Looking for Input: Tips on UK Lake District

ijm5012

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My wife and I are considering taking a summer vacation to England again in 2019. The plan would likely be to spend 4-5 days in London, and then head north to the Lake District. However, I'm hoping to get some input/feedback/ideas from those who've been before, or even those who live in the UK.
  • My initial thought would be to rent a car in London and make the drive up. Is this the best/easiest way, or should we take the train to a more northern city and rent a car there?
  • How many days would you recommend spending up there? My wife and I would primarily be looking to do scenic day hikes, returning to a rental in the evening (i.e. no camping).
  • What are some good places to visit? I've done some googling, but would like to know what those of you with first-hand experience enjoyed and would recommend (or on the other hand, would not recommend)?
The Lake District looks beautiful, so I'm hoping I can get some tips or hints to help us make up our mind. Thanks in advance!
 

ThereAndBackAgain

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The Lakes are certainly beautiful but remember that all that water comes from above and very frequently. Hotels/b&b which cater for walkers will have drying rooms and trust me, you'll need them. The area is incredibly popular so anything you can do to avoid school holidays and high summer will pay dividends. Have a great time!
 

Ted_G

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If you are looking more towards day hiking Hadrian's Wall and the surrounds make a great option. Generally speaking if travelling light you should not need a car rental in the UK. The trains will get you to most places without hassle and taxi/Uber as needed.

Driving in the UK blows. Traffic is awful gas is ridiculous parking a pain and the uncountable speed cameras make it a headache no matter where.

So many gems in the UK to visit. All depends on your preference. Outside of London pretty much anywhere in Scotland is a slice of heaven....haggis aside :hiding:.

Source: Lived and worked in UK for 15 years and still visit regularly.

**edit**Just realized I rolled in not actually saying anything helpful about the Lake District. I spent time most recently in Penrith....not as busy as other locales. Easy to reach by train and a nice set of day walks or bike hire too throughout the area. I have a special fondness for the area due to spending time at Jubilee House in 2009
 
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ijm5012

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The Lakes are certainly beautiful but remember that all that water comes from above and very frequently. Hotels/b&b which cater for walkers will have drying rooms and trust me, you'll need them. The area is incredibly popular so anything you can do to avoid school holidays and high summer will pay dividends. Have a great time!
Thank you David. Would it be busy during the first half of July, or do people tend to take vacations a bit later in the summer?

If you are looking more towards day hiking Hadrian's Wall and the surrounds make a great option. Generally speaking if travelling light you should not need a car rental in the UK. The trains will get you to most places without hassle and taxi/Uber as needed.

**edit**Just realized I rolled in not actually saying anything helpful about the Lake District. I spent time most recently in Penrith....not as busy as other locales. Easy to reach by train and a nice set of day walks or bike hire too throughout the area. I have a special fondness for the area due to spending time at Jubilee House in 2009
Thanks Ted. So you think it's easy enough to get around even in the Lake District without a rental? The area is quite large, and so my wife and I would typically only be at a given location for a day or two at most. I'm just not familiar with how well the public transportation system is once you get up in to the park.

Buy some really good waterproof clothing.
Thanks Mike. I've got all the gear to keep me dry. Just hoping we'll see more sunshine than gray clouds in July.
 

pdk42

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Take a look at posts by Alf Branch on the UK e-Group forum. Alf lives up in that neck of the woods and posts a lot of great shots from there:

Olympus UK E-System User Group - Search Results

Getting to the Lake District by car makes for a fairly long drive and it's not a particularly nice drive for much of it. I'd be tempted to take the train to Penrith or even London to Lancaster and rent a car from there.
 

ThereAndBackAgain

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Thank you David. Would it be busy during the first half of July, or do people tend to take vacations a bit later in the summer?

That period is high summer although just before school holiday time. I'm more fond of late May to end of June.



Thanks Ted. So you think it's easy enough to get around even in the Lake District without a rental? The area is quite large, and so my wife and I would typically only be at a given location for a day or two at most. I'm just not familiar with how well the public transportation system is once you get up in to the park.



Thanks Mike. I've got all the gear to keep me dry. Just hoping we'll see more sunshine than gray clouds in July.
 
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ijm5012

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Take a look at posts by Alf Branch on the UK e-Group forum. Alf lives up in that neck of the woods and posts a lot of great shots from there:

Olympus UK E-System User Group - Search Results

Getting to the Lake District by car makes for a fairly long drive and it's not a particularly nice drive for much of it. I'd be tempted to take the train to Penrith or even London to Lancaster and rent a car from there.
Thanks Paul. Yeah, I was thinking of taking the train up to Manchester (or somewhere around there) to rent a car, just because it saves ~4 hours of driving. But if you'd recommend going even further north before renting a car, I'd be up for that as well.
 

Ted_G

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The train dumps you off in Penrith center. From there just cab/Uber to your lodge base or arrange a transfer with the lodging owner if offered/possible. Just an option and please take it with a grain of salt....I'm heavily biased about driving in the UK. If a car is a must have my google-fu indicates at least 3 rental locations in Penrith
 

bredman

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Avoid the UK school holidays, prices will be up on everything, and other people's kids can be annoying. :)

You can get into Windermere by rail but that's it for the Lake District itself. The bus system is ok but if you want to chase good light etc. then you will defo appreciate your own wheels.

