Located in the county of Cumbria in northwest England, the Lake District is nicely tucked away in a remote part of the UK while still being well connected with major cities including London, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow. The closest cities are Lancaster and Manchester in the south, and Carlisle in the north.
If you’re travelling from outside of the UK, there are a number of international airports within 90 minutes of the Lake District by road or rail.
The closest international airports are Glasgow and Manchester. From here, you can transfer via train, coach or bus. You can also fly into Carlisle Lake District Airport from Belfast, Dublin and London Southend.
The train is an affordable and relatively fast way to get to the Lake District. You can take the West Coast Mainline from London to Glasgow, and jump off at Oxenholme just outside of Kendal. From here, you can take a local train to Kendal, Windermere or Staveley.
The West Coast Mainline also stops at Penrith and Carlisle, where you can transfer to a local Stagecoach bus to Keswick or Windermere.
You can also take a direct train from Manchester to Windemere on the Northern Rail. Or, take the Furness Line that runs from Lancaster to Barrow-in-Furness, and transfer to the Cumbrian Coast Line which runs all the way to Carlisle.
If you’re travelling from outside of the UK, you might want to purchase a BritRail Pass which gives you unlimited UK rail travel. It’s a cost-effective option if rail travel will be your primary mode of transport.
You can travel to the Lake District by coach with the National Express from various UK cities including London and Manchester. There's also a direct service from Victoria Coach Station to Windermere.
Stagecoach operates an extensive bus network in Cumbria and the Lake District. Buses run regularly throughout the year but there are additional services during the summer months. Popular bus routes in the Lake District include:
Stagecoach 555: Lancaster > Kendal > Windermere > Ambleside > Grasmere > Keswick
Stagecoach 599: Kendal > Windermere > Bownes > Ambleside > Grasmere
Stagecoach 508: Penrith > Aira Force > Glenridding > Patterdale
Stagecoach 6: Barrow > Dalton > Ulverston > Newby Bridge > Bowness-on-Windermere > Windermere
If you’re driving, you can take the M6 motorway which connects the Midlands and the Scottish border. Driving gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace. The roads are narrow and winding at times, and you need to be aware of cyclists, walkers and the occasional sheep! Another thing to note is that car parks get very busy, especially in the peak season.
Below are average driving times to the Lake District from major cities in the UK:
London: 5.5 hours
Manchester: 2 hours
Glasgow: 2.5 hours
Liverpool: 2.25 hours
Birmingham: 3.25 hours
Getting around the Lake District
By public transport
It's easy to get around the Lake District thanks to local train and bus services. You can take the Lakes Line train that runs from Oxenholme to Windermere (with stops in Kendal, Burneside and Staveley), or the Stagecoach bus (see routes above). There is also a free shuttle bus from Cockermouth to Buttermere Valley from July to September.
You can also take an old steam train from Haverthwaite to Lakeside Station, and then continue up to Bowness or Ambleside on a steamboat via Lake Windermere.
One of the best ways to get around the Lake District is, of course, by boat. Passenger terminals are located in Bowness-on-Windermere, Keswick, Coniston Village and Ullswater/Pooley Bridge. Windermere (connecting the eastern and western shores) is the only lake with a car ferry. There are hop-on-hop-off services for all launches, making it easy to explore the region.
Cycling is a great way to cover a decent amount of ground while soaking up all the scenery. It’s also an eco-friendly way to get around. There are some pretty amazing routes including the Honister Pass and the Newland Pass. Challenge yourself or go for a leisurely ride with regular stops at village tearooms – it’s up to you.
The Lake District boasts some of the best walking trails in the country. Put your fitness to the test on some of the park’s more difficult hikes up steep hills and mountains, or take a pleasant stroll on one of the 48 accessible walking trails. There are walking trails for all skills and abilities.
Our Lake District tours