Featuring the best attractions in the North West Lake District that are accessible by public transport
The Lake District and Cumbria are home to some of the best scenery and visitor attractions in the country. In the north west Lakes, these are all within easy reach from the popular tourist centre of Keswick and include beautiful Borrowdale valley, Derwent Water, Crummock Water, Buttermere, Bassenthwaite Lake, scenic forests, pretty villages and some impressive mountain passes linking them all.
There are various bus, train and boat services through the area which will transport you to all of the popular attractions described below. Each attraction includes a brief description, photograph, link to website (where available) and any facilities such as shops, cafes and toilets. Public transport services that stop nearby (within 1 mile) are listed and the location of each stop in relation to the attraction is described. Further information on each transport service, including route maps, timetable links and other attractions visited on route, can be found by following the transport service link.
North West Lake District
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* Ashness Bridge & Surprise View – Famous old bridge and wonderful Derwent Water viewpoint
* Bowder Stone – Famous and massive boulder in the Jaws of Borrowdale that can easily be climbed
* Buttermere lake – Picturesque and relatively small lake near the village of the same name
* Buttermere village – Attractive small village surrounded by mountains and lakes
* Calfclose Bay – Picturesque bay on the eastern shore of Derwent Water
* Castlerigg Stone Circle – Prehistoric stone circle in a fabulous position above Keswick
* Crummock Water – Picturesque lake in the Buttermere valley
* Dodd Wood – Woodland walks and wonderful views overlooking Bassenthwaite Lake
* Grange in Borrowdale – Pretty little village at the Jaws of Borrowdale
* Honister Pass – High mountain pass linking Borrowdale and Buttermere valleys
* Keswick – Attractive Lakeland town at the northern end of Derwent Water
* Lake District Wildlife Park – Wildlife attraction at the northern end of Bassenthwaite lake
* Lakes Distillery – Distillery making Whisky, Vodka & Gin at the northern end of Bassenthwaite Lake
* Lodore Falls – Famous waterfall at the southern end of Derwent Water
* Mirehouse – Historic house and gardens on the eastern shore of Bassenthwaite Lake
* Rosthwaite – Attractive small village in the heart of Borrowdale
* Seatoller – Small village in Borrowdale at the foot of Honister Pass
* Thirlmere – Attractive reservoir with surrounding forest walks
* Whinlatter Forest – Mountain Forest with various activities at Whinlatter Pass
North West Lake District - Attractions Map
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North West Lake District - Attractions
Ashness Bridge & Surprise View
Ashness Bridge is a famous old packhorse bridge in a picturesque location. There is an open riverbank area upstream from where you can admire one of the most photographed views in the Lake District with the beautiful backdrop of Derwent Water and Skiddaw. No facilities in the area.
The bridge is located approx 0.5 miles up the Watendlath road from the B5289 Borrowdale road and Derwent Water. There is no public transport up the Watendlath road but you can catch a bus or a boat to this road junction (Ashness Gate) from where you will need to walk up the hill.
Approx 0.5 miles beyond Ashness Bridge, further up the Watendlath road, you will come across Surprise View which is a wonderful viewpoint overlooking Derwent Water and its surroundings. The surprise might be that Derwent Water is hidden from the road by trees until you reach this point so the view is quite unexpected. Again no facilites.
The Bowder Stone is a very impressive and famous boulder which has somehow come to rest in a gravity defying position perched on its edge. The stone is about 30 feet high and estimated to be 2000 tons in weight. Steep steps lead to the top for the daring. The stone is approx 0.3 miles walk from the bus stop along a reasonably well made path with some ups and downs. It is located in the ‘Jaws of Borrowdale’ where the picturesque valley is very constricted with steep slopes either side.
The bus stop is on the B5289 Borrowdale road adjacent to the car park where there are a few pleasant picnic tables dotted around but no other facilities.
Buttermere is a fabulous small lake surrounded by high mountains and wonderful scenery. The 4 mile footpath around the lake must be one of the best low level walks in the Lake District. The lake is only a short walk from Buttermere village at the northern end or from Gatesgarth Farm at the southern end.
Buses stop at Buttermere village and Gatesgarth Farm. At weekends and bank holidays from 7th May to 5th June 2022, plus daily during summer school holidays there is also a free shuttle bus running between Cockermouth and Buttermere village.
