The Lake District may have seemingly endless tracts of natural beauty that you are free to enjoy, but virtually everything else in the region comes at a cost. Accommodation, dining, activities and attractions are all known for being relatively pricey, mostly because of the immense popularity of the National Park. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t visit on a tight budget.

    With the help of these Lake District money-saving tips, you can at least trim some of the more significant costs of your trip. In some cases, you might even be able to explore some of the region’s top attractions for free.


    Choose your accommodation with care

    Balance comfort with cost

    The choice of places to stay in the Lake District is pretty impressive but can also cost you quite a considerable chunk of your travel budget. At the top end of the spectrum are luxurious country estates that have been converted into exclusive spa resorts. Fortunately, there are some good choices at the other end of the spectrum.

    There are a few hostels around the Lake District and renting a space in a campsite is usually pretty budget-friendly, but both inevitably mean sacrificing some comfort. You can find a good middle ground by looking for hotels and cottages a little away from the main tourist hubs, particularly in the countryside away from the lakes.


    Hike as much as you can

    Take full advantage of the beautiful scenery

    While many aspects of a Lake District holiday can be quite pricey, the one thing that remains entirely free is the breathtaking landscape that first made the area famous. There’s no charge for entering UK national parks and using their well-marked hiking trails, so lace up your boots and get out there!

    It’s worth noting that, because of the deep valleys and high mountains, mobile coverage in the Lake District is patchy at best and non-existent at worst, so you can't rely on using Google Maps to get around. A GPS or map (with the know-how required to read it) is essential if you're planning to do a lot of hiking. Ordnance Survey maps of the area are highly detailed but can be pricey.

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    Get around in a rental car

    Ideally an electric one

    Hiring a car is the most cost-effective way of getting around the Lake District if you’re travelling as a group. It also gives you the most freedom and comfort. Sadly, excessive numbers of cars have taken their toll on the region, but you can remain eco-friendly by hiring an electric car.

    Solo travellers will find that there’s a pretty good public transport network in the Lakes and ticket prices, while slightly on the high side, probably aren’t going to empty your bank account. However, when you’re paying for a family, the amounts add up fast, making a car cheaper in the long run.


    Buy your food from the farmers’ markets

    Buy your food from the farmers’ markets

    Restaurants in the Lake District can be a bit on the expensive side, so self-catering is definitely one of the best ways to cut down on the cost. While there are supermarkets where you can stock up on supplies, you'll get much better prices and more enjoyable experience at a farmers' market.

    Most of the markets around the Lake District are held at specific times of the month in the towns on the national park's outskirts. For example, Kendal's street markets take place on the last Friday of the month, Penrith's is on 3rd Tuesday, and Cockermouth's on the 1st Saturday. In the park itself, Keswick Farmers' Market is held on the 2nd Thursday of the month.


    Become a National Trust or English Heritage member

    Get free entry to dozens of Lake District attractions

    The Lake District is well-known for its huge array of historic sites, most of which are cared for by either the National Trust or English Heritage. You’ll need to buy a ticket to get into most of them, but members of these organisations get in for free. If you’re planning on visiting more than 3 or 4 such places during your Lake District holiday, joining one or both may give you substantial savings.

    What if you’re travelling from outside of the UK? Both organisations offer Overseas Visitor Passes – effectively a limited duration membership that comes at an equally limited cost.


    Look out for special transport deals

    Save on nearby attractions and multi-day stays

    If you’re going to stick with using public transport during your stay in the Lake District, be sure to check your options when it comes to buying tickets. In some cases, you can save money with combination tickets. For example, buying a Windermere Lake Cruise ticket can give you a discount on entry to the Lakeland Motor Museum, Lakes Aquarium, Lakeland & Haverthwaite Railway and others.

    Another way to save money with Windermere Lake Cruises is to buy a Bus & Boat Ticket. This gives you unlimited land and water transport as far north as Penrith, south as far as Lancaster and to many popular stops around the Lake District. You can save even more money by getting a multi-day ticket.


    Explore the more remote lakes

    They’re just as beautiful

    There are 16 lakes in the Lake District, not to mention plenty of reservoirs, but most people choose to stick to the biggest and most popular. Who can blame them? Windermere, Ullswater and Coniston Water are beautiful and have lots to see and do around them. However, being so popular, prices for accommodation and dining can be quite high.

    By contrast, Buttermere, Wast Water and Ennerdale Water are just as beautiful but less popular. This is mostly because they’re harder to reach and have significantly fewer facilities. However, what facilities they do have are much cheaper.

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    Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre

    Take a quick break from your worries

    The Lake District might not be your first thought when you’re looking for an internationally-renowned Buddhist temple, but Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre is exactly that. To be fair, the peaceful setting certainly makes it a great place for meditation. However, there’s more to Manjushri KMC than that, with in-depth courses and retreats offered throughout the year.

    If you’re travelling on a budget, Manjushri KMC has a daily free 15-minute guided meditation in their World Peace Temple from 12.30 pm. The temple looks a little out of place from the outside, being next to an old English country estate that’s been converted into the rest of the centre, but it provides a fantastic respite from the busy world.

    Location: Conishead Priory, Ulverston LA12 9QQ, UK

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1229 584029


    photo by dbeckwith (CC BY 3.0) modified


    Kendal Castle

    Have a picnic among the historic ruins

    The ruins of Kendal Castle overlook the town from a hilltop to the southeast. Built in the 12th century, the castle was already a ruin by the 16th century – mostly just through poor maintenance and gradually deteriorating over time. The resulting ruins are still impressive and safe to explore.

    The hill that Kendal Castle sits atop offers great views in every direction and is a fantastic spot for a picnic. There are several sculpture seats specially commissioned for the site, which are good to use if you didn't bring a picnic blanket.

    Location: Kendal LA9 7DJ, UK

    Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveller

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