How to get to Cumbria
Access to Cumbria and Northumberland is a simple matter. This section focuses predominantly upon how to reach the region from the northwest. You may wish to approach from the northeast, particularly for Northumberland, which is summarised at the end of the section. The following information tells you all you need to know for travelling to Cumbria by plane, car, train, bus or ferry, including details about planning routes and booking tickets. Remember, help is always at hand, and the Booking Office (01768 892777) will provide any additional travel information required.
At the time of going to press, the planned introduction of domestic flights from Luton Airport to Carlisle Airport during 2005 appears unlikely. Visitors therefore have only the option of flying to Manchester Airport or Newcastle Airport. Most visitors prefer to fly to Manchester, but Newcastle has a similar onward travel time of an hour and a half to the Lake District by road. Some of the large national car rental companies will arrange for car collection and return at the airport, if booked in advance. There are direct train services to Penrith and Carlisle from Manchester, and Carlisle from Newcastle. Other onward services from Manchester to Kendal and Windermere, or the coastal towns of West Cumbria, require a change at Oxenholme.
Cumbria is easily accessible from the M6 motorway, which gets you within a few miles' drive of the Lake District. Count on a driving time of five hours from London and the southeast, an hour and a half from Manchester or Newcastle, two and a half hours from Glasgow or Edinburgh. Where you come off the motorway depends upon your ultimate destination - for Keswick and Penrith, take junction 40; for Kendal and Windermere, take junction 38 (north) or 36 (south); for Cartmel and Ulverston, take junction 36. Once you leave the motorway, the nature of the roads and the summer traffic can slow you right down, so allow plenty of time if you're aiming for Central Lakeland, West Cumbria or the North Pennines. Local radio stations carry regular traffic and weather reports. Both the AA (www.theaa.co.uk) and RAC (www.rac.co.uk) have useful route-planning services. There are three useful tourist information offices on the M6: Cumbria Gateway at Lancaster Services between junctions 32 and 33; Killington Lake Services south of junction 37; and Southwaite Services between junctions 41 and 42.
National Car Rental Companies:
- Avis - www.avis.co.uk
- Budget - www.budget.co.uk
- Hertz - www.hertz.co.uk
- Holiday Autos - www.holidayautos.com
- Thrifty - www.thrifty.co.uk
Virgin Trains operates the west-coast main line between London and Glasgow. For the Lake District, you must change at Oxenholme for the First North Western branch line services for Kendal and Windermere. From London's Euston Station, there are up to ten departures a day, a four to five hour trip. From Yorkshire, a longer, more scenic approach is provided by the Settle to Carlisle Railway (connections from Leeds and Bradford). Anyone seeing the Lakes as part of a wider northern England trip might consider a North West Rover ticket, valid for unlimited travel in the region. Services from Glasgow Central (nine daily) and Edinburgh (eight daily) run to Oxenholme for connections to Windermere, with stops en route at Carlisle and Penrith.
National Train Companies:
- First North Western - www.firstnorthwestern.co.uk
- National Rail Enquiries - www.nationalrail.co.uk
- Virgin Trains - www.virgin-trains.co.uk
- Qjump - www.qjump.co.uk (train tickets online)
- The Train Line - www.trainline.co.uk (train tickets online)
National Express buses from London's Victoria Coach Station run twice daily to Windermere, a seven-hour ride. This service continues from Windermere on to Ambleside, Grasmere and Keswick. From Manchester's Chorlton Street Coach Station there's one National Express bus a day to Windermere. The service starts its route at Manchester Airport, providing a useful connection for recent arrivals. National Express services from Birmingham, York, Newcastle and Scotland all route to the Lakes.
National Express - www.gobycoach.com
Travelling from Ireland by ferry, the most logical port to use is Liverpool (sailings from Belfast and Dublin), from where it's an easy train ride to Manchester and on to the Lakes. Using the Belfast service to Stranraer in Scotland, you'll need to travel first by train to Glasgow and on from there. Arriving in Holyhead from Dublin, take the train via Crewe to Oxenholme. From the rest of Europe (Amsterdam, Norway and Sweden) using the North Sea crossings makes most sense, docking at Newcastle.
Approaching From The Northeast
The approach by car to Northumberland is via the M1(A1), and is also an alternative if you are heading for Cumbria (though add another hour travelling time from London). For Corbridge and Hexham, take the A68 at junction 58, and for Penrith and the North Pennines, take the A66 from the Scotch Corner turnoff (junction 56). If you are travelling to the North Pennines, a particularly scenic route is to take the A66 until the Barnard Castle turnoff, and follow the Middleton Road to Alston (but expect poor weather conditions on this road during the winter months).