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 dream-worthy 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 a route through England’s north-west region, starting in the vibrant city of Manchester, and travelling through the spectacular landscapes of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, before culminating at the historic city of Carlisle.
Journey length: 120 miles
Take time to explore the bustling city of Manchester before heading 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, so be sure to add the Northern Quarter to your itinerary. In the city’s creative hub, you can look forward to spotting awesome murals and visiting independent boutiques, bars and restaurants. Into museums and art galleries? Check ahead to see what's on at the city’s Whitworth Art Gallery and The Lowry as well as at 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
Once you’re in the gorgeous Lancashire countryside, stop off at 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, nestled at the base of Pendle Hill. Highlights include the views from the village, unencumbered by apparent signs of modern life (satellite dishes, overhead wires, road signs). As a result, Downham has regularly featured as a filming location for period pieces. If you’re keen to hike through England’s heritage, you can walk up Pendle Hill. Taking around three hours to complete, it’s a journey packed with countryside vistas.
From here, you can also journey along the Pendle Witch Trail, 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.
Dream stay: The Grade II-listed Assheton Arms gastro pub with rooms offers hearty meals created from local ingredients in its restaurant, which comes complete with a crackling log fire.
Drive 45 minutes from Downham to Haworth
As you cross over from Lancashire into England’s largest county, Yorkshire, where you’ll be captivated by the views that inspired literary classics Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Head to On a future trip, you can look forward to exploring the attractive village of Haworth, home to the world-famous Brontë Parsonage Museum, which gives a fascinating insight into the lives of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë. If you want to stretch your legs through the very moors loved by the literary family, you could factor in time to stroll to the Brontë Waterfall and Top Withens. Said to have inspired the setting of Wuthering Heights, the walking route to both landmarks is easily accessible from Brontë Parsonage.
Drive an hour from Haworth to the village of Malham in the Yorkshire Dales National Park
A pretty village that’s worth exploring on a future trip is Malham, which is located 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 you'll be rewarded with phenomenal views.
Dream 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
Next, drive back into the county of Lancashire and head to the heritage city of Lancaster. Imagine exploring 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. If you’re yearning for some slow travel, you can look forward to gliding along on a Lancaster canal boat, while history fans can enjoy a dose of early Victorian England at the Cottage Museum.
Drive 45 minutes from Lancaster to Cartmel
Less than an hour’s drive from Lancaster lies 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 which is available to buy at the Cartmel Village Shop. Want to blow away the cobwebs in the refreshing sea breeze? Add a circular walk from Cartmel to Grand-over-Sands to your itinerary, which takes in Eggerslack Wood and part of the Cumbria Coastal Way long-distance walking trail.
Dream stay: Cartmel is home to Michelin-star restaurant-with-rooms L’Enclume. Featuring 16 rooms located around the village, this boutique accommodation also offers the chance to enjoy an unforgettable meal created by chef Simon Rogan.
Drive 30 minutes from Cartmel to Bowness-on-Windermere
In the heart of the Lake District National Park at you’ll find the towns of Windermere and Bowness, which are surrounded by gorgeous glimmering lakes and incredible scenery. Want to enjoy the sights from the water itself? Jump aboard one of 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; and no visit would be complete without catching 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 that’s also England’s last working slate mine. Imagine taking in the rugged scenery as you 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!
Dream 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 which also boasts a Michelin star.
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 hub 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. If you’re a history buff who’s hungry for more, don’t miss the medieval fortress of Carlisle Castle, which has stood majestically overlooking the city for nine centuries. Step inside its walls for a glimpse into medieval life and the castle’s turbulent past on this, our final stop.
Restrictions on travel to and around Britain are in place due to Covid-19. You are encouraged to always check individual websites for the latest information, as details are subject to change.