If you’re planning an eco-friendly trip to the Lake District, or don’t have a car, you might be wondering whether you can make the most of a holiday in the national park. Well, we’re happy to tell you that there are plenty of options for getting to and around the Lake District by public transport! From arriving in the very heart of the county by train to day trips on buses, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the landscape and attractions without a car!
Please be aware that some services are seasonal. Adverse weather on certain routes may also prevent services from running. Make sure you check conditions and timetables before you set off!
How to get to the Lake District by public transport
Arrival by train
Train at Seascale Train Station on the West Coast Main Line
West Coast Main Line
The West Coast Main Line is the primary way of getting to Cumbria by train. From locations such as London, Birmingham, Manchester and Scotland, you can easily reach the Lake District from almost anywhere in the UK. Trains on this line stop at Carlisle, Penrith, and Oxenholme Lake District, from where you can continue your journey to other areas of the county.
Other National Rail Services
If you’re travelling from the North East, the Tyne Valley Line travels from Newcastle to Carlisle. The Settle to Carlisle Line also terminates in Carlisle after travelling an incredibly scenic route from North Yorkshire. If you’re lucky and time it right, you could even make the journey by steam train!
If you’re staying around the coastal peninsulas, or along the west coast of Cumbria, the Furness Line may be the most convenient way of travelling. It brings you to Barrow from Carnforth and Lancaster.
Arriving by bus or coach
National Express runs buses to Kendal and Penrith from both the north and south of the UK. Routes run between London and Glasgow or Edinburgh, passing popular stops such as Manchester Airport, Birmingham Coach Station and Milton Keynes Coachway.
If you’re looking for a budget coach option, Megabus runs services to Lancaster and Gretna, from where you can catch a train into Cumbria.
The Stagecoach Cross Pennine 685/X85 services run between Newcastle and Carlisle.
Arrival by aeroplane
Carlisle - Lake District Airport
Though the Lake District does have its own airport in Carlisle, this is closed at the time of writing, with plans to reopen for internal flights in the future.
Manchester and Glasgow Airports
Glasgow and Manchester airports are the closest to Cumbria. Both receive internal flights from places including London, Belfast, and the South East.
Arrival by ferry
While not the most direct route, you can also get close to Cumbria by boat! If you’re travelling from Northern Ireland, you can travel via Stena Line from Belfast to Liverpool, then get a train into Cumbria.
Getting Around the Lake District by public transport
So, you’ve arrived in Cumbria by public transport and now it’s time to explore! Perhaps you need to continue your journey to reach your accommodation, or maybe you want to know what you can see of the Lake District without a car.
Getting around the Lake District by train
Though the main lines will usually get you to the outskirts of Cumbria, you’ll most likely need to continue your journey to get to your ultimate destination. Fortunately, a number of interconnecting local services make this easy enough!
The Lakes Line goes into the heart of Windermere village from Oxenholme Lake District. From here, you can explore the many attractions around Lake Windermere by foot, bus, bike or boat!
The Cumbrian Coast Line connects Barrow, in the south of Cumbria, with Carlisle in the north. You can travel to a number of locations on the coast from here, and even head into the remote valley of Eskdale via a connecting train. Even if you don’t have a particular destination in mind, this is a lovely picturesque route that’s well worth a ride. The Cumbrian Coast Line is great for visiting Maryport on the Solway Coast, the border city of Carlisle, or the Georgian town of Whitehaven.
The wonderfully quirky La’al Ratty – more formally known as The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway – is a great way of reaching some of the more remote areas of the Lake District by public transport. The miniature steam trains stop at a number of small stations throughout Eskdale, which is fantastic country for walking.
The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway is another fantastic route with steam engines tootling alongside Windermere lake. Use it to explore the interesting industrial heritage of the area at Backbarrow, to get to attractions like Lakes Aquarium and the Lakeland Motor Museum, or to catch a boat for exploring more of the lake.
Getting around the Lake District by bus
Bus Tours in the Lake District
There are numerous bus routes around the Lake District and Cumbria, making it very easy to explore the county. Most train stations in the region are on bus routes so that you can continue your journey. You can also get to many popular destinations such as Keswick, Ambleside and Bowness-on-Windermere, as well as more remote destinations like Buttermere and Borrowdale.
Stagecoach is the main bus service provider in Cumbria, operating in most areas across the county. There are a number of ticket options including Explorer tickets that allow you to hop on and hop off most services as you please. You can even enjoy an open-top tour of some of the best scenery the Lake District has to offer!
There are also several bus tour operators providing bespoke and selected tours of the Lakes. These are a great way to take in some of the most famous and popular destinations without worrying about your car. Operators include Mountain Goat Tours, Bluebird Tours, and Lakes Supertours.
If you’re staying in or near Cockermouth, a free shuttle bus operates between the town and Buttermere throughout the summer.
Please be aware that the valleys of Eskdale and Wasdale have no bus service, and your public transport options are almost all by train. The nearest bus service runs by Ravenglass.
Getting around the Lake District by boat
Ferries and boats
A number of lakes in the Lake District offer boat tours, private hire, and ferries, allowing you to easily see more of the water and visit attractions at different parts of the lake. It’s a wonderful way of getting about that isn’t available in many places in the UK!
Windermere is England’s longest lake so seeing it by boat is a real treat. Windermere Lake Cruises run regular services from nine jetties, including at Bowness-on-Windermere, Ambleside and Lakeside. You can use the boats to cruise the water or to get from A to B. Most cruises will take you to, or close to, one of the excellent attractions on the lakeshores.
There is a regular ferry between Ferry Nab outside Bowness and the west shore near Claife Viewing Station. It’s only £1 for pedestrians and opens up the beautiful countryside between Windermere and Coniston.
The Keswick Launch runs non-stop round trips from Keswick, as well as cruises between eight jetties, including at Portinscale, Hawes End and Lodore. They’re a perfect way to round off a linear walk or to head into beautiful Borrowdale.
Often cited as the most beautiful of the Lake District lakes, Ullswater is well worth travelling by boat, even if it’s just to admire the sights rather than to get anywhere in particular. The environmental accredited ‘Steamers’ are heritage vessels that take you between the lakeside towns and villages, as well as to popular attractions such as Aira Force.
You can pick from two types of boat journeys on Coniston. The Launch covers two circular routes on the lake, which you can enjoy in full or hop on and off.
The National Trust’s Steam Yacht Gondola is a unique Victorian steam-powered boat travelling on circular routes from Coniston village. There are a number of request stops on the North Lake Cruise including at Brantwood and Monk Coniston.
Timetables and further information
Bus timetables for Cumbria
Plan your journey by train
The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway
Holiday Cottages near public transport
Many of our self-catering holiday cottages are accessible by public transport. Find your perfect location with our cottage search and please feel free to get in touch with our local team if you would like further information on travelling.
You might also enjoy:
Top 5 walks using public transport in the Lake District
Cottages accessible by public transport
Eco-friendly cottages in the Lake District
Stay at one of our self-catering holiday cottages in the Lake District
Before you set off and go touring this vast and beautiful region of England, take a look at our range of self-catering holiday cottages throughout the Lake District. Find the perfect holiday property to provide the right backdrop for your Lakeland adventure, whether you plan to go boating, hiking or mountain climbing. Search our collection today.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.