The view from the balcony over the ground floor of the museum

Transporting you to the past: the Lakeland Motor Museum

(Feature image: View from the balcony at the Lakeland Motor Museum)

Situated at Backbarrow, at the southern tip of Windermere lake, the Lakeland Motor Museum is a must-see for car enthusiasts, and is equally as enjoyable for everyone else too. I visited several years ago, so when I was invited to go along and write about the attraction for Lake District Gems, I already knew I’d be very happy to do so. 

According to its website, the museum boasts over 30,000 exhibits – from a large vintage fire engine, to the smallest badges and collectibles – from more than 100 years of motoring, beginning with cars from the pre-1930s.

There are also collections of bicycles, motorcycles and pedal cars, and there’s lots of motoring memorabilia including vintage signage. There are even a couple of mock garages chock-full of vintage tools and other motoring paraphernalia.

Vintage fire engine at the Lakeland Motor MuseumThe Lakeland Motor MuseumThe row of shopsRow of shops at the Lakeland Motor Museum

Cars at the Lakeland Motor Museum
In the middle you’ll spot the 1966 Amphicar – the sports car that swam.
An exhibition dedicated to the Isle of Man TT

Exhibit at the Lakeland Motor MuseumA workshop at the Lakeland Motor MuseumPedal cars at the Lakeland Motor MuseumMotorcycles at the Lakeland Motor MuseumAt the Lakeland Motor Museum

An original AA roadbox
An original AA roadbox, which once stood on the road at Newby Bridge. If you’re especially eagle-eyed, you may have noticed one of these by the side of the A591 at Dunmail Raise near Grasmere.

In a separate building there’s a tribute to the racing legend Donald Campbell, who was famously killed in 1967 during a world water speed record attempt on Coniston Water. Here you’ll find an exhibition along with full-sized replicas of two of his cars, a boat, and a hydroplane.

The Donald Campbell exhibitionThe Donald Campbell exhibitionThere’s something at the car museum for all ages. The young will no doubt be intrigued by vehicles they’ve never seen before. Meanwhile, those with a few more candles on their birthday cake will really appreciate the nostalgia of it all. Although I’m not sharing where I appear on that particular scale… 🙂

Speaking of the young, it might be a nice idea to treat children to a couple of coins to keep them engaged as you wander round the exhibits. They can then choose which of the games and animated exhibits to see in action.

A coin slot game at the Lakeland Motor MuseumA coin slot game at the Lakeland Motor MuseumGames at the Lakeland Motor MuseumOne of the things I enjoy most about the museum is the story relating to the history of the building itself, referred to by the museum as the ‘Dolly Blue myth’.

Interpretation panels explain that the building was used as a carton filling and wrapping department for ultramarine pigment, the distinctive and vibrantly coloured product once used on wash day, which in this case was manufactured by Reckitt’s. The manufacturer’s packing department in Hull was bombed during the Second World War, after which it was moved to Backbarrow.

There was also an ultramarine pigment factory at what is now the Whitewater Hotel, nearby. Although the product was known locally as ‘Dolly Blue’ (i.e. blue for the dolly tub), the proprietary brand Dolly Blue was never actually made in Backbarrow. (And you’ve no idea how many times I had to write and edit that last tongue-twisting couple of paragraphs to make sense… We do like a bit of myth-busting on this blog though!)

Carton filling and wrapping of ultramarine blue pigment
One of the women working in the carton filling and wrapping department, which was transferred from Hull in 1942 to the building which is now the motor museum
Ultramarine pigment
Explaining the manufacture of ultramarine pigment

The Lakeland Motor Museum is a great place to visit at any time of the year, but is an especially handy option to head to on one of those drab, cold days when it’s mizzling and you just don’t feel like being outside. It’s open throughout the winter season, and well-behaved dogs on leads are welcome too.

The Lakeland Motor MuseumAnd if, like me, you’re always wondering where your next cup of tea is going to come from, Café Ambio is situated next door overlooking the River Leven. There are a few tables by the riverside in the summer, and it’s a nice peaceful spot in which to relax and enjoy the sun.

The view from outside at Café Ambio
The view from outside at Café Ambio

If you really want to experience a day out to remember using a fun range of local transport, the museum also offers joint discounted tickets with the nearby Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway and Windermere Lake Cruises. Take a look at the website for more information.

With special thanks to the Lakeland Motor Museum for providing complimentary entry on my recent visit to photograph the museum.

Have you visited the Lakeland Motor Museum for yourself? Which were your favourite exhibits? Share your thoughts with other blog readers by leaving a comment below!

One Comment

  1. There are a number of interesting things to see and do in the Newby Bridge, Lakeside and Backbarrow area, and I hope to feature a round-up of some of these very soon on the blog.

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