Spring truly is a magnificent time to visit the Lake District. Up here in Cumbria we are blessed with luscious lakes, magnificent mountains and fabulous farmland – all of which comes alive in the spring. There are carpets of bluebells, colourful displays of rhododendrons, and wild orchids in abundance. On the farms, you can expect to see Herdwick lambs frolicking in the fields, whilst around the fells you might spot fawns and young red squirrels.

It’s the time of year when the Lake District breathes with new life, which is why it’s a popular time for tourists to visit. Unfortunately, this does mean that traffic can be an issue, so this Spring, why not leave your car behind and try to explore the Lake District via other means? You will benefit from a new experience, and the Lake District will benefit from reduced car emissions.

Explore the Lake District by Train

The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

Step back in time and hop on board a heritage railway line this Spring. If you are staying in the southern Lake District, then head over to Haverthwaite, south of Lake Windermere. The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway was constructed in the mid 19th century and today steam trains operate between the villages of Haverthwaite and Lakeside. Once at Lakeside, both the Lakeland Motor Museum and the Lakes Aquarium are within walking distance. Alternatively, you can hop on board a steamer and cruise over Lake Windermere to visit Ambleside or Bowness-On-Windermere. You can get combined tickets that include a train ride and attraction entry or a steamer journey.

Over in West Cumbria, the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway – also known as La’al Ratty – is another heritage line that offers passenger rides. Ravenglass is a pretty coastal village that can be reached by a mainline railway service that operates between Carlisle and Manchester via the Cumbrian coast, calling at several stations in between, including Ulverston, Barrow-In-Furness, and Workington. Once at Ravenglass mainline station, it’s a three-minute walk to the heritage railway line station and you can take a steam train through the Eskdale Valley.

There are seven stops along the way with the final stop at Dalegarth. From here, there are several delightful walking opportunities, including one of the most interesting routes up to the summit of Scafell Pike. There are a number of pubs and hotels in Eskdale that offer overnight accommodation, making it possible to enjoy a Lake District break entirely without a car. Don’t forget that there are also direct mainline trains from Oxenholme near Kendal to Windermere, with connections to Oxenholme available from Manchester and Lancaster.

Explore the Lake District by Bike

Cyclist in Ambleside

Cyclist in Ambleside (jiggotravel / Bigstockphoto.com)

There’s a reason why the Tour of Britain has chosen to visit Cumbria on multiple occasions. The Lake District is a cycling paradise, offering a mixture of quiet country lanes and gruelling mountain trails. For those new to cycling, start off with a gentle ride along the west shore of Windermere, where there is a four-mile trail that is fairly flat and traffic free. A bike boat operates between Brockhole on the eastern shore, close to Bowness, and Bank Barn on the western shore. From here, you can cycle up to Wray Castle, or explore the quieter side of Lake Windermere. Bike hire is available from Brockhole.

Ennerdale is another popular spot for cyclists and is ideal for families with older children who are fairly confident on their bikes, but not ready for full on mountain biking. You can cycle along the northern shore of the lake deep into Ennerdale Forest, where a re-wilding project is underway, and you may spot deer and red squirrels if you are lucky.

For experienced mountain bike enthusiasts, the Lake District is brimming with opportunities. You could attempt to cycle up Skiddaw or High Street or test your skills on the exciting trails at Grizedale or Whinlatter Forests. Cycle hire is available at both of these forests and at various other places around the Lake District.

Explore the Lake District by Boat

Windermere Cruises at Bowness Pier

Windermere Cruises at Bowness Pier (jiggotravel / Bigstockphoto.com)

You can access some of the prettiest areas of the Lake District by hopping on board a steamer on one of the Lakes and taking a stroll. On Lake Windermere, the Windermere Lake Cruises company offer a variety of different boat rides that will take you to delightful spots around the lake. The Yellow Cruise is a round trip from Bowness that includes a detailed commentary of the history of the area. The Red Cruise is a round trip from Bowness that stops at the Brockhole Visitor Centre and the Windermere Jetty for the new museum there. The Islands Cruise is a non-stopping cruise that explores the lake’s islands, whilst the Green Cruise calls at Wray Castle on the western shore, and from there, you can explore the trails on this quieter side of the lake. For those near the southern tip of the Lake, a ferry operates between Lakeside and the beautiful National Trust park at Fell Foot.

