Best Walks in Lake District
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HomeHiking20 Best Walks in the Lake District (with OS Map Routes)
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20 Best Walks in the Lake District (with OS Map Routes)

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In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore 20 of the best walks in the Lake District, each offering its unique blend of natural beauty, historical significance, and physical challenge. From the tranquil waters of Tarn Hows to the dizzying heights of Scafell Pike, we’ve got a walk for everyone.

The Lake District is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Nestled in the heart of England, this national park offers a diverse range of walking experiences, from gentle strolls to challenging hikes. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a casual wanderer, the Lake District has something to offer for everyone.

So, grab your OS Maps and let’s embark on an adventure through some of the most stunning landscapes the UK has to offer!

Why Walk in the Lake District?

The Lake District is not just another national park; it’s a playground for adventurers, a sanctuary for nature lovers, and a source of inspiration for artists and poets alike. But what makes it such a special place for walking?

One of the best things about walking in the Lake District is the promise of spectacular views. Whether you’re scaling the heights of Helvellyn or enjoying a gentle stroll around Rydal Water, the vistas are nothing short of breathtaking. On a clear day, you might even catch a glimpse of the Irish Sea or the Isle of Man in the distance.

The Lake District offers a variety of terrains to suit all levels of expertise. From easy lake district walks around beautiful lakes like Derwent Water and Ennerdale Water to challenging hikes with steep slopes and rocky terrain, there’s something for everyone. And for those who love a good scramble, areas like Striding Edge and Sharp Edge offer an extra layer of excitement.

The Lake District has been a muse for many notable figures, including Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth. As you walk through the scenic landscapes, you’ll find it easy to understand why this area has inspired so many works of art and literature. Don’t miss the chance to visit Rydal Mount, Wordsworth’s family home, or take a detour to see Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm.

Whether it’s the vibrant colours of autumn or the serene snowscapes of winter, the Lake District is a great place to walk year-round. Just remember to check the weather forecast and prepare accordingly, as conditions can change rapidly.

How to Use OS Map Routes in the Lake District

To ensure your walking experience in the Lake District is as seamless as possible, this guide includes links to OS Maps routes for each of the 20 featured walks. Whether you’re an experienced map reader or new to outdoor navigation, these OS Maps will serve as your essential companion on the trail.

Navigating the Lake District’s varied terrains can be challenging. That’s why having reliable mapping tools at your fingertips is crucial. As a passionate advocate for outdoor adventures, I can’t stress enough the importance of using trusted mapping tools like OS Maps when exploring the Lake District.

Lake District Map

The English Lakes: North-Western Area Map

OS Explorer Active Maps:

  • 1:25 000 scale (4 cm to 1 km – 2½ inches to 1 mile).
  • Laminated with a weatherproof finish, also suitable for dry-wipe pens. 
  • Great for walkers, hikers, cyclists, families, dog walkers, and horse riders.
  • Includes roads, rights of way, permissive paths and bridleways, plus essential visitor information.
  • Free digital download included.
  • Other Ordnance Survey Explorer maps of the Lakes include English Lakes: South-Western Area map OL06 and English Lakes: North-Eastern Area map OL05

These maps are packed with features that make them both user-friendly and incredibly detailed. You’ll find information on elevation gain, alternative routes, and points of interest, allowing you to plan your walk down to the finest detail.

While digital maps available on various apps and websites offer real-time updates and GPS tracking, it’s worth noting that paper maps are always the safest bet. In an environment where phone batteries can die and GPS can be unreliable, a good old-fashioned paper map can be a lifesaver, quite literally.

Best Walks in the Lake District Map


Tarn Hows

DISTANCE

3 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

1 hr

ELEVATION GAIN

56 m

DIFFICULTY

Easy

Tarn Hows is often described as one of the most visited spots in the Lake District National Park, and for good reason. This stunning area offers a relatively easy walk, making it accessible for families, beginners, and those looking for a gentle stroll. The circular walk around the tarn provides spectacular views and is a perfect introduction to the beauty of the Lake District.

Your adventure begins at the Tarn Hows car park, a National Trust facility. I recommend that you arrive early, especially during peak season, as this popular location can get quite busy. Don’t forget to check the weather forecast before you set off to make the most of your day.

The Tarn Hows walk is relatively flat, making it a great choice for those not looking for steep inclines or challenging terrain. It’s a gentle walk that allows you to enjoy the natural beauty around you without the strenuous effort required for some of the Lake District’s more challenging hikes.

