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I'm planning few day's trip (from London) to the Lake District during which the I would like to hike as much as possible, stay somewhere nice (possibly really nice), and drive not at all.

I'm interested in recommendations for a good base of operations for such a trip, preferably a short walk from the train station, and convenient to moderate to intermediate hikes.

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I would recommend Ambleside: there's a frequent bus service (555) from Windermere (which it is very close to) and you can do day-hikes without a bus to Grasmere and quite a few fells (e.g. Fairfield). With short bus trip (at least in Summer) you can get up the Langdale valley, and on to Coniston or towards Keswick for day-hikes on some classic hills (the Old Man of Coniston, Helvellyn, etc.)

You might also consider Keswick itself (about 30 mins by bus from Penrith station) which is handy for Blencathra and Skiddaw hikes and Derwent Water.

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Depends a lot of the interpretation of your question.

If you stick to a short walk from the train station Windermere is the natural option.

If you are willing to loosen that requirement a little and accept traveling by bus, the whole Lake District is a possibility. Bus transportation in the Lakes is very good, but a bit pricey (to my taste at least). Anywhere in the central Lakes you will find really nice. Most places are very easy to reach without driving yourself. At that point it depends on the kind of accommodation you are looking for. Are you thinking hotel, hostel, B&B, camping... ? Just last weekend I was bivvying out near Grisedale Tarn. It was really nice, but might not be what you are looking for. According to me, you can pick about any spot in the central Lakes. It will be nice and offer plenty of opportunities for all kinds of walks.

  • Bus is fine, as long as it's reliable and conveneint (no changes or waits, if possible), and not too long a ride (say 30 min). The crucial thing is that, once there, it's a good base for moderate to intermediate hikes (right out the door, if possible), and a really nice (possibly luxurious) place to return to in the evening. Good food and places a village with amenities and things to see (especially of the water turns), wold be a plus. – orome Apr 24 '15 at 14:00
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    Ambleside comes to mind. Very well connected by bus from Windermere (busses 555 and 599 in from of the station) and also a bit of a town. As you might have understood from my answer the luxurious part is not my cup of tea so I won't make any recommendations for specific accommodation. But I'm sure you will find what you are looking for in both Ambleside and Windermere. I would rate Ambleside as better for the walks, but Windermere has the lake as a bonus. – Some wandering yeti Apr 24 '15 at 14:06
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We have stayed at the Rampsbeck Country House Hotel. It's right on the Ullswater on the A592 south of Penrith Cumbria.

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The surrounding hills are honeycombed with paths, byways, and old droves suitable for hiking and/or mountain biking. There's also a couple of farms offering horseback riding. There's a boat service that can take you down to the Trust or Information Centre in the southern part of the lake. Hence, a good place to set your 'base of operations'.

There's a sports store across the street and a small grocery store where you can stock up.

The hotel itself is pricey. In fact very pricey. But great accommodation and the Sunday roast is packed.

Transportation: the hotel is a 3 minute walk from the Watermillock Train Station and trains run daily from Penrith. By car, be prepared for arduous driving once you leave the A66, also mobile dips on the A592 that disable satnavs.

I have no connection to the hotel other than previous occasions as a customer. Trip Advisor reviews at http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g1096480-d191540-Reviews-Rampsbeck_Country_House_Hotel-Watermillock_Lake_District_Cumbria_England.html

Walking routes, hiking paths, and hiking information for Ullswater is at Walking and hiking around Ullswater

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(Images from Cumbria Tourism, with permission from Shaun Walby, also with permission from helvellyn)

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