I recently travelled the Lake District in the UK in a campervan for one week. The following itinerary is perfect for you if you want to explore the area and get a mix of beaches, mountains, lakes and towns. It’s ideal for those who want to start traveling with a campervan. I included both the route and camping spots for tourers and caravans so you get a full overview.
Renting a campervan
First things first: To start your journey you need a van. If you already have one you can continue a bit further down, if not there are plenty of options online. You can either go through an official rental company or there are websites like Yescapa. We rented our van through Yescapa. This platform works similar to AirBnb. Private people rent their vans out to peers, the platform handles payment, verification process and insurance. We travelled in a converted Fiat which sizewise is probably between a caravan and a small campervan. In some situations its size was quite challenging (parking spots, tiny roads) but the comfort was great. Fridge, linens, gas stove and the most important things were all included except for shower and toilet. Therefore we wanted to stop at camping spots that provide these facilities as well as electricity and water. This trip made me realize how much water we actually use as our 10l tank was gone quite quick. Thus we did the washing up at the campsites and only used our water for drinking and other important purposes.
Wildcamping in the UK
Before I had done some research my expectation was that we could just stand right next to the most beautiful lakes and sleep there. In the UK however you’re not allowed to wildcamp. A few weeks prior to the trip we booked the campsites and made sure that we have a spot to sleep at and are able to charge all our batteries. Depending on the season you should do this early. We travelled in July and got the last few spots despite booking four weeks in advance.
Traveling Lake District: The route
The following route leads you from the Southern part of the Lake District through the lakes and mountains to the beachside. What I liked most is the variety of landscape and activities.
Arrival and exploring the coastal towns Grange-over-Sands and Arnside | 2 nights at Meathop Fell caravan park
Exploring Lake Windermere | 1 night at Skelwith Fold caravan park
Climbing Helvellyn | 1 night at Setmabanning Caravan Park
Beach & coastal walks in St. Bees | 2 nights at Seacote Park
Day 1: Arrival
The first day is about driving to the Lakes, getting all the groceries and setting up the camp for the first time. I recommend to shop most of the food beforehand as there are no big supermarkets around. We started our journey in the south of the Lake District and stayed two nights at Meathop Fell caravan park. It is just outside Grange-over-Sands, set by the seaside of the Cartmel peninsula and offers grass and gravel pitches.
Day 2: Exploring Grange-over-Sands and Arnside
It’s time to explore! A 1-hour walk takes you from the caravan park to the town Grange-over-Sands. It starts with a walk trough the forest and rewards you with fantastic views over the countryside and the sea. Grange-over-Sands is a small town on the Southern tip of the Cartmel peninsula. The houses have a Victorian and Edwardian flavour. The view over the sea is breathtaking.
After strolling through Grange you can take the train to Arnside – another costal town with amazing wildlife and stunning scenery. The journey takes around 5 minutes, it’s literally on the other side. The train drives over the sea which makes the journey very special. In Arnside you can have lunch and walk along the coast. There’s also a really nice forest with wildflower meadows. If you walk along the coast you’ll find a cafe which offers a great view over the shore. Having a coffee and cake here is the perfect way to end this day. Another train ride back to Grange-over-Sands, a 1-hour walk and you’re back at the campsite to enjoy the evening.
Day 3: Lake Windermere and waterfall
Your feet might hurt after walking a lot the day before. Therefore this day is going to be quite relaxing. A 40 minutes drive takes you to Ambleside, which is located north of Lake Windermere. On the way there you can already enjoy views over the largest natural lake in England. With a length of 18km and depth of 1.5km Lake Windermere is a very popular holiday destination. In Ambleside you can park at a the LakeSide car park for around 9 pounds per day. Advice: Have breakfast after driving to car parks to make sure you get a spacious spot. This flexibility and freedom was one of the things I loved the most about travelling in a campervan.
From Ambleside you can take a boat to Bowness-on-Windermere. They depart every hour and the journey takes around 30 minutes. A round trip is 13 pounds per pax. It gives you scenic views over the lake and the mountains. I recommend to walk through Bowness, going to a café and soak up the atmosphere at the pier. In the late afternoon make your way back to Ambleside walk 20 minutes from the centre to see the waterfall Stock Ghyll in the forest.
Tonight’s spot is Skelwith caravan park which is around 15 minutes from Ambleside. Therefore you have all day to explore the lake and towns.
Day 4: Going high and climbing Helvellyn
After a relaxing day it’s time to move again. From Ambleside you drive further north to Whythburn carpark. Again, rather come early to find a spot and have a chill breakfast here. Very important: Bring cash to pay for parking! The machines don’t accept card payments. It’s around 4-5 pounds for a day.
From the car park you take the path up to Helvellyn. We kind of climbed up Helvellyn by accident and wanted to go a different route as the sign said it is for experienced and well equipped hikers. However, the path led us to the very top and we were rewarded with a fantastic view. There are no signs along the way but you can’t really go wrong. Make sure to bring enough water, some snacks, sun protection and wear proper shoes. The hike up takes around 2-3 hours one way. The view is just amazing and totally worth the effort. If you’re used to walking long distances and workout every now and then this route will be no problem in my opinion.
Setmabanning caravan park is another 15 minutes drive. It is a family run little farm and caravan park. You can book through calling, one night is 15 pounds (cash-only).
Day 5: Wildlife park and St. Bees
On the way to the beachside in the West there are plenty of towns to visit or other hikes to do. We decided to go to Lake District wildlife park. You can see wild and domestic animals which live there for conservation reasons. We found that the animals are kept in big enclosures and are treated well. We spent around 3 hours in the park.
With empty stomaches we made our way to the market town Cockermouth to have late lunch. From there it is only a 1 hour drive to St. Bees – the most Westerly point of North England. St. Bees is famous for its long sandy beach and St. Bees head, which is a red sandstone cliff.
Where to sleep? Seacote caravan park was my personal highlight and I’m glad we stayed there for two nights. Our spot was right next to the sea. It was pleasant hearing the waves while falling asleep, having breakfast and watching the seagulls flying around. There’s not much going on around the caravan park but the sea does its job. I just loved to walk in the sand, observe and read a book. Go slow and enjoy the salty breeze.
Day 6: Coastal walk to Whitehaven
After a breakfast by the sea you start the coastal walk to Whitehaven. It takes you up and down lush hills, along the cliffs and you will meet cows and many birds on the way. From the shore you can see the Isle of Man and the Scottish mainland. The whole walk is 10km long and takes around 3 hours. In Whitehaven you can reward yourself with some food. It’s a Georgian town with a maritime port. You then either walk back or take the train which brings you to St. Bees in 10 minutes.
Day 7: Departure day
What a pleasant time this was. You’ve seen the coast, some towns, mountains, lakes, beach and different animals. It’s time to head back to wherever you were coming from. Or add another day on the beach or in the Lakes. The freedom you have by traveling in a campervan is fantastic. You got everything you need with you 24/7.
Costs & review
Summing up the costs of this trip you pay around 200 pounds for the camping spots. The costs for a caravan are approximately between 500 and 1000 pounds, depending on season, pick-up location and availability. Other costs are food, restaurants, fuel and activities. We spent around 700 pounds per person for the whole trip which is a fair deal considering what you get to see and do.
Traveling in a campervan was a great experience and will definitely be repeated. I enjoyed to move around and change the campsite every other night. For my next trip I will probably plan with 2 nights per campsite to be able to see the surroundings and slow everything down a bit. The Lake District itself is a beautiful spot and worth a trip. Some parts reminded me of Victoria in Australia and New Zealand.
If you have questions feel free to leave me a comment and get in touch!