Many people are familiar with Alfred Wainwright's Pictorial Guides, but fewer in number may be aware of his use of public transport to reach his beloved tops. Although the 'Far Eastern Fells' were much nearer to AW's home, a geographical fact which led to his first book compilations being the fells nearer to his abode, for most of his journeys to the fells, local bus services and public transport were employed. In the years before Betty McNally came onto the scene, with her now infamous 'wheels', it was public transport that gave AW his access to the places he loved most. You will not see a tube train in Cumbria, despite what this photograph shows, but the notion of 'Transport for Lakeland' seems a good one. For fellwalkers who rely on their car, an entirely new perspective can be gained from the many bus, rail and water bound services on offer in Cumbria. With careful planning some fantastic mountain days can be had incorporating a ride on some of the following modes of transport. You really should give it a go!
For the purposes of this site, it is appropriate not only to mention some of the more useful bus services in the district, but also feature the other transport services which give Lakeland its quintessential heritage and unique character. Ranging from the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, which is itself featured on Tubular Fells to the many lake services on Coniston Water and elsewhere, there are plenty of other ways to see and experience this fabulous area of the UK. Apart from the fells, The Lake District is endowed with some very special tourist attractions indeed.
This short article features links to the public transport, main lake boat services and private railways. It is hoped that Tubular Fells map might inspire you to make use of some of Lakeland's most iconic transport systems.
THE BUS ROUTES
When I discuss bus transport I always cite a quote from Jessica Lofthouse, the famous Lancastrian and Lakeland author, who did much to promote the places she adored. To me a line that makes so much sense is her adage that, "the best way to see England is from the top of a double decker bus." Having spent my teenage years travelling to school by such means I can heartily concur with her thoughts and to many, the best way to see parts of the Lake District is from the 555 bus service - itself a double decker bus.
555 and OTHER BUS SERVICES
The 555 bus service famously runs through the heart of Lakeland. Although leaving Lancaster for Carlisle, the section between Kendal and Keswick is often regarded by many as one of the most scenic bus rides in England, if not the whole of the UK.
Recently, the route has seen a renaissance, with the likes of Mark Richards (Lakeland author and writer) using it for his popular 'Park and Stride' feature on BBC Radio Cumbria. In fact, many people are seen to use it, linking their day walks and reconnecting with their cars on routes such as those along the A591 which provides convenient passage after a linear walk along the main north south axis of the Helvellyn range from Raise in the north to Dollywagon Pike in the south.
1. THE WEST COAST - The west coast of Cumbria is blessed with its very own rail line which is frequently used by steam specials such as the newly commissioned 'Tornado' steam locomotive. For many a ride on the Cumbrian Mountain Express is a great experience, but less may realise that the local west coast has its very own regular timetable linking places like Carlisle, Maryport, Whitehaven and Grange-over-Sands. To find out more and take a ride on this special route, follow the link. For those who want to access the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway without the long drive by car from places in east Cumbria, then alighting at Ravenglass might just be the ideal way of reaching the fabulous Eskdale and all of it without the need for a car.
2. OXENHOLME TO WINDERMERE
For those of you wishing to leave the car at home, and wanting to visit the region as the Victorians may have done, then taking the west coast line to Oxenholme is a great way to visit the region. For many foreign tourists travelling north, their first view of the fells is from the train as it leaves Oxenholme descending to Kendal and on to Windermere via Burneside and Staveley. Nowadays, the fabulous Victorian station building in Windermere houses Booths the grocers, but the views from the newly appointed platform and halt incorporate a fantastic view through to the skyline of the Langdale Pikes - what greater gateway to the fells?
3. OTHER RAIL LINES
THE RAVENGLASS & ESKDALE RAILWAY:
As a kid, travelling on La'al Ratty was one of those cherished and much loved excursions, something I repeated with school students when I took them there. For many generations of visitors the R&ER has become a much loved trip, travelling 7 miles inland from the former Roman port of Glaneventa, into the remote hinterland of the Cumbrian Esk in the shadow of the high Cumbrian fells.
Especially important for Tubular Fells is that Alfred Wainwright wrote a short guidebook based on the railway which he entitled 'Walks from Ratty'. This small guide, still available to this day, is published by the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway Co. Ltd, and demonstrates the way AW wanted to support local enterprise and promote the use of other forms of transport. Those familiar with the works of AW will know his contempt for some of the road development proposals such as the A66 and his uneasy relationship with the car. To see some amusing images of the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, then follow the link here:
THE LAKESIDE AND HAVERTHWAITE RAILWAY:
One of my early memories of a trip to the Lakes was a combined trip by rail from Haverthwaite to Lakeside (on Windermere) and then the cruise up to Bowness-on-Windermere and then finally to Waterhead near Ambleside. The day was completed by an ascent of Loughrigg making a truly memorable day. This type of excursion is the ideal outing for a family, and although you might want to sail back to Lakeside for the train, clever placing of cars, if there is more than one set of wheels, can make a very interesting day out. Although the railway isn't long, there are many events throughout the year and for a great way to savour Lakeland, this journey along the River Levens is a real must.
1. ULLSWATER 'STEAMERS':
Many consider Ullswater as Lakeland's most beautiful. However, to see it at its best, a trip on one of the 'steamers' is a must. Linked with Glencoyne Bay, inspiration for Wordsworth's 'Daffodils' and the later water speed challenge of Donald Campbell, Ullswater really epitomises what it means to be Lakeland. Doubly rewarding for the visitor to Ullswater are the many imposing mountains that surround the head of the lake, not least the 3118' high Helvellyn, one of the English Munros.
2. WINDERMERE LAKE CRUISES:
Discussion has already been made of how to best utilise the services of the Windermere lake cruises in conjunction with the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. However, cruises can be picked up elsewhere (Bowness and Waterhead) which go to make it one of Lakeland's most popular tourist attractions. Featured in the Christmas 2009 television advert for Waitrose the Windermere cruise service certainly gives the visitor that real Lake District experience. Windermere is England's largest lake and offers cruises up to 3 hours in length with gorgeous views to the north across the high peaks of Fairfield and Red Screes. For anyone wanting a relaxing break from walking the fells, this makes a really good day. For anyone wanting to cross Windermere in their car, there is of course the ferry which connects the B5285 from Ferry Nab near Marina Village, Bowness to the Ferry House 1.2km east of Far Sawrey.
3. CONISTON CRUISES:
Although smaller in extent than both Ullswater and Windermere, Coniston Water really is a pearl of the lakes. Described by the philosopher, artist, poet and social reformer John Ruskin as, "On the whole, the finest view I know in Cumberland or Lancashire", a visit to Coniston really feels a little more off the beaten track than the usual tourist haunts. Whether it's a trip on the National Trust vessel, Gondola, a trip on the launches, or a row on the lake itself, a trip across the waters of this glacial lake makes for some tremendous views onto the Coniston fells.
4. THE KESWICK LAUNCH COMPANY:
Otherwise known as the 'Queen of the Lakes' Derwentwater is 75 feet deep and 4 miles in length. Surrounded by sublime fells with Skiddaw towering behind Keswick, cruises on the lake lend themselves to excellent walks onto fells such as Catbells or even into the 'Jaws' of Borrowdale' for ascents of higher fells like Maiden Moor or even Scafell Pike itself.