Oliver Berry of Lonely Planet describes the Lake District as follows: “For Britain’s finest scenery, greenest countryside and grandest views, visit the Lake District. Covering a total area of just over 885 square miles, the Lake District National Park has been protected since 1951, and its picturesque patchwork of lakes, valleys, woodlands and fells make it one of the best places in Britain to get out and experience the great outdoors, whether it’s on a leisurely bike ride down country lanes or a day-long hike across the hills.
And while the weather is notoriously unpredictable (locals will tell you that it’s not unusual to experience all four seasons in a single day), showers and racing clouds only emphasise the grandeur of the magnificent scenery.
The Lake District also has numerous artistic and literary connections, most famously William Wordsworth, who was born in Cockermouth in 1770 and drew much of his poetic inspiration from the surrounding landscape.
Other poets, writers and painters followed, including John Ruskin, Beatrix Potter, Arthur Ransome and Alfred Wainwright, author of the classic Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells.
The busiest season is between June and August, when prices rocket, car-parks are packed and traffic jams are frequent. Better to visit in the shoulder months: in April and May, when the weather is generally settled and sunny, or in September and October, when the woodlands blaze with autumnal colour.
The worst of the rainfall is usually reserved for the beginning and end of winter, but heavy showers can strike in the Lake District at practically any time of year. Heavy snow is common in midwinter, especially between November and February, when some rural roads become impassable.
Direct trains run to Windermere and Kendal along the branch line from Oxenholme, which links up with mainline services on the west coast serving London and Glasgow. Cheapest single fares from London start at around £69.
By car, the M6 motorway runs just to the east of the Lake District. Turn off at either Kendal (Junction 37) or Penrith (Junction 40) for the quickest access to the national park. Traffic permitting, the journey time from London is around five to six hours.
Cumbria has a good bus service between the main towns, although services are scarcer once you get into more rural areas. The most regular service is the 555 Lakeslink, which runs at least a couple of times an hour and stops at Windermere, Troutbeck, Ambleside and Grasmere. For timetables and information, contact Cumbria County Council (cumbria.gov.uk).
The useful Cross Lakes Experience (lakedistrict.gov.uk/visiting/planyourvisit/travelandtransport/crosslakes) enables you to explore the countryside around Windermere, Grizedale and Coniston using a mix of boats, buses and minibuses. The service runs from March to October; return fares from Coniston to Bowness-on-Windermere currently cost £19.70 per adult, or £54.30 for a family ticket of two adults and three children.
A new “bike and ride” service, run by Stagecoach Cumbria (standard fare plus £1.50 for a bike for the day), will take cyclists and mountain bikers on specially converted bike buses from Windermere Railway Station through Ambleside, Grasmere and Keswick to the Whinlatter Forest visitor Centre.
There are several local steam railways and cruise boat services on Windermere, Coniston Water, Derwentwater and Ullswater. Most stop at various points around the lake, allowing you to get off at one jetty and walk to the next.
Have a great British break!
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