Lake District FAQS
everything you need to know before you Visit the Lake District
As you might imagine, we get asked a lot of questions by people planning to visit the Lake District. We’ve compiled a list of the most common queries below, but if there’s anything else you want to know, we’re always happy to help – just drop us a line.
Where is the Lake District and how do you Get there?
The Lake District National Park is a mostly mountainous region in the county of Cumbria in North West England and covers an area of around 2362 square kilometres, or about 912 square miles in old money. Home to 16 main lakes, 4 towns (Windermere, Ambleside, Keswick, and Bowness-on-Windermere), 214 Wainwrights (fells climbed and documented by Alfred Wainwright), and just over 40,000 permanent residents, it’s also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. And with an average of 18 million visitors a year from all over the world, you could say it’s a popular spot.
Depending on the route, it’s around 450km/280ml from London to the Lake District and, it’ll probably take you between 5-6 hours in travel time.
If you want to leave the car at home, the West Coast mainline out of Euston will take you to Oxenholme – the main station for the South Lakes. Carry on to Penrith for the North Lakes. Once you’re here, there’s a pretty decent bus service (run by Stagecoach) to all but the most remote parts of the Lakes. Hop onto the top deck of an open-top 599 if you want to see the spectacular scenery of the central Lakes in all its splendour.
Cumbria and the Lake District can be found off the M6 – around 270 miles from London, 150 miles from Birmingham, and 80 miles from the Scottish borders. To access the southern end of the Lake District, get off at J36, and for the northern end, it’s J40.
Getting to the Lakes via coach isn’t very straightforward. That said, if you’re aiming for the Northern Lakes, National Express run coaches to Penrith from several major cities, including London, Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester. From Penrith, you can get the X4 to Keswick.
Yes, you can – by using the network of trains, boats, buses and ferries, you can get to, or near to, all but the remotest corners. You can also hire bikes (including e-bikes to make those hills a bit easier – it’s definitely not cheating), go on guided tours and, of course, put in plenty of miles on foot, too.
What to do while you’re in the Lake District?
Want to know more? Check out our guide to visiting the Lake District
Where do we start? You can admire the breathtaking scenery, climb the fells, hike the trails, swim in the lakes, get lost in the forests, cruise on a boat, hire a kayak or paddle board, get on your bike, ride on a steam train, visit historic houses and gardens, wander into caves, meander through quaint villages, eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, treat yourself to some Grasmere Gingerbread, sink a pint or two at traditional country pubs, go shopping in the bustling towns, contemplate ancient history at stone circles and neolithic remains, explore the past in fascinating museums, see spectacular waterfalls, rock out at music festivals, stuff your face at food festivals, learn about Cumbria’s industrial heritage, check out England’s last working slate mine, try and spot red squirrels, walk an alpaca, meet Peter Rabbit (and find out about his creator), immerse yourself in the work of the Lake’s poets & Authors, and so much more… Phew! That little lot should keep you going for a bit.
You can always brave the elements and crack on in the great outdoors – just make sure you wear the right gear and exercise proper caution if you’re heading up high. But if that doesn’t appeal, and you’d rather stay dry(ish), there are plenty of rainy-day activities you can do too. Everything from visiting historic houses and interesting museums to tackling indoor climbing walls, going on a covered boat cruise, exploring underwater life at the Lakes Aquarium, riding on a steam train, or checking out one of the longest colour pencils in the world at the Derwent Pencil Museum.
We’d love to welcome you to one of our hand-picked holiday cottages in the Lake District. We have lovely places to stay all over the Lakes, whether you’re travelling as a family, hoping for a luxurious romantic getaway for just the two of you, searching for some peace and solitude, craving adventure, or bringing the dog along. Talking of which.
Wild camping is not allowed in any part of the Lake District National Park unless you have the permission of the landowner. There are plenty of campsites all over the Lakes where you can pitch your tent and unroll your sleeping bag though. If you are still determined to wild camp, this guidance from the Park Authority will help you stay out of trouble.
As you might expect, dogs are welcome all over the Lakes – with many shops, cafes and restaurants allowing your well-behaved canine companions in. We’ve put together a list of our favourite dog-friendly pubs, and if you’re looking for somewhere for your pet to rest their weary head after a day exploring, have a look at our dog-friendly cottages.
The Mountains, Hills, & Fells of Lakeland
Scafell Pike is not only the highest mountain in the Lake District, it’s the highest in England at 978m (3209 feet). Attracting intrepid adventurers from across the globe, it offers an immense sense of achievement and incredible, far-reaching views for those who reach the summit. There are no easy routes up Scafell Pike but the shortest and the most direct is from Wasdale.
There are 214 Wainwrights to bag in the Lake District, and they are all over 1000 feet high apart from Castle Crag, which comes in at a mere 951 feet. Alfred Wainwright’s seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells is the go-to reference book for climbing enthusiasts and has sold over two million copies since the first volume was published way back in 1955.
The deepest, darkest lake in the Lake District is Wastwater, located in the Wasdale Valley in the west of Cumbria. It’s 74 metres (243 feet) at its deepest and, as you might expect, it’s a favoured location for diving clubs. The Wasdale Valley is also home to England’s smallest parish church, St Olaf’s, and its highest mountain, Scafell Pike.
Lakes, Waters, & Meres
It’s generally accepted that there are 16 main lakes in the Lake District – with Windermere being the largest and Brotherswater the smallest. Though, if we’re being pedantic, technically there’s only one lake – Bassenthwaite Lake. The others are meres or waters.
Windermere is the longest, at around 18km (11 miles). It’s also the largest, covering an area of 14.8 square kilometres. There are also 18 islands on the lake – the largest, Belle Isle, is privately owned and the only one that’s been inhabited.
The deepest lake in the Lake District is Wastwater, located in the Wasdale Valley in the west of Cumbria. It’s 74 metres (243 feet) at its deepest and, as you might expect, it’s a favoured location for diving clubs (there’s a garden of Gnomes to visit down there!). The Wasdale Valley is also home to England’s smallest parish church, St Olaf’s, and its highest mountain, Scafell Pike.
Absolutely. You can take the plunge in most of the lakes and tarns – just watch out for boats on the busier lakes. Please note: Swimming is not allowed in Ennerdale Water, Haweswater, Thirlmere, or Kentmere reservoirs. Have a read of our wild swimming guide, which will tell you all you need to know and how to stay safe in the water.
Discover more of the Lake District
The Hidden treasures in and around Coniston and Langdale. Quieter Places to Visit Near Coniston & Langdale.
What should I pack for a trip to the Lake District? It’s often said there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.
It’s not just two-legged hikers that need refreshment after a day tramping the fells, here’s the best Dog-friendly Pubs In The Lake District
We’ve been having a nose around our beautiful county and have put together a list of the hidden gems of Hawkshead
Experience the lake district’s dark skies. Cumbria is blessed with some of the darkest skies, which makes it a haven for star gazers.
Historic places to visit in the Lake District. Here’s our rundown of eight historic places to visit on your next trip.