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Hidden gems by bus

19 Jul 2021

Stagecoach bus drivers reveal Cumbria’s 14 hidden gems - and they’re all accessible without a car

There are plenty of fantastic places to discover in Cumbria and the Lake District this summer. But just imagine the hidden gems you’ll only know about if you’re local to the area.  The region’s bus drivers discover their fair share of secret spots thanks to exploring their routes and getting to know their passengers. As restrictions continue to ease, Stagecoach bus drivers have shared their top tips as well as new places to discover that are a little off the beaten path, but all easily accessible without a car.

Aira Force waterfall
This National Trust site is not far from Ullswater. Here the Aira beck falls approximately 20 metres before flowing on to join Ullswater.  There’s plenty to see at Aira Force with a natural play area, plenty of picnic spots to choose from and a unique opportunity to become a squirrel detective for the day. Stagecoach driver, Luke Smith, says: “I never knew the waterfall existed until I drove the 508 service.” Bus route: 508

Aira Force Waterfall 

Gosling Sike, Houghton, Carlisle
Gosling Sike, named after a tributary of the River Eden, is the site of Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s northern office. Here you can stroll through pasture, wetland, woodland and a vibrant wildlife garden. Snipes and curlews can often be spotted and, during the summer months, dragonflies and damselflies might just make an appearance. Buses run regularly from the centre of Carlisle and stop near the entrance. Bus route: Stagecoach 179

Dodd Wood near Keswick
Dodd Summit offers spectacular views of the surrounding fells and lakes. The summit is reached via the web of walking trails which lead through the woodland. Look out for red squirrels or visit the viewpoint for nesting ospreys. Buses stop on the A591 next to the main car park.  Bus route: Stagecoach 73, 554 and X4

Tarn Hows
A short walk from the Hawkshead hill bus stop (route 505) brings you to Tarn Hows, which has been described as simply “stunning” by Stagecoach bus driver Stevie Hitching. This is one of the sites Beatrix Potter saved for future generations by buying the land for the National Trust.  Bus route: 505

Tarn Hows

Mayburgh Henge, near Penrith
This Neolithic henge is estimated to be over 4000 years old. The henge is surrounded by a bank created with over 5 million cobbles from the nearby river; this is almost 3 metres high in places. Eighteenth century drawings indicate that the henge once comprised a group of stones, but these others have now been removed leaving a single, central stone. 400 metres away, another Neolithic henge known as ‘King Arthur’s Round Table’ can be seen. Buses stop nearby on the B5320.  Bus route: Stagecoach 508

Percy House Gallery, Cockermouth
This vibrant little gallery is a unique setting in which to experience the work of Cumbrian artists. The building, dating from 1390, is Grade II* listed and has a remarkable Tudor ceiling - besides medieval panelling and an ‘inglenook’ fireplace.  Bus route: Stagecoach X5, 600

Fell Foot Park
Stagecoach driver, Jarrad Gilchrist, says: “Fell Foot Park is a nice area to relax with family, have a picnic and sit by the lake.” From March to September, Windermere Lake Cruises offers a passenger ferry service from Fell Foot to Lakeside Station where you can catch a ride on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. Bus route: Windermere 6

Fell foot park

Mrs Wilson's Coffee House & Eatery, Silloth
This happily situated establishment can be found on Criffel Street, overlooking Silloth Green. The building first opened its doors in 1858 as the Criffel Hotel. It has now been fully restored and has a large and unique wall mural celebrating Kathleen Ferrier, the famous contralto singer who made Silloth her home in the 1930s and 40s. Bus route: Stagecoach 400

Ruskin’s View, Kirkby Lonsdale
This famous view is approached from St Mary’s Churchyard. Follow the signs, and you can see for yourself the vista which so impressed John Ruskin. From here, you can descend the ‘Radical Steps’ to reach the footpath leading to the medieval ‘Devil’s Bridge’. Bus route: Stagecoach 81, 81G, 567, 99

Brayton Park, Aspatria
Brayton Hall was once the ancestral seat of the Lawson baronets, including Sir Wilfrid Lawson, the famous radical politician. The Hall was destroyed in 1918 by a devastating fire. On this site now stands a collection of luxury lodges and a restaurant, part of the parkland having been converted into a 9-hole golf course.  Bus route: Stagecoach 300

The Dock Museum, Barrow in Furness
This extensive museum covers everything from shipbuilding to social history, with an outdoor play area and café to boot. The Dock Museum is built within a nineteenth century dry dock so it’s an impressive building to explore. Bus route: Stagecoach 1, 2, 4

Dock museum 

Stott Park Bobbin Mill, Windermere
The only working bobbin mill left in the Lakes can be found beside the shore of Lake Windermere. The story of the mill is told by means of tours and an exhibition, and is illustrated with a demonstration of the historic machinery involved in the bobbin-making process. Bus route: Stagecoach service X6 to Newby Bridge then 1.5 mile walk

Rydal Hall, Ambleside
This spectacular sixteenth century building was once the home of Sir Thomas le Fleming and his family and the historic gardens are open to visitors throughout the year. Here can be found the picturesquely-situated ‘Grot’ or grotto which was a favourite haunt of Wordsworth (it appears in his poem ‘An Evening Walk’). Bus route: Stagecoach 555 bus service from Windermere station

The 77 and 77A routes offered each summer are well worth a trip.  Stagecoach driver, Karen Holden, says, “Buttermere is the most popular stop. As a driver of these services I can recommend a great journey”.  Once there, you can make the circular walk around the lake, or perhaps scale the High Stile fell with its panoramic views of Buttermere and the nearby Crummock Water. Bus route: 77 and 77A (summer only)