How to Make the Most of a Lake District Day Trip

Becky blog author avanti social team

By the Avanti Web Team

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7 min read | 1st Published 20th May 2023. Updated 5th June 2024

Locals and visitors alike love visiting the beautiful Lake District, and for good reason. It’s full of vast lakes, mountains, forests, quaint villages, and historic attractions.

But with so many landscapes, attractions and activities to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start. Should you drive or go by train? Which part of the Lake District should you visit? And how can you make the best of a one-day trip to the Lake District?

If you want to plan the perfect Lake District day trip, here’s everything you need to know.

Why visit the Lake District?

Rear view of a couple holding hands while walking atop a hill with a lake below and more hills in the distance.

Home to England’s largest national park, the Lake District is a huge area with a lot to offer. As well as beautiful landscapes, the Lake District is rich in culture and history. It has inspired many creatives over the years, including Beatrix Potter and poet William Wordsworth. 

One of the most appealing things about day trips to the Lake District is that you can see and learn something new every time. You could do a day trip to the Lake District every weekend for a year and still only cover a fraction of it.

Where exactly is the Lake District?

The Lake District is in the North West of England. Historically, the Lake District spread to Cumberland, Westmorland, and Lancashire. By today’s geography, it’s all located within Cumbria.

Is the Lake District the same as the Lake District National Park?

The Lake District refers to the general area. The Lake District National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site within that area. The Lake District National Park Authority governs it but land ownership varies across the park.

Some areas are privately owned whereas the National Trust owns others (around 25% of the park). As one of the largest National Parks in the UK, getting here is easy. There are several options for trains to the Lake District National Park

You’ll have guaranteed views on your journey too, no matter which part of the Lake District you’re visiting.

Is the Lake District good for activities?

Woman on a stand-up paddle board on a lake with a life jacket.

Love water sports? There are 76 different bodies of water to choose from. Need to entertain the kids? There are countless museums, wildlife parks, and castles to explore.

Enjoy a challenging hike? The Lake District National Park includes ten of the highest peaks in England. There are also many other beautiful hikes and trails in the Lake District.

If you want to enjoy some fresh air without breaking a sweat, there are endless options for gentle outdoor activities in the Lake District. You can take boat trips, go on a historic steam train tour, or wander around the villages and pick up some souvenirs.

Are there any mountains in the Lake District?

Snow on the tips of Scafell Pike Mountain with a lake in the foreground.

Despite its name, the Lake District is also home to many different mountains and peaks. This includes England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike.

The best places to go on a Lake District day trip

The Lake District is a big place. When planning a Lake District day trip, you should narrow down your search to specific destinations and activities. Having a Lake District itinerary is important.

1. Kendal

Kendal castle ruins with grass to the right side.

Kendal is a market town situated on the edge of the Lake District. It has a golf course, an indoor climbing centre, and a club for skiing and snowboarding lessons. It also has a castle overlooking the town, historic buildings, and a vibrant arts and culture scene.

If you’re keen to sample some local delicacies, Kendal is home to many creative artisans. From farm shops to local breweries and bakeries, there’s something to suit every appetite here. Plus, easy access to a breadth of countryside means you can always walk it off.

This bustling town is only a couple of miles from Oxenholme Lake District station. This, and many other reasons, make Kendal a perfect destination for a day trip to the Lake District.

2. Killington Lake

Killington Lake from the side of a hill with trees in the foreground and hills in the background.

Killington is a 37-acre lake around five miles from Oxenholme Lake District Station. The man-made lake is a popular spot for fishing, windsurfing, paddle boarding, and canoeing.

Access is for club members of the Killington Sailing Association. Members can bring along 1 guest per day, with a fee of £10 for an adult or £5 for a junior. If nature is your passion, the west side of the lake offers ample opportunities for bird watching, as well as several hiking routes.

There are many other activities on offer nearby. From clay pigeon shooting to quad biking, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy around Killington Lake.

3. Lake Windermere

Aerial view of Lake Windermere with turquoise blue water, hills and trees on either side and several sailing boats in the middle of the lake.

If you’re looking for a busy hub with amazing lakes you can visit year-round, Lake Windermere is a safe bet. From lake cruises to tea houses and panoramic views, there is something here for all ages. 

Lake Windermere plays host to many sporting events throughout the year. It’s a key location for sailing, with world speed records broken here several times. The lake also hosts an annual stone-skimming event if you’d like to try your hand at a world record attempt. 

