Car-free adventures aroundPenrithCumbria

Richard III, before he was king, once lived in the town’s red sandstone castle, now a picturesque ruin right opposite the railway station. In the shadow of this 14th century fort, Penrith, just north of the beautiful Lake District is a hub for car-free visitors to the area. This pretty market town makes a great base: catch buses to Pooley Bridge and beyond or to Keswick. Go onwards by foot, Ullswater Steamer or Keswick launch. Railways run all the way round the Lake District, but not so much into it (except for the branch line to Windermere - look out for our car-free guide). Once you’ve arrived – it’s mostly buses, boats, bikes and walking boots!

  1. 4. Bus to Keswick

    Buses X4 and X5 set off hourly from Penrith (more in summer) for a scenic journey along the north edge of the Lake District to Keswick. Sit on the top floor of these comfy Stagecoach gold buses for the best views.

    • Just outside Penrith the bus stops at the turf-roofed Rheged Discovery Centre before going on through the misty fells. Tempting paths branch off at every corner through the fields of lambs and old stone barns.
    • Looking left out of the windows, there are classic, calendar-ready views of lakes below monumental slopes. The whitewashed farms nestling in perfect valleys give way to rougher ground near Tarn Moss nature reserve and then lovely landscapes round the village of Threlkeld. If you feel inspired to get off and go for a walk, look out for the community coffee shop in the village hall; according to local residents, it serves great tea and cakes and has just brought in a new menu for lunches.
    • The bus goes on into Keswick, with plenty of interesting sights and lots more great options for food and drink. But before that, you could choose to get off a few stops early and head up the hill to Castlerigg Stone Circle.
  1. 5. Castlerigg Stone Circle and more

    A numinous ring of forty boulders stands on a hill just outside Keswick, less than a mile from a bus stop. No one quite knows why the Neolithic Cumbrians lugged these rocks up here to build one of Britain’s oldest, most impressive prehistoric monuments, but it’s an atmospheric place, surrounded by ancient mountains.

    • Get off the X4 or X5 bus from Keswick at the stop called Brentfield and head immediately away from the main road up the lane between houses. Turn left up Eleventrees Road and keep going up the hill. Someone has kindly provided a bench to rest on half way up. Arrive around sunrise and sunset for enhanced mysteriousness and fewer crowds.
    • Walking back into Keswick, go back down the hill and turn left at the junction. Soon afterwards, turn left again along the railpath, a disused railway providing a traffic-free route for walkers and cyclists. Cross the River Greta and, at the swimming pool, turn left once more past the interesting Keswick museum.
    • On the far side of Keswick, is the Theatre by the Lake, with its fab location and varied line-up, including the Words by the Water festival every March.
    • Friar’s Crag, a ten-minute stroll from the theatre door along the shore of Derwentwater, has a slate memorial to Victorian sage John Ruskin, born 200 years ago this Spring. And of course there are boats here too.
    • For refreshments, look out for the Casa Bella, a family-run restaurant on Station Street serving up traditional crisp-based pizzas and generous bowls of pasta. Open in the evening (and worth booking ahead), you can buy coffee and ice creams from 11am. Don’t miss the heavenly homemade gelato, with flavours like sour cherry and honeycomb.
    • Back in Penrith, there are more restaurants to chose from. If you need to warm up, try FYR at the North Lakes hotel, ten minutes south of the station. This crowd-pleasing, carnivorous restaurant with high beams and decorative birch trunks is much nicer than it looks from outside; sit near the log fire to watch the chef flame-grilling the dishes.

Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount

Visit car-free in 2019!