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Lake District Area for Convenience and Charm

We are 5 “older” American women looking for recommendations of where to base ourselves in the Lake District. We will be driving up from London and hope to stay for 3-4 days in a charming area, close to the lake, and within an easy drive to Beatrix Potter’s home. We are planning well in advance and hope to be able to travel once pandemic restrictions are lifted.

Could anyone suggest the approximate travel time from London to the area you would recommend?
Does anyone have a recommendation for an accommodation - either a B&B or a self-catering apartment, etc.?
Any other recommendation for activities?
Thank you!

Posted by
9993 posts

Last May I stayed at Howe Keld, a B & B in Keswick. It was excellent.

While in Keswick, don't miss the pencil museum. The best way I can describe it is......"there's ten minutes I'll never get back."

Posted by
337 posts

Anything else you'd like to do while you're there? That might help you decide where to establish your base. The Lake District is popular for hiking and for the mountain scenery. There are a number of pretty lakes and villages.

Keswick is a good base because it's a larger town with more things to do, but it's a 45-minute drive to Beatrix Potter's house. Also, there are numerous lakes, all equally pretty, and several towns and villages, so I think it depends on what else you want to do with the couple of days you are there. Windermere is on a lake, and closer to where you want to go. Ambleside is kind of centrally located, but is very small.

Just looking at Google Maps, Keswick is a 5+ hour drive from London. I would suggest you take the train to Windermere, but that would take even longer--9 hours??

I don't want to discourage you, though. The Lakes are beautiful, and I'm a softie for literary history too. Keep researching. That's half the fun!

Posted by
26010 posts

Stacy may have been looking at the abbreviated train times due to the virus, or perhaps looking at train times now which is late evening in the UK.

London Euston to Oxenholme Lake District is about 3 hours, and is 20 minutes or less on the connecting train into Windermere.

The drive from London is a real pig's ear because the awful M6 motorway (from the awful M1) is always under construction with 50 mph speed averaging cameras for much of its length, and very very heavy truck traffic. It goes right through Birmingham and just misses Manchester and Liverpool.

5 hours if you are extraordinarily lucky.

Posted by
69 posts

Several years ago we used Windermere as a base, taking the train from London. We only had one change at Oxenholme which was easy and quick. As I recall we left London after lunch and arrived easily in Windermere in time to walk around town and have dinner. The next day we rented a car from there. My husband was fly fishing so we were looking for lakes with places for me to hike. There is a pedestrian/ car ferry that goes over to Sawrey and the Potter place, very convenient. I recommend driving over the Hardknott Pass- beautiful, remote, and interesting with the Roman fort up there. I’d love to go back.

Posted by
5657 posts

There is a pedestrian/ car ferry that goes over to Sawrey and the Potter place, very convenient.

Windermere Ferry takes people, vehicles, horses and cycles across the
lake. It links the busy eastern shore of the lake and the peaceful
countryside between Windermere and Coniston on the west, where there
are many attractions and facilities for walking, riding and cycling.
It carries up to 18 cars and over 100 passengers.

In the summer months there is a minibus service which is run by
Mountain Goat, between Ferry House and Hawkshead, calling at Beatrix
Potter's Hilltop House. The ferry offers the opportunity to leave the
car behind, cross the lake on foot and catch the bus, relaxing all the
while and enjoying the scenery while someone else does all the work.

Posted by
16866 posts

Further from a lake but closer to BP, I enjoyed staying in Far Sawry at (a couple of years back in October). Good dinners in their pub. It’s a small village and you do need to drive to anything else.

Posted by
189 posts

I’ve stayed at this property, which would be a good size for your group (everyone would get their own room):

Close to Beatrix Potter’s house and I believe also close to Wordsworth’s house. There are a number of small towns nearby (Far Sawrey, Near Sawrey) and Ambleside is a slightly bigger town with more restaurants. It’s walkable to the Cuckoo Brown Inn Laura recommended to grab a pint.

