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Walking In Lake District - experiences

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The Lake District

England’s largest National Park is arguably its most dramatic and stunning one, recognised by it’s recent awarding of World Heritage status. It is home to England’s highest mountain - Scafell Pike - and it’s deepest lake (Wastwater), as well as bustling local towns like Keswick (home to the Mountain Film Festival each year).
Covering an impressive 912 square miles it is the largest National Park in England, and also the most popular, boasting over 16 million visitors a year. And with very good reason! If you’re looking for things to do in beautiful surroundings you’d be hard pushed to beat the Lake District.
Lake District Activities

Walking in the Lake District

The Lake District in the north-west of England is two-thousand square kilometres of adventure playground and the ultimate adventure destination in England. The Lake District's geological make-up plus its incomparable scenery makes it perfect for fell walking or hiking. With over 3000km of rights of way there are numerous routes graded from easy through to serious inside the national park boundaries, plus the more demanding Cumbria Way, a seventy-mile long footpath between the towns of Ulverston and Carlisle for those looking for a more challenging undertaking. One of the most popular walks, and voted one of the best 100 walks in the UK, is climbing Scafell Pike, England's highest Mountain at 978m elevation. Whether you’re after a multi-day summit-bagging trip, or a gentle family stroll along the lakeside, you’ll find it here and all with the stunning backdrops that are unmistakably the Lake District.## What are the best walks in the Lake District?
There are so many iconic and stunning hikes in the Lake District, and it seems an injustice to narrow it down to a few, but the list below are some of our favourites, alongside some of the more popular ones. For more choices, to find guides, book tours or discover more detail please use the filters on this page to see what’s nearby and available.
  • Scafell Pike: well you have to don’t you?! If it’s your first time in the Lake District, climbing the highest mountain in the country is a must. Standing at 978m it’s a tough and steep hike, at times scrambling over hard terrain. The most common (and quickest) route is up and down the Brown Tongue Path from Wasdale Head, but we’d recommend a more circular route to explore more of what this complex mountain has to offer. Instead head up to Sty Head and then cut across the mountain on the ‘Corridor Route’. This joins the Brown Tongue Path for the final ascent to the summit, and then follow this all the way back down again to the car park at Wasdale Head.

  • Helvellyn via Striding Edge - arguably the finest ridge walk in the country, and it’s no surprise that this hike was voted Britain’s Favourite Walk in a poll on ITV in 2017! Another one not for the fainthearted, the ascent of this 950m peak via Striding Edge can feel quite exposed, and likely to require the use of hands in a few places. The views are spectacular though, especially over Ullswater as you ascend, and worth stopping for a while before the descent back to Glenridding.
  • Haystacks, above Buttermere: for one of the best and most beautiful views in the National Park, head to Haystacks. If you’re confident descending in low light then stay for the magnificent light during sunset over Buttermere and Crummock Water beyond.
  • Cathedral Cave, Coniston: starting from the village of Elterwater is a fantastic approximately 8 mile hike to the hugely impressive man-made quarry that is now called Cathedral Cave, with it’s incredible echo and a few tunnels worth exploring. There’s also two waterfalls of note along the route, Skelwith Force and Colwith Force, and also the charming Slater’s Bridge, a 17th century packhorse bridge over the River Brathay, which offers a lovely picnic site for families in the summer, with lovely pools for little ones to paddle in.
  • Ennerdale Water: making a change from all the climbs above, this 6.5 mile lakeside walk also happens to be around one of the areas least visited lakes, making it a relaxing and tranquil location. The route encompasses tracks and forest roads, some narrow and rocky footpaths, and the odd short climb (well it wouldn’t be the Lake District without some climbing!)

Lake District walking henvelyn

Hidden gem hikes in the Lake District

Every National Park will have its own distinct features and areas to explore, and the Lake District is no exception. Here’s a little sample to get you started, and use our filters to find more options or to book tours to help you explore these gems:
  • The Bowder Stone, Borrowdale Valley: anyone (or anything) exploring this valley some 10,000-13,500 years ago might have had quite the shock as this 200 ton lump of hardened lava crashed down to earth from the Bowder Crag above, landing with such force that it remained embedded in the ground teetering on one corner. The stone itself is believed to be over 450 million years old and even has a staircase, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with this dramatic example of the area’s geological history.
  • Castlerigg Stone Circle, Keswick: just a short (30 minute) walk from Keswick lies one of the best stone circle sites in Britain. With 38 stones in total it sits in a large field, meaning kids can play whilst adults enjoy a picnic and take in the amazing views. Visitors are also able to touch the stones, which date back to Neolithic times some 4000-5000 years ago. The site is also popular with photographers with it’s great backdrop of Skiddaw, though best to visit at the beginning or end of the day to capture the best light and avoid the crowds!
  • Wordsworth's Grasmere: find out what inspired one of our greatest poets at Dove Cottage, the Grasmere home of William Wordsworth. Discover more about the man himself, and take in the landscapes that feature in many of his finest works.

