costs down, and the cost to our customers as low as possible, increases are something that despite our best efforts we can't always avoid.

It is over 4 years since we have applied increases to some of our fares, and over 10 years since we increased fares for pedestrians and cyclists. The decision to adjust our fares was taken very seriously especially given that this is an important tourism asset and also given the difficulties that the ferry has encountered over the last two years.

For a long time pedestrians enjoyed the journey for 50p which represents exceptional value for money, but is not a viable fare long term. When looking at this the council felt that the new cost for a pedestrian at £1 and a cyclist at £2 per crossing still provided excellent value.

When we reviewed the cost of cars we felt that what we charged was more in line with current market trends so the cost increase here in terms of an overall percentage was less than the increase we made for pedestrians and cyclist - but again this increase still represents good value for money when looking at the cost of similar services run elsewhere in the UK. 

For regular travellers the council continues to offer a number of heavily discounted annual contracts or bulk purchase of tickets for the ferry. An annual contract for a pedestrian or cyclist is £30, or a book of 20 tickets is £5 for a pedestrian or £10 for cyclists, which provides excellent value for money.

We recognise that the ferry is a well loved and popular local asset and our customer's views really do matter to us. This is why we have established the new Windermere Ferry Steering Group, made up of local businesses, residents and customers - and we will be taking customer feedback to the group for them to consider.  If in the meantime you would like to provide your comments on the ferry and its charges we would welcome these at

Cumbria County Council's Windermere Ferry was taken out of the water last month for its five yearly maintenance and full inspection.

The Mallard, a vessel that can carry 15 cars and more than 100 passengers across England's longest lake between Bowness and Far Sawrey, was out of service from Monday 4 March until Friday 29 March 2019.

The inspection was carried out by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) - the licensing body that provides the licence for the County Council to run the Ferry. This licence requires an out of water inspection to be carried out every five years. The inspection included a review of the mechanical, electrical and operational records to ensure that the vessel (and the Council as operator) was fit to continue providing the service.

While the main works have been completed there are further items that will be undertaken over the next few weeks. These works will be undertaken at times to minimise any service disruptions and include installing an emergency access platform to the side of the Mallard from the car deck. This will provide a safe means of evacuating passengers in an emergency as a direct cross-board to a vessel alongside. Additionally, the vessel has undergone a full re-paint, new graphics, rust treatment and the installation of a new PA system to improve the passenger experience.

This routine maintenance work, which has cost approximately £250,000, was unable to be completed when the ferry was out of action following the engine fire last year - this was due to the timing of the MCA inspection requirements and available budget.

Councillor Keith Little, Cumbria County Council Cabinet member for Highways and Transport, said:

"We recognised that the ferry being out of service creates an inconvenience for the many people - locals and visitors alike - who use it. The five yearly inspection and refit was essential work that will ensure the ferry is in top condition ahead of the busy summer season."

Why was the work needed?

The maintenance and inspection work is a requirement of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to comply with the operator's licence.

What did the work involve?

The work involved the physical inspection of the hull; survey of the hull plate thickness and periodic maintenance of all the mechanical components (drive shaft, gearbox, hydraulic systems and engine).

Why wasn't the work done last year?

The work was unable to be completed last year as the slipway was not available during the summer. The slipway owner does not hire out the slipway during the summer for commercial priorities for their own vessels.

What work was done?

  • The main shafts were removed and all bearings and seals checked or replaced.
  • The gearbox was replaced with the spare unit
  • Engine 2 required a replacement cylinder head and "top end" rebuild
  • Engine 1 required a 1000 hour service (tapets/valve adjustment, etc)
  • Repairs to the Eastern lap board hinges
  • Hull inspected and localised repairs completed
  • Hydraulics removed, overhauled and reinstated
  • Drive wheels checked and new rims fitted
  • New drive cables and corner pulleys fitted

What work is still being completed:

  • The wheelhouse requires a new ceiling and floor coverings
  • Alterations to the PA system
  • Addition of a new Emergency Egress Gate off the main car deck
  • Installation of an additional self-inflating life raft on the Northern side
  • Repainting of the vessel

Wasn't the engine replaced last year?

Yes one engine is a new engine but this has now reached its first major service interval (1000 hours)

Why was the work being done now?

Mallard is approaching 30 years old and has always been maintained on a 5 yearly major Inspection and maintenance frequency. The last inspection was in 2014.

Could the work be done at any other time of year?

The Operators Licence is to be renewed in May and the Inspection has to be carried out within 3 months of this date. This time we have managed to arrange the Maintenance and Inspection to be carried out in March rather than May as has been the previous inspections. In March the usage is lower than in May and uniquely the slipway is available for us to utilise.

Departure times from Ferry Nab, Bowness
Summer (British Summer Time)Winter (Greenwich Mean Time)
Last Sunday in March to last Saturday in OctoberLast Sunday in October to last Saturday in March
Monday to Saturday
Departs Bowness 6.50am last crossing from Bowness to Sawrey 9.50pm last crossing from Sawrey to Bowness 10pm
Monday to Saturday
Departs Bowness 6.50am last crossing from Bowness to Sawrey 8.50pm last crossing from Sawrey to Bowness 9pm
Departs Bowness 8.50am last crossing from Sawrey to Bowness 10pm
Departs Bowness 8.50am last crossing from Bowness to Sawrey 8.50pm last crossing from Sawrey to Bowness 9pm
Schedule of Fares
Schedule of fares (from 1 April 2019)Single
Pedestrian £1
Pedal cycle (including cyclists) £2
Moped, motorcycle, horse £2
Vehicles up to 6m length £5
Vehicles over 6m length £10
Vehicle and trailer (over 6m length) £10
Disabled passengers (display blue badge)Free

The Ferry crossing normally takes 10 minutes including loading, safety checks and the journey across the lake. We generally work to a 20 minute return departing from Sawrey (west side) on the hour, 20 past and 20 to and from Ferry Nab (East side) at 10 past, half past and ten to the hour. However, these times are only a guide as the schedule can be delayed due to poor weather or if loading/unloading takes longer due to volume of vehicles and passengers or types of vehicles.

Blue badge holders who display a badge travel for free along with emergency services.

For tickets and contracts contact 01539 713066