Getting to and Around the Lake District

Haverthwaite Railway Station

Haverthwaite Railway Station (Victor Maschek /

The UK is relatively small compared to many other countries, and getting around is fairly easy, whether it be via car or public transport.

The Lake District is located in the north-west corner of England on the border with Scotland. Therefore, if you are flying into the UK and London is your arrival airport, you will have a journey of around 4-5 hours to get here.

Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, and Newcastle airports are all much closer than London and all have international arrivals so it might be worth checking if you can fly into one of these airports.

Public Transport or Car Hire?

Once you have arrived in the UK, you have two options: either using public transport or hiring a car. It should be noted that public transport within the Lake District is patchy with some areas only covered by a very limited bus service.

If you do plan on only using public transport it will be worth checking what is available in the areas you wish to visit. A full list of bus timetables operating in the area is available here.

Getting From the Airport Via Public Transport

Getting from your airport or from elsewhere within mainland UK to the Lake District via public transport is relatively easy. The West Coast Mainline is a primary rail route that operates between London and Scotland and stops at Oxenholme Lake District, which is a station just outside of Kendal that has a connecting train service to Windermere.

The West Coast Mainline also stops at Penrith, where regular bus services operate to Keswick and Windermere. Full train timetables are available here

BritRail Pass

Tourists from outside of the UK can purchase a BritRail Pass that entitles you to unlimited rail travel. The cost of an England only BritRail Pass starts at around £111, which may seem a lot but will save you money if you are planning to only travel by train.

Some passes include free airport transfers and free child travel. These passes can only be purchased from outside of the UK, so you will need to book one in advance of your travel

Arriving in London Heathrow Airport or London Gatwick Airport

Aircraft landing at sunset

Aircraft landing at sunset

The Heathrow Express is a train service that runs every 15-minutes and stops at each of the five Heathrow terminals before heading on to London Paddington. From here you will need to take the London Underground to London Euston.

The Gatwick Express departs London Gatwick every 15-minutes and travels to London Victoria rail station. From here you will need to take the London Underground to London Euston.

A train service departs London Euston at least once an hour (more frequently during peak times) heading towards either Edinburgh or Glasgow with stops at Oxenholme Lake District (for Kendal) and Penrith. These trains can be very busy and advanced booking is recommended in order that you are guaranteed a seat and the cheapest fare.

A cheaper, but slower alternative is to travel by coach. The National Express operates regular services from London Victoria Coach Station to Kendal, Windermere, Keswick, and Penrith. Timetables and tickets are available here.

Arriving in Manchester Airport

An hourly direct service operates from Manchester Airport to Oxenholme Lake District (for Kendal). From here you can take a train to Windermere. If you are travelling to Penrith you can take a train from the airport to Preston and then take the West Coast Mainline train to Edinburgh / Glasgow that will call at Penrith.

Arriving at Leeds Bradford Airport

Leeds Bradford Airport does not have a train station, however, there are regular bus services running at all times that will take you to Leeds station. From here you can take a train to Preston, and then change onto a West Coast Mainline service to Edinburgh / Glasgow that will call at Oxenholme Lake District and Penrith.

Arriving at Liverpool John Lennon Airport

Liverpool John Lennon Airport does not have a train station, however, there are regular bus services running at all times that will take you to Liverpool Parkway station. The train journey from here to the Lake District is, unfortunately, not straight forward, as you will need take a train to Warrington Central, change onto a train to Warrington Bank Quay, and then change on a West Coast Mainline service to Edinburgh / Glasgow that will call at Oxenholme Lake District and Penrith.

Arriving at Newcastle Airport

Newcastle airport has a metro (underground) station with regular services to Newcastle Central. From there you can catch a train to Carlisle station, where you can either get a bus to various locations across the Lake District, or a train to Penrith and Oxenholme Lake District.

Travelling By Car

Sign post in the Lake District

Sign post in the Lake District

You may wish to arrive at the Lake District by car. This will give you more freedom to explore some of the more remote areas and means you are not restricted to often limited bus routes and times.

However, it should be noted that petrol and diesel prices in the UK are some of the most expensive in the world so you may find yourself with a shock at the pump.

Also, cars drive on the left on UK roads, and most cars that are available to hire will have a manual transmission, so this is something to consider when you are thinking about driving here.

Visit Britain has some useful tips for driving in the UK.

Car Hire / Rental

There are a number of international car hire companies that operate in the UK with offices at all major UK airports. These include: Europcar, Thrifty, Avis, Hertz, and Enterprise. It is worth shopping around and booking in advance to get the best deal.

Using Caution

The M6 motorway traverses the eastern edge of the Lake District with a number of exits onto smaller roads that will take you across the national park. It should be noted that some of the mountain passes are treacherous during wintry conditions and during bad weather these should be avoided if at all possible.

Blue Discs & Parking

There are plenty of car parks in the Lake District, both in the towns and in the rural areas. Cumbria County Council operates a disc-parking scheme. In most towns and villages there are set places where you can park for one or two hours providing you are displaying a disc. These blue discs are free and can be obtained in many shops and tourist information offices.

In some of the more rural areas you find small free parking areas, often gravelled spaces with no set bays. There is no charge for these and no restrictions on how long you can park there for. Other car parks are operated by the National Trust, the Lake District National Park Authority, or one of the local borough councils. These are pay and display, though National Trust members can park for free in National Trust car parks providing they display a valid National Trust car sticker.

Please remember when seeking a parking place to avoid blocking narrow lanes or parking in front of field gates, potentially blocking a farmer’s access.