Best Lake District Walks
Located in the county of Cumbria in the northwestern part of England, the Lake District National Park is England’s largest park, covering an area of 2362 square km. It is world-famous for its breathtaking lakes, mountains (also known as fells) and forests and was designated by UNESCO a World Heritage Site in 2017.
Containing mountains with heights up to 978 m (Scafell Pike) and lakes with areas as large as 14.8 square km (Windermere), Lake District is one of the world’s most visited places, attracting almost 20 million tourists each year. Due to its spectacular landscape, Lake District is a perfect place for walks. It contains hundreds of possible routes, offering you experiences ranging from relaxing ambles along lakeshores to more strenuous climbs on Lake District’s highest peaks.
Moreover, since Lake District is also home to a large number of pubs and inns, you can also opt for a ‘pub walk’, an activity made famous by Neil Coates in his bestselling book Best Pub Walks in the Lake District (2004), combining sightseeing with enjoying delicious meals and some of the famous local beers or ales. Here are some of the best walks you could try on any Lake District itinerary.
Climbing some of the highest fells in England can be challenging and strenuous but definitely rewarding experiences, offering breathtaking views both along the way and from the peaks.
Scafell Pike (978 m) is the highest one and probably the most difficult to climb, due to its wild, rocky crests, narrow ridges and unexpected twists and turns, and can be especially difficult to navigate in bad weather. However, once on top you will be rewarded with a majestic view of the valley of Wasdale.
There are two routes you could take to reach the summit: an easier, direct one, from Wasdale via Brown Tongue, and a more difficult, longer and circular one, from Sty Head via a natural path called the ‘Corridor Route.’ Although the former is more popular among tourists, the latter can offer you not only the possibility to reach the highest point of England, but also to experience fabulous sights along the way.
Other popular mountains to climb include: Helvellyn (950 m), highly renowned for its twin ridges, Swirral Edge and Striding Edge, which were carved through glacial action during the ice age, and which will force you to pass through some very steep and challenging sections; Skiddaw (931 m), offering wonderful views over Kerswick, Derwentwater and, in clear days, even Borrowdale; and Coniston Old Man (803 metres), with spectacular sights on the way to the summit including slate quarries and old copper mines. For expert climbers, we recommend Blencathra (868 m), an impressive fell on the northeast of Keswick with its infamous, almost impossible to climb, Sharp Edge ridge.
If you are interested in more relaxed and easy walks, you have a large number of lakes to walk along, which offer picturesque and often quite spectacular sights. Although it is not one of the largest lakes from the District (0.9 square km), Buttermere has been considered, from the Victorian period until now, one of the most beautiful, quiet and calm places to walk by. The steep mountains ringing Buttermere offer breathtaking views, making you feel at the heart of these fells, without having to do any climbing. It is a perfect place for refreshing afternoon walks with your family or friends.
The Coniston Water Walk is another famous attraction, due to the mixture of ancient woods, low hills, and pebbled beaches you can find on Coniston’s western shoreline. Its numerous paths and tracks and the absence of larger roads can sometimes make the walk a bit challenging, but it is always easy to get back to the lake shore. Tourists often prefer to combine this walk with a boat ride on the lake.
Other popular tranquil lakeside walks include: the Rydal Water circuit, which although doesn’t continuously go along the lakeshore, contains famous attractions, such as two sets of old caves, the Loughrigg Terrace, and the Rydal Mount, poet William Wordsworth’s former home; the Ennerdale Water circuit, a walk through unmarked routes such as tracks, narrow footpaths, forest roads, including also a steep climb over Angler’s Crag; and the Loweswater circuit, containing a particularly beautiful path through Holme Wood. A slightly more challenging, ten-mile walk is the Derwentwater Walk, which can be combined though with short boat rides on the Kerswick Launch.
One of the distinctive features of Lake District is that you can easily combine hiking and sightseeing with stops at some of the many famous pubs and inns operating here even in the most remote locations. Walking along the Buttermere lake, for example, will lead you the Bridge Inn and the famous Walkers Bar, where you can quench your thirst with a large variety of local beers and ales. The Buttermere village is also renowned for its Fish Inn, a place which figures in Melwyn Bragg’s famous novel about love and betrayal The Maid of Buttermere, based on a true story. After refreshments and a glimpse into the (in)famous local legend of Mary Robinson, the maid of Buttermere, you can get back to walking, and in less than one hour you will reach the imposing Scale Force, the largest waterfall in the Lake District (38 m high).
If interested to see other two of the most amazing waterfalls from Lake District, the Colwith Force and the Skelwith Force, you can take a walk along the small Eltenwater lake and, when finally returning to the Eltenwater village, treat yourself with the great food and specialty beers offered by Britannia Inn.
Other renowned pubs and inns you can stop by during amazing walks include: the White Lion Inn, located in the hamlet of Patterdale, close to the Ullswater, the second largest lake in the District, famous for the wonderful daffodils scattered along its shores, which inspired Wordsworth’s poem (perhaps in tandem with the drinks available at the inn); the Kirkstile Inn, near the Loweswater, an extremely quiet area where you can take peaceful walks along its tree-surrounded shoreline; or the George Hotel’s pub in Kenswick, which you can reach after a long, steep walk passing through the Cockshot Wood, the Castlehead Wood, the Springs Wood and the extraordinary Walla Crag, from which you can have an amazing view across the Derwentwater.
Let me know what your favourite walk is.