A comprehensive guide to visiting the Lake District in Cumbria
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A Guide To Visiting The Lake District In Cumbria!

Are you looking for a picturesque escape from everyday life? Then the Lake District in Cumbria is the perfect place to visit! With its stunning views, wild and untamed valleys, and abundance of hikes and trails suitable for everyone, it’s easy to see why this national park has become such a beloved holiday spot.

Whether you’re an avid hiker or just want to take some time out with friends and family, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide filled with all the best tips on how to get the most out of your trip. From accommodation recommendations to impressive landscape spots, this blog post will show you everything there is to know when visiting this breathtaking part of England. So come join us as we explore what makes exploring the Lake District so special!

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How to get to the Lake District:

By air:

The nearest airports are Manchester to the south and Glasgow to the north. There is a railway station at Manchester airport with services that run to Oxenholme (next to Kendal) Kendal, Staveley and Windermere.

Carlisle Lake District Airport is now open, offering flights from Dublin, Belfast and London Southend.

For the best deals on flights, I recommend using Skyscanner.

By Car:

The Lake District is pretty easy to get to by car, most visitors arriving by car will travel along the M6 motorway which runs to the east of the Lake District National Park. 

Take Junction 36 and then A590 for the southern end of the Lake District.

Take Junction 40 and the A66 or A592 for the northern end of the Lake District.

Average journey times:

  • London and the southeast to the Lake District is about five hours
  • Manchester to the Lake District: 1 and a half hours
  • York to the Lake District: 2 hours
  • Kendal to Keswick: 1 hour
  • Windermere to Keswick: 40 minutes
  • Kendal to Wasdale: 1 and a half hours

If traveling just for the day then check out a map and current charges of all the Lake District car parks here.

By Train:

The West Coast mainline runs to the east of the Lake District, connecting Oxenholme, Penrith and Carlisle with London and Glasgow. A direct train runs from Manchester to Windermere. Local trains call at Kendal, Staveley and Windermere. There is also a route following the Cumbrian coastline.

Search and book trains from the UK with the Train Line

By Bus:

National Express runs coaches from all over the UK to the Lake District.

Where to stay In The Lake District:

There are countless hotels, B&Bs, campsites and hostels scattered throughout the Lake District. However if needing to rely on public transport to get around, I recommend staying somewhere central such as Lake Windermere. From here you can easily get to other parts of the Lake District by public transport.

For booking accommodation I recommend using Booking.com. This website offers the best-priced accommodation catering for all budgets and styles. Just pop in your requirements and it will give you a list of available accommodation. Perfect for picking out the best hostels, B&B or even some luxury escapes. 

Booking.com

Windermere & Ambleside:

Lake Windermere is England’s largest and most popular lake, it’s 18 km long and almost 67 m deep. Around the lake, you will find many towns and villages such as Ambleside, Bowness-on-Windermere, Lakeside and Waterhead. Most places have at least a few B&Bs, however, the most popular places to stay are Ambleside or Bowness-on-Windermere. Both towns have a multitude of accommodation options as well as anything else you would need in a holiday destination.

Ambleside is my favourite place to stay in Windermere. Situated a mile inland on its north shore, it’s a bustling little town full of outdoor equipment shops, bookshops, gift shops, cafes and restaurants as well as a cinema and some cosy pubs. Its position, nestled in between various fells also makes it a great starting point for some great Lakeland walks. Why not take a walk up to Stock Ghyll Force waterfall or check out the Ambleside Roman Fort, just watch out for the grazing cows!

Bowness-on-Windermere is probably the most tourist place in all of the Lake District. The town is just a mile and a half downhill from Windermere Village and its railway station, making it one of the easiest places to visit on public transport. I find this town far too busy as it’s particularly popular with day trippers. If travelling with children then Bowness may be the best place to base yourself as it’s home to Beatrix Potter World and also has a small children’s fairground opposite the main jetty. 

Grasmere & Rydal:

Nestling at the foot of some spectacular fells and with its lake, this village has many shops, pubs and cafes. You can also visit Wordsworth’s grave in the churchyard and buy the legendary Grasmere GingerbreadGrasmere is a great place to stay and it’s also very accessible via public transport from Windermere or Keswick or Kendal on bus route 555.

Grassmere is a lovely little village and doesn’t get too crowded. With no motorboats, this quieter lake is great for swimming, kayaking and rowing. In the summer you can hire rowing boats on the lake. 

