With National Clean Air Day on the 20th of June, it is the perfect time to celebrate the variety of clean travel options available when exploring the Lake District. Not only can you help keep the lovely Lakeland air clean and fresh and reduce the traffic on the county's scenic roads, but you can also have fun doing it! From lake cruises to historical rail journeys and cross-lake ferries to open-top bus rides, why would you ever want to drive?
Life on the water
A day on the water, surrounded by impressive scenery and with only the sounds of birdsong and nature, is paradise at any time of year. In summer, sip drinks or eat ice creams while immersed in the stunning landscape. In autumn, take in the dramatic colours as the hillsides seemingly come alight with golden sparkle. In winter, the snow-capped mountains can be spectacular from the peace and tranquillity of the water; either wrap-up warm and huddle on the top deck or enjoy a hot chocolate in the comfort of the enclosed lounge areas. Windermere Lake Cruises, Ullswater Steamers, Keswick Launch and Coniston Yacht Gondola offer excellent routes, all with hop-on-hop-off options and a calendar of special events. Most offer wildlife cruises, informative commentary and refreshments; some have teamed up with other attractions to provide combined tickets for a full day out.
Of course, if you're feeling a little more energetic, most watersport centres hire out rowing boats and paddle boards, which offer an excellent way to explore lakeshores and islands. Perhaps you can even bag yourself a private beach for a picnic!
Ride the rails of yesteryear
Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway invite you to journey back in time when you hop aboard their steam engine and enjoy the journey from Haverthwaite village to the southern tip of Windermere. Special events run throughout the year with something for keen train enthusiasts and families alike. Combined tickets with Lakes Aquarium, Lakeland Motor Museum and Windermere Lake Cruises create a fun-filled, car-free day out.
The La'al Ratty, as it's fondly referred to by locals, is one of the oldest narrow gauge railways in England and, at 7-miles long, it is also one of the longest! The line dates back to 1913 and heritage steam engines are still busy today transporting passengers along the scenic route from the lovely coastal village of Ravenglass to Dalegarth station in Boot, close to the foot of England's highest mountain, Scafell Pike. The railway museum housed at Ravenglass station is well worth a visit, and there are some wonderful walking tracks from the various stations along the route.
Trace the Western Coastline
Another rail experience, but this one a little more modern! The Cumbrian Coast Line connects Furness Peninsula in the south of the county, to the Great Border city of Carlisle in the north. It takes in some spectacular scenery on its 82-mile journey and offers a regular timetable and ample stops along the route. With sea views on one side of the carriage and the Lakeland Fells on the other, riding the coast-hugging track is a day out in itself. You can plan an itinerary to suit your interests as this service creates a fantastic opportunity to explore Cumbria's coastline and the lovely attractions, towns and villages that reside along it. The harbour towns of Whitehaven and Maryport are well worth a visit as is the quaint Roman port of Ravenglass and the bustling city of Carlisle. Muncaster Castle is easily accessible from Ravenglass train station and there are a host of excellent walking routes along the way if the great outdoors beckons.
Relax on board an open top bus
Stagecoach operates routes throughout Cumbria and offers detailed timetables and ticket packages to help visitors get the most out of their trip. Well-planned stops link most visitor destinations and attractions, making car-free travel not only possible but part of the experience. What better way to take in the scenery than sitting back and relaxing on the top deck of an open-top bus? It really does give you another perspective to view this impressive region. Buses can be used to link one-way walks and can combine with steamer and rail travel to get you to all corners of the county. Smaller private coach companies such as Mountain Goat operate in more rural areas and also cater for group travel as well as running pre-arranged tours for independent travellers. Some operators will create bespoke itineraries for visitors wishing to take in specific sights.
Enjoy a two-wheeled adventure
Cycling is a popular sport in Cumbria and there are a variety of Sustrans National Network traffic-free and on-road routes linking various parts of the county. Most tourist towns and villages offer bike hire, and electric bikes are in plentiful supply. If you're feeling adventurous, why not following the treads of some of the UK's top riders by taking on the Fred Whitton Challenge route? The annual sportive starts in Grasmere and covers 112 miles taking in the climbs of Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott & Wrynose passes. Its gruelling route can be enjoyed at any time of the year and the scenery is as epic as the challenge itself. Of course, you don't need to commit yourself to such feats to enjoy Cumbria on a bike! There are plenty of on- and off-road routes for all abilities, with lovely family-friendly options, too. Windermere Lake Cruises operates a bike boat in summer that runs from Brockhole to Wray Castle, creating a convenient circular route or allowing families to enjoy the lake's traffic-free western shoreline and all its attractions.
Lace up those walking boots
It goes without saying that walking is probably the best form of 'clean air' travel you can choose and it's obviously packed full of health benefits too! The Lake District is a mecca for walkers with strenuous hikes and gentle strolls in plentiful supply. Famous routes such as the coast to coast, The Dalesman's Way and The Cumbrian Way all touch on Cumbria in parts, and you won't have chance to tie your laces before someone asks you if you've "bagged yourself a Wainwright"! New routes are being created all the time; the Ullswater Way is a prime example - in 2018 it added a further 5-mile trail option to link the lake to the stunning Dalemain Mansion, tearoom and open gardens. Many of the lakes have circular shoreline footpaths and the steamers and open-top buses offer options for those wanting to link walks or take on smaller sections of longer routes.
Think low impact car hire
If you're thinking of hiring a car during your holiday but are conscious of your impact on the environment, then Co-Wheels may be for you. This service provides low-carbon car hire options on a pay-as-you-go basis, allowing you to hire for as little as an hour. They have a fleet of cars and collection is available from various transport hubs, villages and businesses throughout the South and Central Lakes, making this an extremely versatile option.
So, whether you choose to go on foot, by bike, on boat, bus or rail, we promise you'll have an incredible time exploring Cumbria if you decide to ditch the car and opt for a drive-free adventure!
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