The Lake District is one of the UK’s most alluring attractions and a beautiful place to explore when planning an England itinerary or even venturing onward to Scotland. Known for its stunning waterways and gorgeous scenery, the region will take your breath away. However, there’s more to do in the Lake District than just enjoy the views! This Lake District itinerary will help you figure out how to spend 3 or 4 days in the Lake District without missing the region’s highlights and hidden gems.
Whether riding a steam train across the countryside, hiking to breathtaking overlooks, touring buildings from the 13th century, or just lounging by the lake, a visit to the Lake District is guaranteed to be a blast.
How Many Days in the Lake District?
One of the first questions that will come up when planning your trip is how many days to spend in the Lake District. Some visitors may be drawn to a longer, weeklong visit and this can be a great way to see the area while also enjoying plenty of R&R at the hotel.
However, the truth is that 3 to 4 days is plenty of time to take in all of the beauty and enjoy some of the quirks and hidden gems of this region.
With 4 days in the Lake District, you’ll have time to visit the coast, but 3 days in the Lake District is ideal for those who want to hike and see the lakes in all their beauty.
Getting To and Around the Lake District
Navigating the Lake District is fairly easy. The roads are well-maintained and comfortable to drive with plenty of stops for food and petrol.
Renting a car may be more expensive, and you’ll need to get comfortable with driving on the left side of the road, but you may find it is worth it for the freedom and flexibility it gives you on your trip. You can browse Rentalcars.com to compare options for car rental.
However, public transport in the Lake District is widely available and relatively affordable. You can get trains to the Lake District from London, Glasgow, and Manchester. You can browse routes here.
Once in the Lake District, the National Express and Stagecoach Bus both offer a variety of routes that connect different towns and tourist destinations around the Lake District.
While the buses will help you get from point A to Z, there are some stops along the way in this Lake District road trip itinerary that may make it worthwhile to rent a car instead.
3 to 4 Days in the Lake District Itinerary
The Lake District is a beloved destination for international and local visitors alike. Referring to both the district and the National Park, the Lake District is known for its sprawling glacial lakes, the fell mountains that surround the waters, and the history and British culture woven throughout the surrounding towns.
With 3 days in the Lake District, you’ll be able to enjoy the water, go for a few hikes, and check out some of the history and literary associations that the area is famous for.
Those who choose to spend 4 days in the Lake District will also have a chance to visit the coast and tour a National Heritage site.
No matter how long you choose to stay, this Lake District itinerary will help you make the most of your visit.
Day 1 – Windermere, Wray Castle, Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top & More
Located alongside a lake by the same, Windermere is a picturesque British town featuring Tudor-style buildings and a quaint, laid-back atmosphere. In the town itself, you’ll find plenty of delicious restaurants, cute shops, and even the odd art gallery.
But the main event is Windermere Lake, and what better way to kick off your Lake District road trip itinerary than with a visit to the largest lake in England?
Lounge on the beach, go for a swim, or simply sit by the water and take in the views. However, you choose to spend your time, a visit to this jaw-dropping lake is a must.
Orrest Head Viewpoint
To get better acquainted with the beauty of the Lake District, the next item on the itinerary is a visit to the Orrest Head. This easy, 2.8-mile loop hike takes you from Windermere to the Orrest Head Viewpoint, and shouldn’t take more than an hour and a half.
The hike is accessible to all levels and, at the peak, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Lake Windermere and the surrounding countryside.
One of two hikes in this Lake District itinerary, the hike to Orrest Head Viewpoint is a great way to get a sweeping overview of the place where you will be spending the next 3 to 4 days.
After your hike, it’s time to take in some of the Lake District’s history. Wray Castle is a gothic revival castle that was built in 1840 by a retired surgeon and later inherited by his nephew, Hardwicke Rawnsley, who served as the vicar of Wray Church.
The National Trust has owned the castle since 1929 and in addition to touring the building, visitors can stroll the paths that weave through the estate, picnic on the lawn, or see the photographs of Rupert Potter that hang on display in the dining room.
Visiting the grounds is free, but touring the inside of the castle is £5.40 GBP for adults and £2.70 GBP for children.
Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top
Situated just 15 minutes south of Wray Castle, you can continue your tour of the region’s history with Beatrix Potter’s farmhouse.
For both the literarily inclined and those just interested in British history and culture, Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top is a must-see. Though best known for her children’s book series, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter also worked as a natural scientist and conservationist.
Beatrix Potter’s house still stands atop a small hill in the Lake District and visitors can explore her house and garden, enjoy a meal at the pop-up café, and shop for souvenirs.
Tickets to enter must be booked in advance and will cost £14.00 GBP to visit (or £7.00 GBP for children). You can also organise a half-day tour includes a visit to the house as well as some nearby attractions.
Sunset at Kirkstone Pass
Now that you’ve gotten a sense of the region’s history, it’s time to head back to the shores of Windermere Lake in time to watch the sunset. While there’s no bad place to camp out and watch the sunset, a favorite is Kirkstone Pass, the highest pass in the Lake District.
A ten-minute drive up the A592 from Windermere will take you to Kirkstone Pass, Ambleside. From here, you can pull off the road at the car park beside Kirkstone Pass Inn and enjoy the views.
This perspective gives you a sweeping view of the sun setting over the hills, but those who choose to stay by the water won’t be disappointed either, as along the shores of Windermere Lake you’ll often be able to see the way the sky paints rainbow hues across the water.