One of my favourite spots in Grasmere is visiting Alan Bank House, now owned by the National Trust. Once home to National Trust founder Canon Rawnsley and only partially decorated, this isn’t a typical National Trust experience. Here you can sit peacefully enjoying a cuppa whilst keeping an eye out for the elusive red squirrels, you can make yourself at home and chill out all day. Hot drinks are available via donation and you can also bring your picnic. You won’t find much better places to sit and enjoy some spectacular views of Grasmere Lake!

Just a short walk down the road you will find Dove Cottage, the home of the famous poet William Wordsworth. Learn more about the poet’s life with a visit to this new museum contains an incredible collection of original letters, journals and poems as well as Wordsworth’s remarkable life story: his tragic childhood, his travels through the French Revolution, his radical ideas which remain so relevant today, and how he changed literature forever.

Further down the road, you will also find another of Wordsworth’s former homes, Rydal Mount. This beautiful home was where the famous poet lived from 1813 to his death in 1850 at the age of 80. A visit to this house is a must if you are in the area, you’ll find that it has been kept almost the same as what it would have been like during Wandsworth’s life. Outside you will also find that the gardens are also pretty much the same including Dora’s Field, named after Wordsworth’s daughter.

Coniston:

Coniston Water is about five miles long and half a mile wide. Above its western shore, the mountain of the Old Man of Coniston towers above the lake and the village. The lake is easy to get to on public transport by taking the bus 505 from Ambleside or the X112 (Blueworks Travel) from Ulverston and Barrow.

The lake was made famous as the place where Donald Campbell died whilst attempting to break the world water speed record. He aimed to better 300 miles per hour. He accomplished this on 4th January 1967, but the craft, ‘Bluebird K7’, shot up into the air and disappeared into the lake. Until early 2001, his body had never been found.

The small Ruskin Museum tells the story. It showcases various Donald Campbell memorabilia and is home to the actual tail fin of K7, as well as the air intake of the Bristol Orpheus engine recovered in 2001.

Like many of the lakes in the area, you can take a boat trip around Coniston, however, you can also take a trip on a rebuilt Victorian steam-powered yacht. Enjoy the charm of luxury travel once experienced by wealthy Victorians, riding in style in Gondola’s opulent saloons or relaxing on her open-air decks as she glides across Coniston Water. The gondola is now owned and operated by the National Trust, members can get a 10% discount on cruises.

The lake is also close to the picturesque traditional village of Hawkshead, with its winding, cobbled car-free streets and a selection of shops, cafés and inns. You will also find great views from the church just outside the village. 

Keswick & Derwentwater:

Keswick is one of the most popular places to visit within the Lake District National Park. It’s easy to see why with its pretty market town situated between rugged mountains and a picturesque lake. Derwentwater is around 3 miles long surrounded by mountains on all sides and just a short stroll south from Keswick town centre. The town is also easily accessed by public transport with bus links from most of the nearby towns and villages.

There are a variety of ways you can enjoy the lake, you can either take an 8-mile walk around the lake utilising the many well-maintained foot paths or you can enjoy a scenic boat trip from one of the Keswick launches that operate around the lake.

Just a short walk uphill from Keswick town centre you will also find one of oldest stone circles in Britain dating back to 3000 BC. Castlerigg Stone Circle is also one of the most atmospheric and dramatically sited circles with fabulous panoramic views surrounded by mountains. The circle itself is about 30 metres in diameter and comprises 38 stones which vary in height from 1 metre to 2.3 metres! Just watch out for the grazing sheep!

Buttermere & Northern Lakes:

The lakes tucked away in the National Park’s northwest are probably the most peaceful. With no motorboats, they are a great choice to go for a swim, a kayak, a canoe, a paddleboard, or just a peaceful lakeshore walk. Take your pick from the beautiful Buttermere, Crummock Water, Loweswater and Bassenthwaite Lake, the only official lake in the Lake District!

Buttermere has got to be one of my favourite spots within the Lake District. With only a 4km low-level walk, Buttermere is one of the smallest and easiest lakes to walk around within the Lake District. Views in the Lake District rarely get better than here!

Buttermere also has a small village nestled on its shore offering a few fabulous pubs to have a bite to eat and a well-earned beer! On the other side of the village, you will also find its twin lake of Crummock Water. These lakes were once joined together before fall erosion gradually split them apart.

