Whether you’re a nature lover, or ‘outdoorsy’ kind of person, a trip to the Lake District should feature on everyone’s great walks bucket list. There are plenty of charming Lake District activities for all the family to enjoy, regardless of your level of fitness.
This guide is designed for day trippers and weekend stay overs, highlighting three of the best; short, medium and long Lake District walks. For those lingering just a little longer, there’s also plenty of accommodation recommendations and fine-dining restaurants to sample on your visit.
Attracting nearly 16 million visitors a year, there’s more than 2,362 km² of green space to conquer in Cumbria’s great national park, making it a welcome haven for those close and far away. Here is how the article is structured:
- Planning your Lake District visit
- The best long Lake District walk
- The best medium Lake District walk
- The best short Lake District walk
- In summary
Planning your Lake District visit
Will rolling green hills, picturesque lakes, and a wild rugged landscape, the Lake District is both a UNESCO World Heritage site and national treasure.
Many come here for the stunning scenery and unrivalled Lake District walks, but there’s also four Michelin-star restaurants, making it quite a favourite with foodies too.
Before embarking on a visit, there’s a few things to first consider below:
Is it safe to visit the Lake District in light of COVID-19?
The recent pandemic has rekindled our love for the great outdoors. Never before has the simple beauty of nature been so appealing. But even if you’re planning a short walk in the Lake District it’s important to be a responsible citizen and follow the government guidelines.
Since social distancing rules are constantly under review along with access to open spaces. Please refer to the latest advice from the Lake District office guidelines here
What outdoor clothing should I wear?
For colder months, you should consider waterproof trousers and jackets, along with mid-layers such as a fleece for extra warmth. Take note that the temperature also drops by one degree for every 150 metre ascend.
In the warmer months an athletic top, sunscreen, water and hat will serve you well. As a precautionary measure, you may want to wear longer trousers since the Lake District has a high population of ticks, known to carry Lyme Disease.
Whatever time of year you visit, a backpack, map and hiking boots are a must. Be sure to pack high-energy snacks, plenty of water, a torch and GPS tracker if you’re going off-grid.
What are the busiest times to visit?
The summer months, particularly July and August, see the greatest footfall. It can also be busy during the school holidays with many kids Lake District activities taking place.
Should I consider a guided Lake District walk?
If you’re looking for things to do in the Lake District, guided walks are a great way to navigate the local terrain and discover new summits and sights.
Professional walks can be booked here, and you can read reviews on TripAdvisor in advance.
The best long Lake District Walk
Spanning 10.5 miles (16.89 km), Lake Windermere is a walkers paradise and the longest and most famous of all the lakes.
The Tarns Walk is one of the more significant Lake District walks to take, covering 6.5 miles of this splendid backdrop.
You should start at Ferry House (postcode LA22 0LP). To get here, there’s a ferry service that connects the eastern and western shores of Lake Windermere. The eastern pier is located at ‘Ferry Nab’ (postcode – LA23 3JH), roughly, a mile from the centre of Bowness. Here the ferry will take you directly to Ferry House on the western pier.
From here walk towards Far Sawrey – keep walking until you locate a bridleway to the right (past the pub). This hour-long walk takes you past a popular fishing spot and Wise Een Tarn boathouse – one of the great Lake District activities.
Continuing to the crossroads, take the right trail back to Far Sawrey. On your return, be sure to stop at High Blind How for sweeping views. You’ve come a long way indeed! This well-trodden path will take back to where you began, finishing your journey at Ferry House.
Be sure to stop by one of the charming pubs on your return, or just half-an-hour away by car is HRiSHi at the Giplin Hotel – a Michelin-Star restaurant and one of the finest in the region.
If you plan to stay over, Homestead Lodge is a modestly priced B&B (£60-70pp), with stunning views to wake up to.
Parking is available at Beech Hill (grid reference SD 388 920). Click here for a map of Lake Windermere.
The best medium Lake District Walk
If you’re wondering what the largest mountain in the Lake District is – look no further than Scafell Pike, also England’s highest mountain at 978m high (3,290 ft). Not far away is Borrowdale, the perfect place for a refreshing 3-4 hour walk.
Covering 4 miles (6.4km), the Borger Dalr route will take you on a journey through the ever-changing terrain. You will start at a gate close to the car park at Bowder Stone car park (grid ref: NY253168). As you leave the upper tier of the car park head past the wooden gate and follow the track. Go past a boulder to the quarry and follow it around until you reach another path. Turn left downwards through the trees and you’ll see another gate which leads onto the Borrowdale Road – B5289. This is where you’ll start your journey.
For step-by-step detail, follow this popular route courtesy of the National Trust.
During this Lake District walk you’ll encounter ‘Peace How’ a small peak and memorial to soldiers that fell in the First World War. Be sure to also look out for Volcanic rocks in this region, dating back to eruptions some 450 million years ago.
Further along, the climb to Castle Crag offers stunning views across the vista. The glacial meltwater channel is another unmissable sight that you’ll need your long-lens camera ready for.
As you complete the walk, you’ll finish at Grange village. You will need to return to your start point, so be sure to reverse the steps in the first part of the journey, as you circle back to Bowder Stone car park.
Should you decide to make the most of your visit, Over Brandelhow is a superb cottage nearby, offering spellbinding views across Borrowdale. The self-catering property costs up to £1,145 for a week’s stay. It’s an ideal base for remote escapes and Lake District walks, however you’ll need to drive to Keswick (six miles away) for shops, pubs and restaurants.
Click here for a walking map of Borrowdale.
The best short walk in the Lake District
There’s an abundance of short walks in the Lake District ideal for low-level fitness, or those on a fleeting visit.
Hallin Fell is a favourite spot, that takes 40-minutes on pretty easy terrain. The 1.2 mile (2km) walk is also a great beauty spot, meaning that you can enjoy it at your leisure, or stop for breaks along the way. The route is dotted with benches to take in mesmerising views of Ullswater.
To start this walk, park at St Peter’s Church (grid ref NY 435 1910). From here take the grassy path to the top of the fell and then keep following the path. Although there’s a few narrow roads, it’s one of the easy and short walks in the Lake District, without compromising on views. This will take you in a loop, so if you keep walking forwards you will finish at the same place that you started at St Peter’s Church.
After the walk Macdonald Leeming House provides a welcome rest if you’re looking to extend your stay (from £63pppn). It’s also close to Aira Force Waterfall, one of the best things to do in the Lake District, particularly if you’re a nature lover or amateur photographer.
Click here for a route map of Hallin Fell.
Whether you come for Lake District activities, or to embark on one of its grand walks, the Lake District provides a stunning setting to visit at any time of year.
Despite its varied terrain, there are tens of Lake District walks to enjoy, taking you from the top of its peaks, to its luscious lakes.
Be sure to plan your trip and routes in advance, and of course, pack a picnic – you’ll be glad you did!