Measuring 17km, Windermere is England’s largest natural lake and is worth a visit. It is also easily accessible by train if you’re keen to spend your Lake District day trip here.

4. Bowness-on-Windermere

Village of Bowness on shore of Lake Windermere

About a mile south of Windermere town is Bowness-on-Windermere. This is another location with outdoor activities at its heart. It’s about a 25-minute walk from Lake Windermere or a 10-minute bus ride.

The Windermere Jetty Museum makes for an insightful stop along the way. After a £20 million revamp in 2019, it’s full of all sorts of boats from as far back as the 18th century. This one is well worth a visit for boat enthusiasts and history buffs.

From Bowness on Windermere, you can take a tour of the lake or try your hand at some watersports. There’s also The World of Beatrix Potter. This place will keep both the kids and older generations of Peter Rabbit fans entertained. 

5. Wordsworth Grasmere

Close up of two stone cottages and a narrow lane with a hill in the distance.

Many believe that the Lake District’s popularity as a tourist destination is largely thanks to William Wordsworth. The poet moved to Grasmere in 1799 and published ‘A Guide Through the District of the Lakes’ in 1820.

Today, his home at Dove Cottage is a tourist attraction in itself. It’s part of a larger centre called Wordsworth Grasmere. This tourist hub has a museum, garden, orchard, woodland, and cafe.

Even if you’re not a history lover or a poetry fan, this is a great place to spend a few hours. The museum has several interactive elements and activities that are great for keeping the brains of all ages engaged.

Located just nine miles from Windermere, it’s a perfect half-day activity. It’s also just nine miles from Scafell Pike. So if you fancy staying overnight before tackling England’s highest peak, this is a great option.

6. Derwentwater

View of Derwent water lake from a hillside showing the trees in autumnal colours and fells in the distance.

Derwentwater is a great place to enjoy a day on the lake. There are several spots along where you can hire paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, and rowing boats. Some places even have dragon boats and Viking boats.

This is also a popular and safe spot for swimming, especially in the summer months. Just make sure you stay safe by following local swimming guidelines.

Derwent is also pretty close to Castlerigg Stone Circle. This is worth the visit if you have some time in your day’s itinerary. Castlerigg is one of the oldest British stone circles (about 3000 BC). Plus, the breathtaking panoramic views from the hilltop are a real treat.

7. Pooley Bridge

Aerial view of the lake at Pooley Bridge and distant countryside, with a pier coming onto the lake and small boats to the right side.

Lined with tea shops and greystone houses, this Pooley Bridge is brimming with character and charm. This small town is perfect for a day trip to the Lake District. Within easy reach of Moor Divock and Askham Fell, this is a hiker, trail runner, and mountain biker’s paradise.

Just six miles from Penrith North Lakes Station, Pooley Bridge is easily accessible via public transport. Once you get to the train station, it’s 25 minutes by bus or 11 minutes by taxi.

Organised tours

If you want to cover a lot of ground and activities, touring the Lake District with an organised tour is a good shout. Depending on the tour guide and operator, they may even pick you up from the train station.

Half-day tours are great if you want to enjoy a specific activity. If you’d like to try a few activities or explore different areas of the Lake District, look for a full-day tour.

Example itinerary

Young family with two parents and three children walking across a river holding hands.

Having a planned itinerary can help you make the most of your Lake District day trip. Here’s an example of how you can spend a day in the Lake District.

Morning

Start your day at Lake Windermere. Board an early train here and arrive before the coach trips so you can enjoy the scenery in tranquillity. 

You could spend a good hour here exploring the vast lake and enjoying a morning coffee at one of the village’s quaint cafes. Windermere Lake cruises are also a good option for your first stop of the day. 

From Windermere, take a short walk or bus to Bowness on Windermere and visit The World of Beatrix Potter.

If you’re travelling from the south or east, you might like to start in Kendal before going to Windermere. Enjoy the history in this unique market town and maybe grab a quick breakfast if you arrive early enough. 

While you’re here, you could even try out some water sports on Killington Lake. From here, you can make your way northwest and explore the rest of the Lake District.

Lunchtime

When you’re ready for a bite to eat, there are plenty of options no matter where you are in the Lake District. If you’re heading away from Lake Windermere in search of more, take the 30-minute bus ride to Wordsworth Grasmere. 

