England’s north west is brimming with stunning countryside, wonderful heritage and a wealth of historic monuments and gorgeous outdoor spaces. And what’s a great way to experience all of this on one trip? Take to the road! It’s easy to travel by car around many regions of Britain, as short journey times between urban and rural landscapes mean you can pack in a huge amount within a few days. Here we look at travelling through England’s north-west region, driving from the vibrant city of Manchester, through the spectacular landscapes of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, and culminating at the historic city of Carlisle.
Journey length: 120 miles
Take time to explore Manchester before you head out on the road. Love football? This is the home of two of the world’s most famous football teams; Manchester United and Manchester City. Book a tour at their stadiums and then head to the National Football Museum to learn more about the history of the beautiful game. Manchester is also a renowned cultural hotspot; head to its Northern Quarter, the city’s creative hub, to spot awesome murals and visit independent boutiques, bars and restaurants. Into museums and art galleries? Check out the city’s Whitworth Art Gallery and The Lowry as well as the Imperial War Museum North and HOME, a purpose-built centre for international contemporary art, film and theatre.
Drive 45 minutes from Manchester to Samlesbury Hall
You’re now in the gorgeous Lancashire countryside, home to one of the county’s most beautiful stately homes; Samlesbury Hall, a half-timbered black and white medieval house. Discover centuries of history as you explore the Victorian kitchen and schoolroom and take time to enjoy its stunning grounds.
Drive 30 minutes from Samlesbury Hall to the conservation village of Downham
Downham is one of the north-west region's most picturesque villages and sits in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Its main charm is the gorgeous views from the village, unencumbered by apparent signs of modern life (satellite dishes, overhead wires, road signs). Downham has regularly featured as a filming location for period pieces.
Stay: At the Grade II-listed Assheton Arms gastro pub with rooms. Tuck into hearty meals created from local ingredients in its restaurant, complete with log fire.
Drive 45 minutes from Downham to Haworth
You’ve crossed over from Lancashire into England’s largest county, Yorkshire, where you’ll be captivated by views that inspired literary classics Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Head to the attractive village of Haworth, home to the world-famous Bronte Parsonage Museum, which gives a fascinating insight into the lives of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte.
Drive an hour from Haworth to the village of Malham in the Yorkshire Dales National Park
A pretty village that’s worth exploring, Malham is also a short walk from the incredible Malham Cove, once a glacier and now a gigantic rock amphitheatre with 80-metre high cliffs. Hike up the steps at this natural beauty spot and be rewarded with phenomenal views.
Stay: 30 minutes from Malham is the village of Austwick, home to The Traddock country house hotel, which dates back to the 18th century and offers amazing views of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Drive 45 minutes from Austwick to the city of Lancaster
Drive back into the county of Lancashire and head to the heritage city of Lancaster. Explore the 1,000-year-old Lancaster Castle, the city’s secret alleyways, historic pubs and Georgian architecture before a spot of shopping in its quirky boutiques and independent art galleries. While you’re in town, journey across the Trail of the Pendle Witches, a driving trail of 45 miles that the infamous Pendle Witches travelled as they headed to Lancaster Castle to stand trial in the early 17th century.
Drive 45 minutes from Lancaster to Cartmel
In less than an hour’s drive from Lancaster you’re in the picturesque Lake District, where one of your first stops should be the ancient village of Cartmel. Not only is it famous for the 12th-century Cartmel Priory, but also for the delectable English sweet treat, sticky toffee pudding; pick up your own to take home at the Cartmel Village Shop.
Stay: Cartmel is also home to Michelin-star restaurant-with-rooms L’Enclume, where you’ll have an unforgettable meal created by chef Simon Rogan. Stay in one of its 16 bedrooms located in the village.
Drive 30 minutes from Cartmel to Bowness-on-Windermere
You’re now in the heart of the Lake District National Park at the towns of Windermere and Bowness, surrounded by gorgeous lakes and incredible scenery. Enjoy the sights from the water itself aboard Windermere Lake Cruises’ steamers. Children’s author and illustrator Beatrix Potter was one of the Lakes’ most famous residents and all ages can enjoy the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction.
Drive 45 minutes from Bowness-on-Windermere to Keswick
A lovely market town, Keswick is close to the lakes of Ullswater, Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite; catch the beautiful views from the lake on board Ullswater Steamers. Or, if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, check out Honister, an innovative adventure attraction (also England’s last working slate mine). Climb the original miners’ route (the Via Ferrata Classic) an exposed adventure climbing course 1,200 feet/366 metres above the valley floor, or take the bigger challenge by climbing the Via Ferrata Extreme!
Stay: 10 minutes from the centre of Keswick is Whinlatter, England’s only mountain forest and home to the Cottage in the Wood, a beautifully restored 17th-century restaurant-with-rooms.
Travel 45 minutes from Keswick to Carlisle
Known as the ‘Border City’, for its location just 15 minutes from England’s border with Scotland, Carlisle is a bustling city with a legendary history. Dating back to the Romans, who settled here to serve the forts of Hadrian’s Wall (just a 30-minute drive away), the city is home to artefacts of their occupation and influence, which can be seen at the Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery. And, for 9 centuries, the medieval fortress Carlisle Castle has stood majestically overlooking the city; visit for a glimpse into medieval life and the castle’s turbulent past.