Buttermere is easily accessible via public transport with buses running every hour during the summer months, offering plenty of time to explore the lake and the surrounding area. The bus ride itself is a beautiful run taking you over the Honistor pass, be prepared to stand though, especially in peak times in the summer months as the buses can get packed out even refusing passengers at times. 

Along the famous Honister pass you will also find the Honister slate mine offering some adrenaline-packed adventures such as the Via Ferrata Xtreme, infinity bridge and mine tours.

Penrith:

Penrith is a town situated just outside the Lake District National Park, however, it’s a great place to base yourself especially if you want to explore Ullswater and the surrounding area. As Penrith is a major town in the area it is also home to a main-line train station and has great transport links to the Lake District and beyond. Penrith has plenty to offer with with castles and stately homes to explore as well as being only a short trip on the train to Carlise and the nearby Hadrian’s Wall.

Just a 20-minute ride on the 508 bus from Penrith you will find yourself in the quaint village of Pooley Bridge situated on the Northern shore of beautiful Ullswater.

There are various walking trails and hiking trails on offer. Some of which offer panoramic views around the lake and surrounding area. Some of the more popular trails include the Ullswater Way, Lowther Castle Loop or the Dalemain Loop. For a more strenuous walk, why not head up one of the fells to catch some of the fabulous views?

You could also take one of the lake cruises to travel around the lake and hop off on some of the best spots to explore more on foot. One of the best stops for some spectacular scenery is the Aira Force jetty. Just across the road, you will find the National Trust Cafe and information centre and a variety of trails taking you uphill to one of the best waterfalls in the Lake District, Aira Force!

Best Things to do in the Lake District:

Walking:

The Lake District is home to some of the finest walking trails in the UK. There are hundreds of different options catering for all types of abilities. For more information on walking trails check out Walk Lakes. For those looking for accessible routes Miles without styles offers 48 routes that cater for those with limited mobility, including wheelchair users, families with pushchairs, and the visually impaired.

Remember to stay safe when walking especially when out in the fells, check out the Lake District National Park safer walks website for the best information on how to stay safe.

A couple of my favourite trails include the 5-mile circuit around Buttermere as well as the 3-mile scramble-up Catbells situated on the shores of Derwent Water. Catbells is the more strenuous option but it’s well worth the effort for the amazing views from the top.

For those looking for more testing experience, why not head for Helvellyn, the third-highest peak in England? Ascend via the Striding Edge, a sharp ridge whose steep sides plunge into the valleys below. 

If you fancy tackling the highest peak in England why not take a walk up Scafell Pike? Although not as dangerous as Helvellyn it’s still a pretty tough climb up the 978m summit.

Watersports:

The Lake District is a popular place for all kinds of watersports, you name it, you can do it somewhere! However, it’s best to do your research first as each of the lakes has different options. Some allow motorised sports and others don’t.

You can try your hand at canoeing, sailing, waterskiing, paddle boarding or even a spot of diving if that’s your thing! There are also plenty of team-building activities such as raft building or dragon boat racing.

Wild swimming is becoming more popular and there are plenty of places around the Lake District to enjoy a wild water swimming experience. However, it’s important to stay safe. You can swim in most of the lakes, tarns and rivers in the Lake District, however, some lakes are busier than others. For more information on wild swimming in the Lake District check out this useful guide.

Popular water sports and activity centres include:

Greythwaite Adventure – Windermere

Low Wood Bay Watersports Adventure – Windermere

Brockhole – Windermere

Ullswater Outdoor Adventure – Ullswater

Coniston Boating Centre – Coniston

PlattyPlus – Derwent Water Keswick

Outdoor Adventure:

As well as being a popular place for watersports, the rolling landscape also provides the perfect place to enjoy some outdoor adventure sports such as climbing, tree top adventures, abseiling, caving and even a via ferrata or skydiving if you fancy some adrenalin excitement!

So whether you want to enjoy a gentle bike ride or something more extreme, you will be spoilt for choice. many of the activities on offer are suitable for beginners as well so you don’t have to be an expert to join in. However, depending on the sport, there may be age or fitness restrictions so do check before booking.

Popular outdoor adventure centres include:

River Deep Mountain High – Lake District activities including gorge walking, canoeing, rock climbing, and kayaking. specialising in fun for families, group adventures and team away days.

