Outdoor AdventuresVanlife

5 days touring the Lake District in my van, and I’m in love!

Living the vanlife in the Lake District National Park

Over the years it seems I have travelled more on the continent than I have in my home country of England. It was time to address this issue and head to somewhere I had never been before: The Lake District!

So I departed on the long drive from Devon to the Lake District, not really knowing what to expect. I just knew the Lake District was a place I have been wanting to go for a long time. This was new territory for me, I had never been further north than Blackpool before!

After getting stuck in rush hour traffic at Birmingham, and then miles and miles of restricted 50mph speed limits (upgrading the M6 to a "Smart Motorway" apparently?), I finally arrived in the Lake District at 9pm. As it was dark it was difficult to see any of the scenery as we arrived in Windermere. What did strike me though was the amount of "country clubs" this place has! How posh! haha

I pulled over for a quick check on the Park4night app and I selected a small woodland car park near Rydal Water. Two vans were already there, and I just slotted in next to them and put my head down for the night.

No video?

Now before we get into the main part of the blog post, I just want to apologise for not making a video of my trip. The Lake District just took my breath away, and I got carried away in the moment, enjoying the views and taking photos. Although I did do some filming, it wasn't enough to make any meaningful video, so this blog post will have to do instead!

Wrynose Pass

Day 2 dawned, and it was a drive to Ambleside to grab some breakfast. Suitably fuelled up it was time to find out if the van would make it up the Hardknott Pass. Apparently one of the hardest roads in Britain. But first, I had to negotiate the Wrynose Pass.

Large road signs declared the road was only suitable for smaller vehicles, and impassable if there is any snow. Undeterred I set off along the Wrynose Pass. I had to try and concentrate on the driving, even though I wanted to look at the views. However, the steep drop offs from the edge of the road soon sharpened my focus, and I left my mate in the passenger seat to look at the views and take photos.

Hardknott Pass

Hot on the heels of Wrynose Pass is Hardknott Pass. Its many hairpin bends are both steep and tight. I will admit to being nervous as I started my ascent up the pass. Just days before, Leon from The Diary of a Van Man on Instagram had posted that his van "couldn't make it up the steep mountain turns"!

Well I just went for it - 1st gear all the way, keeping up momentum, not wanting to change gear, hoping I wouldn't meet a car coming down. I did not want to have to do a hill start in the van!

Had to stop for a photo half way up the Hardknott Pass
Had to stop for a photo half way up the Hardknott Pass

Bizarrely, as I had stopped to take the photo above, a car come down the pass and stopped by the van. The driver then asked me directions to the M6 motorway! I had been in the Lake District for less than 24 hours, but somehow managed to give him directions to get him back to the main road to Ambleside - from where he would find signs for the M6.

He seemed rather put out when I explained he has another pass to navigate (Wrynose) before he can get to the main road. His response was "another pass like this one?" Yes indeedy!

Wast Water

Emerging unscathed from the Hardknott Pass, it was off down to Wast Water and Scafell Pike. Seeing Wast Water come into view for the first time was just amazing. The steep scree slopes descending into the lake, and the backdrop of the rugged mountains was just jaw-dropping.

Parked up at Wast Water
Parked up at Wast Water

I drove up to the National Trust car park at the head of the lake and parked up. I really wanted to hike to the top of Scafell Pike, which is England highest mountain, but alas, it wasn't to be.

The chalk board in the car park had the summit weather conditions. Temperatures of minus 1 to minus 12 degrees Celsius, with a wind speed of 50mph. Not today thank you!

Moving on, and skirting around the western part of the Lake District, I spent a quiet night at Ennerdale Water.

Ullswater

The following morning I drove to Keswick, and fell in love with the town immediately. Grabbed some hot food from Greggs, and spent a few hours shopping for outdoor gear and then it was off to Ullswater.

