Passenger flights will return to the Lake District this summer for the first time in 25 years with routes to and from London Southend, Dublin and Belfast, it has been revealed.
The scheduled services at Carlisle Lake District Airport will begin on June 4 and cut down the journey time to the Unesco-protected National Park for millions of hikers, cyclists and lovers of the great outdoors. London Southend Airport is around an hour by train from Liverpool Street station.
The flights will be operated by Loganair, a Scottish regional airline that currently serves a number of remote Hebridean destinations, including Barra, home to a beach runway. It also operates the world's shortest scheduled service, from Westray to Papa Westray.
It will fly twice a day to and from Southend and daily to and from Dublin and Belfast.
Currently the nearest operational airport to the Lake District is Manchester, around a 90-minute drive to the south. Carlisle Lake District Airport is a 30-minute drive from Penrith, on the edge of the national park.
"With frequent services on each of the three routes, we have every confidence that these new flights will transform access to and from the Lake District for many thousands of customers," said Jonathan Hinkles, managing director of Loganair.
Carlisle Lake District Airport, owned by the Stobart Group since 2009, typically caters for private aircraft, helicopters and military planes, but tourism bosses are confident the passenger routes will deliver a boost to the region.
"We welcomed 45 million visitors to the county last year, but a large proportion were day-trippers to the Lakes," said Gill Haigh, managing director of Cumbria Tourism. "Our marketing strategy has a key focus on encouraging visitors to stay in the county as a whole. New flights through Carlisle will create alternative travel options and Cumbria Tourism is working in partnership with the airport to encourage new and existing visitors to enjoy more of our iconic landscapes and world-class experiences."
The routes will be operated by Loganair's 34-seater Saab 340B aircraft, with two pilots and one cabin crew member. Tickets for London Southend to Carlisle and Dublin to Carlisle start from £44.99 one-way, while Belfast to Carlisle starts from £33.99. All fares include a 20 checked baggage allowance.
Carlisle Lake District Airport opened in the Thirties as an RAF base before being sold to local authorities in 1960. It had several owners before the Stobart Group stepped in.
There have been many failed efforts to establish passenger flights. British European Airways briefly flew from the airport to the Isle of Man and Belfast in 1946 and 1947; Court Line Aviation offered flights from London between 1967 and 1969; Air Ecosse launched services in the early Eighties; and in 1993 New Air began flights from Carlisle to Stansted, but collapsed after just two months.
Last summer, the Lakes received a boost when Unesco awarded it World Heritage status, making it the first UK national park to receive the honour.