Dream drives: A591, Cumbria

| 3 May 2024
Classic & Sports Car – Dream drives: A591, Cumbria

For anyone who visits the Lake District, the A591 is an unavoidable pleasure to drive.

Winding for 30 miles from Kendal to Keswick, it follows the shore of Lake Windermere for stretches and offers beautiful views at every turn.

It being the main thoroughfare means that it is a tourist trap, but the most clogged sections through Bowness-on-Windermere and Ambleside are tempered by vistas of boats, fells and mountains.

Get lucky, avoiding turfing-out time of the campsites and B&Bs, and even this varying speed limit run can be a rewarding experience.

The A591 also has a questionable claim to being the best road in Britain, following a calculation created by quantum physicist Dr Mark Hadley and Hermann Tilke of F1 circuit-design fame/notoriety.

The road came out on top in a study by hire-car company Avis, and you can say what you will about some of Tilke’s tracks but he certainly knows how to make a great driver’s circuit – if not necessarily a particularly exciting one for spectators.

When you leave Ambleside, continue heading north to where the true treats really await.

A technical, twisting route touches the banks of Grasmere and passes Helvellyn, before the trees part to reveal views that have inspired some of Britain’s greatest writers and poets.

And even, erm, Taylor Swift in much more recent times…

Wide, perfect Tarmac means progress is unimpeded and through the valleys you get to take in the rugged hillsides while still cruising along in awe.

Buses and groups of (often rapid) cyclists can safely be dispatched in the longer stretches of single carriageway, many of which are wide enough for another lane.

Crests, flowing left-rights and cambered bends crop up regularly, and when a bit more height is gained at Nest’s Brow the glorious view is ever widened.

Even the trundle into Keswick offers a vista across the busy Derwentwater.

There are no specific requirements, car-wise: even my lumbering Volvo recalled its heady days of Touring Car glory.

Take even an ordinary hatch, keep the revs up, and it will be as much fun as a supersaloon and even a Ferrari. Honest.

This most recent trip in the Swede was no less enjoyable than in the Porsche Panamera we borrowed previously when the 240 was laid up.

An honourable mention should be made of the A593, too, especially the stretch that curls past Coniston in the shadow of the Old Man.

It’s a real barrel-run of esses and fast bends, and a high-octane treat after a day’s ambling around Coniston.

Just warn your passengers first.

Image: Sarah Jenner

Local knowledge

  • Where to stay Low Wood Bay Resort: unbroken views of Windermere
  • Where to eat Traveller’s Rest Inn: classic pub in Grasmere
  • What to see Head on to Derwentwater in Kendal for a boat cruise or simply cross the water for a fairly easy yet rewarding climb up Cat Bells for some of the finest views in the region
  • Hidden gem You’ll never eat a better sausage roll than at The Apple Pie, Rydal Road, Ambleside
  • Pitstop Fuel stops are hard to find after Ambleside, so top up at Ings Filling Station in Kendal

All information correct at date of original publication


Dream drives: North Coast 500

Dream drives: Isle of Wight

Buyer’s guide: Volvo 240 series