I went to the Lake District in Northwest England from the 13th to the 20th of July. Again it was a Sunday when I left Inverness and headed down to Penrith. My train took me via Edinburgh and just past Carlisle in England before you arrive in Penrith. My 6 night stay in Penrith was at The Foundry. Apparently, they were on some Gordon Ramsey show here in the UK and I have to confess that their breakfasts were fantastic. Even the vegetarian breakfast was great, which I did try one morning. My room was small but had everything I needed including plenty of storage space, great wifi service, a very nice shower room and a fan! It has been warm and muggy most of my time in the UK. It has been quite sunny but just recently I’ve had a couple of rainy days. But, despite the rain, it’s been high temps and high humidity. I tried to look for some tours here in the Lake District but I wasn’t in the right departure town for them. Things still went well as I was able to go where I wanted on my own schedule. I picked up a car on Monday, as most services are not open on Sunday, and drove to the Bowes Museum about 60 miles East of Penrith in County Durham. Penrith is in County Cumbria. I am having great luck finding fabulous museums that are small by the standards of the famous museums but I just love these smaller ones that are not overcrowded because of their fame. This was a fairly rainy day so I happily spent a couple of hours touring the museum and a bit of time taking in some lunch.
The Lake District is beautiful. I drove from Penrith to Windermere, the largest of these lake towns that sits on the largest lake in the area. It was a great day to take the boat cruise and I did a lakeside walk that was close to 5 miles long. Beautiful views at every turn. The clouds rolling in and out, the green and multicolored hills from the different wildflowers growing on them and the waterside setting made it a great place. As I discovered here, transport was quite good in this Lake District area and so, I turned in my car early the next day before heading out to Grasmere to Dove Cottage which was home to William Wordsworth when he wrote most of his famous poems. It’s a good thing I did not drive today. It was pissing down rain all day and the roads around here are tiny and winding. You share them with tour busses, public busses and sometimes large trucks. They are the only roads that go from town to town so goods and services have to use them. Well, if the public transport is good, I’ll ditch the car. Also, when I’m driving, I don’t have a chance to take in the scenery. The public busses are mostly double decker and you get a great view. Of course this day when it was raining, you couldn’t see much out of the windows. But Dove Cottage is worth a visit even if you are not that familiar with Wordsworth’s work, as I am not. Grasmere village is also nice to stroll, even when it is raining.
I was amazed sometimes when there were bus stops in, what appeared to be, the middle of nowhere, but there were some B&B’s not far from the main road and there are several walking trails that will dump you near a main road where you can then catch public transport. Although you need to be careful not to do this on a Sunday unless it’s August. In August there are special busses that run even on Sundays.
After Grasmere, the next day I went to the town of Keswick and it’s Lake Derwentwater. This day was glorious again and luckily I had listened to the weather for the week because I had planned my lake days on when they said the weather was going to be nice and, luckily, the weather was as predicted. Derwentwater is much smaller than Windermere but it is also less crowded. The boats are a lot smaller and to circle the lake via boat with all the 7 stops included is only about a 50 minute ride. I did this, walked along the lake shore a few miles and had a really nice Thai lunch while I was there. The bus ride from Penrith to Keswick is about 45 minutes each way but that’s only about 10 minutes more than a car ride. Plus, parking in small towns is a hassle. Sure there are parking lots but the parking machines only take coins, unless you download a phone app to pay by credit card. Parking wasn’t hard to find but when I factored in cost of the car per day, gas (petrol) and parking, renting a car on your own can get quite expensive. I turned in the car early and only had it about 2 days and it was about $100 dollars for the rental from Enterprise. Then, I put in about 20 pounds or about $35 which was about 1.39 pounds per LITER. You need 4 liters (approximately) to get a gallon and so that’s about 5.50 pounds per gallon at an exchange rate of about $1.70 per pound and I spent $35 for about 4 gallons of gas. Then, I spent about 15 pounds for parking the 2 days I had the car. This was vs. the 3 day bus pass I bought for 24 pounds (about $40) that lasted me from Wednesday through Friday all fees included. So, my advice to solo travelers is take the bus! Had I done a bit more research on the transport in this area, I would have not rented the car and maybe not gone to the Bowes Museum in County Durham, but I would have saved quite a bit of money. I was originally going on info that I had read in a Rick Steves book and he prefers to rent a car in this area. He also tells you to skip Windermere and I totally disagree. Maybe it’s hell in August when there are tons of families in the area when the UK kids are out of school but I found it very agreeable. So, goes to show you to not follow guidebooks blindly. If you have time, do more research and try to find local websites with information about the area to get a complete picture of what is available to you. For transport info in the UK, I recommend thetraveline.co.uk. It gives you bus, ferry, train, tram, etc., info from any spot in the UK. If you are coming over, use it.
Pictures from the Lake District – follow my link below:
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