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

Our Go Lakes travel tips for March

1. Arriving by train is easier than you think (and more fun)


Come from anywhere – you only need to reach Windermere train station and the Lake District is your oyster – bike hire, bus routes, lake cruises and more. Especially if you’re travelling from a city, it’s highly likely you’ll arrive more quickly and with less stress if you travel by train, just like we did. Imagine, it only takes about 3 hours to reach Windermere from London when you take the train…


What’s more, you can often save time and money by purchasing your train and bus travel at the same time. For example, the Lakes Day Ranger provides a full day out in the Lakes – including train travel on lines between Lancaster, Morecambe, Workington and Windermere, bus travel throughout Cumbria and even a cruise on Lake Windermere…we’ve already decided to buy this ticket for a Lancastrian friend for their birthday!


2. Windermere is your hub for car-free adventures


It all starts here – walks, bike rides, bus routes, boat trips – all without the need for a car. Even if you arrive without making a plan first, you can head straight to Windermere Tourist Information (just outside the train station) to work out the next leg of your journey.


3. The Cross Lakes Experience


This fantastic service runs from early April, so we thought we’d give you a heads up in good time to make your car-free plans for the summer.

One easy ticket buys you a combination of bus routes, bike rides and beautiful lake cruises – which link together to ferry you around many of the Lake District’s highlights at your very own pace, and at a very decent price.  This ticket makes it surprisingly easy to reach classic walking territory and scenery highlights, while also providing an easy route to attractions such as Beatrix Potter’s home Hill Top, family-friendly Wray Castle, Go Ape in Grizedale Forest – and in some cases you’ll also receive a discount on entry price when you show your bus ticket.


4. The Coniston Rambler (505)


We absolutely love this bus route – the views are fantastic (especially as you arrive and see Coniston Water for the first time) and you get a real feeling of escape when your eyes are free to wander. The Coniston Rambler takes you through some of the Lake District’s classic adventure territory, so it’s worth noting that spaces for bikes are also available.


We headed straight for Coniston to find our pint of Bluebird, but this bus route is really all about hopping on and off and taking your time – explore Hawkshead, take a hike from Ambleside… check out how much you can see en-route.

Grinding up Grisedale Pike – Dave Robinson outlines his Christmas excess and ways to try and get back in shape!

You know what it’s like – visit the outlaws before Christmas for the first festive feeding frenzy, then over to the ‘olds’ to cook a full on Yuletide spectacular for them, and then back to Kendal for a third helping of pigs in blankets, cranberries, bread sauce, chestnut stuffing – and before you know it, you are, er stuffed and in need of serious adventures and exercise to get back to your usual svelte shape. Never mind my body is a temple – by 2 January it was more like a bouncy castle!

So it’s back to work in more ways than one. On 6 January my partner Emma and I ventured out with Helm Hill Runners for the first time. I ran from home for that extra burn and got soaked in a downpour on the way to their meeting place of Kendal Leisure Centre. ‘How fast do you run and for how long do normally run for?’ we asked. ‘Oh, we’re slow’ they said, ‘about six miles in an hour’ Eight miles later and with both of us getting left behind in the cemetery off Parkside Road as we tried to extricate a nail from Emma’s shoe, we realised it was going to be a long hard road back to fitness. There certainly weren’t any concessions to newbies although the run over Kendal Fell and Cunswick Scar was more to my liking. It is one of my own ahem, training runs from home and off-road by head torch provides more of a sense of adventure than pounding Kendal streets.

So it was with a sense of renewed resolve that we set off for Grisedale Pike the following Saturday. The weather forecast was amazingly good, given that we’ve had what feels like about three years’ worth of cloud and rain in December and January. Unfortunately we picked about the cloudiest part of the whole Lake District as the Pike and surrounding high hills of the Coledale horseshoe stayed stubbornly in cloud all day. The steep pull out of Braithwaite had us puffing before too long and we were glad of the respite as we topped out over the steep shoulder of Kinn. A level section then led to the pull up onto the prominent ridge of Sleet How, aptly named on the day as this was where the thin layer of snow started.

Into the cloud now and the final push to the summit. A bunch of six fell runners came bounding down the path, all replete with Buffs, running tights and fell shoes and I looked on enviously, thinking that will be me in a few months after a few more Helm Hill run chases! A blanket of cloud greeted us on the top and was so welcoming that it stayed with us all the way down to Coledale Hause. Slices of my still deliciously moist Christmas cake fortified us for the traipse down the Coledale track back to Braithwaite. Fruit cake is a recognised hill fuel food so it’s allowed.

