Getting from London to the Lake District: stress-free routes, key pit stops, and the very best travel times
From historic cathedrals to modern skyscrapers, London is a city with many faces. England’s multicultural capital has a never-ending list of things to see and do, whether you’re keen to go off the beaten track or shop for souvenirs.
But if you’re hoping for a more tranquil experience, it might be a good idea to venture out of London. While it’s common to take a day trip to check out Stonehenge or explore Bath, if you have time to spare, we recommend heading to the most popular national park in the U.K. for some fresh air and top-notch scenery.
About 270 miles away from London is the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Lake District. Located within Cumbria, the Lake District is named for its picturesque lakes which wind through the countryside like ribbons. Over the centuries, its beauty has captivated millions of people, including renowned poets and artists. In fact, William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” was inspired by a walk around Ullswater.
Wondering how to visit the Lake District from London? First things first: the Lake District is huge, spreading over an area of 912 square miles and divided into various settlements, towns, and villages. Depending on where you plan to visit, a specific mode of transportation may be more suitable. Read on to find out whether traveling by car, bus, or train is best for your Lake District trip.
London to the Lake District by train
Best for: Convenience
West Coast Main Line
London and the Lake District are connected via the West Coast Main Line, a major railway that runs between London and Glasgow. Board the Avanti West Coast train at London Euston and stop at Oxenholme Lake District; this journey takes around two and a half hours, and tickets start from £31 ($38). To get the best deals, we recommend booking as soon as possible—advance tickets are available up to 12 weeks before the departure date.
Windermere Branch Line
From Oxenholme, you can switch to the Windermere Branch Line to explore the east of the Lake District for an additional £4–9 ($5–11). One stop away from Oxenholme is Kendal. The quaint market town is home to the world’s largest and oldest topiary gardens, Sizergh Castle, and Kendal mint cakes.
The final stop on the Windermere Branch Line, Windermere is one of the Lake District’s most iconic attractions. Windermere Station is in the center of town, so you’ll get easy access to shops and restaurants. Admire Lake Windermere from the shore, or sail along England’s largest lake on a private yacht. For a stunning, 360-degree view of the area, hike up to Orrest Head.
Head downhill from Windermere to find the tiny village of Bowness-on-Windermere, where you can visit The World of Beatrix Potter to meet iconic characters like Peter Rabbit. On the northern end of Windermere Lake is Ambleside, a bustling town nestled in a valley. This is where Beatrix Potter resided, and the starting point for various walking routes to Loughrigg Fell and Grizedale Forest.
Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway
Keen to explore the west coast of the Lake District? You’ll need to take an Avanti West Coast train from London Euston to Carlisle, where you’ll transfer to Ravenglass for Eskdale Station. This route will take you around four and a half hours and cost upwards of £35 ($43).
Ravenglass is a coastal village within the Lake District, and the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, also known as the Ratty, is a heritage train line that runs seven miles along the Eskdale Valley to Dalegarth. You can request stops at Irton Road or The Green to take popular walks around Blea Tarn and Scafell Pike Mountain. Choose from indoor, outdoor, or semi-open carriages; a single trip costs £12 ($14). You can also purchase a ride all day ticket to travel flexibly.
London to the Lake District by car
Best for: Sightseeing
Driving from London to the Lake District takes about five hours via the M6. However, traffic can get heavy on this route, especially during holidays, so we recommend scheduling more time to take a road trip instead. This will also give you ample time to make pit stops and check out some scenic sights along the way.
From London, head west through the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and stop by Oxford. Its world-famous university needs no introduction, but the city is also home to attractions like Oxford Castle, Pitt Rivers Museum, and Christ Church, which appeared as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies.
Drive on to the Cotswolds, where you’ll pass many picturesque towns and villages. Enjoy a quintessentially English experience at Chipping Campden or Stow-on-the-Wold, and take a walk through the wealthy spa town of Cheltenham.
Continue along the highway past Birmingham to the Peak District. As its name suggests, the Peak District is an upland area dotted with hills, ridges, and caverns. There are plenty of walking and cycling trails, and adventurers can even climb up the gritstone outcrops at Stanage Edge.
Your final pit stop before reaching the Lake District is Manchester. Football fans will have a blast doing stadium tours at Old Trafford and Etihad Stadium, while budding artists should pay a visit to the Manchester Art Gallery.
Finally, drive past the rural Forest of Bowland and you’ll arrive in the Lake District. With a car, you’ll be able to explore beyond Windermere, so maximize your trip by visiting areas like Wastwater, Keswick, and the Langdale Valley.
London to the Lake District by bus
Best for: Price
Costing around £19 ($23), taking a bus is the cheapest way to get from London to the Lake District. Unfortunately, it’s a lengthy and rather inconvenient journey with a travel time of close to 10 hours. Board a National Express bus from London Victoria Coach Station to Penrith, where you’ll transfer to the X4 or X5 services towards Keswick.
Best way to get from London to the Lake District
If you’re looking for the speediest way to reach the Lake District, we recommend traveling by train. However, you’ll probably have to choose between the east and west areas of the Lake District to explore, since those require different train lines to get to. Driving is a rather fuss-free option for travelers who want to visit other locales along the way. If you can’t or don’t want to drive, some tours also offer a combined rail and minivan option so you can travel seamlessly to and around the Lake District.
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