Another stunning lake. I spent some time driving the road which follows the edge of the lake, and ended up in a pub for a pint and evening meal. Then it was down to a lay-by right on the edge of Ullswater. As it turned out, it was the most memorable park up of the entire week.

 Stunning overnight stop right on the edge of Ullswater
Stunning overnight stop right on the edge of Ullswater

I woke up at around 7am, lifted the blind to greeted with a stunning view. The light was just appearing over the mountains, and the lake was like a mirror. It was minus 1.5 degrees Celsius outside, but 17 degrees inside the van.

Having a wood burner makes a difference when its minus 1.5 degrees outside!
Having a wood burner makes a difference when its minus 1.5 degrees outside!

However, I knew I had to go outside and brave the cold to get some photos and videos. I spent the next hour running around taking various photos and videos, with my phone permanently connected to the Suaoki Power Generator. My iPhone battery was not liking those cold conditions.

Ullswater was like a mirror on this cold morning
Ullswater was like a mirror on this cold morning

After using the very clean toilet facilities at the National Trust car park at Aira Force, it was back to Keswick just in time for market day. I could have spent so much money in the market, as there was some great stuff for sale, but walked away with the wallet intact having bought only fudge and honey!

Back in the van, I headed off down along the shores of Derwent water and onto Honister Pass.

Honister Pass

Another awesome mountain pass. Steep and winding in places, the van was down to 1st gear again. Obviously I had to stop at the Honister slate mine and adventure centre at the head of the pass.

I had a look around, decided it would be good to have a Vanlife TV engraving on some slate. Then I saw the price and thought better of it. The quality of the slate products was top notch, but out of my price league!

I will be coming back to Honister at some point, as I am keen to try out the Via Ferratta.
If you don't know what that is, watch this video! 🙂

Descending the pass I then drove past Buttermere and Crummock water, before doing a big loop back to Keswick. Then it was onwards to the Langdale Valley for an evening meal at the Hikers Bar in the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. What a great place, and the food was awesome.

I could have stayed in the car park of the pub, but decided to drive somewhere different, and ended up staying the night in the Kirkstone Pass.

Meeting a YouTube Subscriber

After a quiet night in the Kirkstone Pass, I drove back to Aira Force to use the toilet facilities again. While I was there I had a knock on the side door of the van.

As it turns out, one of my YouTube subscribers had noticed the van and came over to say hello. And to make things even better, he was a long time subscriber from when I started my channel. I had had many conversations with him on YouTube, and I finally got put a face to a name.

We hit it off immediately and ended up having a chat for 3 hours! As it was my final day, he offered to show me the way back to the M6, and the cheapest fuel in the area where I could fill up for the long journey back to Devon. So, Square Peg Round Hole - it was great to finally meet you. 🙂

So where did I stay?

The map below shows my route around the Lake District, including where I stayed in my van. Each overnight stop has a letter assigned to it, which you can cross reference below. Click the map for a larger version.

My route around the Lake District, and overnight stops
My route around the Lake District, and overnight stops
  • Night 1: Small car park off Rydal Water (A)
  • Night 2: Car park at Ennerdale Water (B)
  • Night 3: Lay-by at Ullswater (C)
  • Pub Stop: Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel (D)
  • Night 4: Car park in Kirkstone Pass (E)

Lake District Conclusions

Well, I absolutely loved my time in the Lake District. I felt so at home there for some reason. I managed to take in a lot of the area in the week that I was there, and every lake I visited had a different vibe to it.

Up until this point, Snowdonia was my favourite mountainous area of the UK, but I think the Lake District has topped that!

Now that I have my bearings and know where the main areas of the Lake District are, I will return and hike to the top of some of those peaks. I can't wait.

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One Comment

  1. Hey Matt,
    boy, I am feeling queasy just from watching this climb!
    Mischa and I been to the lakes before but that was before the van ‘BV’
    The photos are flipping amazing, makes me want to go back. The map you made will come in super handy 🙂
    All the best
    K

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