My two daughters are not quite old enough for the bigger fells of the Lake District, but Tarn Hows is a fantastic option for families with young children. The well-maintained paths and relatively flat terrain make it easy for little legs to navigate.

The tarn itself is a small mountainside lake, offering beautiful reflections of the surrounding hills and trees. On a clear day, the water appears almost mirror-like, reflecting the sky and making for some fantastic photo opportunities. The beautiful scenery is complemented by the diverse range of flora and fauna that inhabit the area, making it a complete package for anyone looking to experience the best of what the Lake District has to offer.


The Old Man of Coniston

DISTANCE

11 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

3-4 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

755 m

DIFFICULTY

Severe

The Old Man of Coniston is more than just a walk; it’s an adventure steeped in literary history and personal nostalgia. For me, this mountain has always held a special place in my heart. As a child, I was captivated by the Swallows and Amazons series of books, where this iconic peak was transformed into the imaginary “Kanchenjunga” in the minds of the young adventurers. Today, the Old Man of Coniston offers a challenging yet rewarding hike, with steep climbs and panoramic views that make the effort worthwhile.

Your journey begins in the quaint village of Coniston, a perfect starting point that offers amenities like cafes and shops where you can stock up on essentials. From there, well-marked trails will guide you to the summit.

This is not a walk for the faint-hearted. The steep inclines and rocky terrain make it one of the more challenging hikes in the Lake District. However, the sense of accomplishment when you reach the summit, coupled with the breathtaking views, makes it all worthwhile.

The Old Man of Coniston is not just a natural wonder; it’s a mountain steeped in history and culture. It has been a site of slate mining for centuries, and the remnants of this industry can still be seen as you make your way up.

The Old Man of Coniston is one of the most popular walks in the Lake District for good reason. The summit offers spectacular views of Lake Windermere, Morecambe Bay, and on a clear day, even as far as the Isle of Man.


Helvellyn via Striding Edge

DISTANCE

13 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

4-5 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

923 m

DIFFICULTY

Hard

Helvellyn, standing proudly as the third-highest peak in England, is a must-visit for any avid walker or hiker exploring the Lake District. The route via Striding Edge is particularly iconic, offering a thrilling ridge walk that is both challenging and exciting. This is not just a walk; it’s an adventure that promises heart-pounding moments and breathtaking views.

Your ascent begins at Glenridding, a charming village nestled on the shores of Ullswater. Here, you can find amenities and parking facilities before you embark on your journey. The path is well-marked, but it’s essential to be prepared with the right gear, especially if you’re taking on Striding Edge.

Striding Edge provides a knife-edge ridge walk that is not for the faint-hearted. With steep drops on either side and a narrow path to navigate, it requires a head for heights and sure footing. However, the adrenaline rush and the unparalleled views of the surrounding fells and valleys make it a memorable experience.

Striding Edge

Once you’ve conquered Striding Edge, the final ascent to Helvellyn’s summit awaits. Here, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views that stretch across the Lake District, from the Langdale Pikes to Skiddaw and beyond. On a clear day, the vistas are simply unmatched.

While the thrill of the ascent is undeniable, it’s crucial to descend with caution. The terrain can be tricky, especially in wet conditions. My favourite way to return to Glenridding is via Swirral Edge, making a great circular route that takes in two spectacular ridges.


Aira Force

DISTANCE

5 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

1-2 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

193 m

DIFFICULTY

Moderate

Aira Force is a gem in the heart of the Lake District, offering a delightful walk that leads to one of the most impressive waterfalls in the region. Surrounded by lush woodland and with the gentle sound of cascading water accompanying you, this walk is a serene escape from the more challenging peaks of the Lake District.

The walk begins at the Aira Force car park, conveniently located near the main attraction. From here, well-signposted paths will guide you up through ancient woodlands and along the banks of Aira Beck, leading you straight to the waterfall.

Standing at 65 feet tall, Aira Force is a sight to behold. The power and beauty of the waterfall, especially after heavy rainfall, are truly mesmerising. Wooden bridges crisscross the beck, offering various vantage points to admire the falls and snap some Instagram photos.

Beyond the waterfall, the area boasts a rich history and diverse flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for the many species of birds that call this area home, and if you visit in spring, the bluebell displays are well worth seeing. The area also has connections to the famous poet William Wordsworth, who found inspiration in its natural beauty.

