The Perfect Weekend in the Lake District
Hike the Old Man of Coniston, enjoy delicious local produce, take a boat trip on Lake Windermere and enjoy magnificent views over Bassenthwaite Lake. These are just some of the things you’ll do on your weekend in the Lake District, continue reading for the full itinerary.
The Lake District is England’s largest national park and is renowned for being one of the most beautiful parts of the UK!
Countless mountain peaks, shimmering lakes and gorgeous natural scenery surround multiple small lively towns housing independent boutiques, quaint narrow streets, cosy pubs specialising in local produce, museums and a wide range of outdoor activities.
The Lake District is ideal for a long weekend away to switch off, recharge and immerse yourself in the great outdoors.
In this guide to the perfect weekend in the Lake District, we’ll start by covering everything you need to know before visiting and then share the weekend itinerary.
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To Know Before Your Weekend in the Lake District
Where should I stay for my weekend in the Lake District?
Scattered around the Lake District are several towns and villages each with its own unique charm and character which would make a great base to explore the best of the region.
Bowness-on-Windermere is one of the most popular areas in the Lake District. People flock to the town to enjoy the many water-based activities on Lake Windermere as well as browse the charming town’s independent boutiques, cosy pubs and restaurants and museums.
5 minutes from Bowness is Windermere, another popular area to stay in the Lake District. Windermere is perfect if you don’t have a car as there’s a train station with direct links to Oxenholme and Manchester.
Bowness and Windermere are some of the UK’s top centres for outdoor activities so many tours will depart from here with pick up and drop off at your accommodation so you can really make the most of your trip without worrying about driving.
Due to these towns’ locations in the National Park, they’ve become increasingly popular and are extremely busy, particularly in the summer and school holidays. They’re also the most expensive areas to stay in. If you can avoid the holidays, we’d recommend doing so.
Ambleside is located at the northern end of Lake Windermere; a bustling market town and walker’s paradise. It doesn’t get quite as busy as Windermere and Bowness but is still one of the top places to stay in the Lake District due to its proximity to numerous walking trails.
Windermere is the closest train station to Ambleside, approximately 5 miles away and there’s a direct bus linking the two in approximately 10 minutes.
Immersed in magnificent natural scenery between the calm beauty of Derwentwater and the steep slopes of Skiddaw is the quaint market town Keswick; the Lake District’s most northern town.
Keswick is another of the UK’s main centres of outdoor activities with an abundance of tour groups and activity companies right on your doorstep.
Penrith is the closest train station, approximately 27 kilometres away. A bus connects the two, however, it would be a lot more comfortable to have a car if staying in Keswick as there’ll be some long drives and relying on public transport will require a lot of planning and organisation.
The final area we’ll discuss where to stay in the Lake District is Ulverston; where Andy spent 5 years growing up.
Ulverston is one of the less popular places to stay in the Lake District so it’s great if you want to avoid the mass crowds that flock to Bowness and Windermere. Accommodation is also much cheaper and your money will go a lot further.
Ulverston is a quaint market town with picturesque cobbled streets and beautiful old buildings. It’s the birthplace of Stan Laurel and home to the world’s only Laurel and Hardy museum!
There’s a train station in Ulverston with direct links to Lancaster, however, you’ll need a car to get around the different areas of the Lake District as it’s not centrally located so public transport will be trickier.
How do I get around the Lake District?
The easiest way to get around for your weekend in the Lake District is by car. This gives you the freedom and flexibility to travel when and where you like. Public transport can be a bit hit-and-miss, especially as you get further away from the tourist hotspots.
Having a car also means you can arrive before the tour groups and have some of the most popular places almost to yourself before the mid-morning rush.
If you don’t have a car, the Lake District is well-connected via trains and buses. Direct trains run from Manchester to Windermere, Kendal, Penrith and Oxenholme and from London to Penrith and Oxenholme. Regional trains travel between the smaller towns.
There are numerous bus routes you can use to tick off all of the best things to do in the Lake District. Some of the most popular are the 555, 599 and 508 which stop at many of the major hotspots. Check here for all of the bus routes in the Lake District.
Our Top Tip: many services operate a reduced schedule during winter so if you plan on visiting the Lake District without a car, we’d recommend avoiding the winter or be prepared to be very organised and stick to a tight schedule.
Another way to get around the Lake District is to book trips. Get Your Guide has loads of amazing group and private tours where they’ll pick you up and drop you off at your accommodation and organise every little detail for you! Perfect if you’re really wanting to relax and switch off.
When is the best time to visit the Lake District?
The best time to visit the Lake District is spring or autumn when the days are still quite warm and light and there are fewer visitors.
During July and August, prices are ramped up and places like Bowness and Windermere have thousands of visitors every day. Walking and driving around the town’s narrow streets can be a bit of a nightmare.
If you’re limited to school holidays, we’d recommend staying somewhere such as Ulverston which will be a lot quieter and still has plenty of dining and shopping options.
Now that we’ve covered everything you need to know, continue reading for the perfect weekend in the Lake District itinerary.
Weekend in the Lake District
Day 1 - Bassenthwaite, Derwentwater and Grasmere
We’re kicking your weekend in the Lake District off with one of our favourite spots in the National Park; Bassenthwaite.