The following Thursday brought a six mile trail run with one of our Field Rangers, Dave Bell. After site visits to a Go Lakes Travel cycle project and an access improvement scheme, we set off after work for a run up the Troutbeck side of Garburn Pass. It felt good to be able to keep going and going, as the steeper sections are short and we reached the top of the Pass in good time. Running down is the easy part but we stoked up the leg muscles again by dropping further down into Troutbeck and climbing back out via the old Longmire Track. It’s early doors but I can see the temple in the light at the end of the tunnel, albeit in ruins!Image

Over 1000 sustainable miles!


The GoLakes Travel teem have managed to not only meet their 1000 mile challenge but have already exceeded it with nearly 5 months to go.!

Earlier this year the Go Lakes Travel team set themselves the challenge of completing 1000 sustainable miles in Cumbria, in 12 months. There is still 5 months to go but the team have already managed to wrack up an amazing 1225 sustainable miles. These have been on Bikes, boats…and some other sightly more unusual modes of transport.


The Challenge has been part of the John Muir award, and along the way the team have definitely driven less and seen more!

As we are doing so well the challenge has been extended….the team will attempt 2000 sustainable miles in total, over the 12 month period. So why not feed back, show your support and give us some more inspiration for places to discover without our cars.

Richard Ingham, Cycling Adviser to Go Lakes Travel writes about a recent short break with his family in the Lake District.


October half term. A last chance to capture a bit of sunshine and half-decent temperatures in the Lake District, so we thought. Nods all round so Susanna, my wife, set to with her magic touch of finding  some exciting accommodation.

And she duly did. A camping barn complete with wood-burning stove in Dunnerdale, my favourite valley. An irresistible combination. Never mind the outside loo and shower.

Now, I should come clean from the outset. We did use our car to travel to the Lake District and home again. Sleeping bags, bikes and clobber for a family of four going to the Duddon Valley from Carlisle was not going to be achievable by public transport. But, once installed, the car did not move.

Our first adventure was guided by our two teenage children’s obsession with the sport of “bouldering” an off-shoot of rock climbing but, thankfully, without the height. We left the barn on foot in the direction of Seathwaite Tarn, bouldering maps firmly strapped to backs. Gradually Dunnerdale started to reveal its secrets of hidden gorges, deciduous woodland and a network of footpaths, streams and rivers forded by stepping stones. We struck eastwards and upwards on a track signed “Walna Scar Road” (an exaggeration!) then onto an access track which climbs to the tarn.

After a kilometre or so a dam came into sight – Seathwaite Tarn-cum-resevoir. And so did a magnificent boulder, just perched on a slab where the local glacier left it circa 10,000 years ago. For Susanna and I this had been a not insignificant walk but for the resident teenagers the day’s task was only just beginning: climbing the boulder. Whilst they bouldered we walked some further, exploring the tarn and dam, built in 1907 to serve Furness.

Our second day dawned clear and sunny. A plan was hatched: we would cycle, the kids would boulder (again). We left them, complete with bouldering mats near Birks Bridge, a magnificent 18th century packhorse bridge over a gorge and continued along the bridleway to Birks, an old farm now used as an outdoor education centre, and southwards to Grassguards, a still-working hill farm amongst more recent forestry. It’s a crossroads of historic routes between Eskdale, the Duddon and Coniston. Now classified as public bridleways, they make for excellent mountain biking as well as horse riding and walking.

We crossed a ford and headed south towards High Wallowbarrow. The fells looked pristine in the clear air, after their washing by the overnight rain. But High Wallowbarrow was not going to give in easily. We had height on our side but, wow, the old packhorse route builders knew how to build hairpins! For the mountain biker in me, they presented a real challenge as I rolled over rocks and tree routes and crossed steams before reaching the valley floor – the cautionary call from my wife disappearing in the wind. But, hey, I had the stove lit and the barn warming for her when she arrived.

Just as the rest of the family were putting their feet up, reflecting on the day’s adventures, I hatched the final adventure of the holiday. We would eat in the Newfield Inn tonight as a reward for trying to be sustainable, but we would ride our bikes there. With
the clocks having just changed that meant cycling in the pitch dark, not a single street light, guided only by our bike lights. The offer was gratefully accepted, until we wheeled our bikes out at seven pm to be greeted by driving rain. This was a test of our resolve, but I am pleased to report that, after a bit of friendly family discussion (“please can we go in the car, dad?”) we continued by bike and sharpened our appetites even further. We certainly felt that we had earned our rightful place as we rubbed shoulders at the bar with the valley sheep farmers.