The Lake District, in northern England, is probably my favourite part of rural England. Green hills lead down to quaint old villages that line the pristine lakes.
The main towns of the Lake District are well served by public transport, which is great news for those travelling on a budget or without a car. Buses link all the towns and villages, as well as ferries that shuttle passengers up Windemere Lake.
Most travellers arrive at Windermere train station. Windermere is the main town and from here there are buses (an open-top bus in summertime!) that wind along the lakes to the town of Keswick and the delightful villages of Ambleside and Grasmere. Other bus services dart off to smaller villages dotted around the mountain valleys.
It’s handy to stock up on supplies in Windermere, as it has several supermarkets and smaller stores around the Lake District tend to close early. It also has the best selection of bars and restaurants – the Queens pub is a good place to stop before catching the train home.
Yes, many of you think – “Ohhhh it’s just like Hobbiton” And you’re right, there are ridiculously picturesque stone built bridges and homes dotted around the area. The Lake District is located in Cumbria, in the north-west of England, and has been attracting visitors since the 18th century. Nonetheless you will still find peace and tranquillity, along with some of the best picnic spots in the world!
The best time to visit the lakes (in my opinion) is in late August / September, when the crowds dwindle and the magnificent isolated views simply take your breathe away. Be sure to pack a rain-jacket though, as you can see above, the weather changes incredibly quickly!
Ambleside is a small rustic village located on the northern shores of Lake Windermere. It’s narrow streets are filled with craft shops, traditional Cumbrian pubs and outdoor stores (every second shop sells hiking gear). It’s hectic during the day but come the evening it is quieter, and it still retains a unique charm. The nearby village of Grasmere is even smaller, and it also hosts a number of quality cafes and restaurants.
The open top bus (number 555) is a real novelty in the summer. It run between Windermere, Bowness, Ambleside and Grasmere and offers fantastic panoramic views across the lake and countryside. It’s especially magical in the evening as the sun sets over the lake.
There are plenty of marked walking routes in the Lake District, suitable for all abilities. Some walks are tough, but they result in superb views across valleys and lakes. For more see the official Lake District website.
Unfortunately camping is frowned upon, and unlike Scotland, wild camping is not allowed. However, on the higher peaks, it is possible to set up camp for one night – as long as you are not interfering with farmers or other human beings! I did this a few months ago, see here for my post.
Windermere is connected to Oxenholme train station on the main West Coast line. There are onward trains to the London, Manchester, Scotland and other cities throughout the UK. See National Rail for schedules.
Stagecoach offers very regular services throughout the Lake District during the summer months. The core 555 route runs every 20 minutes in summer. See their map guide here. Bicycles can be hired from a number of places in Windemere and Ambleside. There are also affordable lake cruises from Bowness and Ambleside.
The Thorney How Hostel in Grasmere is a great retreat away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Prices start at £22 for a dormitory bed. Prices for a double room in an Ambleside B&B begin at roughly £70 in summertime.
Cafe Treff offers up the best coffee and cake in all of Ambleside – it’s an ideal place to relax when the rain starts to pour down. Lunch is also offered by the friendly staff.