The Lake District is a huge expanse of untamed natural beauty in Cumbria. It’s home to England’s highest mountain and deepest lakes, carved out of volcanic rock by glaciers, tens of thousands of years ago. It offers tourists windswept hikes and epic panoramas that rival some locations in New Zealand and North America, juxtaposed by quaint, historical villages, and plenty of cosy pubs to warm up in after a day in the great outdoors. And, it’s made for road trips. If you’re planning a long weekend break in a campervan, it’s set to be packed full of fun activities that will leave you reinvigorated. We’ve got a day-by-day Lake District road trip itinerary below, including some wild, windswept walks and epic driving routes.
Your Lake District road trip starts in the south lakes, in the village of Coniston. Take a morning hike up the Old Man of Coniston, or try the less ambitious Tarn Hows circular walk. Afterwards, grab a bite in the village underneath the towering mountain. We’d vouch for the giant onion rings and refreshing pints at The 400-year old Black Bull pub.
Next, lose the afternoon to the thrills of the road by driving the iconic Coniston loop via Eskdale and the Duddon valley, exploring some more remote parts of the Lake District at your own pace. It’s one of the longer Lake District driving routes, but by no means dull!
Where to Stay
Pitch up on the edge of lake Windermere at the Hill of Oaks park. This is a real gem, as it has exclusive frontage on a mile of Lake Windermere’s shore. Campers can use various facilities to explore the lake, including 5 jetties and multiple slipways for boat launching. In the high season, a ferry service operates between the twin piers and Lakeside by Windermere Lake Cruises. There’s an abundance of onsite forest tracks to ramble down, open grassy areas for walking dogs (who are welcome!), and a playpark for kids.
The site is dedicated to sustainable tourism and looking after the local flora and fauna, and has been awarded Gold by the David Bellamy Conservation awards. Their managed woodlands provide a naturally rich, biodiverse environment for local wildlife.
The touring area is well-located close to facilities for touring guests only, which include a shower and toilet block, baby changing and accessible family room, washing up and laundry facilities. An onsite shop is licensed to sell essentials and exchange and sell Calor gas. There’s also WiFi outside the reception.
Each pitch has room enough for vehicles, awnings (and boats!), space to sit outside and enjoy a barbeque. They have standard pitches and premium lakeside pitches, with water hookups on some.
Standard pitches are £47 in the peak season, £43 in high season and £22 in the low season (£35 on weekends). Deluxe pitches are £52 in the peak season, £50 in high season and £35 in low season (£36 at weekends). Extra per night include canoe, windsurf, non-powered and powered boats from between £5 and £20.
Hill of Oaks Park, Tower Wood, Windermere, Cumbria LA12 8NR
Day two of your Lake District itinerary might start with a hike up Orrest Head, or a chilled day in Bowness-on-Windermere depending on your energy levels! You can take boats out on the lake. There’s an outdoor market twice a month in Bowness, check if it’s on here. Other tourist attractions in the vicinity include the World of Beatrix Potter attraction and Beatrix Potter’s House, ‘Hill Top,’ or the Hawkeshead brewery.
In the afternoon, take one of the most famous Lake District driving routes; 8.8 miles from Windermere to the very picturesque town of Grasmere. Wordsworth called it ‘the loveliest spot that man hath ever found!’ You can visit his former home, which is now a wonderful museum, and his grave in St Oswald’s church. Be sure to visit the 14th Century gingerbread shop. Wordsworth’s grave, good ambience at the Good Sport pub.
Where to Stay
At the BaysBrown farm campsite, which is only a 15-minutes’ drive away from Grasmere. It’s in the village of Chapel Stile, at the entrance of the Great Langdale Valley. The working farm (with heritage Lakeland sheep) has an area set aside for campers, which has no set pitches: just turn up and pick your spot. Unlike other campsites in the Lake District, BaysBrown farm operates on a first-come, first-serve basis. The valley-bottom location means it’s a bit exposed to the elements, but it’s worth it for the spectacular view and unrivalled access to the National park. It is a perfect base for walking, climbing, bouldering and ghyll scrambling, running on the trails or fells, and swimming in the tarns and becks.
