Tuesday, August 8

It's a long road - Travel to and around the Lake District

In the past the greatest deterrent to my walking escapes was the distance to travel and the overall costs involved.

The slog north up the A34/M6 took 5-6 hours of concentrated fast motorway driving, leaving me stiff and unprepared for action on the hills, with an overnight rest usually the first priority.

Then there was a question of where to leave the car, and the associated route planning to get back to it. I once spent a whole day travelling from Keswick to Ulverston to return to the car after completing part of the Cumbria Way.

All further limitations.

There was also the niggling anxiety over the state of the vehicle when I returned. Would I find it clamped, ransacked or even present? Car parks don't really cater for 5-6 day stays, and off road parking can be a problem for local residents. Parking in remote areas can have a similar impact on local daily life without the visitor appreciating it.

Non of this was conducive to a worry free break.

As the web has become more commercially savvy I've investigated less strenuous methods of travel. Cheap air flights were attractive, but not very well served for airports near the Lake District, without further travel complications. And I'm unsure about the treatment a soft backpack would receive from budget airline baggage handlers.

But by playing around with on-line train booking sites I discovered I could get an (almost) A to B route for around £100, less if I could find the special offers. When compared to the petrol costs + wear and tear for a 700 mile round trip, as a solo traveller, the costs were comparable; Especially when I threw in the less tangible benefits.

A couple of test trips later and I had a stress free method of travel, which gives me a more regular access to the hills I enjoy.

The holiday now starts the moment I step on the train. A good book; Music/Audio book/Podcasts on the MP3 player; And I'm set for the journey.

And the real plus? No more dreading the long journey back home, arriving tired and heartily sick of the slog. Like the break really destressed me! Yeah.

Outside Windermere railway station, I board a Lakeland bus (usually the 555 - hourly service); Pick up the latest timetable for use during the trip, and then onto Ambleside (main bus change point for most central Lakeland routes), Grasmere or even Keswick. All within an hour of stepping off the train.

Any off these towns can be used to top up with fresh supplies, and I'm ready for the hills. And on the way back there's all those wonderful outdoor shops to visit to fill up pack space, once full of food, to take back home.

By using the bus routes, there's a number of remote hop-off points along the way, dropping me straight onto the foot of the fells.

From May through the summer months the bus service is regular and very convenient.

Once I'd become use to the slower pace of Lakeland life, travelling the bus became part of the enjoyment. Never mind that the Keswick - Borrowdale - Honister Pass - Buttmere - Keswick (No. 77/77A) bus could turn up once in two hours on a Sunday; Riding it round the whole route revealed whole areas of potential walking routes. If I'd been driving I just wouldn't have had the time to look at these whilst trying to stay safely on the road.

I could mention all the green benefits, but for me just the relief from this mode of travel carries the argument.

(One thing - unless you intend to spend much of your trip on the bus, rather than using it for links between walking routes, don't bother with the weekly travel pass. Tried once. Lost on the deal)

If you're reading this post and wondering just what this has to do with backpacking/walking, think about the how many new routes open up for those long linear walks you've fancied doing, but could never sort out the car-at-each-end logistics.


See you on the 555 sometime - I'll be the one with the sleeping mat strapped to the backpack.

Smiling broadly.

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I used to have the same feeling with car travel. Normally a really early start from London, as to get some walking in on the first day but because of the early start and long drive not really enjoying it. On one trip on the South Coast path, we left Minehead and after an hours walking my mate got it into his head that he'd forget to close his window, so he hitched a lift back to Minehead to check, while I waited for him.

You guest right, the window was closed :).

I don't have a car at present so rely solely on public transport and if done right it makes the time away more pleasant.
It definitely does George

Last visit I mandged to hit Gramere at 5pm, get changed into walking gear, have a sit-down meal 'n pint, and still be camped up by a nearby tarn by 7pm

Lovely jump off spot the following day, and it cut down on some of the ascent at the start of the day.
Thanks for this great article, John,it gives hope to those of us exiled in the south of england that we can get to the Lakes and be ready to walk when we get there!
As a minor aside I note that www.megatrain.com offer some very cheap fares (down to £1) on certain limited routes. One of interest to me is Manchester-Oxenholme. I'm not sure if there is a way of stringing together a cheap deal up to Manchester and then using a £1 fare to the Lakes....
Apart from the environmental concerns, simply driving all the way from Berkshire to the Lakes in my beloved AX isn't really on the cards and even in such a cheap to run car it isn't really a saving. At the very least and with a good wind it must be about £80 return in diesel and that's having to drive yourself. The train is really the way to go.
Yes - I've looked at a cheaper ways to get there.
Every time I've tried megatrain I've never managed to get the magic £1 fare. No idea why.

The Rail Network card offers 30% off for £10 p.a. but when I select the option on the rail web site it just seems to ignore it. The area limit is Leamington Spa for me so I guess I'll just have to keep playing around with it and split the journey up.
Let's see what the train guard makes of that one!
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