Aira Force is a great choice for families and those looking for a more relaxed walking experience. The paths are well-maintained, and there are plenty of spots to sit, relax, and soak in the surroundings. It’s a testament to the fact that you don’t need to scale the highest peaks to experience the magic of the Lake District.


The Ullswater Way

DISTANCE

31 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

7-8 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

859 m

DIFFICULTY

Hard

The Ullswater Way is a spectacular circular route that encircles Ullswater, offering a diverse and immersive walking experience. This 20-mile journey is a celebration of the Lake District’s grandeur, providing a full perspective of the lake’s beauty and the surrounding fells.

You can start your exploration of the Ullswater Way in the quaint village of Patterdale, nestled at the southern end of Ullswater. Known for its welcoming community and stunning valley views, Patterdale provides the perfect backdrop for the start of your walk. With its convenient amenities and direct access to the path, it’s an ideal launching point for your adventure.

The Ullswater Way offers varied landscapes, from gentle lakeside strolls to slightly more challenging sections that reward you with elevated views. The route is clearly signposted, ensuring a stress-free navigation experience as you meander through ancient woodlands, quaint hamlets, and rugged countryside.

Setting off from Patterdale, you’ll encounter some of the route’s most enchanting sights early in your walk. The path takes you close to the iconic Aira Force waterfall and through Glencoyne Wood, where daffodils bloom in spring—a scene that inspired Wordsworth’s famous “Daffodils” poem. Ascending Gowbarrow Fell, you’ll be treated to expansive views that are simply unforgettable.

I tackled a large part of the Ullswater Way during a charity Mighty Hike a couple of years ago, and it’s definitely one of the best walks in the Lake District for me, and one I’d like to do again.

The Ullswater Way is an invitation to slow down and appreciate the quieter side of the Lake District. The tranquil waters, the dramatic backdrop of the Helvellyn range, and the gentle rustle of the trees create a meditative atmosphere that can be as restorative as it is inspiring. Whether you’re completing the full loop or just a segment, the Ullswater Way is a journey that resonates with every walker’s spirit.


Catbells

DISTANCE

5 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

1-2 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

413 m

DIFFICULTY

Moderate

Catbells is a favourite for many walkers in the Lake District, known for its distinctive shape and stunning panoramic views. This fell has a friendly allure, attracting families, photographers, and those new to fell walking, thanks to its relatively short ascent and the rewarding vistas from its summit.

The adventure begins in the small village of Hawse End, which is accessible by car or via the Keswick Launch on Derwentwater. The path to Catbells is well-trodden and clearly marked, making it an accessible climb for walkers of all ages and abilities.

Best Lake District Walks - Catbells

The ascent of Catbells is invigorating but manageable, with some steep sections that add a little challenge to the climb. As you rise above the lake, each pause in your step offers an opportunity to turn around and appreciate the expanding views of Derwentwater and its surrounding peaks.

Reaching the summit of Catbells is a moment to enjoy. The panoramic views encompass the Borrowdale Valley, the Solway Firth, and on a clear day, the distant outline of Scotland. It’s a perfect place to sit and revel in the beauty of the Lake District, making it a great option for a morning hike or an evening walk to catch the sunset.

The descent from Catbells offers a different perspective of the landscape as you make your way back down to Hawse End. The path can be steep in places, so take care as you descend, especially if the ground is wet.

Catbells’ popularity is well-deserved. Its friendly path and stunning views make it a great introduction to the fells of the Lake District for children and adults alike. It’s a fell that captures the imagination and encourages a love for the great outdoors.


Blencathra via Sharp Edge

DISTANCE

8 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

2-3 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

684 m

DIFFICULTY

Hard

Blencathra, with its imposing presence in the Lake District’s northern skyline, offers an array of ascents, but none quite as thrilling as the route via Sharp Edge. This razor-like arête is a magnet for seasoned hikers seeking a walk laced with adrenaline. It’s a test of nerve and skill, providing one of the most exhilarating scrambles in the region.

The journey to conquer Blencathra via Sharp Edge begins at Mousthwaite Comb, just outside the village of Scales. This starting point allows for a direct approach to the base of Sharp Edge, where the real adventure begins.

The ascent to Sharp Edge quickly becomes a hands-on experience. The ridge is narrow, with steep drops on either side, demanding concentration and a steady pace. It’s a route that should only be attempted in good weather, as high winds or rain can make the ridge treacherous.