If you are looking to combine a boat ride with a more adventurous walk, then head over to Ullswater or Derwent Water. The Ullswater Steamers operate between Pooley Bridge and Glenridding, with some stopping at Howtown Pier and Aira Force Pier. Glenridding is a popular starting point for an ascent up Helvellyn, whilst from Howtown Pier you can trek into the rugged and isolated fells around Martindale where deer are readily spotted. At Derwent Water, the Keswick Launch Co offers boat rides from Keswick around the Lake, with stops at Brandelhow for ascents up Cat Bells and at Ashness Gate for a stroll through Great Wood and up to Watendlath, with further additional stops around the Lake.

For boat rides with a literary theme, head over to Coniston Water, where you can take a Wild Cat Island Cruise with the Coniston Launch, which explores the area that inspired Arthur Ransome in his children’s series Swallows and Amazons. The launch also stops at Brantwood, former home to writer and social thinker, John Ruskin. Coniston Water is also home to the Steam Yacht Gondola, a National Trust owned rebuilt Victorian yacht that also offers cruises around the lake.

Explore the Lake District by Bus

Bus along Lake Windermere

Bus along Lake Windermere (Photo thanks to lakedistrictonboard.com)

Take away the stress of driving on narrow windy roads and hop on board a bus this spring to get you around the Lake District. Not only can you concentrate on the scenery rather than the traffic, but you will be helping to reduce emissions in this beautiful World Heritage Site. Stagecoach operate most bus services within Cumbria and they have three open top bus routes on comfortable double deckers that offer a fabulous way of seeing the sites.

The 599 runs between Bowness, Windermere, Ambleside, and Grasmere, including stops at the mainline train station at Windermere, with audio commentary available during the journey. The 508 runs between Penrith, Pooley Bridge, and Glenridding with a stop at Aira Force. The third open top bus route is the number 78, which runs between Keswick and Seatoller via Grange and Rosthwaite, giving you the opportunity to explore the Borrowdale fells.

There are plenty of other bus routes on standard buses that will take you deep into the Lake District and remove the need for the car, including the 554 that runs between Keswick and Mirehouse where you can explore Dodd Wood and hopefully see the ospreys. The number 77 runs in a loop taking in Keswick, Hawes End (for Cat Bells), Grange, Rosthwaite, Honister Buttermere, Crummock Water, Lorton and Whinlatter. The 505 operates between Kendal and Coniston with stops along the way at Windermere, Ambleside, and Hawkshead, whilst the 516 will take you from Kendal to Langdale via Ambleside and Elterwater. For full details of Lake District buses, check out this handy PDF from Stagecoach.

Explore the Lake District by Foot

Family walking in the Lake District

Walking is truly the best way to see the Lake District!

The best way to see the Lake District has to be on foot. You can find hidden waterfalls, empty valleys, and ancient woodlands if you are prepared to stretch your legs. You could make your next Lake District trip into a walking holiday by ditching the car all together and hiking between places of interest. The Cumbria Way is one possible route for you to follow. It’s a 70-mile route that begins in Ulverston (where there is a mainline train station) and ends in Carlisle (with another train station here). Most people tend to walk it in five days with overnight stops at Coniston, Dungeon Ghyll, Keswick, and Caldbeck and the route highlights include the back of Skiddaw, along Derwent Water, through Langdale, past Tarn Hows and Coniston Water.

Alternatively, consider planning your own route, taking in the places that you want to visit. You will need to think about how far you can walk in a day. Ten-miles might seem fairly easy, but can you manage it with a full rucksack? You might want to include some rest days to allow your feet to recover, and to give you the chance to visit museums and other attractions. You will need good walking boots, waterproof clothing, a good rucksack, and maps. Check out our accommodation guide for suggestions of where to stay each night on your walk.