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How to explore the Lake District in carbon neutral style

September 27, 2021By Bethan Andrews

Here at The Forward Lab, we’re always exploring what it means to travel responsibly. Luckily for us, Cumbria and The Lake District is leading the way when it comes to laying out a carbon positive path forward, so we took a look at what this really means…

The last year has really seen a push in destinations vying for better sustainability going forward, striving for solution-led and active leadership when it comes to battling carbon emissions, and travel is starting to lead the way when it comes to paving paths forward that are green and progressive. The UK itself signed it into law that we pledge, as a country, to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050 but naturally, some places are doing it better than others, and one such place that is leading the charge is Cumbria and the Lake District. 

It makes sense that such a wonder of the world would want to protect its beauty, its integrity and the natural formations that make it what it is. But it’s an ambitious wish that they’ve put out to the universe, and one that is admirable in its impactful approach. By 2037, Cumbria and the Lake District aim to become the UK’s first carbon-neutral county, and they are mobilising communities, businesses, and charities to all join the force. 

The Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership includes a wide range of organisations with a key role to play in decarbonising the county at the pace and scale required by climate science, and fundamentally, is supported by the National Lottery. In an interview with The Guardian, Karen Mitchell, the CEO of Cumbria Action for Sustainability (Cafs), said that they are ‘not excluding being able to do it earlier, either. This is a climate emergency and we should be throwing everything at it.’ As it stands, the Lake District is suffering from soil erosion at a dramatic rate and it could look very different in 50 years’ time, due largely to climate change and human actions. 

But what does it mean to become a carbon-neutral county, exactly, and what’s in the county’s carbon-neutral plan? Travel is important, and people want to still be able to explore the world, discover new places and play tourist a few times a year. The plan to become a carbon-neutral county supports tourism, recognises its importance but looks to find a way to allow the travel and tourism industry to continue in a more mindful and sustainable manner. 

The different initiatives focus on personalised (to the area) and varied approaches to hone in on areas where there is a need to be more green, such as (but not limited to): 


Communities and businesses will work together to create low-carbon menus and share good practices, with the potential to develop a Low Carbon Food Charter for Cumbria. An online Low Carbon Food toolkit is being created to help the food sector to share experiences, learn more about the carbon footprint of food and how it can be reduced. The project will also help the public and communities to understand more about low-carbon food and inspire local action.


This project will explore a new model of food growing to increase plant-based food production in Cumbria, reduce food miles by working in partnership with local retailers, and offset carbon usage of local distribution through agroforestry. One aim of this project is to help set up a cooperative bringing together farmers to grow fruit, vegetables and cereal crops to be enjoyed by local people, diversifying farm businesses and generating income. 


Funded by the Department of Transport through a £6.9 million initiative, this project aims to change how visitors travel to, from, and around the Lake District, with a particular focus on more sustainable travel methods. Naturally, this kind of set-up will allow other county’s to take inspiration and learn how it is possible to reduce carbon without impacting vital tourism. 


With walking such a popular pastime for those visiting the Lake District, Fix the Fells has been put in place to raise awareness of mountain and footpath erosion. This is a brilliant example of a personalised approach. 


Working alongside owners of holiday cottages and letting companies, this project aims to reduce carbon emissions and the costs of running traditional cottages. 

It’s initiatives such as these that other popular tourist destinations can take inspiration from for their own carbon fighting pioneering – in many ways, it can be seen as an eco-roadmap for more green travelling to follow. Much of the focus on how the Lake District plans to lead the way is put into realistic and reasonable initiatives – ones that can be picked up, worked on immediately and have a clear route to success. 

For a popular tourist destination such as the Lake District, becoming carbon-neutral won’t come without its fair share of considerable challenges, after all, the place is visited by around 50 million people per year. This, however, is the pinnacle issue in sustainable travel and tourism, and one that many tourist destinations across the world will face. The focus, therefore, needs to be on allowing people to visit in the most sustainable way possible. 

One organisation that is making huge movements is the Lake District National Park Authority who, ​​after 12 months of carbon emission reducing initiatives, are working towards being a carbon net zero operation by 2025. They make up one of the 70 members of the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership, who are leading the drive to cut emissions across the county. Some of the many admirable ways they are going about their pledge are through electric vehicles for staff, more home working, and saving on utilities. What’s worth noting, is that these are all manageable day to day steps that many other people could follow suit on. 

Inspired to take a trip to the beautiful Lakes this autumn, and support regenerative tourism in the process? We thought you might be, so we’ve put together a little guide below. But remember, go about your journey as mindfully and responsible as possible. 

We’ve put together a list of our favourite things & places to stay in the Lakes!

Windermere and Ambleside

(do) Take a boat trip on the lake or take to the saddle and cycle around the perimeter, taking in the beautiful surroundings and natural formations that loom over it. Visit the nearby Rydal Water for a quieter taste of nature. Love mooching around cute coffee shops and artisan delis? Head to the picturesque town of Ambleside and take in the typical Lakeland architecture and natural, untouched scenery.
(stay) The Samling, where the luxury glamping puts you right in the thick of nature.

(visit) Keswick

(do) This beautiful town is perfect for foodies, artisan lovers and those who like to soak up a traditional community feel. It’s home to the Lake Districts’ first craft distillery and lots of amazing cafes. Like to get involved in hiking and other mountain sport pursuits? Don’t forget to visit the most famous walking shop in the Lakes, George Fisher. Once you’re kitted up, head up to the Castlerigg Stone Circle, set on a hilltop a mile east of town.

(stay) Moss Grove Organic, a unique 5* B&B designed to be entirely environmentally friendly, as well as luxury.

(visit) Ullswater

(do) With its central location, Ullswater provides the perfect base for getting out and about and exploring. Whether you want to take in the breathtaking views from some of the UK’s highest peaks, take a trip on the steamer across the lake, or abseil down a cliff, there is something to keep everyone occupied.

(stay) Another Place Hotel, a luxury hotel looking over the water that prides itself on minimising the impact on the environment and celebrating its surroundings.

(visit) Kendal

(do) Divulge in a bit of history with the 13th century Kendal Castle that overlooks the town, and soak up the quaint beauty of the historic place. With the fells and Lake District towering over the town, it’s a great place to use as a base for walking. Try the Old Man of Coniston, Scafell Pike or take a stroll around the beautiful Tarn Hows.

(stay) The Black Bull Inn, Sedburgh, for something boutique and enveloped by natural beauty.