So you’ve decided. The siren song from North England can no longer be ignored and it’s time to brave the wilds of the Lake District. You’ve heard it can’t be missed. You’ve seen the Google images. The multi-hour journey is not a deterrent.

It’s time to go.

At 885 square miles (2,292 square kilometres), Lake District National Park is England’s biggest and most daunting. What’s the best plan to see the highlights with just a long weekend at your disposal? We’ve got you covered. Thanks to recent exhaustive research on the subject before our first journey north, we’re ready to spill the beans.

Here’s how to get the most out of your long weekend in the Lake District.

Lake District, UK

Transport:

It’s important to have access to transportation while visiting the Lake District. To say that the best parts are ‘off the beaten path’ would be an understatement. In fact, the whole area is off the beaten path, rural and isolated. If you have a car, go ahead and drive. The national park is 4-5 hours north of the Greater London area.

Another option, and the one we chose for our visit, is to take a train to one of the small hubs of the area, and rent a car from there. We took Virgin Trains from Euston Station to Windermere, and picked up a rental car at the tiny Lakes Car Hire (within a short walk of the train station). Be warned, the train tickets for the four-hour ride are pretty pricey – about £50 ($70) each way.

There are regional buses that connect many of the villages of the Lake District. These services pick up in frequency during the high season. We had our rental car so didn’t take a bus, but we saw plenty which means that if really pressed, you could certainly have a great time without a car, as long as you stick to sites on the bus routes!

Lake District, UK

Lake District, UK

Lodging:

Once you’ve got some wheels, you’re free to stay wherever you’d like. But, be warned that short distances can take an exceptionally long time to cover, given the twisty and tiny roads. We decided to stick to hotel options within the greater Windermere region (we looked roughly 30 miles in all directions), which helped narrow our choices for lodging.

Some of the options we researched were The Eltermere Inn, Cedar Manor, Nanny Brow and Gilpin Hotel. After reading millions of reviews and comparing locations and prices, we finally settled on The Langdale Hotel, located about 20 minutes from Windermere train station. It ended up being a great choice for us. The room was large and comfortable, and we got a lot of use out of the onsite indoor pool and sauna. We also appreciated that the hotel is within a five minute drive of several dinner options, which is nice when you don’t feel like driving at night, running the risk of hitting a stray sheep.

Further afield in the Lake District are a few other hotels that we researched before deeming them too inconvenient. One such hotel is the Bridge Hotel near Buttermere Lake, which gets consistently fabulous reviews.

If you’d prefer to rent a cottage, there are plenty of those around as well, via normal booking sites like AirBnB. We have lots of friends who have gone that route, but note that things like grocery stores are few and far between if you’re hoping to stock your rental home for the weekend!

Langdale Hotel, Lake District, UK

Langdale Hotel, Lake District, UK

Langdale Hotel, Lake District, UK

Walking:

The primary thing to do in the Lake District is to walk and hike. There are literally hundreds of walks that have been well researched, are well-marked and are well-trod by others. These span all lengths and difficulty levels. We stuck to walks in the 3-5 mile range, just because we aren’t well equipped for a full day hike and the weather doesn’t tend to hold for hours at a time, so being relatively near to our car was a nice comfort for us while we hiked.

We can personally recommend these particular paths: High Sweden Bridge, Coniston Old Man and the lovely flat path around Eltermere Lake.

We’ve also heard incredible things about some of the most popular walks in the area: Grasmere, Buttermere Lake, Borger Dalr and for the especially ambitious, Scafell Pike, the tallest peak in the Lake District.

Lake District, UK

Lake District, UK

Lake District, UK

When It Rains:

Rain is nearly inevitable in the Lake District. We met some people one evening who claimed that Easter weekend is normally warm and dry, but on the particular Easter weekend we visited, not so much. Therefore, having good non-walking activities is essential.

We like exploring small towns and villages and during our rain breaks, we had a chance to visit Windermere, Ambleside, Coniston and Cartmel. Each of those small villages is within the same corner of the national park and the furthest drive for us was under an hour each way. We particularly enjoyed the cheese and wine shops in Cartmel, and window shopping at the high end outdoor gear stores in Ambleside.

