Photographer of Families, Small People and Delightful Places. Travel and Lifestyle Writer and Blogger. Lives in Newcastle, Loves the North, Often Accompanied By A Beagle Named Holly Bobbins

Saturday, August 15, 2020

How to Holiday in the Lake District using Public Transport

How to holiday in the lake district using public transport, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, travel

A few weeks ago I went to the Lake District, my first solo trip there and being a non-driver I'm reliant on public transport.  To be honest, I'd always thought you had to have a car to get around the lake district but no, it's totally possible to holiday in the Lake District using public transport and I'm going to tell you how.

Now I must add that when I was there, even though it was July, the buses were still using the winter timetables due to the COVID pandemic so had I have gone a week later I would have had even better options and routes and on a much more regular basis than once an hour.

I started my week away by travelling from Newcastle to Penrith by train on the Northern Rail line, it costs just over £30 for a ticket, takes around 3 hours allowing for connections as you have to change at trains at Carlisle and then Penrith is just one stop.

I feel I must point out that I arrived in Penrith early on a Sunday and the town was shut, there was literally nowhere open and even when we're not mid-pandemic it seems like the Cumbrian town of Penrith really doesn't have a lot going on, especially on a Sunday but in saying that it's a great place to locate yourself if you're looking to explore the northern part of the Lake District.

The number 508 bus goes from the Penrith bus station if you want to visit Ullswater, the northernmost lake in the Lake District, I'd chosen to walk to Aira Force, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the UK, owned and managed by the National Trust, the 508 bus stop is just at the entrance and passes by at least once an hour depending on the time of year.  The waterfall is very popular and can get busy but there is a one-way system in place to help with social distancing.  I'm not going to pretend it's an easy walk up if you, like me, are chunkier than a KitKat Chunky but it's well worth the time to climb right to the top and you'll feel like an elite athlete all day afterwards, you'll even be able to have cake guilt-free!


After I'd climbed Aira Force I was going to get the bus to Glenridding but instead, I decided to walk the 2.5km along the beautiful Ullswater Way, walking along an official walk makes you feel like you've gone semi-professional and it's an easy, well-signposted route you cannot get lost on so perfect if you're just starting out as a hiking enthusiast.  Glenridding is a beautiful little village which looks like a ski-resort and it's from here you can get the Ullswater Steamers to the other edge of the lake where the village of Pooley Bridge lies.  Currently, due to the pandemic, you have to book the day before online and, quite interestingly even if you're a single person you have to pay for 2 adults because of the seating restrictions.  This was a no-brainer to give it a miss this time, I'd already done the same journey in the past with Holly Bobbins and Harriet so it was no loss to give it a miss on this occasion.  If however you're in a couple or a family and you've not done it before then go for it, I really recommend it, it's a beautiful boat ride.

One of my top money-saving tips is that you download the Stagecoach app before you go to the lakes and then look for the Northwest Explorer ticket, a 7-day ticket is going to cost you £30 and it means you have unlimited travel for 7 days all over the northwest and beyond, it even extends down to buses to Chester and up on buses to Newcastle, it's a massive money saver and it's the only ticket you'll need to get around.

Later in the week on my travels, I relocated to a B&B down in Keswick, I got the X5 which takes around 44 minutes and it's a lovely scenic route as most bus routes are in the lakes, it certainly makes a difference to travelling around the city at home, the bus runs once an hour during winter and every half hour during the summer.

Despite Keswick not having its own train station it's one of the best places you can locate yourself when holidaying in the lake district using public transport.  Everywhere is just so convenient whether you're walking, getting the bus or even taking the boat from one side of Derwentwater to the other, I love Keswick, its a town full of dogs, it's got the prettiest gift boutiques (perfect research for Philomena's Boutique) and it's one of the friendliest towns you could ever hope to visit with so many places to eat and drink. 

The best bus route I found was the 555 bus which runs from Keswick to Lancaster stopping at some of the most scenic places in the whole of the Lake District, often the stops might look like deserted places in the middle of nowhere but that's because they're usually on popular walking routes.  There was a day when I got off the bus at Grasmere and decided to just walk to the next place, I felt safe because I knew there was always a bus which could get me back again and on that day I ended up walking to White Moss where I then connected with a walking route around Grasmere Lake back to Grasmere Village which is, of course, famous for Grasmere Gingerbread made to Sarah Nelson's famous recipe and the only place in the world where it's made and sold although if you can't get there right now, you'll be delighted to know that they do have an online shop (you can send me some to thank me).

One of the loveliest places in the lake district for me has to be the scenic town of Ambleside, home to Stock Ghyll Force, another waterfall I accidentally climbed when I got off the bus and just happened to see a sign saying "Waterfalls, this way" I famously accidentally walk up big hills all the time, I hate it too but whenever I reach the top, it's always worth it, even with lashing winds and rains are in my face!

if you get off the bus at Grasmere you can swap to the open-topped 599 bus which takes you all the way down to Bowness on Windermere. If you go there, beware, it gets incredibly busy but do check out the Christmas in Lakes shop, well only if you love Christmas because it's Christmas there all year round, on the day I was there,  the sun was blazing, it was a heatwave and it felt like an out of body experience or like watching a Californian Christmas movie, I'd go there again tomorrow though!! 

In my week on my solo trip to Penrith and Keswick I never once ran out of things to do, there were buses I couldn't get because of the pandemic affecting the timetables and though I didn't have Holly Bobbins with me, if I went back I would love to take her because it's just so dog friendly.  The lakes are so good for clearing your mind, I walked so many miles and I forgave myself for my mistakes as well as eventually coming to terms with the fact that the pandemic and lockdown changed my life, we all know now however that what happened to me, actually, it was for the best because I love running an e-commerce gift boutique with all of my heart, it's diverse, sustainable and totally lush!

if you're feeling bunged up or life is getting you down but you've always thought you could never visit the lakes because you didn't drive, I hope I've proven that not only is it possible but it's also an amazing solo adventure to have for your mind and your body, just don't eat all of the gingerbread!

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