Keswick Adventure Centre – Activities include ghyll scrambling, canyoning, rock climbing, abseiling, canoeing, raft building, paddle boarding and more…

Joint Adventures – Activities include gorge walking, archery, bushcraft, team building and family Adventure.

Lake District Gyroplanes – You will experience the sheer thrill of taking control of the aircraft – with the knowledge that you will be flying with one of the Country’s most experienced Gyrocopter pilots. You can fly in control for as much as little of the flight as you like, the choice is yours!

Skydive Northwest – Experience the thrill of free fall from up to 15,000 ft, reaching a speed of about 120 mph!

Hoister Slate Mines – Home of the most thrilling, interesting and memorable Lake District Adventures.

Museums:

It’s no surprise that the Lake District is home to plenty of great museums and art galleries with all of the famous writers, poets, and artists who have ambled through the idyllic area. As a result, many of the exhibitions celebrate the lives and works of the Lake District’s most famous residents, such as Beatrix Potter & William Wordsworth. 

Some of my favourite museums include:

Ruskin Museum – Coniston

Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum – Grasmere

The Armitt Museum – Ambleside

Lakeland Motor Museum – Lakeside

The Pencil Museum – Keswick

Laurel and Hardy Museum – Ulverston

Museum of Lakeland Life – Kendal

Historical houses & castles:

The Lake District was transformed by the romantic movement and helped inspire some of the best-known arts and crafts artists. Wordsworth, Ruskin, Beatrix Potter and many others have loved this place and made it their home, and you can visit the places that inspired them. One of my favourite houses to visit was Dalemain Mansion near Ullswater. This beautiful estate is home to a splendid house, beautiful gardens and its very own deer park!

Other interesting Historical Houses include:

Rydal Mount and Gardens – Rydal Mount dates from the 16th century and was William Wordsworth’s best-loved family home from 1813 to his death in 1850 at the age of 80. The house continues to be owned by the Wordsworth family and retains the feel of a lived-in family home, along with a 5-acre garden still in keeping with how William Wordsworth designed it. 

Lowther Castle and Gardens – Built at the turn of the 19th century, on the site of two previous houses, Lowther Castle had beautiful gardens and a large estate. But in 1957 the castle was demolished. It was left derelict for over 70 years before an innovative and intriguing renovation made it to what you see today!

Hill Top – The farmhouse made famous by the vegetable patch that tempted Peter Rabbit. The house lets you see how Beatrix Potter lived, and her love of the Lake District.

Dalemain Mansion – The Dalemain Estate includes a splendid house, gardens, a deer park and tenant farms. 

Brantwood House and Gardens – Brantwood was the home of the Victorian intellectual John Ruskin. The house, gardens and estate host many of Ruskin’s treasures, along with contemporary exhibitions, concerts, courses and special events.

Muncaster Castle – Muncaster has been owned by the Pennington family since the land was given to their ancestor Alan de Penitone in 1208. It’s grown from a medieval fortified tower-house or ‘pele’ tower, with many additions up to the late nineteenth century. 

Allan Bank House – Once home to William Wordsworth and Hardwick Rawnsley, Allan Bank has a rich history, but it isn’t a traditional National Trust property. There’s no collection here, and the building is only partially decorated after a fire in 2011, but by leaving the building as an empty shell, it focuses the eye on the most significant feature of Allan Bank- its landscape.

Roman remains:

There are numerous Roman remains dotted around the Lake District. Throughout Roman rule, the northwest of England was a predominant military region with forts and other defences found across Cumbria towards the northern frontier, Hadrian’s Wall. 

Roman remains to check out in the Lake District include:

Hardknott Roman Fort – This far-flung outpost of the Roman Empire guarded the pass on the road from Ravenglass to Ambleside. It was built in the second century during Hadrian’s reign and garrisoned by troops from the eastern Adriatic, who policed the area and defended the frontier. 

Ambleside Roman Fort – A century ago, there was little sign that a Roman fort once stood here, guarding the supply route from Ravenglass. Today you can clearly see the foundations of the headquarters building, commandant’s house, granaries, gates and defences, all exposed by excavations in 1914-20. 

Ravenglass Roman bath house – The 1,000-strong garrison at Ravenglass came here to scrub up. It’s one of the best preserved Roman military bathhouses in Britain, with walls standing nearly 4 metres (12 feet) high. 

