Featuring the best attractions in the South 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 south west Lakes, this includes the popular village of Coniston with its picturesque lake, the famous beauty spot of Tarn Hows and the lovely Duddon and Esk valleys. The area also includes the only coast in the Lake District National Park, around Ravenglass.
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.
South West Lake District
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* Blawith Common – Attractive lakeshore access area at southern end of Coniston Water
* Boot – Pretty little village in the Eskdale valley
* Brantwood – Historic house and gardens on the eastern shore of Coniston Water
* Broughton-in-Furness – Attractive small town at the bottom end of the Duddon valley
* Brown Howe – Attractive lakeshore access area at southern end of Coniston Water
* Coniston – Picturesque village at the northen end of Coniston water
* Dalegarth Station – Inland terminus station for Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway
* Muncaster Castle – Historic castle and gardens overlooking the River Esk
* Ravenglass – Attractive coastal village and terminus for Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway
* Tarn Hows – Picturesque tarn and access area to the north of Coniston Water
* Trough House Bridge and Stanley Force – River gorge and waterfall natural wonders in the Eskdale valley
* Wastwater, Countess Beck – Fabulous lake & stream access with one of the best views in Britain
* Wastwater, Overbeck Bridge – Small lake & stream access area with amazing views
* Wasdale Head – Probably the most remote Lake District village in a dramatic mountain setting
South West Lake District - Attractions Map
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South West Lake District - Attractions
Blawith Common, Coniston Water
Blawith Common is a large area of attractive Common land either side of the A5084 road. Towards Coniston Water, a picturesque and peaceful lakeshore access area has some open grass and shingle beaches overlooking the southern end of the lake. The lakeshore in the vicinity has open access and is a great place to explore with rocky outcrops and trees overlooking the appealing shore. From the road it is a short walk down a rough path to the lakeshore. The area is a real hidden gem being quite secluded and well away from the road. Across the road some wonderful footpaths through bracken take you up into the low hills where you will find fabulous views, Beacon Fell and Beacon Tarn. No facilities.
Buses stop on request on the A5084 road. Boats call at Lake Bank jetty, approx 0.5 mile walk to the south.
Boot is a pretty little village in the wonderful Eskdale valley with a small shop and a couple of pubs providing refreshments at the Boot Inn and the Brook House Inn. At the far end of the village, over the ancient packhorse bridge, is the fascinating Eskdale Mill which still maintains its historic working machinery and is one of the oldest water powered corn mills in the country.
There are some wonderful easy local walks towards the picturesque River Esk and the quaint old church of St Catherine’s which is in a lovely secluded riverside setting with some benches from where you can appreciate the surroundings.
Boot is approx 0.3 miles walk from Dalegarth station.
Brantwood is a beautifully situated country house overlooking Coniston Water. The historic house was the home of the famous English art critic, artist and social commentator John Ruskin who lived there from 1871 until his death in 1900. Ruskin filled the house full of artwork and objects during his time and nowadays the house is basically a fascinating museum of his life.
Outside, as well as fabulous views across the lake, there are extensive and varied gardens within the 250 acre estate which stretches from the lakeshore up the wooded slopes behind the house. Adjacent to the house is a cafe and toilets. The house, gardens and cafe are open daily from March to November and February school holidays. Also, Wednesday to Sunday over the winter. Admission fee applies to house and gardens.
Brantwood jetty is nearby where the boats stop. It is a fairly short but sharp climb to the house from the lake.
A peaceful town with an attractive central Square and some interesting historical features. This old market town has a long history and the Tourist Information Centre is now housed in the old Town Hall overlooking the old Market Square. The obelisk in the centre of the Square was erected to mark the golden jubilee of King George III in 1810. The adjacent stocks are a reminder of what happened to miscreants in bygone days.
The town is far enough away from the central lakes not to attract masses of visitors but is worth exploring. The town centre has a few small shops and three pubs for refreshments. Public toilets can be found just off the north east corner of the main Square and just beyond these is Wilson Park which provides a good open area of grass for recreation. Beyond the park are some pleasant easy walks, including the old railway line.
Buses stop in the main Square. The town is a little over 1 mile from Foxfield railway station, walk or bus.
Brown Howe, Coniston Water
Brown Howe is a wonderful public access area on the shores of Coniston Water. There is a good area of grass bordered by trees and shingle beaches with fabulous views up the lake towards the central Lake District mountains. The area is perfect for a picnic, play and paddle in idyllic surroundings. Walks are available across the road, up the pleasant lane onto Blawith Common. Seasonal toilet facilities at the car park.
Buses stop on request on the adjacent A5084 road.