Another nice alternative for us was the indoor pool in our hotel, and lots of people had the same idea. One afternoon during a particularly long and uninspiring spell of rain, the pool and steam rooms were packed. Now I know to note that a hotel with an indoor pool should be a requirement for a family with young kids visiting the Lake District!

Here are a few other resources for rainy day attractions: Lake District website, Lake District Gems blog, Visit Cumbria

Cartmel, Lake District, UK

Lake District, UK

Food & Drink:

After a long day of walking in the rain, ducking into a warm and friendly pub and chowing down on hearty food is one of life’s true joys. Trust me when I say that a burger has never tasted better than after hours of hiking. Add a pint or two of local lager or cider and the evening is complete.

We did a ton of restaurant research on Lake District restaurants prior to showing up. Some of the best resources we found were from The Telegraph, Lancashire Life, and The Guardian.

Over the weekend we had great meals at The Eltermere (the onsite restaurant of the hotel where we considered staying), Wainwrights Inn, and most notably, L’Enclume. More to come on this fantastic meal later, but after a memorable lunch this year in London at Fera at Claridge’s, we sought out the chef’s original restaurant, conveniently located in the Lake District. Easter lunch will never be the same.

Lake District, UK

Lake District, UK

The Lake District in the UK is, as they call it, God’s country. You can certainly see why. Enjoy your next visit, and tell us all about your favorite picks for a long weekend. We hope to go back again this year!

A Long Weekend in the Lake District, UK

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  • April 6, 2016

    Great tips! The Lake District is certainly on my list of places to visit in the UK. I love that picture of the Hunter wellies! They look so colourful!
    Dominique recently posted…Bonaire – Diving Salt PierMy Profile

    • April 7, 2016

      The Lake District might be the prettiest area of the England for us. It has the beauty of the Cotswolds, but we more hills, mountains, and lakes. Definitely worth a visit, that’s for sure.

  • April 9, 2016

    Beautiful photos! Actually really love the shot you have of the welly’s lined up in a row (we call them gumboots in Australia!). I had no idea that the Lake District was close enough for a roadtrip from London. Do many people camp, do you know? Or would you really recommend mainstream accommodation since it probably does rain a lot?

    • April 10, 2016
      Julie

      I have never heard the term gumboots – but that totally makes sense! Our American families get confused with the term wellies (there it’s mostly galoshes…weird). I’m SURE people do camp in the lake district (or caravan with trailers) but there are so many guesthouses that I’m guessing that has a slight edge. There are also, remarkably, hostels, which look super nice!

  • April 9, 2016

    Fell in love with this completely, this is my type of vacation. Too bad I didn’t know about this when I was in London. Hmmmm, now, it makes me want to go back.
    Karla | karlaroundtheworld recently posted…TASMANIA: ANOTHER HOTSPOT IN AUSTRALIAMy Profile

    • April 10, 2016
      Julie

      Before living in the UK, we weren’t aware of whole areas where people literally hike and eat/drink. I mean, what’s not to like? In the UK, this type of holiday is totally normal and we saw many people who made a week (or more!) out of it.

  • April 9, 2016

    Julie, I can’t even begin to tell you how I long to road trip the Lake District? (Notice I didn’t say drive. I have mental issues with the whole left lane thing, so I would need a driver.) But your stunning photos and informative content have stirred the pot. Now I must go . . . .
    Howard | Backroad Planet recently posted…Megabus.com: A Safe & Cost-Effective Road Trip AlternativeMy Profile

    • April 10, 2016
      Julie

      Fair enough – and the roads are narrow enough that even comfortable drivers don’t love the driving. It’s totally worth the journey and it’s gorgeous (as long as you’re at least mildly okay with rain!). Cheers!

