Located in the county of Cumbria in North West 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.
How to get to the Lake District by air
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, but it only operates flights between Belfast, Dublin and London Southend.
How to get to the Lake District by train
The train is a comfortable, affordable and relatively fast way to travel to the Lake District. You can jump on the West Coast Mainline that runs from London to Glasgow and stop at Oxenholme station which is 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 bus operated by Stagecoach to Keswick and 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 with stops all the way up to Carlisle.
If you’re travelling from outside of the UK, you might want to purchase a BritRail Pass that gives you unlimited rail travel in the UK. Prices start at around £150. It’s a cost-effective option if rail travel will be your primary way of getting around.
How to get to the Lake District by bus
You can travel to the Lake District by coach with the National Express from various destinations in the UK including London and Manchester. They also run a direct service from Victoria Coach Station in London to Windermere. Travelling by coach takes longer than the train, but it might be more convenient and reduce the number of transfers.
Stagecoach operates an extensive bus network in Cumbria and the Lake District. It services the majority of the most popular areas and is an easy way to explore the park. 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
How to get to the Lake District by road
If you’re taking your car or hiring one, you can take the M6 motorway that runs from the Midlands to the Scottish border. Taking a car gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace. Plus, there are some fantastic scenic drives that take you around the villages, lakes and attractions. The roads are narrow and winding at times, and you need to be aware of cyclists, walkers and families of sheep. Most car parks are paid and get pretty busy (especially in the peak season), but you may find the occasional paid car park.
Below are average driving times to the Lake District from some of the UK's major cities :
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
The local train and bus services make it easy to get around. 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.
When you’re surrounded by lakes, one of the best ways to get around is, of course, by boat. Most passenger terminals are Bowness-on-Windermere, Keswick, Coniston Village and Ullswater/Pooley Bridge. Windermere (connecting the eastern and western shores) is the only lake that has a car ferry. There are hop-on-hop-off services for all launches, making it easy to explore the lakes as you please.
Cycling is a great way to cover a decent amount of ground while soaking up all the gorgeous 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.
Walking is one of the best ways to see the beauty of the Lake District, not to mention it has 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.
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