Oxenholme (for the south Lake District) and Penrith (for the north) are on the west coast mainline. Virgin Trains go direct from London Euston (2 hours 50 minutes) or Glasgow (2 hours). There are also direct trains from Liverpool and Manchester to Ulverston, Grange-over-Sands and Windermere. Book ahead for discount fares or check out Trainline.
National Express coaches connect London and Manchester with Windermere, Ambleside, Grasmere and Keswick.
Using motorways from Manchester it takes approximately 1.5 hours to reach The Lake District, while the average journey time from London and the south east is around 5 hours. See the route planner at aa.com for directions.
The nearest airports are Manchester or Liverpool John Lennon, from there you can catch a train or coach.
For general information on getting around see the Traveline (0870-608 2608). The Lakes Ranger ticket (£15 per day) offers unlimited rail travel between Lancaster, Oxenholme, the Cumbrian coast, Penrith and Windermere as well as bus travel south of Keswick, a cruise on Windermere and 10 per cent off single and return fares on the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway and Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway.
From Oxenholme you can catch a train to Kendal or Windermere. There are also several steam railways including the Ravenglas & Eskdale railway and Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway.
Windermere, Coniston Water, Derwent Water and Ullswater have useful cruise and ferry services. The Cross Lakes Shuttle (£11 return) connects Windermere with Coniston via ferries and buses in summer.
Stagecoach run the local bus services. There’s a full list of the routes at the Go Lakes website. Explorer tickets offer unlimited travel on Stagecoach North West. An adult one-day ticket is £8.50 and is available on the bus, or from tourist offices (call 0870-608 2608 for details). The YHA also runs shuttle buses between from its hostel in Ambleside, Hawkshead, Coniston, Elterwater, Langdale and Grasmere.
Hiring a car is a good way to explore the hidden gems of the Lake District but the downside is if you’re heading there in summer you’re bound to find yourself caught up in a traffic jam at some point. Nothing causes a traffic jam quite like a windy country road and an over-cautious driver.
There are some unbeatable cycle paths round the Lake District, from the sculpture trail of Grizedale forest to the killer heave up Kirkstone Pass. For inspiration see the Lake District’s official tourism website.
Of course the best way to to explore the Lake District is on foot, so grab some boots, a waterproof and a map and get hiking.