The Wordsworth Hotel serves local and home-cooked food every day - it’s perfect for a special lunch on your trip. Alternatively, check out the cafe at Dove Cottage. Grab a quick bite while you indulge in the history of this inspirational poet’s life. 

If you’re heading west on your day trip, you can reach Coniston Water in 30 minutes. Here, you’ll have a choice of several village eateries and restaurants. After lunch, you could hire a boat or bike and explore the UK’s third-largest lake. 

You’ll also be under the watchful eye of the Old Man of Coniston Mountain. 

Afternoon

If you’re ready to spend some time getting active after lunch, let your food settle down on the 25-minute journey to Derwentwater. Here, you can partake in any number of watersports or swimming. 

Derwentwater is pretty picturesque too. If you plan to finish your trip here, the walk around the entire lake takes just over three hours. Don’t forget to check out Castlerigg Stone Circle on your visit.

If on-land sports are more your thing, check out Pooley Bridge instead. Hike or hire a mountain bike and explore everything this area has to offer. Once you’re done, enjoy a refreshment at one of the village’s tearooms. 

Evening

After a jam-packed day in the Lake District, travel home via train and experience the Lake District’s scenery from your seat. If you’ve travelled north in the lakes, you’ll be in for a scenic treat on your way home.

If you’re not quite done yet, Keswick has a few nightlife options for an evening tipple or dinner. If you end your day at Pooley Bridge, there are a handful of pubs and restaurants you could try before heading home.

When to visit the Lake District

While the Lake District is a year-round destination, you might want to choose your timing to align with your planned activities. 

June to August is the peak tourist season all over the Lake District, with warmer weather and the school holidays in full swing. If you’re into outdoor sports and watersports, this would be the best time to visit. 

For those who want to escape the crowds, visiting out of season would be a better choice. Consider May or September if you’re still keen to experience watersports and outdoor activities.

The Lake District is beautiful in the autumn and winter too. But you might not be able to take part in some of the more seasonal activities, so it’s worth checking before you book. It’s not all bad though. After a wintry walk around the lakes, cosy up in one of the Lake District’s locals and enjoy a warm beverage.

Day trip to the Lake District by train

Blonde woman looking out of a train window.

The Lake District is a very large area with many amazing sights and activities to explore. Having a car is useful if you want to pack a lot into your day trip or if you’re planning to explore different areas. 

However, the roads around the Lake District can get very busy, especially in the summer months. To avoid car parking, traffic, and navigation issues, it’s worth considering getting a train to the Lake District.

London to the Lake District

Direct trains run regularly from London Euston to both Oxenholme Lake District and Penrith (North Lakes) stations. 

Travel times vary but the quickest train from London to Oxenholme takes around two hours and 40 minutes. The train from London to Penrith takes between three and three and a half hours.

For a Lake District day trip from London to Windermere, travel from Euston to Lancaster or Oxenholme. You can then change for Windermere. Trains depart as early as 5:30 am and travel time varies between three and three and a half hours.

Manchester to the Lake District

There are direct trains from Manchester Piccadilly to Oxenholme that take between one and one and a half hours. Trains from Manchester Piccadilly to Penrith (North Lakes) take between one and a half and two hours.

A Lake District day trip from Manchester offers optimal convenience if you’re looking to visit multiple towns. If you want even more inspiration, check out these ideas for day trips from Manchester.

Glasgow to the Lake District

Direct trains run from Glasgow to the Lake District. The fastest direct train from Glasgow Central to Penrith takes around an hour and a half.

The fastest direct train from Glasgow to Oxenholme takes just under two hours. Trains and buses from Oxenholme can connect you to several hubs including Kendal and Windermere.

Blackpool to the Lake District

Although there are no direct trains from Blackpool to the Lake District, the journey can take as little as one hour. To travel from Blackpool to Windermere, Kendal, Oxenholme, or Penrith, you can get a train to Preston and change there. 

Journey duration can vary significantly depending on connection times, so make sure you plan ahead.

Book your day trip to the Lake District

Ready to start planning your Lake District day trip? Use our handy online journey planner and find the best train route and ticket price. 

If you’re travelling with young people or as a family, get up to 50% off your tickets with a Railcard or Family Ticket. You can also book in advance, ensuring you get the cheapest train tickets possible

Buy train tickets for your next journey here:

Buying through our website or app saves you money because we never charge booking fees. To take a look at more ways to save including using a Railcard, booking in advance and booking as a group visit our ways to save page.

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