One of the things we find endlessly exciting about the Lake District is the way you can always find somewhere new and interesting to explore. As we spend our time travelling around the area we come across more and more landscapes, attractions and environments – often revealing an unexpected and fresh face of the Lake District. We’ve also discovered that one great way to see a different side of the Lakes is to take a stress-free tour by jumping on the X33 Lakeland Explorer bus.

The X33 weaves its way from the heart of the lakes in Ambleside, through the fells, out to the rugged beauty of the Western Lake District coast, taking in a wealth of beauty spots along the way. All you have to do is enjoy the view and get out when you feel like it to sample the local food and drink or take a photo. You won’t need to walk far from the bus stop to find something to grab your attention!

We thought we would take an overnight trip on the X33 to let you in on some of the highlights of its journey and some of the great photo opportunities along the way.

The X33’s first pick up point is outside the Waterhead Hotel, at Waterhead at the northern tip of Lake Windermere. While we waited for the bus we took the chance to wander down to the lake and take photos of the view across to the famous Langdale Pikes (next time we’ll get there earlier so we can enjoy a spot of lunch at the Wateredge Inn as well).

Lake Windermere from Waterhead

Lake Windermere from Watrehead

The Wateredge Inn

The Wateredge Inn

Ambleside and Waterhead

Once ensconced on the X33 we were whisked through Ambleside in the direction of Coniston. Ambleside would also be a great place to get on the bus at the beginning of your trip. It is full of great cafes, pubs and restaurants, as well as being the home of the quirky bridge house that spans the river and is a worthwhile photo opportunity in its own right.

Bridge House,  Ambleside

Bridge House, Ambleside


The bus route takes in the beautiful wooded countryside that flanks Windermere before breaking out into wide basin of land formed by Coniston Water and the famous Coniston old Man, which towers above the town. If time allows we definitely recommend a stop off in Coniston to enjoy a pint of Bluebird by the Coniston Brewery (or of anything they brew for that matter!) or to enjoy a bacon sandwich at the Bluebird Cafe on the shores of the lake. It is all just a quick walk from the bus stop.

Coniston Water

Coniston Water


The Cumbrian coastline might just be one of the best kept secrets in the country. Sandy beaches stretch literally as far as the eye can see and if you happen to get bored of the seaside (we don’t think you will!) then the stunning valleys of the Duddon, Eskdale, Wasdale and Ennerdale can be found inland. The X33 stops in Silecroft, where the beach and the backdrop of the impressive Black Combe makes for one of the area’s most atmospheric photo spots.



Ravenglass and Muncaster Castle

From Silecroft the X33 continues up the coast to one of Cumbria’s nicest places and one of its scariest. We always come back to Ravenglass whenever we get the chance because it is simply of one of the loveliest seaside villages around. The sleepy former Roman port is a coastal gem packed with pretty cottages. The reason this area is one of Cumbria’s most scary is because Muncaster Castle, which is a short walk from Ravenglass, is reportedly one of the most haunted buildings around. Pay it a visit if you dare!

For us Ravenglass was the picturesque end to our utterly serene and stress free journey and the last photo opportunity before we retired to our B&B and a meal at The Inn at Ravenglass. The next morning we were able to get up and take a trip on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway (the La’al Ratty) into the gorgeous valley of Eskdale before jumping on the bus back to Ambleside.

A Real Ale Trail with a difference

Staveley Beer Festival

Staveley Beer Festival

Ah, Staveley. One of the Lake District’s most lively villages and without doubt one of our favourite places to spend time. Halfway between Kendal and Windermere at the gateway to the Kentmere Valley, Staveley Mill Yard bustles with activity of cyclists, craftsmen, bakers and brewers…and grassroots village life in between.

We jumped at the chance to showcase our favourite village, as part of showing you how easy it can be to explore the many joys of the Lake District without a car.

Confusing as it is, Staveley is home to the prolific Hawkshead Brewery – which moved from its Hawkshead location to allow for expansion (yep – the beers are that good). Renowned for its ales and the ambience of its beer hall, the brewery runs two beer festivals a year – with live music and a cracking atmosphere, these festivals are good enough reason for many to visit the Lakes. Even better, there’s no need to rope in a designated driver thanks to easy car-free access. We enjoyed making our video about its Spring Beer Festival so much that we had to go back in July for its Summer Beer Festival too.

Each time our day began in Kendal – if you’re travelling from further afield, that’s where you’ll change tracks to reach the Lake District by train, or a key point en-route in your bus journey.

A hop on the train from Kendal to Staveley takes only a few minutes, and of course, in making this journey you’re well on your way to Windermere train station and the rest of the Lakes should you choose to continue.

