Northern England

My husband and I are interested in a trip to northern England. Fly into and out of Manchester from USA. Early July 2013. Places of interest are Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, York, Durham, Hadrian's Wall and the Lake District and all the sites we can visit in those areas. Tentative itinerary would be: Day 1 arrive into MAN stay 3 nights; Day 2 to Chester via train for day; Day 3 to Liverpool via train for day. Day 4 depart for York via train; stay overnight; Day 5 in York and surrounding area. Day 6 train to Durham; overnight and Day 7 trip to Hadrian's Wall. Day 8 depart for Keswick/Lake District (Penrith station); stay overnight; Day 9 more Lake District. Day 10 depart for MAN via train (Penrith station), departing Day 11. My questions are: Too much to see? Not enough time? Are trains the best source of transportation? We love to travel in trains, so wanted to use as many train routes as possible. Would we need a car in Durham/Hadrian's Wall area? Or are day tours available? In the Lake District, stay in Keswick area or stay in southern Lakes area such as Windermere? Perhaps rent auto in MAN on day 4 for rest of trip, with return to airport on departing day? If we wanted to shorten the trip by 2 days, where to cut out sites, the Lake District? We have read the guide books, especially Rick Steves, and always find so many places to see. Therefore it is difficult to determine what to see and what not to see. Even with the philosophy that we will return.
Thanks in advance for any suggestions and feedback.

Posted by Kevin
near Ringwood, Hampshire, UK
521 posts

Julie, I think a car would be of very little use before you leave Durham for the Hadrian's Wall area. Even there, depending on what kind of thing you want to do, it may be possible to manage without one: If you intend to do any hiking in the Lake District, take a look at the classic guides written by the late Alfred Wainright. In early July most of the schools have not yet started their summer holidays (except in Scotland) and so it will be quieter than it will be in August, but that doesn't mean it won't be busy, and traffic and parking can be a problem in some of the towns. A car is still more or less essential though, if you want to see anything much of the area. Penrith to Manchester is 110 or 120 miles, almost all on the M6 motorway (mostly 6 lanes, 70 mile an hour speed limit) and should take about an hour and three quarters. I'd drop the car at the airport. I haven't checked, but I would have thought that you would have limited options to do that in Penrith. It's a minimum of 2 hours on the train, but there are direct services from Penrith to Manchester Airport (First Transpennine Express services from Scotland).

Posted by david
837 posts

I am only familiar with a couple of the areas you propose to visit: York and the Lake District. Agree that in the towns, including York, a car is unnecessary. However, if you intend to explore areas around York, like the moors, I would think that a car might be very helpful. Ditto the Hadrian's Wall area and the Lake District. As to your question of where to stay in the Lake District, I would definitely recommend the southern area: Windermere, Ambleside, Hawkshead, Grasmere.

Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
1494 posts

Hi Julie! Our family has spent several summers in the Lake District and are returning again this can get a feel for the area if you stay in just one town there for a day or two as you are thinking of doing. The town you choose, though, depends on what kind of traveler you are. If you like lots of tourists and souvenir shops then the southern lake towns are where you want to be. You can slso take walks out of these towns that are plenty beautiful! If you want to avoid hoards of tourists though, stay in Keswick on Derwentwater in the northern part of the lakes. This town is a little less touristy and you can be out in the countryside in minutes. You can take the boat across Derwentwater and hike the Catbells or you can go north of town and walk up Blencathra or hike out of town to the east and go up to the Castlerigg Stone Circle and have lunch or a drink at the Cragg Bar nearby. If you have a car here, which I highly recommend, drive out to Coniston or Buttermere and take walks from there. You won't find a prettier place in the opinion of course!

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
953 posts

I think the Lake District is the one place a car would really help - though it is not essential if you don't wish to explore too far. Since you like travelling by rail and are in the area, sort of, have you considered the Settle-Carlisle line, which is famously scenic? You could build it into your trip in a number of ways (just one example - Manchester to Leeds by fast train; then at Leeds you pick up the train that uses the Settle-Carlisle route; at Carlisle either hire a car to explore the Lake District, more options for hiring than Penrith I expect, or catch a train onto Pernith, which is only 15 minutes away. Then drop car back at Carlisle/Penrith and take train to Durham, another scenic route; then train to York; then train back to Manchester - or do it in reverse, of course, as per your original route).

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
1405 posts

For me this would be an ambitious itinerary but quite doable. We did something similar two years ago over three weeks, including some days in North Wales and up to Edinburgh, all by car. I think the car would be most useful for Hadrian's Wall and the Lake District (where I agree that Keswick would be a good base, especially with wheels). Keith has a great suggestion, imho. But instead of dropping the car back in Carlisle, you could keep the car and head from Keswick northeast toward Hadrian's Wall, make a few stops there and then drive to Durham from maybe Hexham. You could drop the car in Durham, then train to York, then Leeds, then back to Manchester. That would give you the car for the places where it's most useful and leave you with trains where they're easier. Downside is a dropoff charge for moving the car between Carlisle and Durham. Sounds like a great trip. We really enjoyed the north of England, the countryside, and the friendly though sometimes unintelliglbly-accented people.

Posted by Julie
St. Louis, MO, USA
2 posts

Thanks to all for your responses. You have provided some very good information and other resources to investigate. Julie