The facilities are basic but clean - here it’s more about getting a real experience of the rugged landscape. You’ll have a blast if you bring with you everything you’ll need, and forget about checking your emails or electric hook up. There are showers, toilets, a washing up area, bins, and drinking water on-site, it’s a 10-minute walk to a corner shop and you can freeze ice packs in the freezer on site. You can also plug any electric appliances (chargers, hairdryers, straighteners) in the ladies loo for 50p, if it’s an emergency!
It’s a quiet site between 11pm and 7am and doesn’t accept large single-sex groups, so you’re guarenteed to pitch up near other considerate campers who are there for the same reason - to get away from the daily grind and enjoy the Lakes!
Prices are per person per night, which is £10 for adults and £5 for children.
Great Langdale, Ambleside, Cumbria LA22 9JZ
On the last full day of your Lake District road trip, stretch those legs with a hike. Either stroll around Derwentwater, or scale Latrigg, Catbells or Skiddaw (in order of fitness required!). Afterwards, take a short trip to the market town of Keswick and treat yourself to a coffee and something sweet from one of the many popular little cafes, or something heartier from Fellpack or the Thyme Bistro.
Keswick town is kept busy all year round with festivals and events, we’d recommend trying to line your visit up with the various events hosted by the Jazz Festival, the Mountain Festival, and The Theatre by the Lake. For example, the Keswick Film Festival, Words by the Water, and Keswick Beer Festival.
Just above Keswick is the Castlerigg stone circle, which dates back to the Neolithic era! Take a walk up there or just enjoy the town and its own history, captured by the cultural offerings on display in the quaint shops, art galleries, and small museums. Keswick also has some iconic pubs which are tourist attractions in themselves, full of tradition and offering some of the finest local Lakeland ales including Jennings, Hawkshead and Keswick Brewery. End the day with a pint of ale at The George and the Dog and Gun with the locals and listen to their tales of adventure on the fells.
Where to Stay
Stay at Castlerigg Hall, which is less than 2 miles away from Keswick. It’s another one of the stunning campsites in the Lake District, with its panoramic views over Derwentwater, Bassenthwaite Lake and Keswick (the park’s main attraction). It has a 110 year history of providing happy holiday memories, so you’ll be joining in a long tradition of camping in the Lakes!
There are 3 toilet blocks with fully tiled toilet and shower facilities and underfloor heating, and all have fully accessible rooms. There are three washing machines and dryers, ironing facilities, washing sinks, and baby changing areas. You can prepare your meals in the warm, fully equipped campers’ kitchen. There’s a sun terrace to enjoy your meals on or you can enjoy the view from the camper’s lounge (a renovated Lake District barn) across the Western Lake District Fells, comfy seating and underfloor heating.
Castlerigg Hall, Lake District Caravan & Camping Park, Keswick, Cumbria CA12 4TE.
Before you go
Though we recommend a few of the famous Lake District driving routes, we’d also advise against doing too much driving through the Lake District after dark. There is very little lighting and a lot of one-lane, two-way roads, which can be nail-biting for less experienced motorhome drivers. Try getting to your campsite before night creeps in, where possible!
A Lake District road trip is definitely a surefire way to ensure your 2021 summer is epic. But also bear in mind that 15.8 million visitors go to the Lake District every year, so in high season some of the more popular attractions can get pretty busy! Now, with COVID restrictions in place to limit visitor numbers, some (like museums) may now need to be booked in advance. Remember to pack for some typical British weather: one of the reasons these gorgeous lakes exist is due to the high rainfall combined with deep glacial valleys.
Last but not least, take a look at our campervans available to hire out this season, and get ready to hit the road on an unforgettable trip!