A drive in the Lake District is a fantastic way to see a lot of the amazing scenery during your trip. And while there’s nothing better than a pleasant walk in the Cumbrian countryside, sometimes the Great British weather permits the dry and warmth of a car. Luckily, there are plenty of fantastic driving routes all over the national park. From stunning lakeside drives and thrilling mountain passes to seaside stretches, here’s our list of the seven best scenic drives in the Lake District.
If you want to reduce your carbon footprint during your visit, you can even hire an electric car! These can be hired from the train stations at Oxenholme, Windermere, or Penrith, and there are charging points in the Lakes at Glenridding, Grasmere and Coniston. There are more electric car charging points in Cumbria, at locations just outside the national park.
1. Keswick Loop via Buttermere and Borrowdale - 23 miles
This drive is a great way to take in some of the Lake District's most beautiful scenery in little over an hour, with fantastic views of the fells and Derwentwater. If you fancy making a day of it, there are plenty of places to stop and admire your surroundings, as well as ample cafés and pubs.
Starting at Keswick, this circular, winding route takes you along the Newlands Valley, offering views of Dale Head and Grizedale Pike. At Buttermere, you'll have to park up (please use the designated parking spots, and avoid stopping in passing points) and leave the car to admire the mirror-like lake, but you'll be pleased you did! Continue along the thrilling altitudes of Honister Pass before heading back to Keswick via the Borrowdale villages of Rosthwaite and Seatoller, driving parallel alongside Derwentwater.
Keswick, Buttermere and Borrowdale are all great bases for many scenic drives and walks — take a look at our cottages in the area.
2. Whitehaven to Silloth - 26.7 miles
If you're a fan of the seaside, you're in luck! Situated a few miles west of the Lake District National Park, this mainly coastal route swaps the fells for sea views and stunning sunsets. Starting at the Georgian town of Whitehaven, much of the road follows the Solway Coast, classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
From Whitehaven, the A595 and A596 take you along the Solway Coast via the old industrial town of Workington. From here, the remainder of the route follows the coastline, taking you through the charismatic harbour town of Maryport. The highlight of the journey is the stretch between Allonby and Silloth, a relatively quiet road with the option of a stop at Allonby's beach, a perfect place to admire the sunset with some fish 'n' chips!
Fancy a seaside holiday with the Lake District on your doorstep? Check out our cottages on the Solway Coast.
3. Grasmere to Windermere via Ambleside - 8.8 miles
This is a short drive offering plenty of scenery and fantastic local attractions along the way. With the charming village of Grasmere as your starting point, don't forget to pick up some of the village's famous gingerbread for the journey!
From Grasmere, the A591 winds alongside the lake of the same name before following the River Rothay into Rydal village, once home to the famous Lakes poet, William Wordsworth. There's a short journey through the bustling tourist town of Ambleside before the real treat: driving directly alongside stunning Windermere, England's largest lake!
4. Windermere to Ullswater via Kirkstone Pass - 17.1 miles
Not for the faint-hearted, this route tackles the highest mountain pass in the Lake District, the mighty Kirkstone Pass, also known as 'The Struggle'. This scenic journey is a great way to reach the Eastern Lake District while avoiding the busier, less exciting A66, and is popular with cyclists and motorcyclists.
Starting at Windermere, you’ll need little direction — simply follow the A592 towards Ullswater, navigating the twists and turns along the way. The road provides fantastic vantage points of the surroundings, such as Brother's Water, Red Screes and, finally, Ullswater lake itself.
5. Keswick to Grasmere – 12.3 miles
This short, straightforward route is less bendy than many of the other scenic drives in the Lakes, so this makes a perfectly laid-back ride for passengers prone to travel sickness.
As you depart Keswick towards Thirlmere village and the surrounding valley, keep an eye out for Herdwicks — Cumbria’s native sheep — grazing the fells. As you exit the village, there’s a handy layby that gives a fantastic vantage point of Thirlmere reservoir. From here, you’ll cruise along towards Grasmere with views of mighty Helvellyn to the left.
6. Coniston Loop, via Eskdale and the Duddon Valley - 42 miles
This drive is long but by no means boring! The route combines thrilling mountain passes and picturesque villages and hamlets — perfect for a quick leg stretch! It's a great way to lose an afternoon exploring the more remote parts of the Lake District at your own pace.
Starting at the South Lakes village of Coniston, you'll make your way through the stunning Langdale Valley before hitting the ear-popping altitudes of Hardknott and Wrynose passes. Back on lower ground, head through the wonderfully remote Eskdale and the picturesque Duddon Valley before finishing your epic journey with views of Coniston Water on your right.
Take your pick of where to stay on this route: Coniston offers superb scenery and excellent attractions; Eskdale provides incredible walking, forests and rivers; and the Duddon Valley is a truly remote hidden gem.
7. Keswick Loop via Bassenthwaite Lake - 17.8 miles
Starting from Keswick, this circular route takes you right around the stunning Bassenthwaite Lake. This drive will appeal to nature lovers, with a chance to catch a glimpse of the famous Bassenthwaite ospreys, and is also just a short detour away from the fantastic Lake District Wildlife Park.
Follow the bends of the A591, taking in the sight of Bassenthwaite Lake on your left. After turning off at the Castle Inn and navigating a country lane or two, you’ll end up on the A66 and the other side of the lake. The view is even more expansive from here, with the lake, Skiddaw and Latrigg emerging in all their glory as you return to Keswick.
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