Upon successfully navigating Sharp Edge, the final push to Blencathra’s summit is a challenging but exhilarating climb. Standing on top of this mighty fell, you’re rewarded with commanding views over the Lake District and the satisfaction of having completed one of the most challenging walks in the area.

The descent from Blencathra requires caution, particularly if you choose to retrace your steps over Sharp Edge. An alternative and safer route down is via Scales Fell, offering a less demanding path back to the valley floor.

Blencathra via Sharp Edge is not just a walk; it’s an adventure that stays with you. It’s a route that, while demanding respect and a head for heights, offers some of the most dramatic and rewarding experiences in the Lake District. It’s a testament to the raw beauty and thrilling challenges that await in this walker’s paradise.


Scafell Pike

DISTANCE

12.5 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

4-5 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

1047 m

DIFFICULTY

Hard

Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England, is a beacon for walkers and climbers, offering a challenging ascent and the ultimate reward of panoramic views from the summit. This iconic peak is a rite of passage for many, symbolising the very essence of adventure in the Lake District.

Ascending Scafell Pike via the Corridor Route is an experience that combines the thrill of high mountain walking with some of the most dramatic scenery the Lake District has to offer. This route is famed for its rugged beauty and is often considered one of the most scenic paths to England’s highest summit.

Reaching the summit of Scafell Pike is a great experience. At 978 metres above sea level, you stand at the highest point in England, with views that extend across the Lake District and beyond. On a clear day, the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man, and the peaks of Wales and Scotland are visible on the horizon.

The descent requires care, as the terrain can be treacherous, especially in poor weather. Many opt to return via the Corridor Route, which offers a more gradual descent with stunning views of the Western Fells.


Loughrigg Fell

DISTANCE

12 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

3-4 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

587 m

DIFFICULTY

Moderate

Loughrigg Fell may not boast the height of some of its Lakeland neighbours, but what it lacks in stature, it more than makes up for with its stunning views and charming ascent. This modest hill is a favourite among locals and visitors alike, offering a stunning panorama of the central Lake District.

Ambleside, a bustling market town, serves as the perfect starting point for the Loughrigg Fell walk. With its array of shops and cafes, it’s an ideal spot to fuel up before the climb or to relax with a coffee after your descent.

The ascent of Loughrigg Fell is relatively gentle, making it accessible to walkers of all abilities. The paths are well-defined and meander through bracken and heather, with the occasional tarn providing a picturesque spot for a rest or a picnic.

Loughrigg Fell - Best Lake District Walks

The summit of Loughrigg Fell, marked by a trig point, offers a 360-degree view that is truly remarkable for such an easy climb. From here, you can see the Langdale Pikes, Grasmere, and on a clear day, even a glimpse of Lake Windermere. It’s a perfect spot for photographers and those who appreciate the beauty of the Lake District.

The descent is as pleasant as the ascent, with several routes to choose from. You can return to Ambleside or extend your walk to Grasmere or Rydal, both of which are well worth a visit.

Loughrigg Fell is a testament to the fact that you don’t need to embark on a strenuous climb to enjoy the wonders of the Lake District. It’s a fell that offers a little bit of everything: easy paths, stunning views, and a sense of tranquillity that can be hard to find on the more popular peaks.


Buttermere

DISTANCE

7 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

1 hr 30 min

ELEVATION GAIN

82 m

DIFFICULTY

Easy

Buttermere, with its serene lake and dramatic surrounding peaks, offers one of the most picturesque walks in the Lake District. The path around the lake is a gentle, accessible route that allows walkers of all ages and abilities to immerse themselves in the tranquillity of this beautiful valley.

The walk begins in the village of Buttermere, which lies nestled between the imposing fells of High Stile and Red Pike. The village provides a quaint backdrop, with a few local amenities where you can grab a bite to eat or a refreshing drink before setting off.

The circular walk around Buttermere is roughly 4.5 miles long and takes you on a journey through varied landscapes. You’ll traverse lush woodlands, open meadows, and well-maintained paths that hug the shoreline, offering uninterrupted views of the water and the fells beyond.

As you make your way around the lake, you’ll encounter points of interest such as the famous twin bridges at the lake’s southern end and the hidden gem of Scale Force, the Lake District’s highest waterfall. The path also passes through a tunnel carved out of the rock, adding a sense of adventure to the walk.

