How to Travel From London to Carlisle by Train, Bus, Car, and Plane

Ribblehead viaduct and Ingleborough

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Carlisle, about 315 miles (507 kilometers) from London, lies along the northwest borders of the Roman Empire, at the terminus of one of Britain's great railway journeys. It's also a gateway to the Lake District from the north. A high-speed train from London will get you to this cathedral city, a few miles from the eastern end of Hadrian's Wall, in about three hours; however, if you love a scenic train journey, sampling the Settle-Carlisle line is worth a little extra time. Alternatively, you can travel by bus, plane, or car.

  Time Cost Best For
Bus 7 hours, 40 minutes from $19 Minding a budget
Train 3 hours, 15 minutes from $130 Arriving on a time crunch
Plane 2 hours, 40 minutes from $81 Traveling in comfort
Car 5 hours, 15 minutes 315 miles (507 kilometers) Exploring the local area

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From London to Carlisle? 

The cheapest way to travel to Carlisle, UK, from London is by bus. The National Express departs from London Victoria Coach Station every 30 minutes from 6 a.m. to midnight, arriving in Carlisle about seven hours and 40 minutes later. Most buses stop at Heathrow Airport and some of them stop in Birmingham or Preston. Make sure to choose one that doesn't require annoying transfers, which can also extend travel time. Tickets start around $19 and can be purchased online. To save even more money, you can catch a late bus from London and arrive in Carlisle in the morning to avoid having to pay for accommodation for the night.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From London to Carlisle? 

Those who are traveling on a time crunch will be better off taking the high-speed train instead. The Avanti West Coast service runs from London Euston hourly. It takes about three hours and 15 minutes, but you have to get the express line to Glasgow, which makes a stop at Carlisle Station. Slower trains stop 12 times between London and Carlisle, adding an hour onto the journey. The cheapest single-trip fare costs about $130 and can be purchased via Rail Europe.

How Long Does It Take to Drive? 

Carlisle is 315 miles (507 kilometers) northwest of London. It takes about five hours and 15 minutes to drive the route, which leads you out of the capital on the M1, then follows the M6, M42, and A6 to Carlisle. A short stretch of the M6 north of Birmingham is a toll road. Though the drive isn't that scenic, having a car is handy for exploring the surrounding Lake District and nearby Hadrian's Wall, a Roman fortification dating back to AD 122.

How Long Is the Flight? 

Although Carlisle does have an airport of its own, it's only a regional one. The nearest international airport is in Newcastle, which is about an hour and a half's drive from Carlisle. British Airways services this travel hub from Heathrow Airport, with flights starting at $81. The trip takes about an hour and 10 minutes. While this may seem like the most comfortable travel option, keep in mind that there is no convenient or time-saving transportation between Carlisle and the Newcastle International Airport. You can, however, rent a car from there.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Carlisle?

This region is home to some of the most pristine nature England has to offer—craggy hills, glacial lakes, and the like—which come to life during April and May. You must be prepared for inclement weather in this region, however. It's known to be very wet, but July and August are its driest months. While the summer is beautiful, it's the most popular (i.e. crowded) time. If you don't mind a little bit of rain (or snow!) and chilly temperatures, go during the low season. Even winter is beautiful.

If you plan to travel by high-speed train—a very popular transportation option—you can save up to $50 by booking your ticket in advance. Alternatively, you can save almost $100 if you book your trip for off-peak hours, which is anytime outside of the heavily trafficked window between 5:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. According to Trainline, the overnight train that leaves at 9 p.m. and gets in at 7:15 a.m. is considered "super off-peak" and is, therefore, the cheapest.

As a general rule, try to avoid traveling on Friday afternoons and Sunday evenings, when highways, train stations, and airports become packed with UK residents commuting to and from the Lake District on weekend getaways. Know when the local bank holidays are and avoid booking travel during those times, too.

What’s the Most Scenic Route to Carlisle? 

One popular way to travel to Carlisle—especially for rail buffs—is to take the Settle-Carlisle line. The entire 73-mile (117-kilometer) route takes over five hours. First, you have to get yourself from London to Settle, which takes about four hours on a train that goes through Leeds. Then, after you transfer onto the Settle-Carlisle railway, you will climb up along the Pennine Way (a national trail) and travels through serene countryside between the Yorkshire Dales to the east and the Lakeland Fells to the west. The trip includes the 24-arch Ribblehead Viaduct (one of the longest in Britain) and the Three Peaks (three distinctive hills in the Dales). Altogether, it takes at least nine hours, but it's worth the extra time for the history and scenery.

What Is There to Do in Carlisle? 

Located at the confluence of the rivers Eden, Caldew, and Petteril, Carlisle is a short 10 miles from the Scottish border. It's the county seat of Cumbria and home to all sorts of historical landmarks like the Carlisle Castle and the Carlisle Cathedral, as well as museums and art galleries such as Tullie House and the Museum of Military Life. The Lake District has in the past inspired the likes of William Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter, Robert Southey, and other writers, and there are literary landmarks aplenty (including the Wordsworth Museum, Theatre by the Lake, the Brewery Arts Centre) in the surrounding area.

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