Best hikes for couples in the Lake District

If you’re looking for something with a little bit more atmosphere to up the romance stakes, something truly special, then try one of these:
  • Ennerdale Water: Ennerdale is one of the less visited Lakes, and the reason for this is simply because it’s one of the least accessible. Which is great if you’re looking for a bit more peace and quiet, especially during the summer months. With some great walks and lovely picnic spots on the western shore, it's also where Bill Clinton proposed to Hilary!
  • Rydal Mount and Gardens: home to William Wordsworth until his death in 1950, the beautiful gardens here give some insight into some of the poet’s greatest works. Of particular note is the waterfall, Rydal Falls, located a short walk from the house.
  • If you’re early-risers then head to Castlerigg Stone Circle for the sun rise. Wrap up warm as it can be quite exposed, but there are few more romantic moments than sharing a cup of something hot watching the first dawn rays hit the stones.

Best hikes for families in the Lake District

There are loads of great activities suitable for the whole family in the Lake District National Park, and please do use our filters to browse the list and see what’s local and available. The Lake District National Park Authority has also come up with a list of over 40 ‘Miles Without Stiles’ routes, which are easily accessible walks ideal for those with pushchairs or smaller children, whilst still allowing the grown ups to appreciate the landscapes and the fresh air. Here are some of our highlights:
  • The Coffin Route, Ambleside to Grasmere: this 6.5km route follows the old corpse route between the two villages of Ambleside and Grasmere. Of particular note is the fact it passes two of Wordsworth’s houses (Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount), leading you above Rydal Water before finishing in Grasmere. From here you can either do the return leg too or instead have a well-earned tea-break and catch a bus back to the start.
  • Latrigg, near Keswick: at just 2km long and with only 90m of ascent this is a great short walk that gives great views across the town and Derwent Water beyond. Hopefully one to inspire the kids to the next - slightly bigger - summit!
  • Tarn Hows: this is one of the most scenic locations in the Lake District and this walk gives a full appreciation of it by including a climb up Black Fell to look down over the tarn. Whilst slightly long for younger children at just over 8km, this can be shortened by cutting out Black Fell but still enjoying the beauty with a walk around the tarn..
national parks walks near me

What to Wear for Hiking?

Getting the right hill walking equipment can be the difference between a fantastic day out and 50 shades of grim, or in a worst scenario an embarrassing call to mountain rescue. So what is essential walking kit? This differs based on where you’re going hill walking and what the weather is.
The climate can change very quickly in the UK, so essential walking clothing will protect you for all weathers. As one of the main hill-walking legends himself put it “There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”, Alfred Wainwright. Make sure you’ve got full body waterproofs, both a jacket and trousers. Take a carrier bag to waterproof out your bag. And add a carrier bag to protect essential items like your phone. Make sure you're wearing appropriate footwear for the terrain. And don’t underestimate how much of a beating they can take climbing hills, especially with rocks or scrambling. Bring spare warm layers such as a hat, gloves, neck scarf and spare fleece and warm clothes (enough to make you feel warm when not on the move).
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What to Pack for Hiking or Long Walks?

Depending on the conditions of your walk you’ll need to pack differently. If you’re going on a route that’s not well marked make sure you have the means to navigate.
  • Navigation tools: a map with a compass (even if it’s a backup to your digital tools), for the worst case scenario of the digital navigation tools running out of battery.
  • Mobile phone: fully charged. Don’t rinse through the battery using instagram in case you need to call for emergencies.
  • Take a good backpack, preferably with a built in hydration system so you can constantly take on water as you move, making it easier to stay hydrated throughout the day.

For Long Distance or Mountain Walks:
  • First Aid Kit and Medicines: very important if going up particularly challenging terrain
  • Head touch and spare batteries: In case it gets dark due to the sun setting or a storm setting in, a head torch can be very useful, if not vital.
  • Group Shelter: can be used to set up quick camp, in the case of an almost immediate storm, should you wish to shelter temporarily.
  • A whistle: In case fog sets in and you need to help others find you.

For Winter Mountaineering:
  • Crampons and Ice axe: for winter mountaineering, the use of crampons to get grip on snow and ice, and ice axes to aid with grip can be used. It’s essential to practice using these before going on a mountaineering expedition as they can take some getting used to.
  • Walking poles: Not always essential, but can be used to take weight off your feet and ease impact on your knees and hips. They can help with keeping good posture and can make it easier to walk if used correctly.
  • Belay device, harness and ropes: If going up particularly challenging, steep areas or ridges with big drop-offs, sometimes the use of ropes can aid safety in the case of an accidental fall. If climbing, these are essential pieces of kit.
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