Visiting the Lake District
Travelling to the Lakes
The UK's motorway system makes it relatively easy to get to the Lake District. The M6 runs east of Lakeland and can be easily reached from England, Scotland and Wales. Visitors from the North should exit the M6 at Penrith (Junction 40) and from the South at Kendall (Junction 36).
The motorways are fine when everything is running smoothly. However, regular motorway users will tell you that this is very often not the case. The best advice is to travel early in the day when going to the Lakes and late in the day when departing. Travelling on a Sunday is recommended as there are far fewer lorries on the road.
I usually depart from Surrey at 4am on a Sunday morning and will arrive by 10am, including 2 stops. When departing, I leave about 6pm and expect to be home by midnight.
Getting stuck on the M6 can be frustrating and time-consuming. The gaps between junctions can be many miles and the traffic can grind to a halt for long, long periods. It is well worth getting a SatNav that has Traffic News updates. It will warn you of forthcoming delays and suggest routes around them.
Lakeland is served by several stations: Penrith, Oxenholme and Windermere being the main ones. From Penrith it is necessary to take a bus to reach the Lakes. From Oxenholme take the local branch line to Windermere.
Rail travel can be expensive but booking up to 13 weeks in advance and being prepared to travel at unsocial times can yield huge savings. For example, in March 2014 I travelled from Gatwick Airport to Windermere for £45 return, including London connections. To do that, I had to travel at 4am on the way up and at 8:30pm on the return leg, but the cost of the ticket was less than half the cost of travelling by car. The train tends to be quicker, as well.
Lakeland has many bus routes covering almost all areas. Bus timetables can be obtained from StageCoachBus.com Be aware that a reduced serice runs from October to March each year.
Staying in the Lakes
The Lake District offers a vast array of hotels, bed and breakfast guesthouses and campsites. The following links are to ones I have actually stayed at and would recommend. There are, of course, many other worthy places to stay and I will add to this list occasionally. (I receive no commission for these suggestions - they are just my honest opinion.)
Amble House, Keswick
Keswick is, in my opinion, one of the best places to stay. The Northern Lakes are wonderful and the walking is superb. Richard and Judy run Amble House and I have stayed there many times over the last 10 years. The rooms are well equipped - they even supply real milk for the tea and coffee making facilities. The breakfast offers a vast array of choices. If you eat everything that is on offer, you will gain weight!
The National Trust have several campsites in the Lakes. I have stayed at Wasdale and Langdale and both sites are well equipped and in fantastic locations for walking. I reckon you could spend a week at each and never need a car during your stay as there are so many good walks in the vicinity. Both areas have nearby pubs and the camps have shops for those who want to self-cater.
The Castlerigg Farm campsite is smaller than the National Trust ones, but is very well equipped and has a restaurant which serves hearty breakfasts. The campsite is in a good location for walking in the Walla Crag area, but a car is necessary if you want to visit other peaks in the vicinity, such as Skiddaw or Catbells.
Castlerigg farm has the distinct advantage of not only having a 'no noise at night' policy but also enforcing it! There is an on-site warden who can be contacted during the night if necessary.