The beauty of Buttermere lies in its simplicity and the peace it offers. It’s a place to walk at your own pace, to stop and gaze at the reflections in the water, and to enjoy the quiet moments that nature provides. The flat path around the lake makes it an ideal walk for families and those seeking a gentle stroll in stunning surroundings.


Rydal Water and Rydal Cave

DISTANCE

5 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

1 hr 30 min

ELEVATION GAIN

210 m

DIFFICULTY

Moderate

Rydal Water is a small yet enchantingly picturesque lake, and the walk around it is enriched by the historical and literary associations of the area, as well as the intriguing Rydal Cave. This walk is a blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and a touch of adventure, making it a unique experience in the Lake District.

The walk can begin from the village of Rydal, which is steeped in history and was once home to the poet William Wordsworth. The village’s central location makes it an accessible starting point, with public transport options available for those not travelling by car.

The path around Rydal Water is a relatively easy one, with minimal elevation gain, making it suitable for most walkers. The route takes you along the shores of the lake, through woodland, and past historic landmarks like Rydal Mount, Wordsworth’s family home.

A highlight of the walk is the visit to Rydal Cave, a man-made cavern on the north side of the lake. Once a quarry, the cave is now a popular spot for visitors. The entrance is grand, and inside, you’ll find a small pool of water, creating a mystical atmosphere. It’s a great place for families to explore and for individuals to capture some dramatic photographs.

Rydal Cave Walk, Lake District

As you wander the paths around Rydal Water, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of the Romantic poets. The area is rich with references to Wordsworth and his contemporaries, who drew inspiration from the tranquil beauty of the lake and its surroundings.

Rydal Water and the walk to Rydal Cave are beautiful year-round. In spring and summer, the woodlands are alive with greenery and wildlife. In autumn, the area is a tapestry of rich golds and reds, while in winter, the snow-capped surroundings bring a peaceful silence.

Completing the circuit of Rydal Water brings you back to the village, where you can enjoy refreshments at one of the cosy cafes or traditional pubs.


Howtown to Glenridding

DISTANCE

10 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

2-3 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

467 m

DIFFICULTY

Moderate

The walk from Howtown to Glenridding is a classic Lake District experience, combining a scenic ferry ride with a beautiful lakeside walk. This route offers some of the most picturesque views of Ullswater and allows walkers to enjoy a linear walk with the convenience of a ferry service.

The journey begins in the village of Glenridding, where parking is available for those arriving by car. From here, you can catch the Ullswater ‘Steamers’ ferry service to Howtown, an enjoyable trip that sets the stage for the walk ahead with stunning views across the lake.

The ferry ride to Howtown is a chance to relax and take in the beauty of Ullswater from a different perspective. As you glide across the water, you’ll see the fells rising steeply from the lake’s edge, a preview of the landscapes you’ll soon be exploring on foot.

From Howtown, the path follows the lake’s edge back towards Glenridding. This well-defined route offers gentle walking with minimal climbs and is considered one of the best walks in the Lake District. The path takes you through fields and woodlands, with frequent opportunities to pause and admire the views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

The walk is rich with photo opportunities, from the tranquil bays along the lake’s shore to the dramatic sight of Helvellyn towering in the distance. Keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife, including red squirrels and a variety of birds that make their home in this idyllic setting.

This walk is perfect for those who want to experience the Lake District at a leisurely pace. It’s about enjoying the journey as much as the destination, with the added bonus of a ferry ride to start your adventure.

Arriving back in Glenridding, you’ll find a sense of fulfilment in having experienced one of Ullswater’s most charming walks. The village offers a warm welcome with its cafes and pubs, where you can reflect on your walk and enjoy some well-earned refreshments.


Great Gable via Wasdale Head

DISTANCE

8.5 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

3-4 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

824 m

DIFFICULTY

Moderate

Great Gable is one of the most iconic fells in the Lake District, known for its distinctive pyramid shape and its sombre role as a memorial to the members of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club who died in the First World War. The walk from Wasdale Head to the summit is a journey through some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in England.

Wasdale Head, often described as the birthplace of British mountaineering, is the starting point for the ascent. This remote valley, surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the Lake District, has a hallowed atmosphere and a sense of stepping back in time.

