Tucked up in the far north west of England just below the Scottish borders, the Lake District is the jewel in the English National Parks crown.
Easily accessible by car or a variety of public transport options, it is the perfect place for a short holiday or a stop a longer UK roadtrip.
The two main access ‘hub’ points to the Lake District for both car and public transport are
Kendal (two train stations) for the south Lake District
Penrith (one train station) for the north Lake District
The M6 running north from Birmingham and Manchester and south from Glasgow enables easy access to both the north and south of the Lakes
- South Lakes (Windermere/Ambleside/Coniston), come off at Junction 37 into Kendal and follow signs to Windermere. Kendal to Windermere is around 15 minute drive depending on traffic
- North Lakes (Keswick), jump off at junction 40 at Penrith and follow signs to Keswick, which is around a 25-minute drive depending on traffic.
Driving from London would take around 5-6 hours depending on traffic
The nearest airport is Manchester International, which can be accessed on a direct train line with stops at
- Oxenholme Lake District (where you can transfer to a feeder line to Windermere) taking around 1hr 45 mins or
- Penrith in 2hr15mins
Edinburgh Airport is also easily accessible with a change at Haymarket station and a 1hr30mins train ride to Penrith.
Alternatively, there are plenty of car hire choices available at each airport
National Express runs coaches directly from London and Manchester with stops in Windermere, Ambleside and Keswick before continuing to the Cumbrian coast finishing in Whitehaven.
Tickets for these direct services are around £40-60
If you are travelling from London and looking to save a little cash, there is a night bus that leaves London in the evening and arriving into Penrith around 5am.
You will have to wait around an hour for the first bus going into the National Park (to Keswick) leaves at 7am.
You can find more info here
By Train and Public Bus
There are two major train stations serving the Lake District with trains running directly in the north from Glasgow and Edinburgh.
From the south, trains begin in Manchester and London Euston – all the services serve both Oxenholme Lake District (near Kendal) and Penrith.
In the south, Oxenholme Lake District is a 15-minute bus ride from the centre of Kendal.
You can connect to Windermere on the local branch train line from Oxenholme which
- takes 20 minutes
- runs around every 2 hours
- a one-way £6.40 ticket costs.
From Windermere, you can easily connect to Ambleside, Grasmere, Langdale and Coniston by Stagecoach bus.
If you plan to start your adventure in the North Lakes, jump off at Penrith where you can jump on the X5 bus to
- Keswick which takes 50 minutes or
- Pooley Bridge at the head of Ullswater in 25 minutes.
Train tickets are on the pricey side, but if you book in advance you may be able to find a cheaper deal. You can book train tickets here
An off peak return ticket from London is currently around £114
Also, try splitting your ticket as I’ve found train tickets from Manchester to Windermere for £12 advance single, even the day before travelling.
Getting around the Lake District by bus
Bus tickets into the Lake District are expensive – if you plan to use them a lot during your visit, consider buying a 1, 3 or 7 day pass from the bus driver, which remarkably covers quite a vast area of the buses in the North West.
The current ticket prices (as of summer 2020) are
- £11.50 for a day ticket
- £26 for a 3 day ticket or
- £29 for a 1 week ticket (with a £1 charge for a top up card).
If you are travelling as a family or group there are further saver tickets, as well as options to combine bus tickets with boat tickets on Coniston, Ullswater or Derwentwater.
For more details on the buses in the Lake District check the Stagecoach website