Travel: Lakeland links

Cumbria without a car
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The Independent Travel
This summer, the Lake District is more accessible for people without cars than it has been for many years. Virgin Trains has just amalgamated its West Coast and Cross Country divisions, and is promoting a range of cheap fares from England, Wales and Scotland to the region's "gateway" stations of Carlisle, Penrith and Oxenholme.

The best fare is a "Twosome", for two people travelling together. London to Oxenholme costs pounds 60 return for two people; Glasgow to Carlisle is pounds 20. You must book by 2pm the day before travel.

Rail fares from other points vary widely; Cardiff to Carlisle costs pounds 62.70 for a Supersaver; from Oxford to Oxenholme costs a minimum of pounds 31 for an Apex return. Until 30 April, call 0345 484950 for rail information; from 1 May, the Virgin Rail Sales Centre is opening on 0345 222333.

National Express (0990 808080) runs buses to Windermere from various places in Britain. From London there are two Rapide services each day, price pounds 32.50 (pounds 39 for travel on Fridays). From Birmingham there is one direct service, cost pounds 24.50/pounds 29.50 return.

Within the Lake District, Stagecoach Cumberland (01946 63222) sells the best-value unlimited-travel bus pass in Britain - valid throughout Cumbria, south to Blackpool and Preston, north to Annan in Scotland and across to Newcastle-upon Tyne. A Day Explorer costs pounds 5.20, or pounds 9.99 for a family ticket for two adults plus two children. A four-day pass is pounds 12.99, and must be booked in advance.

The Lakes Daytripper ticket from NorthWest Regional Railways allows travel to Grange-over-Sands or Windermere, plus unlimited bus travel, for pounds 3 more than the normal day return ticket. Sample prices: from Liverpool pounds 15.50, Bolton pounds 12.50, Manchester pounds 12.90.

Windermere Lake Cruises has three piers: Lakeside in the south, Bowness (for Windermere) and Waterhead (for Ambleside). Departures are every hour from 9.05am to 4.55pm. A Freedom of the Lakes ticket, valid for 24 hours, costs pounds 8.75 for adults or pounds 4.40 for children. Details on 015395 31188.

The Ullswater Navigation and Transit Company, which began sailing in 1855, continues to operate Victorian vessels: the Lady of the Lake, built in 1877, and the Raven, younger by 12 years. Call 01539 721626 for times and fares.

The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway (01229 717171) runs steam-hauled trains on the seven-mile, 15-in gauge line from the coast to Dalegarth. The journey takes 40 minutes. An Eskdale Explorer (two adults plus two children) costs pounds 14.70 and is valid all day. Thomas the Tank Engine will make an appearance on 18 and 19 October.

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