Day 2 – Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, Stott Park Bobbin Mill & Fell Foot Park
Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway
Day 2 of your Lake District itinerary starts with a truly British experience: a train ride through the countryside.
The Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway is an old-fashioned steam train that runs along a railway that’s been in the region since the 1850s. Watch the country stream by and experience the joys of riding a steam train.
Return tickets cost £9.00 for adults and £4.50 for children. On one end of the railway, in Haverthwaite, you can check out the Haverthwaite Station Tea Room, where you can grab a bite to eat.
On the other end, in Lakeside, head to the Lakes Aquarium to learn more about the local animal life.
Stott Park Bobbin Mill
An oft-overlooked attraction, Stott Park Bobbin Mill is 5000 times more interesting than it sounds. Yes, it is a functioning mill where wooden bobbins are made, but it’s so much more than that.
The passionate tour guides will give you a hands-on introduction to what it was like to work at the mill and you’ll find yourself fascinated and engaged from the moment you arrive until the time you leave.
While you don’t need to book in advance, tickets can be cheaper if you book online. Tickets are £10.00 for adults and £6.00 for children.
Fell Foot Park
After the railway and the mill, it’s time to head back to the water. Fell Foot Park is a beautiful, lush park that sits on the southern end of Windermere Lake.
In addition to simply enjoying this lovely park, it’s a great place to settle for an afternoon of water activities.
While at Fell Foot, you can rent kayaks, rowboats, or paddleboards; enjoy a picnic on the lawns; go for a swim in the lake; take a walk in the gardens; or dine and shop at the local cafes and boutiques that are spread around Fell Foot.
Day 3 – Ullswater, Howton & Hallin Fell
Ullswater Steamer to Howtown
Now that you’ve spent 2 days exploring the area around Windermere Lake, it’s time to head north to Ullswater, the second-largest lake in the Lake District at about 7 miles long.
One of the best ways to see what Ullswater is all about is to ride the Ullswater Steamer to Howtown Pier. You can start at Howtown Pier and book a return trip, or pick up the steamer at Glenridding Pier or Pooley Bridge Pier and ride it to Howtown Pier.
Return tickets are £12.00 for adults and £8.00 for children and can be purchased in-person or in advance online. Whatever route you take, take your time enjoying the open deck, saloons, and beautiful views.
Hike to Hallin Fell
On the steamer, you’ll get to see the Lake District by water, but once in Howtown, you can explore by land by heading a few miles south to the Hallin Fell hike.
This 1.3-mile loop trail is relatively easy and takes around an hour to complete. The hike itself is a beautiful romp through the countryside, featuring an old stone church and some stone ruins, but the true highlight is the views of Ullswater from the peak.
When you’re done hiking, head back to the lake to enjoy an afternoon by the water. Of course, you can always spend a few hours simply lounging by the lake and exploring the local shops and restaurants, but the more adventurous visitors might enjoy something a bit more active.
Activities include such things s sailing lessons through the Glenridding Sailing Centre or kayaking and cliff-jumping with Lake District Outdoor Activities. For those who are only spending 3 days in the Lake District, this marks the end of your Lake District itinerary.
Day 4 – Ravenglass & Muncaster Castle
If you’ve decided to spend 4 days in the Lake District, day 4 is a great chance to head to the coast.
Ravenglass is a small village on the coast of the Irish Sea. It takes about an hour to drive to Ravenglass from Windermere, or 2.5 hours to get there via train. Either way, it’s a gorgeous route through the western half of the Lake District.
Once in Ravenglass, you can visit the sea, hang out on the sandy shores of Drigg Sand Dunes and Beach, and explore the quaint coastal village before heading to Muncaster Castle.
Though the castle has gone through many renovations over the centuries, the first version of Muncaster Castle was erected in the 13th century atop Roman foundations from 79 AD. The final additions to the estate were completed in 1917.
Now, the castle and grounds are open to visitors at a cost of £19.00 for adults and £9.50 for children (though you can save 10% by booking online). In addition to touring the castle and surrounding gardens, visitors can view the on-side Hawk and Owl Centre, home to birds of prey and featuring daily flying displays.
Muncaster Castle hosts regular events, exhibitions, and festivals, so be sure to check the website before your visit to see what’s on!
Where to Stay near Lake District
The Cavendish Arms – Located in the village of Cartmel, this inn is an excellent mid-range option in the Lake District. There are a number of cosy and comfortable rooms on offer and there is also a breakfast and dinner menu available. Click here to see their availability
Embleton Spa Hotel – For those looking for a bit of luxury while in the Lake District, then this hotel is an excellent choice. They have a great location, a wonderful spa and restaurant on site and plenty of plush rooms to ensure you have a lovely stay. Click here to see their availability
Kendal Hostel – If you’re travelling solo or on a tight budget, then this hostel is a great option. They have both dorm beds and private rooms available and good self-catering facilities for those who want to make their own meals. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Lake District hotels!
The Lake District is one of England’s most popular tourist destinations, and with good reason. With so many ways to spend your time, from hiking and playing in the water to exploring literary attractions and historical sites, there’s a little something for everyone in the Lake District. Hopefully, this Lake District road trip itinerary will help you make the most of your time whenever you make the trip!
Are you planning a Lake District itinerary? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!
Hi Sarah, thank you for the article. I am planning for a family trip for 2 to Windermere end of Dec for 4 days. I will be staying in Windermere. Is there any local tour operator in Windermere I can contact for a 4 day tour you suggested above and could you kindly suggest an approximate cost for 2 persons. Appreciate your help.