2021 sees the 175th anniversary the Furness and Lakes railway lines. These impressive feats of Victorian engineering allowed visitors to travel with ease into the heart of the Lake District and along the beautiful Cumbrian Coast – and they serve that exact same purpose today. To celebrate this milestone, a special Northern train was named ‘Pride of Cumbria’ at a ceremony at Barrow station.

Enjoy Cumbria without the car

These lines form part of a railway network in Cumbria that is extremely well connected alongside an extensive bus service, so there’s never been a better excuse for visitors from Southern England, Ireland and Northern Ireland to leave the car behind and enjoy a truly stress-free getaway.

Plus, with excellent main line rail links right through the heart of Cumbria – with stops at Oxenholme the Lake District, Penrith North Lakes and the historic city of Carlisle - getting here from Scotland and other parts of England is easy, too. From there, there are more localised train services available, but we’ll come to that later…

As worldwide campaigns for us all to take better care of the environment continue to intensify, why not make this year the year you fully embrace public transport during your next holiday? While it may sound like an intimidating prospect, we’ve put together this guide to help visitors experience The Lake District, Cumbria, without the stress of knowing whether to turn left, right, or go straight on.

Getting here

Whether you reach us by plane, train, boat or automobile, with great connectivity to regional airports, train lines and ferry terminals, getting here couldn’t be easier. In just a short drive from the M6 motorway, you can be in the most beautiful part of the country. Hop on the train, grab a window seat and watch the landscape roll by. Cumbria is less than three hours from London, two hours from Glasgow and Edinburgh and just over an hour from Manchester on the West Coast Main Line.

Thanks to good rail and bus connections at Carlisle, Penrith (for the North Lakes) and Oxenholme (for the Lake District) you can easily explore the rest of the county. National Express run coach services to Windermere, Carlisle and the West Coast from across the UK, so there is something to suit every budget.

You can fly to Newcastle, Manchester or Liverpool Airports and take an express train service or hire a car for the two-hour drive to Cumbria. Arriving by sea? Sail into Liverpool or Cairnryan from Ireland, or to Heysham if you are coming from the Isle of Man. From Europe the nearest ports are Newcastle or Hull.

Ok, you’ve arrived… Now what?

To help get you started, we’ve put together this itinerary as an example of how you can explore The Lake District, Cumbria without relying on your own car. Of course, you can tailor your trip however you want, but we hope this example will provide you with the inspiration, courage and confidence to enjoy a holiday with a difference.

Take the train to Carlisle on The West Coast Main Line. From there, hop on another train to enjoy The Cumbrian Coast Line and gaze through the window as you roll through more than a hundred miles of coast and countryside. Stop off at Ravenglass and enjoy a 45 minute steam train journey to the foot of The Lake District’s western fells at Dalegarth station and explore the picturesque village of Boot. Upon your return to Ravenglass, board the train again and get off at Ulverston.

From Ulverston, take the X6 bus to Haverthwaite.

From Haverthwaite, take the train to Lakeside.

Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway

From Lakeside, catch a Windermere Lake Cruises boat to Bowness.

From Bowness, take the council-run ferry over to Ferry House. In the summer months there is a minibus service between Ferry House and Hawkshead.

From Hawkshead, take a 12 minute bus to Coniston.

From Coniston, take 40 min bus ride to Ambleside.

Bus from Ambleside to Keswick.

Bus from Keswick to Pooley Bridge on Ullswater for a cruise on Ullswater 'Steamers'.

Bus From Pooley Bridge to Penrith station. 

While lakes aren’t in short supply here in Cumbria, neither of course is the sea. Our coastline stretches for more than 100 miles – with sunset being a sight to behold, whatever the time of year. 2021 is Cumbria’s year of the coast so why not explore by letting the train take the strain while you gaze at the sun setting over the Irish Sea? Take some time to stop off in peaceful coastal locations such as St. Bees, Silecroft, Maryport (pictured below) or Whitehaven and explore them like a local.

Cumbrian Coast - Maryport

North Cumbria offers plenty of hotels and B&Bs for a quick and easy coastal or North Lakes retreat from the rat race; and why not enjoy a last-minute city break in Carlisle itself?

Drinks at the Halston, Carlisle

Alternatively, why not recommend a visit to the city by rail to friends and family who live a little further afield. Easily accessible via either on the Cumbrian Coast Line or with speed and style on the West Coast Main Line, countless bars and restaurants await. Penrith is another attractive option, being perfectly positioned on the edge of the Lake District – a short journey from Ullswater.

Of course, no mention of great Cumbrian rail journeys would be complete without including the world-famous Settle to Carlisle route. While many routes are celebrated for getting you to great destinations, this is one to be enjoyed for its scenery alone. More than 30 tunnels and viaducts are dotted along the line, including the famous Ribblehead viaduct, made famous by thousands of opportunistic painters and photographers over the years. Taking in the Yorkshire Dales, it’s little wonder the Settle to Carlisle railway is held in such high regard by anyone looking to truly get away from it all. During the summer months and the October half term holiday, a special first class luxury service runs on the line in addition to normal services. It's well worth a visit and a great experience to travel this beautifully scenic line in style.

The scenic Settle to Carlisle Railway

For one of Cumbria’s more unusual train journeys, why not try out the South Tynedale Railway? Following the former route of British Rail’s Haltwhistle to Alston branch line, it’s the highest narrow-gauge railway in the North of England. Given Alston is often described as “the roof of England”, it makes for a tempting choice for couples who want to escape for some alone-time as far away from everyone else as they can!

Enjoy Cumbria without the car

A little further down the coast, and Cumbria’s railway gems also include the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway – a once industrial-turned tourist attraction railway, which takes passengers on a 45-minute journey through some of West Cumbria’s most stunning landscapes – including close to the foot of Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain.

Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway

From stunning coastal and heritage routes to speeding through Cumbria’s world-famous landscapes on mainline services, the county’s rail network gives passengers plenty of opportunities to change the way they get around.

For more inspiration for your trip, find a range of car free itineraries here.

Discover more about rail travel in Cumbria here.




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