A pleasant little village in an awesome setting surrounded by high mountains and picturesque lakes. Not much to see in the village itself but there are a couple of notable hostelries, namely the Buttermere Court Hotel and the Bridge Hotel plus a couple of cafes. Popular footpaths lead up surrounding mountains but for something flatter and easier it is well worth taking the half mile walk to either Buttermere lake or Crummock Water if only to admire the views. There are more substantial walks around either lake which are also excellent.
Buses stop in the village centre, behind the Bridge Hotel. At weekends and bank holidays from 7th May to 5th June 2022, plus daily during summer school holidays there is also a free shuttle bus running between Cockermouth and Buttermere village.
Calfclose Bay, Derwent Water
The picturesque Calfclose Bay has open shingle beaches with attractive views across Derwent Water towards Catbells hill and beyond. At the northern side of the bay is the unusual Centenary Stone sculpture on the shore which was placed there in 1995 to commemorate 100 years of the National Trust in the Lake District. Just beyond that is a small headland with a well placed seat to appreciate the views. A good footpath leads through the trees following the shoreline in both directions. If you follow it northwards, it eventually leads back to Keswick. Across the road from Calfclose Bay there are also good footpaths around Great Wood and they lead on up to Walla Crag high above if you are feeling fit. No facilities in the area.
Buses stop nearby on the B5289 Borrowdale road. You can also walk along the shore or road from Ashness jetty, approx 0.5 miles.
Castlerigg Stone Circle
Castlerigg stone circle is one of the oldest, most famous and most impressive prehistoric stone circles in the country. It is believed the 38 stones were brought to this elevated place by Neolithic farming communities around 4500 years ago. Quite how they got here and their purpose remain something of a mystery but it would have been an important meeting place for the scattered Neolithic communities, possibly as a trading place, a religious centre or an astronomical observatory.
The high open setting certainly enhances the experience, with fantastic 360 degree panoramic views over the northern Lake District, including many notable mountains such as Helvellyn, Skiddaw and Blencathra.
It became a popular tourist attraction in Victorian times but some visitors would chip bits of rock away for souvenirs. This resulted in a campaign for its protection and it became one of the earliest ancient scheduled monuments in the country in 1882. Later, it was acquired by the National Trust and now remains a popular attraction where you can wonder inbetween the stones and soak up the wonderful atmosphere. Free entry but no other facilities.
It is approx 1.5 mile walk along the road eastwards from the centre of Keswick with a fair bit of uphill. You can get closer on the 555 bus which stops on the main A591 at Castle Lane, leaving a pleasant level walk of approx 0.6 miles along Castle Lane. X4/X5 & 73 buses stop at Eleventrees Road on the eastern outskirts of Keswick, leaving approx 0.7 mile walk, mostly uphill.
Similar to Buttermere lake, Crummock Water is a wonderfully attractive and relatively peaceful lake surrounded by impressive mountains and no discernible development near the shore. The lake is approx 0.5 miles walk from Buttermere village or you can access it from Rannerdale. There is a fabulous 8.5 mile walk around the lake if you have the time and the stamina.
Rannerdale valley adjacent to the lake is also picturesque and worth exploring particularly every April and May when the famous bluebells fill the open valley and provide an incredible sight. Above the valley is Rannerdale Knotts, a relatively small summit with wonderful views over Buttermere, Crummock Water and towards Loweswater.
Buses stop at Buttermere village and Rannerdale. At weekends and bank holidays from 7th May to 5th June 2022, plus daily during summer school holidays there is also a free shuttle bus running between Cockermouth and Buttermere village.
Part of the Mirehouse estate and now managed by the Forestry Commission, Dodd Wood provides some lovely forest walks on the slopes of Dodd Fell. There are some fabulous views over Bassenthwaite Lake and the Derwent valley which only improve as you get above the trees and towards the summit of Dodd Fell at 500m. The wood became popular in 2001 when the first Ospreys to breed in England for over 150 years nested in the area and it became the best place to view them. There are two viewing areas in the woods, the lower one approx 15 minute uphill walk from the car park and the upper one approx 20 minutes walk beyond that. There are telescopes and volunteers to help you spot the magnificent birds who are normally in residence between April and September before heading to Africa for the winter.