Local Ale

Local Ale

GoLakes Travel Tips for August

Continue your Real Ale Trail
If you’re interested in real ale, don’t stop at Staveley. Hop back on the train to Windermere and grab the 505 Coniston Rambler bus to Coniston, to enjoy real ales at the Black Bull – pride of the Coniston Brewing Co. and renowned for the famous Bluebird Bitter. There are numerous breweries to explore in the Lakes, even specialists will not be disappointed!

Burn off the booze on a bike
Cycle hire is widely available throughout the Lakes, and if you’re arriving in Windermere or Staveley you’ll be perfectly placed to enjoy some of the area’s most popular cycling.

Hire a bike from Wheelbase

Hire a bike from Wheelbase

The Kentmere Valley is a treat for leisurely cyclists and mountain bikers alike, and once you’ve arrived by train or bus, cycle hire is right on your doorstep at Wheelbase – the UK’s largest cycle store.

There’s more to Hawkshead Brewery than the twice annual beer festivals…

Hawkshead Brewery

Hawkshead Brewery

This cracking local venue is worth a visit at any time of day, any time of the year – for beer, food or more.

It’s fascinating to see a brewery in action in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. Catch the bus or train from Kendal or Windermere and enjoy a unique opportunity to sample real Lakeland Ale in a picturesque setting and learn about the brewing process. Scheduled Brewery Tours are Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 2pm – and thanks to great local travel links, you won’t need to worry about driving. Perfect!

Fish ride bikes with Lake District Sky Ride

Ask any regular Lake District cyclist why they love getting out on their bike and you are letting yourself in for a long conversation. The more you use your bike to explore the Lakes the more you find to love about it – whether it is discovering those lesser known back roads linking village to village or the thrill of cresting a high hilltop with spectacular views spread out below you.


However, even those who are most seasoned in the saddle have to start somewhere. It’s easy to forget that making your first forays on the bike can sometimes be a slightly daunting experience. Sometimes the thing you need the most is someone to help show you, and your family, the safest and prettiest places to pedal.


This month we caught up with the Fish family, who were taking part in one of the regular guided Sky Rides in the Lake District. In the summer months trained Sky Ride leaders take groups of cyclists on routes of varying lengths and difficulties through the Lakes.


It’s a great way to take a trip on your bike safe in the knowledge you are going to be following a quiet and attractive route that’s going to suit you. People are encouraged to ride their bikes to the start of the routes if they can, but most begin conveniently near to public transport links as well.


You can find all the info you need by going to
Watch our video to see how the Fish, who are SkyRide regulars, fared on their round trip from Kendal to Staveley.


Why did Wainwright take the bus?

Now of course everybody has heard of Alfred Wainwright – one of the most famous outdoor writers Britain has ever produced – but not everybody knows he was one of the Lake District’s pioneering sustainable travellers.

Wainwright was an avowed bus traveller who used public transport to get to the start of his now famous routes over the Lakeland fells. In fact he was reportedly a bit upset when his popular guidebooks led to carloads of visitors arriving to retrace his steps.

It seems very fitting that someone who had a such a deep connection with the landscape and did so much to help others appreciate it should also be a keen bus traveller.

In the footsteps of a legend

Of course it is far from us to question the wisdom of Wainwright and so we decided to follow in his footsteps by taking the bus to the beginning of some of his favourite walks.

#1 – Orrest Head

We thought it would make sense to begin by recreating Wainwright’s very first walk in the Lakes. It was his walk to the top of Orrest Head that opened his eyes to the beauty of the fells. Although Orrest Head itself is only a short stroll rather than a serious hike, it is one of those hills that acts as a perfect viewing platform for the higher fells. You can really see why the views would have whetted young Alfred’s appetite so much.

Wainwright walk to Orrest Head

Wainwright walk to Orrest Head

The beginning of the walk is virtually on the doorstep of Windermere train and bus station. We got the bus from Kendal before heading off on our afternoon wander, but if you’re anywhere in the Lakes – or even further afield – there are loads of different buses that pass through the station every day all year round.

#2 – Stickle Tarn

Stickle Tarn & Pavey Ark

Stickle Tarn & Pavey Ark

Even if you’re not interested in walking at all then we would still recommend you take the bus up Langdale. This is one of the most beautiful valleys in the country and trip on a bus gives you the opportunity to safely gawp, open-mouthed out of the window at the scenery (it also means you can safely enjoy a couple of pints at the New or Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotels).

The 516 bus (the aptly named Langdale Rambler) begins its journey in Ambleside and drops off at the beginnings of all the major paths that begin from the valley. This includes the picturesque track that heads up from the New Dungeon Ghyll to Stickle Tarn. Stickle Tarn is a magical place with the impressive rocky fortress of Pavey Ark rising on one side and a vista of Windermere and the Pennines on the other. Although we were feeling lazy on our visit, if you’re so inclined you can take the path from Stickle Tarn to Harrison Stickle and beyond.

