It isn't clear from your post whether you will already have visited any of the best parts of the Lake District, which lie south of these two towns.
If not, and with a whole day at your disposal, I'd be inclined to start by heading south, and explore the area round Grasmere, Windermere and Ullswater, before turning back north towards Carlisle in the evening.
Sorry for any confusion. Basically I am looking at going south then toward the coast and up north to Carlisle. So if I stay in Penrith I would travel past Ullswater lake toward Ambleside / Windermere but if I stay in Keswick I would travel through Grasmere passing Derwentwater and Thirlmere. So which route is considered better for sights etc. From Ambleside / Windermere is it best to drive down to Newby Bridge coming up past Coniston Lake and Hawkeshead then across Hardknott Pass to Ravenglass then up the western coast, possibly through Cockermouth onto Carlisle.
Is this route going to capture a portion of the "best" of the Lakes' district. Is it possible to do the trip in one day. Are there other areas / sights that I will miss in doing the above route?
So any suggestions, tips, places not to visit, places providing great vistas of the lakes etc would be most welcome.
Of the two routes south to Ambleside/Windermere, the one via Ullswater and Kirkstone Pass is the more scenic. You could take this from Penrith or from Keswick - it makes little difference. But Keswick is a more tourist-oriented town than Penrith, so you might be better staying there.
From Ambleside, (providing you are a confident driver!), take the main road (A593) towards Coniston, but before Consiton turn right and drive over Wrynose and Hardknott Passes - an exciting and very scenic drive. As you only have one day, I suggest doing this rather than going all the way round via Newby Bridge.
Enjoy your trip!
Dont bother with the coast (Cumbria is not noted for its coast line) so take some of the suggested routes above, and incorporate the Borrowdale Valley, over Honister Pass, and past Buttermere/Crummock Water, and back to Cockermouth that way, from there you can pick up the road to Carlisle. Between Cockermouth - Carlisle, is not that scenic.
I have been looking at the Lakes area and taken on board all your comments and suggestions and have put together a possible drive that appears to make the most of the area. Your comments would be welcome. Drive is:-
Start at Keswick and head south on B5289 across Honister Pass to Buttermere then on to Cockermouth. From there head down the A5086 toward Egremont onto the A595 possibly diverting to Ravenglass then back and across to Eskdale, across Hardknott and Wrynose Passes to join the A593 onto Coniston. From here onto Hawkeshead then to Lake Windermere and cross on the Ferry then onto Windermere. From Windermere take the A592 along Ullswater through Pooley Bridge then onto the A66 to join the M6 to Carlisle.
Appears to be about a bit over 200 miles. Is this a bit ambitious for one day. Obviously getting an early start from Keswick and hopefully allowing time for stopping at various locations and some of the towns.
That looks like a fairly ambitious day's driving. Average speeds will be low (very low going over Hardknott and Wrynose) as the pass roads are narrow (one lane so you have to wait for people coming the other way). You might also have to queue for the Windermere ferry.
However give it a go and see how you get on. If you are running out of time then you can cut from Wrynose to Ambleside and direct to the top of the Kirkstone pass which would probabaly save an hour.
I agree with railenthusiast - it's a good route (as long as you are a confident and experienced driver) but it's a long one, and railenthusiast's suggested short cut looks like a good idea. After all, you will be passing thorough some beautiful landscapes, and it would be nice to be able to get out and stretch your legs occasionally!
Thanks Railenthusiast and Dhmellor for your comments.
I see if time is short then Railenthusiast your suggestion is to skip going down to Coniston and Hawkeshead and head strait through to Ambelside and onto the A592. I will kept that in mind if indeed time is running short. As we will be in the Lakes District around the 24th of September is that a particularly busy time for tourists? Do you have any idea as to what sort of queue time should be allowed to catch the ferry across Lake Windermere and time involved. Would we need say 1 hour just for the crossing?
The ferry runs every 20 mins, and only takes a small number of cars, so sometimes there is a bit of a queue, however the end of September is outside of the school holiday period, so should not be too busy.
Schedules at the following website: (or search under Hawkshead Ferry if the link does not work)
Everywhere in the Lake District you need to allow for the Tractor Factor (ie: you often get stuck behind one) so it can all take longer than expected.
You are not getting much time to stop and look around. Might you have time to cover some of it on your day of arrival and cover the rest the next day?