A car-free guide to the Lake District with your dog

In peak times, The Lake District's narrow roads are a sea of bumper-to-bumper traffic, causing damage to the environment, restricting local communities and, let's face it, making it a much less fun place to visit. Since 1936, Campaign for National Parks have been fighting to keep our national parks safe and open to everyone. For the next few years, they've made transport one of their key battlegrounds and so they've created this handy guide for getting to and around The Lake District with your dog but without a car.

Written by Campaign for National Parks

5 minute read

Travelling on public transport with your dog

You don't need a car to have adventures with your dog. Travelling by bus and train (or even by boat!) is a great way to go searching for new sniffs in a much more sustainable way. Dogs are allowed on most public transport, but there may be certain rules you have to follow, like keeping them on a lead and sat on the floor. Be sure to check with your travel providers about any rules before you set off.

Trains Trains in the UK accept dogs free of charge, up to two per passenger. If you'd like to bring more four-legged friends on a train journey, there may be an additional fee so contact your train company in advance.

Buses UK buses usually accept dogs, at the driver's discretion. The driver will take into consideration things like if there is another pet on board when making their decision.

In Cumbria, the Stagecoach bus services allow dogs for free. Whilst there isn't a set limit on the number of dogs per passenger, it will depend on capacity, especially in peak times. This will be down to the driver's discretion and how many passengers and pets are on board at the time. So if you're planning on travelling with your two Bernese Mountain dogs, perhaps plan to travel at a quieter time!

Boats Have you got a salty sea dog? Get around The Lake District on water using the Windermere boat service. Dogs travel for free on all of their cruises and self-drive boats. Find out more here.

The Lake District's closest cities

The two largest cities near the Lake District are Lancaster and Carlisle and mainline train services go into both of these, although Oxenholme (Kendal) and Penrith, as seen below, are common entry points. Onward travel from these stations can take you to several smaller stations inside the park borders – Ulverston, Windermere, Staveley, Maryport, and Ravenglass.

Easy journeys from UK cities

These times and prices, all for direct trains with no changes, were based on a Friday in September. To get the best deals, book your tickets 12 weeks in advance, as this will be the cheapest point to buy. Soon you’ll be rumbling towards the Lakes at your leisure, with a dog at your feet and your hands wrapped around snacks, not a steering wheel.

  • London > Oxenholme, 2hrs 40, £33

  • Manchester > Oxenholme, 1hr 14, £8.70

  • Birmingham > Oxenholme, 2hrs 15, £28

  • Glasgow > Oxenholme, 1hrs 48, £17.50. Or to Penrith, 1hr 54, £10.10

  • Edinburgh > Oxenholme, 1hrs 58, £15.60. Or to Penrith 1hr34, £15.20

In the park - buses

  • From Oxenholme or Penrith, connecting buses reach the shores of Coniston, Derwentwater, Ullswater or Windermere, so you could get an early morning train and be swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding or fishing by the afternoon.

  • There's also the open-top bus Lakesider 599, which allows you to Travel anywhere on its route for just £2 between January and October 2023. The stops include Windermere (catch the bus from outside the station) and Grasmere, via Brockhole and Ambleside. There's great walking at all these destinations.

In the park - boats

  • Steamboats run on four of the lakes, with the main passenger terminals at Bowness-on-Windermere for Windermere, Pooley Bridge or Glenridding for Ullswater Steamers, Keswick for Derwentwater and Coniston Village for Coniston. You can take round trips or disembark at a variety of locations around the lakes. Dogs are welcome for free on Windermere boat services and Ullswater Steamers and it's just a 50p ticket for dogs on Coniston cruises.

  • You can also catch a boat from Glenriddig, on the shore of Ullswater, to Pooley Bridge and walk back along part of the Ullswater Way.

  • Visit England's largest lake on a Windermere cruise from Ambleside, Brockhole, Bowness & Lakeside (dogs travel for free!). Or if you'd rather venture out on your own, hire a self-drive boat with your salty sea dog - just make sure they don't jump in to chase wildlife! Find out more here.

In the park - walks

The Lake District offers stunning hiking views for you and endless exploring opportunities for your dog. Here are a couple of our favourite routes whose start points can easily be reached by public transport, but there are thousands more scenic walks (and sniffs!) available all through the hills.

  • Wansfell Pike hike, take a train to Windermere and then a bus to Hayes Garden Centre, cross the road to find the starting point of the walk.

  • Helvellyn less-trodden route, take a train to Windermere and then a bus to Wythburn Church, walk 3 minutes to Wythburn Car Park which is the start of the walk.

There are many accessible routes and we recommend checking Miles without Stiles, who have listed 50 routes designed for people with limited mobility, including wheelchair users, families with prams, or the visually impaired. Each route is detailed on their website and includes how to get to the starting points via public transport.

Extra resources

For more information on anything mentioned here, try the Lake District National Park website or Visit Lake District, both deep great sources of knowledge and tips on travelling to and around the park.

We hope that's given you the drive (sorry, we had to) to visit The Lake District without your car. Campaign for National Parks is a collection of exceptionally dedicated people and, over the next few years, we'll be working with them to learn how we can protect nature. You can read more about their work here.

Find out more about overtourism >

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Written by Campaign for National Parks

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