The path to Great Gable is steep and rugged, taking you through a landscape carved by glaciers. The ascent begins with a steady climb up to Sty Head pass, where you’ll find the famous stretcher box at the junction of paths that criss-cross this mountainous area.

From Sty Head, the route to Great Gable becomes more challenging, with a steep and rocky path leading to the summit. It’s a climb that requires a good level of fitness and a head for heights, but the rewards are commensurate with the effort.

The summit of Great Gable offers some of the most breathtaking views in the Lake District. From here, you can see the Scafell range, the valleys of Wasdale and Ennerdale, and the distant Irish Sea. The summit is marked by a war memorial, which adds a poignant note to the spectacular scenery.

The descent from Great Gable is equally demanding, with a choice of routes back to Wasdale Head. The path via Green Gable and down to Windy Gap offers a slightly less steep route, while the direct descent back to Sty Head is more challenging.

Back at Wasdale Head, the Wasdale Head Inn awaits, offering a warm welcome and a chance to rest and replenish. It’s a fitting end to one of the best walks in the Lake District.


Rannerdale Knotts Circular

DISTANCE

4.5 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

1-2 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

270 m

DIFFICULTY

Moderate

Rannerdale Knotts is a delightful fell that offers a relatively short but rewarding circular walk. Known for its stunning bluebell displays in spring, this area is steeped in legend and provides some of the most striking views over Crummock Water and Buttermere.

The walk begins at the small National Trust car park at Hause Point, which is an ideal starting location for this circular route. The car park is just off the B5289, making it easily accessible while providing an immediate sense of being close to the heart of the wild Lake District.

From Hause Point, the path to Rannerdale Knotts is clear and begins with a gentle ascent. As you climb, the views quickly open up, offering a stunning panorama of the surrounding fells and lakes. The ascent is moderate, making it suitable for families and those new to fell walking.

The summit of Rannerdale Knotts is a wonderful vantage point. Despite its modest height, the fell offers a surprising sense of space and grandeur. The view down to Crummock Water, with the fells rising dramatically beyond, is particularly impressive.

Continuing the circular route, the path leads you around the fell, with the option to descend towards Rannerdale Valley, famous for its vibrant bluebells. The descent is leisurely, with the terrain becoming more gentle as you loop back towards the car park.

Completing the circular route brings you back to Hause Point, where you can take a moment to enjoy the tranquillity of the lake or indulge in a picnic while reflecting on the walk. It’s a route that captures the essence of the Lake District’s beauty in a compact and accessible adventure.


Langdale Horseshoe

DISTANCE

18 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

6-7 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

1465 m

DIFFICULTY

Hard

The Langdale Horseshoe is a classic high-level walk that encapsulates the rugged nature of the Lake District. This challenging route takes in several peaks around the Great Langdale valley, offering some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the region.

The walk typically starts from the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, a historic climbers’ inn situated at the head of Great Langdale. The hotel has long been a hub for walkers and climbers, and its car park serves as the gateway to the fells.

Setting out from the Old Dungeon Ghyll, the path ascends steadily towards Crinkle Crags, the first major peak in the horseshoe. The route is well-trodden but rugged, with steep sections that require a good level of fitness and agility.

The Langdale Horseshoe covers several peaks, including Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, and the distinctive, pike-like summit of Harrison Stickle. Each peak offers new vistas and challenges, with the terrain varying from rocky outcrops to grassy ridges.

Best Lake District Walks

The highest point of the walk is on Bowfell, one of the Lake District’s most impressive fells. From here, the views extend across to Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain, and down to the valley floor far below.

Descending from the horseshoe can be done via a number of routes, with one of the most popular being the path down to Mickleden valley. This route offers a gentler descent, allowing for a reflective walk back to the start after the day’s exertions.

The Langdale Horseshoe is a walk for those who seek a full day out on the fells, with the satisfaction of summiting multiple peaks. It’s a route that demands respect for the mountain environment but rewards the ambitious walker with some of the finest views in the Lake District.

Upon returning to the Old Dungeon Ghyll, walkers can enjoy the comforts of the hotel’s Hikers Bar. It’s a place to share stories of the day’s adventure over a pint and to soak in the atmosphere of a true Lake District institution.


Helm Crag

DISTANCE

11 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

3-4 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

520 m

DIFFICULTY

Moderate

Helm Crag, affectionately known as ‘The Lion and the Lamb’ due to its distinctive rock formations visible from below, is a popular fell near Grasmere. Its relatively low height belies the fantastic views it offers, making it a favourite for a short but rewarding hike.

