The name is thought to originate from ‘Vinandr’s Mere’, from the old Norse name Vinandr and ‘mere’, the Norse word for lake. Until the 19th century, it was still known as Winander Mere.
The village of Windermere is about twenty minutes’ walk from the lake and only started to grow in the 19th century when a branch railway line was extended from near Kendal, much to the chagrin of Wordsworth who vehemently opposed the advent of the railway.
He even wrote a sonnet about it, concluding with:
Plead for thy peace, thou beautiful romance
Of nature; and, if human hearts be dead,
Speak, passing winds; ye torrents, with your strong
And constant voice, protest against the wrong.
Despite much opposition, the railway was built, and the village which started to grow up around the railway station was originally called Birthwaite, after a nearby farm, but then changed to Windermere. The station is still there, but the original station building is now a grocery store.
Boating, of course, is a popular sport on the lake. However, about 5 years ago, a speed limit of 12 m.p.h. was introduced, effectively ending power-boats and water ski-ing on the lake. The arguments in favour of this were based on environmental and safety grounds, the latter being supported by yacht owners. The opponents claimed there was no other lake in England available for power -boats and other ‘fast’ water sports. Also there has been a knock-on effect for local business, since the number of lake-users has dropped dramatically since the limit was introduced.