Of course, there is so much more to see in the Lake District such as industrial heritage sites, ancient stone circles as well as wildlife spotting and plenty of things to do with children, the list is endless. So for more ideas for things to do whilst in the area check out the Lake District National Park website.

Getting around the Lake District:

Walking has got to be the best way to explore the Lake District, however, if wanting to travel further afield it’s not the best option. Most people use the car or public transport to get around, however as the roads are becoming increasingly busy year on year, use of public transport in now encouraged. 

With this in mind, the region has introduced some great public transport links which make it very easy to leave the car at home and travel around the area by bus. I have visited the Lake District on many occasions as I only live in Liverpool, however, I have always travelled by train and used the very good public transport links to get around. 

Public transport:

As I’ve previously stated, there is a great bus net worth across the Lake District that connects most of the tourist places and attractions. You can either pay by journey or grab a day or weekly pass. For example, a day pass for Windermere and the surrounding area on the open-top bus costs £8.50 a day or £29 for a 7-day ticket. However, if travelling to some of the more remote areas then a car will probably be the only option.

For more information and help planning your journey check out the stagecoach website. 

You can also download the Lakes by Bus guide here.

Cycling:

Road cyclists and mountain bikers are spoilt for choice in the Lake District National Park. There are a range of country lanes, permitted cycle ways and bridleways to suit all experience levels and you can be sure of fantastic views along the way.

If looking to hire bicycles then check out Brockhole on Lake Windermere and Coniston Boating Centre.

By boat:

Taking a cruise is one of the best ways of exploring the Lake District National Park. Combining a one-way cruise with a bus, walk or cycle can be a great way to travel around a lake in a day.

The following lakes have passenger boats with multiple stops:

Windermere:

Windermere Lake Cruises – stops at Lakeside, Ferry House, Bowness-on-Windermere, Windermere Jetty, Bark Barn Pier, Wray Castle, Brockhole on Windermere and Ambleside.

Windermere Lake guide showing piers, jetties and towns around the lake.

Ullswater:

Ullswater Steamers – stops at Glenridding, Aira Force, Howtown and Pooley Bridge.

Ullswater Lake guide showing piers, jetties and boat routes.

Coniston:

Coniston Launch – stops at Coniston Boating Centre, Waterhead, Brantwood, Sunny Bank, and Lake Bank Jetty.

National Trust Gondoloa – stops at Coniston Boating Centre, Brantwood and Lake Bank Jetty.

Coniston Lake guide showing piers, jetties and boat routes.

Derwent Water:

Keswick Launch – stops at Keswick, Ashness Gate, Lodore, High Brandelhow, Low Brandelhow, Hawes End, Lingholm and Nichol End.

Derwent Water Lake guide showing piers, jetties and boat routes.

Useful tips when visiting the Lake District:

Heading out for a scramble in the fells, if so remember weather conditions can change in an instant even in the summer months, be prepared. For more walking safety advice check out this Lake District Mountain Rescue leaflet.

Make sure you bring comfortable walking shoes, you’ll be surprised how much walking you will do in the Lake District.

Like everywhere else in the UK, the weather can have a mind of its own. Even in summer, you are likely to experience all 4 seasons in a single day! Don’t be caught out in the rain, always carry a rain jacket or umbrella! 

If driving around the Lake District, be warned some of the roads can be very busy, especially in the summer. If driving off the beaten track, be warned the roads can also be very uneven in places with many being only single track with occasional passing places.

Final Thoughts:

Visiting the Lake District in Cumbria is a beautiful and unique experience worth taking every chance to enjoy. Its stunning scenery, peaceful atmosphere, and exciting activities make it ideal for people of all ages and backgrounds. With its breathtaking natural features, lush green grasses, and majestic waterfalls, exploring the Lake District feels like stepping into an enchanted wonderland.

Whether you choose to explore on foot, rent a car or cruise the picturesque lakeside roads, there is no shortage of amazing experiences to be had. So go ahead and take the plunge, spend some time in this incredible part of the world, you won’t regret it! From its wild landscapes to its vibrant culture, you’ll find plenty here to make your trip truly special. Your only challenge will be remembering why it took you so long in the first place to come and visit!

Thanks so much for stopping by, I appreciate every one of you who takes the time to read and make it to the end! I have lots of exciting new content coming in the next few weeks so make sure you pop back to catch up!

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