Key information: Lake District
- So famous, and so deservedly: an astonishing array of natural beauty, meltingly pretty lakes winding between craggy mountains broken by perfect, verdant valleys. An inspiration for all of us, not just those Romantic poets.
- A superb variety of walks, from magnificent peaks to bag to lovely lakeside ambles to heart-stopping knife-edge moments.
- Visit Hillwalk Tours' website for more information on the Lake District.
Walkopedia rating(Top 100)
- Walkopedia rating90.5
- Natural interest15.5
- Human interest9
- Negative points0
- Total rating90.5
- Note: Crowding at famous places
- Length: Variable
- Maximum Altitude: Variable
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
One of the world's most beautiful and best-loved places, and some of its most gorgeous and best-loved walking. With very good reason. You would have a heart of stone were you not moved and inspired by this wonderful region. It may not have the drama of the Himalayas, Andes or Alps, but Lakeland strikes a huge range of emotive chords, from subtle, gentle lusciousness to harsh, wild drama; to old-fashioned fear.
To state the obvious, it is the region's glacially scoured scenery that sets it apart, with gorgeous lakes winding between ancient, wild hills sporting soft woodland, foaming streams and waterfalls on their lower slopes.
The lakes are, of course, inescapably associated with the romantic poetry of William Wordsworth, the delightful anthropomorphic animal stories of Beatrix Potter (Harry's Great-Grandmother), and other writers, and endless (if at times hackneyed) beautiful pictures. It seems weird, now, that until the romantic perception took root, these mountains and delicate lakes were considered dreary, even sinister.
The Lake District has two drawbacks:
- popularity: you will have to accept that the famous or easy - but beautiful -walks will be overpopulated in high season. To achieve solitude, take lesser-known routes or go out of the high seasons.
- weather, of which there is lots. While there are periods of glorious sunshine, come prepared for cloud and rain. Some of the Lakes' most beautiful light is on showery, broken cloudy days.
With every valley and hillside likely to harbour some treasure, you could spend a lifetime walking here, and even Wainwright (who did so) probably didn't catalogue every possibility. But between him, the outstanding Cicerone guidebooks (their home is in Cumbria) and numerous other guides and pamphlets, the best walks are well covered. Actually, if you want solitude and to get into the "real" lakes, you can take any footpath on the excellent maps safe in the knowledge that it is almost impossible not to be delighted.
Note that wayfinding on some mountains isn't that easy if the cloud comes down - Walkopedia got briefly disoriented near Scafell Pike in March 16 while in charge of two 13 year olds, and it was disconcerting.
You have three primary approaches: move around bagging the very best; a continuous walk; or finding a perfect place to stay, then delving deep into the surrounding area's possibilities.
Walkopedia will not try to list every possibility, and we are at an early stage of our own Lake District eulogy, so we currently list only a small sample of the very best walks.
- The Coast to Coast: the Lakeland section of this great walk is a fabulous 3 to 5 day walk, depending on where you start.
Please give us your ideas for other wonderful continuous walks.
The Great (day) Walks
- Scafell Pike - England's highest mountain. Heavily walked, best avoided at peak times. Walkable with Scafell.
- Blencathra / Saddleback. Various routes, including the exciting, narrow Sharp Edge
- Helvellyn Ridge (and Striding Edge)
All further ideas welcome!
- Circle lovely Buttermere; include a steepish plod to gain wondrous views from Haystacks or High Stile or the pass above the lakehead.
- Around Grasmere
- Howton to Patterdale, on Ullswater. Claimed to be Lakeland's most beautiful lakeside walk (this is of course heavily contested). 7 miles. Take a ferry from Glenridding to Howton, then walk back via Patterdale at the lake's end. Gets crowded at peak times. An alternative is a return ferry to Howton, making a delightful circuit behind the lakeside Hallin Fell, through exquisite Martindale.
- Above ludicrously pretty Martindale by Ullswater, crossing lower ridges or getting the big picture from the High Street ridge.
- Walla Crag or Friar's Crag above Derwent Water (the view from the latter described by the ever-opinionated Ruskin as one of the 3 finest in Europe).
All further ideas welcome!
- Climb the infamous Jack's Rake, a narrow fissure in the cliff-face of Pavey Ark in the Langdale Pikes massif. Truly thrilling, astounding walking, the first time Walkopedia discovered vertigo and the best cigarette of our life at the top.
- Famous Striding Edge, leading east from Helvellyn. A knife-sharp serrated ridge, very exposed in places but not that dangerous in reasonable weather. An unforgettably exciting scramble.
- Sharp Edge on Blencathra.