I think in his England books Rick describes this part of the Lakes as very touristy, but I really didn’t find that to be the case. That could be because I was there just after lockdown lifted but for instance I thought Ambleside was a quaint town with really nice restaurants and shops - not tacky or anything.

It’s a five hour drive from London.

Posted by
741 posts

Hi Susan -

Lots of choice of places to stay but I would avoid the lakeside towns of Bowness and Windermere and Ambleside itself. There’s a ton of accommodation in these places but they are generally crazy busy and a bit tacky. For more scenic spots, handy for Sawrey and Hill Top, although not actually on a lake, try Hawkshead (also pretty busy, but off the tourist beaten track) or Esthwaite (I’ve stayed at the Ees Wyke Hotel which was good but it was some time ago). There’s an excellent pub/B&B, the Drunken Duck at Barngates (address is Ambleside, but it’s on the other side of Windermere (the lake) to the main town. I have also stayed there, but again quite a while ago now.

Another place you might want to consider, handy for both Hill Top and Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s home in Grasmere (he also lived at a couple of other places nearby but Dove Cottage is the famous one) is Elterwater - another very good hotel there and nearby, the ever popular Britannia Inn. Avoid Grasmere itself if possible. It’s lovely but gets manically busy. Elterwater also gives access to the beautiful Langdale valley.

For something bigger but not directly on the Windermere - Ambleside - Grasmere - Keswick Road, I like Coniston and the surrounding area, admittedly for the surrounding hills.

I’d allow a full day for the drive from London, unless you plan to set off at dawn! As mentioned previously, it’s a good five to six hour drive, mainly on motorway (I think that’s what you’d refer to as an Interstate) turning off the M6 at the turning for Kendal (I think that’s the A590 but I’d need to check).

The Lake District is packed with things to do mostly of an ‘outdoors-y’ nature.

Hope you find somewhere that fits your plans and that you have a great time! Feel free to give me a shout if you need further help or advice!


Posted by
134 posts

We stayed at The Hideaway in Windermere last June. It's an adults only b&b with a lovely breakfast, afternoon cake/tea and lots of good pubs for dinner to walk to. Easy to drive around. We flew into Manchester and rented a car, drove all over, took the boat, train, ferry over to go to Hilltop, up to Cockermouth to visit home of Wadesworth, very pretty gardens, then on to Castlerigg stone circle which was beautiful scenery.

Posted by
3319 posts

I prefer Keswick when I come to the Lakes because I use public transport but if you have a car and want to be out near Near Sawrey then consider Hawkshead or Coniston. They are both quite close, out of the super touristy center (the towns along the A591), in the prettiest part of the area - my opinion of course!! Very charming places! Hawkshead is a little touristy but it's still quite nice. About 5 hours from London depending on how fast you drive. Drive to Windermere, take the ferry across the lake, and then drive to wherever you plan to stay.
My favorite thing to do there every time I go is take a walk around Buttermere - one of the loveliest walks in the world IMHO - not difficult at all with views that don't even look real.
Visit the Roman fort up at Hardknott Pass.
If you like Beatrix Potter then you must visit the Lingholme Estate on the western shore of Derwentwater just south of Portinscale. Beatrix spent quite a bit of time here with her family on holiday and based Mr. McGregor's garden on the garden there. It has been restored by the current owner. There is also a gorgeous cafe there with views on the fells - amazing food - nice place for lunch or tea. Highly recommend.
It's obligatory to visit the Castlerigg Stone Circle. Go very early in the morning when few people are there.
Take one of the old wooden launches around Derwentwater. They stop at a few different docks all along the lake's edge and you can get off, go for a hike, and then get back on from the same dock or after you have walked to another one. Makes for a very nice day!
If you have a car then Muncaster Castle is worth a visit - it's out by the coast and they have an owl zoo there that is quite amazing.
The family still lives in the house and you can tour it seasonally.
Those are just a few things to do in the area that I enjoy. I go every other year and discover new things every time I visit!