Cock-a-hoop to visit Cockermouth with Stagecoach X4/X5

X marks the spot for the Lake District and beyond

The X4/X5 are two delightful bus routes that majestically overlook the fabulous and hugely popular Lake District bus network below, brought to you by those renowned purveyors of scenic sojourns, Stagecoach Cumbrian, led by their customer-centric new Managing Director Tom Waterhouse.

This is a journey that whisks customers away in serenity from the hustle and bustle of market town Penrith and soon enjoys mountainous views either side of the bus and of lush pastoral land, sheep grazing, cobbled stone walls, before winding into the idyllic Keswick with its charming independent shops, coffee bars, dog-walking trails and Lake Derwent.

An unsung hero

Whilst the bus routes that cruise through the heart of the Lake District, including Stagecoach’s famous open toppers, earn plaudits and glamour, it’s the X4/X5 that does the lion’s share of the work, ferrying customers from one side of the Lakes to the other – a workmanlike, workaholic to Workington, stopping off in Keswick, Cockermouth and some lovely Cumbrian villages en route. The routes are a key link for local residents, but also scenic thrill seekers attracted to this magnificent part of Cumbria and the Lakes. Many have come from far afield realising that a trip on the X4/X5 is the gateway to this remarkable area of sumptuous scenery. The bus stops outside Penrith railway station, which is on the West Coast Mainline with direct inter-city trains to Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, London and many more locations. It’s certainly one of the best ways of getting to the Lake District to start your adventure.

The bus continues on its way towards Workington cutting in and out, criss-crossing the River Derwent, past the ever so long-stretching Lake Bassenthwaite (pictured above), with stunning views from the window, then, through the pretty and somewhat remote village of Embleton before nestling in Cockermouth.

Pastel and Proud!

The most striking feature in Cockermouth are the lovely pastel buildings which create an eye-catching, colourful backdrop and give such character to this charming town. We particularly like the Town Hall, with it Union Jack flag flying high in the wind!

Dating back to the mid-18th century, the town hall is a fine example of Georgian architecture. Its distinctive features include a symmetrical facade, elegant windows, and a prominent clock tower that adds character to the structure. Originally built as a market house, the town hall has served various purposes throughout its history, reflecting the evolving needs of the community.

Cockermouth sees off Scottish invasions of old

Cockermouth Castle is an intriguing place at the centre of the great history of this fab town. It’s a medieval fortress with a fascinating history dating back to the 13th century. The castle is only open for tours in July as part of the Cockermouth Festival but it provides stunning views of the surrounding countryside and the River Derwent. An intriguing aspect of Cockermouth Castle is its association with the infamous King Edward I, also known as “Longshanks,” who played a significant role in the castle’s history. In the late 13th century, during Edward’s reign, Cockermouth Castle underwent considerable expansion and renovation. Edward I, known for his military campaigns and the construction of numerous castles throughout England, chose Cockermouth as a strategic location to fortify the north western border. The castle was positioned to assert control over the region and act as a defensive stronghold against potential Scottish invasions.

What makes this historical connection fascinating is that Edward I personally visited Cockermouth Castle in 1307, just a year before his death. His stay here is documented, and it is said that he enjoyed hunting in the surrounding forests during his time there.

The romantics wax lyrical

One of the most prominent figures associated with Cockermouth is the renowned poet William Wordsworth. Born in 1770, Wordsworth is a key figure in English Romantic literature and, along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is credited with launching the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication, “Lyrical Ballads.” Wordsworth’s childhood home, Wordsworth House, a few yards from the X4/X5 bus stop in the Penrith-bound direction, is a popular attraction in Cockermouth, offering visitors insight into the poet’s early life and the adjacent gardens provide a serene retreat.

Additionally, another literary luminary with ties to Cockermouth is Fletcher Christian, born in the nearby village of Eaglesfield. He is famously known for leading the mutiny on the HMS Bounty in 1789. While not born in Cockermouth, his association with the local area is noteworthy.

Toys, Tea and Turning pages

Cockermouth’s vibrant market square is another highlight, featuring a range of independent shops, traditional pubs, and eateries, including our favourite, Beatfords Tea Room, which is a few seconds from the bus stop. Spend some time exploring the local markets, where you can find handmade crafts, local produce, and unique souvenirs. In the same street as the bus stop, there’s the fab Toy Shop which is a traditional paradise of gems, harking back to a halcyon era, before big brands, so too The New Bookshop where you can lose yourself as many a bus passes by. We also love the Bush pub beside the bus stop on the side of the road to Workington.

Cocker and Derwent confluence creates calm

A particular attraction of Cockermouth is to wander just behind the shops on the Penrith bound side of the road where the X4/X5 stops. Here, you can wander across the River Derwent, not far from where it meets the River Cocker and perch on Millers Bridge and look at the lovely views, as well as wander further into fab open spaces. It’s a becalming, reflective vibe that’s created just a stone’s throw from the bus.

At the epicentre of Cockermouth, with the X4/X5 passing by in each direction many times a say is the fine marble statue of Richard Southwell Bourke, sixth early of Mayo, M.P. for Cockermouth between 1857-1868. The statue was erected after Mayo was assassinated in 1872, whilst visiting the Andaman Islands as Viceroy and Governor-General of India.

Stirling and Stokes stoked it up in Cockermouth

In the world of motorsports, Sir Stirling Moss, one of the greatest racing drivers in the history of Formula One, had familial connections to Cockermouth. Although he was not born in the town, his grandfather, Sir Stirling Craufurd Moss, was responsible for constructing the world’s first recorded motorway on his estate near Cockermouth. Another sporting link with the town is current and indefatigable England cricket captain, Ben Stokes (hero yet again this week with his inspired captaincy in the closing stages against India!) who spent his early years here, playing at Cockermouth Cricket Club from the age of 12. He returned to the Club in 2022 to show his appreciation for the help it provided him in helping forge his hugely success career!

The Grand’s still grand even if shows are no more there

Finally, the town hosts various cultural events throughout the year, including the Cockermouth Live music festival (5-7 July 2024)¬† and the Cockermouth Agricultural Show (2 August 2024). These events showcase the community’s lively spirit and provide a chance to connect with the locals, whilst lifting the lid to audiences beyond on the unique delights of Cumbrian life. The Grand Theatre, which first opened in 1915, is also worth checking out, though sadly not to watch a show as it closed in 1966, but it’s splendour has been perfectly preserved. For films and other events, The Kirkgate Centre is the place to be and particularly its popular “Film and a Pizza Friday Nights”. For the latest listings and activities, check out Home – Kirkgate Arts and Heritage

A jewel in the crown that’s Stagecoach’s Lake District services

Cockermouth really is a delightful place to stop off on the X4/X5 – it’s a very underrated town, surrounded by natural delights and with eye-catching ornate architecture and a lot going for it. The bus then continues to Workington which is a gateway to the wonderful delights of the Cumbrian Coast, circling the Lake District in the west, just as these fantastic bus routes perch atop of this magnificent part of the UK.¬† These routes are part of a joined-up, fast, friendly and convenient network of bus services provided by Stagecoach that can be combined to deliver a great day out, staycation or longer, car-free holiday that’s great for the environment and fab value. To plan your journey check out…

X4/X5 Penrith – Workington – Great Scenic Journeys

And to plan a visit to the Lake District and its many other wonderful bus services, go to…

Buses around the Lake District | Stagecoach (stagecoachbus.com)