Toilets and The Old Sawmill Tearoom can be found in the main car park.
Buses stop on the A591 at the main car park.
Grange in Borrowdale
Grange in Borrowdale is pretty little village at the ‘Jaws of Borrowdale’ where the valley starts to become very narrow. An impressive double arched ancient bridge over the River Derwent leads to the village and the attractive river is normally clear and shallow with vast areas of shingle making it ideal for a paddle. There are a couple of cafes in the village, one overlooking the river. Toilet facilities in the village.
Buses stop on the B5289, across the bridge from the village.
Honister Pass is the B5289 mountain pass road linking Borrowdale and Buttermere valleys. At 356m altitude this summit area has some wonderful scenery and is the start of some epic mountain walks. A popular attraction here is the Honister Slate Mine, a famous old mine which is still producing slate today and now also specialises in adventure activities for visitors. There is a visitor centre, gift shop, showroom, cafe and various activities including mine tours and adventure climbing experiences. Entrance is free but there is a charge for the activities. The mine is open all year apart from early January. During the devastating storm Desmond flood in December 2015, the nearby raingauge recorded 341mm of rain in 24hrs, a new UK record. The summit area also has a Youth Hostel but no other facilities.
Buses stop at the summit area.
Keswick is a popular and pretty tourist town nestled between Derwent Water and Skiddaw mountain. It has long been the main hub for the northern Lake District and boomed when the railway line from Penrith and west Cumbria was completed in 1864, bringing Victorian tourists to Keswick station. You can still see the station today in the northern town but the railway line was closed in 1972. The old railway line is now a popular cycle and walking path alongside the River Greta towards Threlkeld to the east.
There are plenty of attractions for visitors including the Pencil Museum which tells the interesting history of pencil making in the town and the opening of the UK’s first pencil factory here in 1832. Pencil manufacture moved to nearby Workington in 2008 but the museum remains and you can also see the worlds longest pencil which is almost 26 feet long! Other interesting attractions in the town include Keswick Museum and The Puzzling Place. There are abundant shops, outdoor specialists, cafes, pubs and restaurants around the town as well as some lovely parks. In the town centre is the pedestrianised market place where you might find the market in full swing. In the centre of that is the prominent old Moot Hall which now houses the Tourist Information Centre. Over the River Greta from the town centre, you will find the attractive Fitz Park with it’s vast open grassy areas next to the river where you can escape the crowds.
A 10 minute walk from the town centre is the lakeside area on Derwent Water which is always popular and you can explore the lake either by boat or the fabulous 10 mile footpath which circuits the lake. The Keswick Launch cruise is a wonderful way to take in the lake and its surroundings. There are regular boats (less in winter) which stop here and at several beauty spots around the lake. It is definitely worth walking the short distance to Friar’s Crag which offers beautiful views up the lake. Crow Park, opposite Lakeside car park, has a lovely open setting next to the lake where you can watch the boats come and go, again with great views. Between Crow Park and the town centre is Hope Park which has delightful landscaped grounds and miniature golf. There is a cafe, toilet facilities and the popular Theatre by the Lake which has its own facilities.
All buses stop at the main bus station in the town centre. All boats stop at the lakeside jetties, approx 0.5 mile walk from the town centre.
Lake District Wildlife Park
The only wildlife park in north Cumbria, Lake District Wildlife Park is a popular but quite well hidden attraction to the north of Bassenthwaite Lake. The Park is home to over 100 different species, mostly the less dangerous varieties such as zebras, monkeys, meerkats and birds of prey. The open site is well laid out making it easy to see and interact with the different animals. There are a number of interesting talks and displays where you can get close to many of the animals. Keeper experiences are also available if you want to get even closer. There is a cafe, shop, picnic areas, play areas and toilets on site. Admission fee applies. Open daily all year.
X4 bus stops on the B5291 near the attraction, approx 0.3 miles walk. 73 & 554 buses stop on the A591 at the Castle Inn, approx 0.7 miles walk.
Opened in 2014, The Lakes Distillery is a relatively new and unique Lake District attraction and one of only a few whisky distillery’s in England. The distillery produces its own popular whisky, vodka and gin and you can buy these in the shop on site. There are a few different tours available which end in tasting the local spirits. Outside there are Alpacas to see and you can wander down to the nearby River Derwent which provides water for the distillery. The Bistro on site provides a good choice of food and drink. Open daily. There is a charge for tours and meeting Alpacas.