Oh, insect repellant will be useful. Waterproofs and good boots are essential if you like to walk. The footpaths are generally well maintained and pretty easy, i.e. all the hilltops are accessible in fine weather and that is the place to be. Just pick a mountain and walk up it.
 

angusr

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It's beautiful. But as they say up there, if it didn't rain, there wouldn't be any lakes.
It's actually possible to take a train all the way to Windermere from London Euston in a little over 3 hours. That's much faster than driving and much more pleasant. I'd rent up there somewhere if you need a car, or use buses and boats.

Definitely avoid 2nd half of July and August. If you can, May/June are probably best but it's lovely off-season too. Personally, I have a soft spot for Ambleside as a place to stay but it depends what you want - there are some beautiful out-of-the-way B&Bs if you prefer solitude.
 
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I'm going up in March with my walking buddy, it's pot luck with the weather, so out of season is as good a time as any. The train from London sounds a good idea, I would recommend you rent a cottage in a village for a few days and also rent a car when you're there, that way you can come and go as you please and take advantage of any good weather window. You may have to book somewhere earlier rather than later, as the best places go quickly.

This book is a good guide
 

Steveee

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Briefly:

It’s all beautiful! It might rain, but the sky might be brooding and spectacular to compensate. Or dull and grey!

Very generally, the Northern Lakes are a bit more mountainous and rugged; Southern is more chocolate-box, but there are variations within that.

Don’t go without booking ahead at the weekend, as it can be difficult to get decent accommodation. At bank holidays and during special events some B&Bs have minimum stay requirements. Our favourite stay is Lakeside House in Keswick, but there are many. Keswick has a nice mix in general of hills and other things to do in the worst weather without being too busy.

Bank holiday weekends everywhere are very very busy; midweek outside of school holidays are much quieter and can be the best time to visit.

Windermere and Bowness are a bit touristy, but wherever you go it’s easy to get away from the crowds.

There is no such thing as the wrong weather, just the wrong clothing to experience it!
 

Steveee

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And....

Grasmere is a small village without much beyond a few shops and nice pubs/hotels, but is a good base for a variety of walks from the door (it’s about in between the more rugged and chocolate-box areas).
 

Stanga

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If you are renting a car in the UK, do a good research on the rental company. And take pics of the car when you get it, and hand it back. I myself recommend doing a video with the phone. There are some horror stories of customers being charged for damage to the car when there was none. The Guardian newspaper regularly has coverage of complaints in their consumer help section about these things. We didn't get the reputation as Rip Off Britain for nothing...
Parking in towns and cities is a financial headache if you not local. Some places expect you to pay for parking online after with a credit card. Others need you to call an expensive premium line to pay for the parking. My neighbourhood is one of them. And then there are the parking fines...
I suggest that you get a phone just for use in the UK if you need to pay for parking over the phone.
 

bredman

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You could consider a self-catering cottage. There may be savings over b&b. I've used these when i'm not there camping

Lake District Cottages | Cumbrian Cottages

As mentioned Keswick is a nice town to be located in. It's the main town in the Northern Lakes, craggier and generally wetter than the Southern Lakes but a wilder landscape. South out of Keswick is Borrowdale - a gem of a valley.

Not sure if you would prefer easy going valley walks or if you're both up for a scramble, but there are so many good walks, one thing the lakes is good on is footpaths. Of the bigger fells to bag i think Helvellyn is the best, Scafell and Skiddaw are generally a bit of a slog. If you're up for it you could go up Helvellyn via Striding Edge (the peak of Helvellyn is a great place to wake up for a cloud inversion :)). Bow Fell is a favourite, but best walked only in good weather, the approach over Crinkle Crags is amazing (as are the views of the Langdales from nearby Pike o Blisco). In that area, be warned that the drive over Wrynose and Hardknot Pass is not for the faint-hearted. Another area with arresting views is the High Street-Harter Fell-Riggindale area, on the Eastern side.

Don't be put off too much with the weather talk, but if it is bad, or the clouds too low, you could just drive around and visit the lakes. Almost all of them have good car access and photo opportunities, Buttermere is quite special. Also, a few offer boat trips, namely Lake Windermere, but also (the lovely and out the way) Ullswater, and smaller boats on Derwent Water. If there is a heat wave, Derwent and Coniston Water are good for a swim :).

Too many to mention.
 

ijm5012

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Wow, thanks everyone for the plethora of information! This is one of the great things about this forum, there's plenty of people who are able to chime in and help answer any questions a member may have.

I'll spend this weekend going through all of this information.
 

pdk42

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On car rental - avoid Goldcar at all costs. I had a very bad experience with them where they charged me £400 for damage that was not there. A quick search of the internet will find hundreds of similar stories. Use a reputable company like Europcar, Avis, Hertz or Sixt.
 

PeeBee

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As a native to this cramped, over populated and somewhat sodden little island, I agree - avoid driving around our capital. Its a fantastic place, full of history and culture, but you won't appreciate it by car. Driving around London defies logic. It's hell. I passed through earlier this year and a minor traffic diversion added 3 stressful hours to my journey.

Weather-wise, expect the unexpected.

I haven't spent a lot of time at the Lake District. I've stayed there a couple of times and driven through a couple more. Windermere is the most obvious destination, but it attracts a lot of tourists. As other's have said, avoid school holidays. Our last stay was at a less prominent location which was popular with hikers, but had little else to offer, so getting the balance right for you is important. I also wouldn't rely on public transport around the lakes. Its a vast area and you'll appreciate having your independence.

My final tip is to come last July. We had a fantastic summer and I can guarantee you wont need a coat!
 

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