The village of Coniston is in a picturesque location nestled between Coniston Water and The Old Man of Coniston, the mountain directly behind. Historically, it grew up due to the local copper and slate mines which flourished from the 17th century with workers being housed in the village. In 1859 a railway line was opened to the village from the main Cumbrian Coast line near Broughton in Furness. The main purpose of this at the time was to transport the copper ore but as copper demand declined in the late 19th century the railway line became more popular with Victorian tourists. A local tourist industry soon grew up which has become more and more popular over time. The railway closed in 1962 and there is little trace of the old line and station now but it certainly helped to put Coniston on the map in its heyday.
Probably the most notable local resident was John Ruskin, the famous Victorian visionary, artist, art critic and writer, who lived nearby at Brantwood on the shores of Coniston Water from 1871 until his death in 1900, aged 80. He was buried at St Andrew’s Church in the centre of the village. Following his death, the Ruskin Museum was set up in Coniston in 1901 and still going strong today. You can discover a wealth of local history, including the ‘Bluebird Wing’ housing a display relating to Donald Campbell’s exploits on Coniston Water and his boat ‘Bluebird’.
The village itself has a few tourist shops, cafes and pubs where you can spend some time and fully appreciate the surrounding scenery. There is also a Tourist Information Centre and toilet facilities at the main bus stop in the village.
A short walk from the village down Lake Road takes you to the shores of Coniston Water, a scenic and relatively quiet lake surrounded by low and mostly wooded hills. It is well worth taking a trip on the lake to better appreciate the scenery and you can do this either on the historic Steam Yacht ‘Gondola’ or the Coniston Launch. If you fancy hiring a boat yourself, the Coniston Boating Centre is adjacent to the car park with a good selection of small boats and paddle boards. Across the lake you can just about make out John Ruskin’s Brantwood house. You can visit the house and gardens via the Gondola or Launch boats which both stop at the jetty near the house.
The lake also has famous literary connections through the popular children’s adventure book ‘Swallows and Amazons’, written by the author Arthur Ransome and published in 1930. The book is based on a number of locations around the lake, for example, Wild Cat Island in the book is said to be based on Peel Island towards the southern end of the lake.
Perhaps the most famous moment in the lake’s history came on 4th January 1967 when Donald Campbell lost his life on the water during a world record water speed attempt. Film footage shows the boat summersault and break up but it was not until 2001 that his body was discovered on the bed of the lake and laid to rest in Coniston cemetery. The plan was to restore the boat and place it in the Bluebird wing of the Ruskin Museum in Coniston village but ongoing arguments about ownership have delayed this indefinitely.
You can learn more about ‘The Campbells on Coniston’ and about ‘Swallows and Amazons’ at the Ruskin Museum in the village and also on themed cruises around the lake aboard the Gondola or the Launch.
Also next to the shore here is The Bluebird Cafe which provides refreshments with a lovely view over the water. There are several picnic tables and toilets facilities adjacent.
Buses stop at the Tourist Information Centre in the village. Boats stop at the lakeside area jetty.
Dalegarth Station, Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway
Dalegarth Station is the terminus for the miniature Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway and is often a hive of activity with regular trains coming and going during the summer (less so during the winter). The line was originally opened in 1875 to transport Iron Ore down the valley. A ride on the small train is a great way to see the picturesque valley with several minor stations along the way to the coastal terminus at Ravenglass which is about 7 miles away.
The valley surrounding the station is very picturesque with plenty of footpaths up the hills or more local valley walks. Other local attractions are described on this page. The station building has a cafe, picnic tables by the river, a small play area and toilets.
Muncaster Castle & Gardens
Muncaster Castle is the impressive residence of the Pennington family who have lived there for over 800 years. The Castle has been extended over the years and you can wonder around its elegant rooms, historic furnishings and works of art. The Castle is reputedly haunted and the tour takes you to a haunted room with some creepy stories.
Outside, the Castle has some wonderful gardens, terraces and woodland overlooking the attractive Esk valley. There are plenty of walks around the grounds which are particularly good for Rhododendrons. Also in the grounds is the Hawk & Owl Centre which includes some spectacular birds and flying displays.
There are various other family attractions, cafes, gift shops and toilet facilities. Generally open daily, except Saturdays, between Easter and October plus February school holidays. Weekends in March, November and December. Admission fee applies
Approx 1 mile walk from Ravenglass railway station, mostly uphill.
