From Jane Austen and William Wordsworth to Taylor Swift, the Lake District has inspired countless artists, musicians, writers and creative souls over the centuries. As far as we’re concerned, a self-guided road trip to the Lake District is the best way to tour the evocative region. Behind the wheel, you’ll have the freedom to hop between chocolate-box towns and villages, explore scenic walking trails and even get off the beaten track if adventure calls.
The best thing about road trip in the Lake District itineraries? You can tailor your trip to fit your unique travel style. Settle into a cosy bed and breakfast, splurge on a five-star hotel or pitch a tent and sleep under the stars. With so many incredible experiences on offer, it’s no wonder the Lake District is one of the most visited national parks in the UK. Not to mention one of the most photographed. Don’t forget your camera because there’s plenty of epic scenery in store.
Ready to get inspired? Read on for our guide to the best road trips in the Lake District.
1-Day Grasmere to Windermere
Short and sweet, this scenic road trip in the Lake District takes in some of the park’s most iconic villages. Start in the enchanting village of Grasmere. Be sure to stock up on a few slabs of the village’s legendary gingerbread before you hit the road. From here, head to the A591 for a scenic lakeside drive. You’ll eventually reach the turnoff for Rydal, the village where beloved British poet William Wordsworth once lived.
Next on the agenda is Ambleside, a bustling town with handsome stone buildings and loads of shops, cafes and pubs. Park your cart and switch things up with a horse drawn carriage to Waterhead Pier. From here you can board a boat and enjoy a scenic cruise around Windermere, one of the largest and most beautiful lakes in England. Not to worry if you’re running short on time, or if the weather isn’t cooperating. You can always wind up your day with a scenic drive along the banks of Windermere.
Another option is the short walk to Stock Ghyll Force, a cascading waterfall just outside the village. Visit in spring to see the surrounding forest blanketed in bright yellow daffodils.
2-Day Southern Lake District: Ravenglass to Drigg
Ideally you should allocate two days to complete this road trip. Though, if you’re short on time, you can squeeze all the highlights into 24 hours. Start in the friendly coastal village of Ravenglass. A side trip to the nearby Roman ruins is a great add-on for history buffs, if you have time. You’ll then set your sights on Wastwater, one of the deepest lakes in England. Get there before dark to enjoy a sunset walk.
Fuel up with a full English breakfast – you’re in for a big day if you’re going to summit Scafell Pike. From the top of the mountain, you’ll unlock spectacular views over the countryside. Allow around six hours for the roundtrip and don’t forget to pack lots of water and snacks. Continue on to the Wasdale Head Inn for a well-deserved pint.
Stay the night or continue on to the beachside village of Drigg. It’s set on the border of Lake District National Park and combines lovely views over the fells with easy access to one of Britain’s most beautiful beaches. Pristine and uncrowded, it’s the definition of a hidden gem.
3-Day North Lake District – Penrith to Whitehaven
At just over 70 miles, it’s best to spread this road trip in the Lake District over three days. The park is enormous and there’s loads to see, which is why we recommend tackling bite-sized sections. This road trip starts in the idyllic town of Penrith in Cumbria. Nestled in the Eden Valley, it’s a great place to spend the night and get ready for your road trip in the Lake District. Dig into a plate of piping hot Cumberland sausages and mash, then stock up on snacks like Kendal mint cake.
The next morning, buckle in for the drive to Keswick. Break up your journey with a hike up Helvellyn, a 712-metre-high fell with sweeping views over the countryside. If you’d rather not work up a sweat, climb aboard a historic steamer for a scenic cruise on Ullswater.
Kick off day two with breakfast in Keswick and a stroll around the town centre. Learn about the region’s graphite-mining heritage at the Cumberland Pencil Museum and shop for handmade souvenirs at the famous Keswick Market. Enjoy a stroll around Derwentwater before heading back to the village for a homecooked meal and a pint of local ale. The Pheasant Inn in Keswick is always a firm favourite.
Day three will take you from Keswick to Whitehaven. En route you’ll pass over the Honister Pass, one of the highest and most scenic roads in the country. Pencil in a guided tour of the Honister Slate Mine, before making your way to the charming village of Buttermere for lunch. Next stop is Whitehaven, a lively port town filled with beautiful Georgian architecture and wooden sailboats.
Hit the road in comfort
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