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Edinburgh to The Lake District --- without a car/not driving

What is the best way to get to Keswick (The Lake District) from Edinburgh if you're not driving? It doesn't appear that there is a train station within a reasonable distance from Keswick. Thanks.

Posted by
27352 posts

When you're trying to get somewhere that doesn't have a train station, the Rome2Rio website can be very helpful. You absolutely cannot trust the fares, travel times or frequencies it shows, but it is usually accurate about the existence of bus service, the need to transfer, how close you can get by train before switching to a bus, etc. The trick is to keep drilling down until you find the name of the bus company providing service to your destination and go to its website for accurate schedule information.

In this case, it seems best to take the train to Penrith and switch to a bus there.

Per Rome2Rio, the operating bus company is Stagecoach. You can review the current X4/X5 schedule here:

As you can see, bus service is quite frequent Monday to Saturday but very limited on Sunday.

I was in Penrith briefly in 2019. With a bit of a wait for my outbound train, I enjoyed walking around the historic center of the town for a while. I think it would be a pleasant place for a lunch break.

Posted by
6113 posts

Acraven has given details of the fastest route. Travelling by public transport for this journey is much slower than travelling by car - the latter would be about 2.5 hours. By public transport, say 30 minutes to the rail station from your accommodation, then allow 15-30 minutes to grab a coffee and tickets. The fastest direct train to Penrith is 1.5 hours. Then it gets slow - the shortest wait you are likely to have for the hourly bus is 30 minutes. The ride itself is 40 minutes.

Personally, I wouldn’t go to the Lake District without a car as you will be limited where you can get to.

Posted by
1302 posts

Hi Hank -

The above advice is good. I’m going to guess that you’ll need to travel from Edinburgh to Glasgow to access the west coast line trains that will then head direct to Penrith. Then as suggested the bus through to Keswick.

You don’t say how long you are staying in Keswick. If it’s only a couple of days then there is a ton of stuff to keep you occupied if you are prepared/able to get out and walk from the town centre. I’d need to know what you think you are physically capable of to advise sensibly - maybe you can let us know?

If staying a bit longer, or you don’t feel capable of walking, then check out the Mountain Goat site - they do bus tours of Lakeland and beyond. There are the ferries on Derwentwater and the Stagecoach buses which run from behind Booths supermarket go south to Windermere stopping on the way in Grasmere, Ambleside, etc., on a fairly frequent basis. There are other, less frequent services to other destinations, dependent on where you want to go/what you want to see.

Let me know if I can be of any further assistance - I’m assuming (always dangerous!) that you can peruse the rail and bus timetables online which will give you a clue. The walking options I may be able to offer advice on.


Posted by
157 posts

Maybe I should cut to the chase. Is the Lake District do-able as a day trip from Edinburgh? Assuming it's not, where would you stay in Keswick and how many nights are needed? Can you recommend a local tour group for someone without a car rental?


Posted by
15551 posts

It's not doable as a day trip. Spend at least two nights to have one full day. Try to arrive early to have some time to explore Keswick.

I have basically done what you wish to do only I started in Glasgow.

Get a train to Penrith. From there get the X4 or X5 bus to Keswick. The bus stop at the Penrith train station is next to the station entrance. (It's a bus shelter on your left as you are walking out.) Just past the shelter is a McDonalds if you are hungry or thirsty.

The bus "station" at Keswick is also just a stop outside Booths supermarket. (Not a separate building.) It's an easy walk to most accomodations.

I took a Mountain Goat Tour there that included a lake cruise.

Schedules for the bus and tours right now are probably limited due to Covid and the lockdown in Britain.

I can highly recommend the Howe Keld B & B

If you get more time in Keswick, don't miss the Derwent Pencil Museum. It's up there with the Louvre, Uffizi and Metropolitan Museum of Art. (LOL) The best way I can describe it is: "There's 15 minutes I'll never get back."

Posted by
157 posts

Thanks. Probably best with a car on a future trip. I'll be back!

Posted by
33125 posts

Mountain Goat do a great job (pre-plague)

Posted by
1302 posts

Hi Hank -

I first visited the Lakes in July 1966 as a Boy Scout. I’ve been roaming round it ever since, visiting frequently, and now think I know it reasonably well, but have still things to do, places to go. So in my view a day trip won’t cut it. Of course that would depend on whether you wanted to get out and walk in the hills and round the lakes. If you want to see it from the windows of a tour bus, I’d still recommend two or three nights in Keswick (which gets very busy, but holds nothing but good memories for me). There aren’t many big hotels, but there are literally dozens of Bed and Breakfasts, all close to the town centre. Rick himself recommends the delights of a B&B and you’ll get no argument from me on this one. How to choose! There’s a star rating which will give an indication, but somewhere like is useful here if only to give you an overview.

The Lake District is bigger than might be supposed at first glance and will take you a couple of days minimum to do a basic exploration.


Posted by
96 posts

We went from Edinburgh to Keswick in 2019 and spent 3 nights.
There was a direct train from Edinburgh to Penrith and a bus into Keswick. I used google maps to work it out.
Keswick is a tourist centre with many B&Bs and small hotels. It also has an interesting rep theatre and lots of pubs.
It is on a large lake with a boat ferry or walking trail to get around the lake.
It is also a hub for buses and you should be able to get anywhere you want, although the buses are not all that frequent. Some routes seem set up for tourists so that you can get out to villages and hiking trails and get back to Keswick.
We enjoyed our stay and it was a nice change from the city atmosphere of Edinburgh.

Posted by
187 posts

Sorry for the diversion, but a story...

Back in 2019 we spent 3 nights near Keswick and on one of my 2 full days there the weather was poor in the Lake District itself but better the further north you went. So we spent most of the day on Hadrians Wall and in Carlisle. While it was interesting I kick myself when I think I could have just done the drive and spent a nice day exploring Edinburgh, somewhere I hadn't been since I was around 10, and I certainly don't remember it.