Ravenglass is an attractive village overlooking the estuary of the Esk, Irt and Mite rivers. It is the only coastal village within the Lake District National Park. You can stroll through the village on the normally quiet road and along the foreshore admiring the views across the estuary. The main attraction in the village is the terminus station for the miniature Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway where tiny steam trains will take you on a wonderful 7 mile journey through the Esk valley to Dalegarth station. Ravenglass station also has a cafe and small museum telling the interesting history of the line. Next door is the main Ravenglass station on the Cumbrian coast line where you can catch national network trains.
Ravenglass was also the site of an important Roman Fort and naval base from about AD130. A short walk to the south of the village are the remains of the old fort bath house, one of the tallest surviving Roman buildings in the country.
The village also has a selection of pubs and cafes for refreshments and some public toilets. The two train stations are adjacent to each other in the centre of the village. Buses stop at the main car park.
Tarn Hows is one of the wonders of Lakeland and a beauty spot not to be missed. Historically the area was rough open common grazing land with three smaller natural tarns but in 1862 the local estate at Monk Coniston gained possession of all the land and started improving it. This including landscaping and building a dam at the lower tarn which raised water levels so the three tarns became the one you see today.
In 1930 the 4000 acre Monk Coniston Estate came up for sale and was bought by Beatrix Potter who was keen to buy local land so she could save it from unwanted development and preserve it for future generations. She soon sold the part containing Tarn Hows to the National Trust who have further improved the area over the years.
The main path around the tarn is well made and well worth an hour of your time. Higher paths on the eastern side give some fabulous long distance views towards the Lake District mountains. There are toilets and an information display at the main car park but no other facilities.
The nearest bus stop is at Hawkshead Hill which leaves approx 1 mile uphill walk along the narrow Tarn Hows access road.
Trough House Bridge & Stanley Force
A couple of natural wonders lie a short distance away from Dalegarth Station.
Firstly, is Trough House Bridge access area which is quite a small rocky and wooded riverbank where the River Esk passes underneath the bridge via a deep gorge. The water immediately downstream of the bridge is very deep and clear and ideal for bathing. Further downstream is some shallower water for paddling.
Secondly, is Stanley Force waterfall which is just over half a mile walk from Trough House Bridge along the track. Once you meet Stanley Ghyll, the path becomes narrower and rougher but is still quite reasonable until you reach the final section which is more treacherous and some caution is needed. The 60 feet high falls are within an impressively deep and lushly vegetated canyon and are well worth a visit.
Trough House Bridge is approx 0.3 mile walk from Dalegarth Station. There are various other easy local footpaths.
Wastwater, Countess Beck
Wastwater is a remote and beautiful lake, surrounded by dramatic scenery. The view from Countess Beck viewpoint, up the lake to the high mountains beyond, is outstanding and was once voted ‘Britain’s favourite view’. These mountains include the highest peaks in England, Scafell Pike and Sca Fell, along with the pyramid forms of Great Gable and Yewbarrow. The impressive high screes along the southern shore tumble down over 500m to the water and continue down below water level to a depth of around 80m. The lake is the deepest in England and one of the clearest making it popular for diving. The whole effect is fabulous and makes the area such an awe-inspiring place.
The shoreline tends to be quite rocky with small shingle beaches every so often and areas of grass and bracken behind. This pattern begins around the Countess Beck shelter and continues towards Wasdale Head for approx 1 mile. The remoteness of the area means it never gets very busy and you can normally find a quiet place to appreciate the surroundings. There are no facilities nearby.
Wastwater, Overbeck Bridge
Overbeck Bridge is a wonderful lakeshore access point which has limited space but some open grass, shingle shore and a lovely stream. The main feature are the fabulous views across the lake towards Scafell Pike, Sca Fell, The Screes and several other surrounding high fells. Access couldn’t be better with direct access to the shore from the road. The shore then gives easy access to the water but care should be taken as the lake does get deep quickly. Over Beck which runs into the lake here gives better paddling potential with its normally shallow water gently cascading towards the lake. The area is ideal for a picnic in a setting that is difficult to beat even by Lake District standards. Nearest facilities are at Wasdale Head.
Wasdale Head is a small village at the head of Wasdale valley. It is probably the most remote and most dramatically situated of any Lake District village, at the end of a long dead end road from the west Cumbrian coast and surrounded by some fantastic mountain scenery. The mountains include some of the highest in the Lakes, Scafell Pike, Sca Fell, Great Gable and Kirk Fell to name but a few. The village is a popular base for mountain walkers and climbers with some low level walks available along the valley floor. As well as the highest mountain and deepest lake in the country, Wasdale also boasts one of the smallest churches. St Olaf’s is situated in trees near the village. Within the village is the popular Wasdale Head Inn and next door is a small shop selling walking gear. There are toilets at the car park which is a 5 minute walk from the village.