Lake District on board - Autumn & Winter 2023/24

Windermere cruises

Autumn is often a season of contrasts in the Lake District where the weather can quickly change from wet and stormy to sunny and still. Hopefully if you visit you will get the sunshine and can enjoy the fabulous autumn colours before they disappear. Winter is just around the corner, as shown by the first snow on the mountains and some hard frosts in the mornings. It already seems a long time ago since the summer but its only after the October school holidays that public transport timetables change significantly. The seasonal bus and boat services cease along with the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway. The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway only operates occasionally over winter. The bus and boat services that do operate all winter mostly have reduced timetables but there are still plenty of opportunities to explore the area and enjoy the autumn and winter conditions. In many ways it is a great time to visit with less visitors so you can get around easier and, after a day out exploring, what can be better than a beverage sat next to a roaring open fire in one the many wonderful Lakeland pubs!

78 bus, Seatoller

My website includes a few different itineraries and adventures involving public transport, most of them still doable in winter, just with a bit less time available due to reduced timetables and daylight. These aim to give you a taste of the best bits of the Lake District from on board public transport, but also with short and relatively easy walking sections where you can better appreciate the surroundings.

One itinerary I would recommend this season is the Keswick & Borrowdale one. This makes use of the excellent 78 bus service from Keswick, which operates daily and hourly all through the winter as it travels along the beautiful Borrowdale valley with plenty of attractions along the way. With single bus fares fixed at £2 for the foreseeable future, it’s a great time to utilise the local bus services.

Derwent Water, Friar's Crag
Derwent Water from Friar’s Crag

The itinerary starts from the ever-popular Lake District town of Keswick, with its attractive market and good selection of shops, cosy pubs and restaurants. Derwent Water is nearby and makes an enjoyable stroll to the stupendous viewpoint at Friars Crag. From the bus station, the bus heads southwards from the town, with awesome views of Borrowdale valley and Derwent Water. Pass through Great Wood which contains ancient Atlantic Oaks, the last remaining fragments of English Rainforest which once covered much of the west coast of Britain. Calfclose Bay on Derwent Water is nearby with its lovely shingle beaches and views across the lake. Not far beyond is Ashness Gate where you can take the short steep walk up the Watendlath road to the famous viewpoints at Ashness Bridge and Surprise View.

Borrowdale from Castle Crag

At the far end of Derwent Water are Lodore Falls, made popular by Victorian tourists in the 19th century and impressive in wet weather. Continue by bus to the pretty village of Grange in Borrowdale where I recommend you alight to walk the next section through the narrow and spectacular Jaws of Borrowdale, following the picturesque and often crystal-clear River Derwent. A relatively easy 2.5 mile walk, although you could take a short but steep detour over nearby Castle Crag to get possibly the best views of the whole Borrowdale valley.

Seathwaite valley

You arrive at Rosthwaite village in the heart of the Borrowdale valley where there are a few options for refreshments, before a short bus trip to the small village of Seatoller through some awesome mountain scenery. Alight at Seatoller where you can do a low level walk for just over a mile along the nearby minor road into Seathwaite valley. A very popular place for walkers accessing the central Lakeland fells nowadays, but once home to a very successful lead mine which supplied the once thriving pencil industry of Keswick. Also, next to the upper River Derwent here are the ancient ‘Borrowdale Yews’. These 3 evergreen trees are believed to be over 1500 years old and were made famous by the famous local poet William Wordsworth who celebrated them in his 1826 poem, Yew Trees. The mountains are very close here and the scenery is magnificent, although it is known as the wettest inhabited place in England so you might be lucky to see the sunshine!

Bowder Stone

Then retrace your steps to Seatoller where you can catch the 78 bus all the way back down the Borrowdale valley. If you have time, you could stop at the Bowder Stone, a very famous huge boulder which has somehow come to rest in a gravity defying position perched on its edge in the woods of Borrowdale. The daring can climb the steps to the top for even better views. Back on the bus you head past Grange in Borrowdale and Derwent Water, again with great views including the mighty Skiddaw mountain ahead, looming over Keswick. Back in Keswick before sunset you might well fancy some refreshments at one of the many fine hostelries. Cheers!