Located in the northwest of the Lake District National Park and nestled at the foot of Skiddaw, Bassenthwaite is a perfect spot to really connect with nature as due to its location it’s one of the quieter spots.
Here, you’ll do the first hike of your weekend in the Lake District to one of the best views of Bassenthtwate Lake from the top of Sale Fell. This is a short walk with a slight incline but the view at the top is unreal!
At 6.4 kilometres long and 1.3 kilometres wide, Bassenthwaite Lake is one of the largest lakes in the Lake District. It’s perfect for some relaxation as no motor craft is allowed on the lake. Sailing, canoeing, paddleboarding, swimming, kayaking and rowing are allowed, however.
Next on your weekend in the Lake District is a stroll along the shore of Derwentwater in Keswick; a 10-minute drive from Bassenthwaite Lake.
Encompassing Derwentwater is some of the most stunning scenery in the Lake District. Take the short shoreline stroll to Friar’s Crag viewpoint jutting out into the lake and see Cat Bells towering above, several historical islands and endless mountain scenery enveloping the lake.
There’s a 16-kilometre walk around the entire lake you can do depending on time, or, you can walk part way along the shore to the viewpoint and back.
The paths are flat and well-maintained and pass through the ancient woodlands that surround the lake. There are plenty of picnic spots, cafes and restaurants to rest and soak up the majesty of where you are.
To round off the first day of your weekend in the Lake District is a quick stop in Grasmere for a delicious sweet treat!
Dating back to 1854, Sarah Nelson invented Grasmere Gingerbread in the village from where it gets its name. It’s a unique and delicious recipe that’s still a secret today and is relished by food lovers from the four corners of the world.
Today, the shop is run by third-generation owners and it’s rare to not see a queue out the door and down the street of people lining up to enjoy this delicious cross between a biscuit and a cake and the pleasant aroma of freshly baked gingerbread in the air.
If you can’t visit in person, or you enjoyed it SO much you want to purchase more, you can buy some online at their international store.
Day 2 - Bowness and Windermere
The second day of your weekend in the Lake District will be based around the picturesque towns of Bowness and Windermere.
Lake Windermere is England’s largest lake at 17 kilometres long, 1.6 kilometres wide and 67 metres deep. Bowness sits on the shore of Lake Windermere and one of the best things to do in the Lake District is to explore the lake’s calm waters on a boat trip.
Boat trips depart from the jetties in town and there’s a range of routes to choose from varying from 45 minutes to 3 hours and offer different points of interest.
Wherever you choose to depart from, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular mountain views, secluded bays and numerous wooded islands. Each cruise has an engaging commentary on the points of interest, history and attractions around the lake and neighbouring areas.
There are 14 islands sitting peacefully in Lake Windermere. The largest is Belle Isle which, in 1250 was the seat of the Lord of the Manor and a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War.
Unless it’s pelting down with rain, we’d 100% recommend sitting on the top deck with the wind blowing your through hair as you take in the beauty of the scenery around you.
You can’t spend a weekend in the Lake District and not peruse the independent boutiques sourcing all kinds of locally made products including; souvenirs, jewellery, gin, beers, jams and sticky toffee puddings. There’s even a year-round Christmas shop!
After you’ve worked up an appetite exploring the charming town, it’s time for a hearty pub lunch to try some of the delicious local produce. As well as being a huge outdoor playground, the Lake District is a foodie’s paradise!
Home to many regional specialities, including Cumberland sausage, sticky toffee pudding, Herdick lamb, Kendal mint cake and Grasmere gingerbread, you can’t spend a weekend in the Lake District and not taste at least a couple.
These traditional foods have been adapted over the years with some unique twists and flavours such as Kendal mint cake liqueur and damson ketchup; the perfect gifts to take home.
The best place to enjoy some of these foods is at a cosy countryside pub. We’d recommend The Albert in Bowness; the food was delicious and it had a wonderfully friendly and welcoming atmosphere.
After you’ve refuelled, it’s time to see one of the best views of Lake Windermere and the last activity on the second day of your weekend in the Lake District.
The hike up to Orrest Head is a short, approximately 4 kilometres, out-and-back walk through woodland up a well-maintained track until you reach the top and are rewarded with an incredible panoramic view over Lake Windermere.
The trail starts at the narrow lane of the lower entrance to the Windermere Hotel and is well-signposted so you shouldn’t have difficulties finding the route.
Day 3 - Coniston Old Man
The final day of your weekend in the Lake District and it’s time for a big hike!
Towering above the small town of Coniston, The Old Man of Coniston is a scenic hike featuring shimmering alpine lakes, spectacular valley views and remnants of old quarry workings.
There are a few ways you can hike up the Old Man of Coniston. We started at Walna Scar Road and took the path towards Low Water, up to the summit and down past Goat’s Water. This is the steeper uphill route and the loop can be done the other way around.
At 802 metres, The Old Man of Coniston is one of the higher fells in the Lake District. The hike is approximately 10 kilometres and will take around 3.5-4 hours depending on your pace and how often you stop to take photos.
After you’ve finished the hike, head to the quaint village of Coniston where there are numerous cafes, pubs and restaurants for your final lunch on your weekend in the Lake District.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this itinerary; if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.