However, we decided to take advantage of the late service being run on the Langdale Rambler to enjoy an early dinner at the New Dungeon Ghyll before heading home.

Harrison Stickle above Langdale - one of the famous Langdale Pikes

Harrison Stickle above Langdale – one of the famous Langdale Pikes

#3 The Lion and the Lamb

Grasmere is a starting point for a host of walks of varying lengths and difficulties, but by far one of the most popular is the hike up Helm Crag to see the famous Lion and the Lamb rock formation at the top.

Grasmere is served by both the 599 and 555 buses, both of which take a route through the very middle of the Lakes. While the 555 goes all the way from Kendal to Keswick the 599 services the shorter route between Bowness and Grasmere.

We got the train from Kendal and picked up the 599 (it was a glorious day and we could enjoy the open top) to Grasmere.

Wainwright wrote of Helm Crag’s rocky summit that it “gives an exhilarating little climb, a brief essay in real mountaineering”. A bit like Orrest Head, it is a small hill but one which gives a great view down onto Grasmere village and out to the higher fells. Its proximity to Grasmere also means it is not only easily reached on the bus, but conveniently close to great cafes and restaurants in the village. We certainly enjoyed our tea at The Jumble Room after that hike.

A Superhero’s Guide to Sustainable Travel II – Brockhole, Windermere

Sometimes the thought of taking our best friends’ kids out for a day of adventure in the Lakes – without using a car – is a little daunting to say the least. Luckily for us, our destination this time was Brockhole – The Lake District Visitor Centre.

Not only is Brockhole ridiculously easy to reach by bus, it’s also a fantastic place for a day of fun, learning and larking around (with no stressful car journey required).

Little Patrick (AKA Captain Nature) and his sidekick Dan (AKA The Sustainability Kid) get really excited about catching the bus in the Lakes because they know it’ll always take them somewhere fun. Our day at Brockhole didn’t disappoint. The kids had as much fun en-route as they did on arrival (probably because we could chat to them throughout the journey – without having to conceal arguments about directions or who’s paying for the fuel!)



Bus routes brilliant for sightseeing

The 555 runs between Carlisle and Lancaster, stopping off throughout the Lakes and providing easy access to some of the best scenery, best family attractions and best outdoor experiences the Lakes has to offer.

This great route provides access to Windermere and the lake, Brockhole itself, Rydal Water, Dove Cottage and walks in Grasmere…and takes you as far as Keswick where you’ll love exploring the Cumberland Pencil Factory and Keswick’s Cars of the Stars Museum. Naturally, if you’re travelling with walking in mind – you’ll find endless opportunities to hop off and get hiking,


In summer, the 559 Open Top Experience takes in part of the same route, running between Windermere and Grasmere and stopping off at great places inbetween. There’s no better feeling than being chauffer driven through the Lakes with the wind in your hair and no map-reading to worry about.

Start with a train, then hop on the bus

Windermere bus station is right outside Windermere train station. If you’re heading to Brockhole from further afield, you can arrive by train in Windermere, hop on the bus and arrive at Brockhole in a matter of minutes (or pick a route to explore the rest of the Lakes. Be adventurous; try a day without your car.

Brockhole – an adventure-packed day

Once at Brockhole itself, you basically have the run of a giant garden full of adventure and activity. Walking paths, pony rides, a brilliant playground and even a small-scale climbing wall that’s free to play around on. It’s good to know there are also great facilities: Café, free toilets, gift shop and hot drinks in the park.


Treetop Treks is also based at Brockhole. Our little superheros need to grow a few inches before they can safely have a go, but we saw families and individuals having a great time clambering on ropes and zip wires in Brockhole’s woodland. One for next year, without a doubt!


Lake Cruises from Brockhole – Explore further afield without your car

In the summer months, you can start your day enjoying the lakeshore at Brockhole then take to the water on a circular Lake Cruise – giving you the opportunity to explore Bowness, Ambleside, Lakeside and Wray Castle as well as all the attractions those locations have to offer.

Check out to find out more about Brockhole, the brilliant bus routes that can take you there and the lake cruise opportunities for exploring further afield.


A Superhero’s Guide to Sustainable Travel

This month we’ve enlisted the help of our good friend ‘Captain Nature’ to help you discover the joys of cycling on the new Windermere West Shore Cycle Trail. Enjoy…

About the Windermere West Shore Cycle Trail
This 4-mile trail has been restored from an originally bumpy track, to create a wonderful car-free route for the whole family to enjoy. You can find out all you need to know here.

