Maybe it’s a rainy day or maybe you’d just like a tour, here are a couple of suggestions for a 2-3 hour drive around the Lakes.
Windermere – Langdale – Coniston – Hawkshead – Windermere
This is a stunning drive. We take it anticlockwise from Windermere. Once past Chapel Stile, the dramatic Langdale valley opens up with the imposing Langdale Pike mountains to your right. You loop round over a steep route back down and then touch the top of Coniston Water (you could detour into Coniston here), then on to Hawkshead, and back past Hill Top (Beatrix Potter’s house), across the ferry at Far Sawrey to Bowness and back up to Windermere. The pass through Langdale, and/or the ferry, might be closed in bad weather.
Ambleside – Thirlmere – Keswick - Borrowdale – Honister – Buttermere
This drive takes you up the road-spine of the Lake District to the Northern Lakes. Starting in Ambleside and driving up past Grasmere, along Thirlmere (actually a reservoir), past Helvellyn, to Keswick. Then down into the beautiful Borrowdale past Seathwaite, one of the access paths to Scafell Pike. Then up through the Honister Pass and its slate mine, over the pass to Buttermere. Then it’s a steep narrow twisty but spectacular lane back to Keswick. Take a detour north from Keswick to the Lakes Distillery, on the banks of Bassenthwaite Lake, while you are up there.
Places to visit
See also the ‘Activities’ section for more strenuous activities such as biking and boating.
In the shopping section we listed the towns of Ambleside, Windermere, Bowness, Grasmere, Hawkshead, and Coniston which are all Lake District tourist spots, and the nearby market towns of Kendal and Kirkby Lonsdale, a charming little market town. A little further away is the village of Cartmel, near the coast and Grange-over-Sand. It is a quaint little village with good artisan shops, an ancient priory, a Michelin restaurant, a racecourse and claims to be the home of Sticky Toffee Pudding!
Beatrix Potter's House, Hill Top is just the other side of Windermere at Far Sawrey. Wordsworth’s houses Dove Cottage is in Grasmere, and Rydal Mount is just north of Ambleside. Sticking with a literary theme, the Brontë Parsonage Museum is a 90 minute drive away across the York Dales but very well put together. Good for a rainy day.
Close to home the Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley does tours, and up in the Northern Lakes beyond Keswick, the Lakes Distillery also does tours and makes delicious Gin (at time of writing the Whisky is still maturing in its barrels!).
Staying in Kentmere you are spoiled with the continuous and every changing classic Lake District mountain and valley scene, but if you are looking to tick off a few more, our two suggested drives (above) cover the beautiful valleys of Langdale, Borrowdale, and Buttermere.
A drive from Ambleside up the Troutbeck Valley and over the Kirkstone Pass and down into Ullswater is also worthwhile and takes a lot less time than the drives listed above. You can hire boats or set off on many walks from Glenridding at the foot of Ullswater. The Kirkstone Pass is often closed in bad weather.
You will find organised tours all over the place. Try Mountain Goat who organise informal tours all over the area as well as providing a comprehensive alternative bus service to the Lakes. You can read about the founding of this business in Hunter Davies’ “A Walk Around The Lakes” which you’ll find amongst our guide books. It’s a great primer on the Lake District from one of its better known residents.
Ferries ply Windermere and Coniston and you can plan good walks between ferry pick up points.
There are Cinemas in Windermere, Kendal and Ambleside. We also hear very good things about The Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal which has a cinema, theatre, live music, and restaurant.