Buses stop near the entrance.
The well known but well hidden Lodore Falls waterfall is located behind the grand Lodore Falls Hotel at the southern end of Derwent Water. The attractive falls are where Watendlath Beck cascades down to the lake from the high valley above. They are best viewed after a wet period when water thunders down the rocky channel. In front of the hotel, a footpath leads down to the picturesque Derwent Water shore and Lodore jetty where the boats stop. On the roadside just beyond the hotel are public toilets. Refreshments are available in the hotel.
Buses stop in front of the hotel.
Mirehouse & Gardens
Mirehouse is an historic manor house built in 1666 and owned by the same family since 1802. The house has been extended and renovated and although still largely a private residence, the ground floor is sometimes open to the public. There is an interesting collection of furniture, antiques and manuscripts from eminent writers once connected with the owners. The accompanying live piano music helps enhance the experience.
Outside the house are some attractive gardens and grounds with various adventure playgrounds for the children. The grounds extend to the nearby shores of Bassenthwaite Lake and you can walk along the peaceful lakeshore. Nearby is the tiny St Bega’s Church overlooking the lake which you can also visit. You can pass near the house and visit the church for free by taking the public footpath to the left of the main gate on the A591.
The house is open from Easter to October but only on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. The grounds are open daily from March to October. Admission fee applies to both. Toilets and The Old Sawmill Tearoom can be found in Dodd Wood car park across the A591.
Buses stop on the A591 outside the main entrance.
Rosthwaite is an attractive small village set amongst the mountains of Borrowdale. This is superb walking country, numerous footpaths head off along the valley and up surrounding hills. A popular walk leads up nearby Castle Crag, a relatively short but steep climb, which offers magnificent views over Borrowdale and Derwent Water. The village has some good refreshment stops, the Flock-in tea room near the car park or for something more substantial try the Royal Oak Hotel or the Scafell Hotel, both on the main road. Buses stop in the village and there are toilets at the main car park.
Seatoller village marks the end of the Borrowdale valley before the road climbs steeply up the Honister Pass. The surrounding mountain scenery is wonderful and although there’s not much to see in the village itself, there are plenty of fabulous local walks. A good easy walk from here follows the nearby minor road along the picturesque Seathwaite valley for 1 mile to Seathwaite Farm which is a popular starting point for many epic mountain walks and allegedly the wettest inhabited place in England. There are public toilets at the main Seatoller car park.
Buses stop at the entrance to the car park which is the terminus for the 78 bus.
Thirlmere Reservoir was formed after the dam at the northern end was built between 1890 and 1894. The main purpose was to supply water to Manchester which had a booming population and industry at that time. Although around 90 miles away, an underground aqueduct was built which takes water by gravity all the way to Manchester, an incredible feat of Victorian engineering. The reservoir now supplies over 10% of the drinking water used in the north west of England and is almost 4 miles long with a usable capacity of around 30 billion litres.
The picturesque reservoir and surrounding hilly forests are all owned by the local water company, United Utilities, and they have provided a number of car parks, walks and picnic areas around the reservoir. Thirlmere information boards can be found in each car park. There is also a good footpath around the whole reservoir which is about 10 miles in length.
Swirls car park is probably the most popular location with forest footpaths to the south, a lakeshore footpath to the north, a nearby viewpoint and Helvellyn mountain rising directly to the east. The relatively minor and quiet western shore road makes a good level walk. There are various toilets around the lake, including at Swirls. No other facilities.
Buses travel along the main A591 on the eastern shore. There are bus stops at Swirls and a few other nearby locations, including Wythburn Church and each end of the minor western shore road.
Whinlatter is an attractive forest in the hills overlooking Keswick, Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite Lake. There are plenty of activities for visitors, including many walking and cycling trails through the forest offering some fabulous views inbetween the trees. There are some good single track trails for the more adventurous mountain bikers. There are also Go Ape experiences with a tree top adventure or forest Segway plus guided Alpaca walks. It all starts from the visitor centre where you will also find a cafe, play areas, mountain bike hire shop and toilet facilities. These are open daily all year except 25/26 December.
Buses stop in the visitor centre car park.