The path runs between Ferry House and Wray Castle on the west shores of Windermere. You can start the ride at either end and make a fun round trip.

We took the Windermere Car Ferry from Ferry Nab to Ferry House, to begin our day at Ferry House. An alternative route is to take the brilliant Bike Boat from Bowness Bay across to Wray Castle (April – November only) and start your cycle from the castle estate itself.

Enjoying the Ferry ride across Windermere

Enjoying the Ferry across Windermere

The Windermere West Shore Cycle Path is about 4 miles long – winding along the shores of the lake, passing moored boats and rocky beaches, in and out of woodland.
We found this to be such an enjoyable day out – just enough exercise to work up an appetite for a picnic with a view (the views from Wray Castle are mind-blowing, by the way).

Relaxing with a view at Wray Castle after a fun bike ride

Relaxing with a view at Wray Castle after a fun bike ride

Even though we pushed our bikes on the odd short stretch, all the family can enjoy this route – and our friend Captain Nature has already requested a return visit. (And before you ask – no, he’s not Batman, actually. He’s Captain Nature).

Need we say more - a great day out

Need we say more – a great day out

Our Go Lakes travel tips for April

1. The lakeshore is magical, up-close and personal
You’ll soak up so much more of the lake’s magic when you’re roaming free on its shores. We picked out our favourite boats, named some ducks and skimmed some stones – you can’t do that when you’re driving by.

The Windermere West Shore Cycle Trail is specifically designed to make the lakeshore accessible in the best possible way – without a car, without a stress.

The lakeshore is magical, up-close and personal

The lakeshore is magical, up-close and personal

2. The Car Ferry isn’t just for cars
I often think we should change the car ferry’s name. Sure, crossing the lake rather than driving around it is a great way to cut down on driving – but if you hop on as a pedestrian for a day of walking, or bring your bike for a day of cycling, you’ll discover a much more rewarding experience. (Note: The Car Ferry is closed during May 2014 for maintenance)

3. The Bike Boat is a brilliant idea
Running from April until the end of October, the Bike Boat crosses Windermere from Brockhole – The Lake District Visitor Centre to Wray Castle. That means you can start your day at Brockhole and take a scenic crossing on foot or with bikes in tow, to explore the West Shore Cycle Path. Bliss!

4. The landscapes west of Windermere are ripe for car-free adventures
West of the lake itself, there is a huge amount to see – from Beatrix Potter’s home at Hill Top, to pretty Hawkshead village and adventurous Grizedale Forest – and it’s all accessible without a car. Getting familiar with the following routes is a good place to start.

505 Coniston Rambler (Kendal – Windermere – Ambleside – Hawkshead – Coniston)
X30 (Hawksead – Grizedale – Hawkshead)
Mountain Goat from Ferry House (April to November only) – Ferry House – Hill Top – Hawkshead – Grizedale Forest – Satterthwaite
Bike Boat between Brockhole and Wray Castle (April to November only)

See you next month!

From Manchester to a pint of real Lakeland ale, without a car?

here we are – Giles and Sophie blogging about the joys of exploring the Lake District, Cumbria, car-free. It’s a brilliant thing – we love the area and any opportunity to help protect these landscapes is right up our street. What’s more, isn’t it great to know that we really can all make a difference, while having a great time?

There are so many places we could start.

But on a day out in Manchester we were inspired (over a pint of Coniston Brewery’s Bluebird bitter – one of many fine ales to come out of the Lake District’s real ale trail) to find out just how easy it might be to experience this real ale actually in real Lakeland, without hopping in the car to get to the bar. And therefore how easy it might be for you to reach your chosen Lake District location without all the hassle of driving.

On the quest for real ale,

We actually found that it’s surprisingly easy to travel to the Lake District car-free. You only need to reach Windermere station by train, and a whole stack of car-free services, bus routes and ticket options make it easy (and often more enjoyable) to explore once you’re there.

Cycle hire at Windermere

Travelling in February, we took the train from Manchester Piccadilly To Windermere, via Oxenholme. And very relaxing it was too. Once in Windermere, we hopped on the Coniston Rambler (505) to Coniston, taking in some lovely landscapes in between and ending up in the Black Bull Inn – home of the Coniston Brewing Co. On the way, we discovered a great route to come back and try out in May.

Coniston by bus

So, was it all worth it?

Once you’ve watched the film, be sure to come back and read this month’s car-free travel tips. It looks like we’re going to have plenty to share over the coming months, so stay tuned.
See you next time…

We’re already looking forward to the next adventure – to give you a hint, next month we’ll be getting much more active and travelling on two wheels rather than four.

Giles & Sophie

P.S. Follow our adventures @golakestravel