Areas to base yourself in for a few days
- Grasmere : Wordsworth's home in the heart of the Lakes has a multitude of great walks, including one of the best approaches to Helvellyn .
- Langdale Valleys, also in the heart of the Lakes.
- Keswick to the north, and Borrowdale, running south from Keswick into the heart of the Lakes.
- Buttermere and Crummock Water
- Eskdale to the south-west, with fine walking in the highlands to the north and east, including approach walks to the Scafell massif. Explore the remarkably preserved Hardknott Roman fort.
- Dunnerdale to the south-west, with access to the Old Man of Coniston and Swirl How as well as a lot of other fine walking. Some superb ridge walks.
- Coniston, at the head of Coniston Water. A selection of great walks, especially around the Old Man of Coniston and Swirl How to the north-west. Some superb ridge walks.
- Patterdale/ Glenridding at the head of Ullswater to the east. Great walking all around, including: Martindale ; High Street; Grisedale, and Helvellyn.
This page is still at an early stage of development. Please help us by recommending your best walks and sending photos! Thank you!
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist.
Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.
There are no less than 25 Cicerone books on the Lake District (their specialty)! Have a look at their website
Short Walks in the Lake District – Collins Ramblers.
The Rough Guide to the Lake District – Jules Brown
The Lake District: The Panoramas – Mark Denton; beautiful photography.
Time Out: The Lake District – Time Out Guides Ltd.
The Shepherd’s Life, A Tale of the Lake District – James Rebanks. A hymn to the Lakes and hill-farming life; but real as well, by a farmer who went to Oxford in his 30s.
The Lake District – Oliver Berry (Lonely Planet).
Lyrical Ballads - William Wordsworth
Walks to Viewpoints – Stewart Smith. 10 Walks.
Lake District Mountain Landscape – Alastair Lee
Lake District and Cumbria – Ordnance Survey
Lake District: British Mountain Map – Harvey Maps
Lake District Walking Guide – Collins
Good Ordinance Survey maps can be bought locally, easily.
Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
All year is wonderful, in different ways. High summer has the best chance of good weather but can be overcrowded in famous places. Spring and autumn can be magical but with (even) less predictable weather. September and June can as a result be the best months. Clear winter days can be astounding.
Lots of it. Expect rain at some point, even in high summer. Mist, low cloud, and high winds are not uncommon. Snow in winter. Come prepared.
Most people come by car.
Train to Penrith or other stations, then bus, is doable but needs careful research.
The Coast to Coast Packhorse service will move your belongings from place to place along the lakes part of the Coast to Coast. See our Northern Coast to Coast page and www.cumbria.com/packhorse. They can also bus you to the start at St. Bee’s.
See “Walk Summary” above.
Lake District Map
By Ordnance Survey. License: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
· Mountain weather: rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year. Snow in winter. Come prepared.
· Heat and strong sun(!). Carry enough water and protect yourself in summer.
· Heights: some walks can be dangerous, and are not for those who have difficulties with heights.
· This can be remote country: help may be hard to get if things go wrong.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
Most people do these walks independently.
Some people form or join organised/supported expeditions. Expedition organisers include:
- English Lakeland Ramblers - www.ramblers.com
- Mickledore Travel - www.mickledore.co.uk
There is a huge variety of accommodation to suit everyone, from grand hotels to campsites. Or you can rent a cottage.
Your choice will be influenced by factors such as time of year (and the state of your crowd-allergies) to how far you are prepared to go to find your walks, to whether you prefer beautiful lakesides or wilder hill scenery.
Every guidebook will have a lot of suitable places to stay. Hostelbookers usually has a good selection of cheaper-end accommodation.
General websites include:
- Cottages – www.welcomecottages.com or www.nationaltrustcottages.co.uk
- Hotels – www.booking.com
- Accommodation service – www.staylakedistrict.co.uk
Some good places to stay:
- Brackenrigg Inn on Ullswater - www.brackenrigginn.co.uk
- The Queen’s Head at Troutbeck, above NE Windermere
Other information and tips
Useful websites and information
There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
- National Park Homepage: www.lakedistrict.gov.uk
- www.walkingbritain.co.uk has info on a huge number of Lake District walks
- Tourist Board Page: www.golakes.co.uk
- As ever, www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_District
- Various Coast to Coast related books on our C2C [link to Coast to Coast] page.
Other things to do in the area
The long distance Coast to Coast path goes on to cross the Pennine Way at Keld, almost exactly its halfway point, then joins a leg of the Cleveland Way on the edge of the North York Moors. Hadrian’s Wall is none too far away.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more