  • April 9, 2016

    I think I would love to visit the Lake District! Your pictures are beautiful, even with clouds and rain it’s stunning. Do you know if it’s possible to rent a car and go camping instead of staying at hotels/B&B’s? Or is this really not recommended because of all the rain;-)?
    Lotte recently posted…Cuba: A Great Place To Go Scuba DivingMy Profile

    • April 10, 2016
      Julie

      Lotte – you can definitely go camping. in the UK, it’s also really popular to ‘caravan’ using a trailer that is pulled by a car or even a driving RV. On the guest house front, we’ve seen options in all price ranges as well as some really nice looking hostels, so you definitely won’t be lacking for options!

  • April 10, 2016

    This is a really fantastic trip! God’s country indeed – mesmerizingly beautiful. Tell me, is the area seen in your second photo near to one of the bus routes? I use a power wheelchair, and renting an accessible vehicle may not be possible, or prohibitively costly if it is possible. Thanks!

    • April 11, 2016

      There are public buses that run around the Lake District. They are wheelchair accessible. I don’t know exactly where they stop, but we saw them darting around the narrow roads. The area in the second pic also had a flat, groomed walking trail, making it very accessible.

  • April 10, 2016

    I’ve always wanted to make it up north to the Lake District.There’s a ton of helpful information here to plan a visit. Your photos are great and the wellies shot is very English! Love it! The cheese and wine shops would be a great end to the day after hiking.Your B&B the Langdale Hotel looks cozy. I’d like to have the option of indoor warmth and coziness, especially if it was rainy or damp.

    • April 11, 2016

      Really worth a visit. Probably our new favorite area of the UK!

  • April 11, 2016

    The Lake District is so lovely. I have friends that live in the area and their photos are always so nice. Really gorgeous countryside there. Your photo of the multi-colored wellies is awesome!

    • April 11, 2016

      We love the wellies shot as well. Nothing more British than that!

  • April 11, 2016

    The Lake District looks like a wonderful place for hiking! Looks like a good idea to bring some rain boots with 🙂 The towns would be fun to explore too when it’s raining out–not a bad alternative! And, I love the first photo with the rainbow–so pretty!

    • April 12, 2016
      Julie

      We got so lucky with that rainbow. I’ve never, EVER had a camera poised like that in my life 🙂

  • April 13, 2016

    Lovely photos and fantastic tips! I had the chance to visit a few years ago and it rained. I never thought of the rain boots, tho! It looks so fashionable!
    Trisha Velarmino – P.S. I’m On My Way recently posted…An open letter to advertisers who don’t appreciate our hard workMy Profile

    • April 13, 2016
      Julie

      I’m pretty sure it only rains in the Lake District. I ran into an old friend there, who moved there last summer. She said it has rained almost everyday since she moved there!

  • April 15, 2016

    Bookmarking this post for sure! Lake District has long been on my travel wishlist. Coming from the states, I think I’d need more than a long weekend, though 🙂
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted…Overnight in Hong KongMy Profile

    • April 16, 2016

      Definitely need more than a long weekend from the US, that’s for sure! A really amazing place though that should not be missed if you head to the UK.

  • April 15, 2016

    Great photos and I’m glad you enjoyed your experience in one of my country’s most beautiful areas, even if it rained! Unfortunately train tickets in England are incredibly expensive, especially to more remote areas like Windermere.
    Shannon Colman recently posted…Books & Bridges: Budapest for the Quiet Solo TravellerMy Profile

    • April 16, 2016

      Yeah, National Rail tickets are unbelievably expensive sometimes. Also wasn’t awesome that our Virgin Train back to London Euston was overbooked and standing room only for 4 hours. Not good.

  • April 24, 2016

    I have lived within a couple of hours of the Lake District my whole life and am a regular visitor. I can therefore vouch 100% that it is as wonderful as your post suggests! We are regular visitors, spending up to a week here every couple of years. Our current favourite place to stay is Grasmere which is just a bit further north of where you were. One hint to sound like a local – mere means lake, so just Buttermere, not Buttermere Lake. Great post!
    Anabel recently posted…Postcard from TorontoMy Profile

    • April 25, 2016

      Glad you enjoyed it! We were going to head to Buttermere, but due to some of the flood damage over the winter, the route from Ambleside was going to take 90 minutes. Next time we will have to check it out, because almost everyone we talked to recommended either Buttermere or Grasmere.