London to Carlisle by Train, Bus, Car and Air

Ribblehead viaduct and Ingleborough
matrobinsonphoto/Getty Images

Carlisle, about 310 miles Northwest of London, lies in the Northwest borders of the Roman Empire, and at the terminus of one of Britain's great railway journeys. It's also a gateway to the Lake District from the north. You can reach Carlisle, a few miles from the eastern end of Hadrian's Wall, in a little over three hours by fast train from London. But if you love train trips through scenic, historic routes, sampling the Settle to Carlisle line is worth a little extra time.

Use these information resources to plan your London to Carlisle trip by train, bus, car and air. 

How to Get There

By Train

Virgin Trains West Coast service from London Euston to Carlisle Station leaves frequently througout the day. Express trains to Glasgow, stopping at Carlisle, leave hourly (30 minutes after the hour) through the day. The journey takes 3h 16min. There is another service, also operated by Virgin Trains, that leaves Euston at 43 minutes after each hour but this the slow service, with 12 intermediate stops between London and Carlisle, adding an hour to your trip. Either way, the cheapest round trip fare (summer of 2019 prices) when purchased in advance as two 1-way tickets, costs £74.

UK Travel Tip for Rail Buffs - The Settle to Carlisle Line

If you really love rail journeys, you should try to plan traveling on the Settle to Carlisle line for at least one leg of your trip. The line climbs up along the Pennine Way and travels between the Yorkshire Dales on the east and the Lakeland Fells to the west. This is lonely and bleakly beautiful country; empty, crisscrossed with stone fences and dotted with primitive stone huts. The trip includes the 24-arch Ribblehead viaduct and the Three Peaks, three distinctive hills in the Dales. Passengers can actually see the curving viaduct, one of the longest in Britain, as the train passes over it.

Besides being scenic, this railway line has a fascinating story connected with it.

How to do it - To return to London this way, first book Northern Rail from Carlisle to Leeds. There are frequent trains and the trip takes 2h 49min. In 2019 the cheapest one way, advance, off peak fare was £12.50. From Leeds, you can catch Virgin Trains East Coast service to London King's Cross - 2h 15min. The cheapest one way ticket is £23. To go to Carlise from London this way, simply reverse the journey. Organizing the trip to coordinate the two rail services make take you a little while but is worth the trouble. Use National Rail Enquiries to find the schedules and cheapest fares.

By Bus

National Express operates buses from London Victoria Coach Station to Carlisle. The trip can take between 6h 45min (traveling through the wee small hours of the morning) to more than 12 hours.Tickets range in price from £8 to about £25 one way. There are only a few direct, non-stop buses per day so check the bus schedule carefully.

UK Travel Tip Some buses to Carlisle pass through Birmingham, Birmingham Airport or Preston. These journeys can include changing buses or long waits at the station that add considerable time to your trip. If time is important, look for the most direct service. Bus tickets can be purchased online. There is usually a small booking fee. Be warned, traveling by bus to Carlisle takes hours and can be a grueling journey. This would not be my recommended way to make this trip.

By Car

Carlisle is 310 miles miles northwest of London, via the M1, M6 and M42 motorways and the A6. A short stretch of the M6 north of Birmingham is a toll road. It takes at least 5 hours 30 minutes to drive. Keep in mind that gasoline, called petrol in the UK, is sold by the liter (a little more than a quart) and the price is usually more than $1.50 to $2 per quart.
UK Travel Tip: Carlisle is an important gateway to England's Lake District, to Hadrian's Wall country and to the western Scottish borders.

With interesting Roman and medieval history and landmarks of its own, Carlisle makes a good base for a touring vacation in the Northwest.

By Air

Carlisle is 57 miles, or about an hour and a half drive from Newcastle International Airport. From the London area it's served by British Airways (from Heathrow).There is really no convenient or time saving transportation between Carlisle and the airport so flying is, for the most part, an impractical option. But if you are planning on renting a car and visiting Carlisle as part of a tour of the North and the Scottish Borders, it's another option to think about.

Was this page helpful?