The walk begins in the charming village of Grasmere, famous for its association with the poet William Wordsworth. From the village centre, the path to Helm Crag is well signposted, leading you out onto the open fell.

The ascent to Helm Crag is straightforward but can be steep in places. The path winds through bracken and woodland before opening out to the fell side. As you climb, the views back over Grasmere and towards the surrounding fells begin to unfold.

Reaching the summit of Helm Crag is a modest achievement but offers disproportionate rewards. The summit itself is marked by the ‘Lion and the Lamb’ rocks, and it provides panoramic views of the central Lake District, including Windermere to the south and the Helvellyn range to the east.

Descending from Helm Crag, you have the option to return the way you came or to extend the walk by continuing along the ridge to Gibson Knott and Calf Crag, making a longer loop back to Grasmere.

Helm Crag’s proximity to Grasmere means it’s steeped in literary history. It’s easy to imagine Wordsworth and his contemporaries finding inspiration in the rugged beauty of the crag and the vistas it provides.

Upon your return to Grasmere, you can enjoy the village’s cosy cafes and quaint shops. The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop is a particular favourite, offering a sweet treat after your exertions on the fell.


The Cumbria Way

DISTANCE

115 km

ESTIMATED TIME

3-4 Days

ELEVATION GAIN

2739 m

DIFFICULTY

Moderate

The Cumbria Way is a long-distance footpath that stretches for over 70 miles through the heart of the Lake District National Park. It offers walkers a cross-section of Cumbria, showcasing the diversity of its landscapes, from the tranquil beauty of the valleys to the rugged grandeur of the fells.

The route traditionally begins in the historic market town of Ulverston, near Morecambe Bay, and winds its way north to the city of Carlisle. However, for those looking for a shorter walk, it can be joined at any number of points along the way.

The Cumbria Way passes through some of the most scenic parts of the Lake District, including Coniston, Langdale, and Borrowdale. It skirts the edges of iconic fells, meanders through ancient woodlands, and crosses pastoral farmland.

Key highlights along the Cumbria Way include the serene Tarn Hows, the rugged peaks of the Langdale Pikes, and the picturesque Derwent Water. The path also takes in the charming villages of Coniston, Keswick, and Caldbeck, each with its own unique character and history.

For those tackling the entire route, there are plenty of accommodation options ranging from campgrounds and hostels to cosy B&Bs and luxurious hotels. The Cumbria Way is well-served by local amenities, allowing walkers to travel light and enjoy the hospitality of the region.

The Cumbria Way is well-marked, but as with any long-distance walk, good navigation skills are recommended. The route can be challenging in parts, especially in inclement weather, so preparation is key.

The journey ends in the border city of Carlisle, with its impressive castle and cathedral. Completing the Cumbria Way is a significant achievement, offering a deep connection with the landscapes and cultural heritage of Cumbria.

The Cumbria Way is ideal for those who enjoy multi-day hikes and the sense of journeying through a landscape. It’s a path that offers both solitude and camaraderie, as you’ll meet fellow walkers along the way, each with their own stories to tell.


Skiddaw via Lonscale Fell

DISTANCE

12.5 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

3-4 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

705 m

DIFFICULTY

Hard

Skiddaw is one of the Lake District’s most famous fells and, standing at over 3,000 feet, it is one of the highest peaks in England. The route via Lonscale Fell adds an extra dimension to the ascent, offering solitude and stunning views before joining the main tourist path to the summit.

The adventure begins in Keswick, a bustling market town that serves as a hub for northern Lake District fells. From here, the path towards Lonscale Fell is well-marked and takes you out of the town and into the open countryside.

The climb up Lonscale Fell is gradual, allowing you to take in the expanding views of Derwent Water and the Borrowdale Valley. The path is less travelled than the direct route to Skiddaw, providing a sense of peace and a chance to enjoy the natural surroundings without the crowds.

Upon reaching the summit of Lonscale Fell, you are rewarded with a different perspective of the northern Lakes. The fell itself is often quieter than its grand neighbour, offering a moment of tranquillity before the final ascent to Skiddaw.

From Lonscale Fell, the path to Skiddaw joins the main route coming up from the Latrigg side. It becomes steeper and more defined as it zigzags towards the summit plateau.

The summit of Skiddaw offers a panoramic sweep of the Lake District, the Solway Firth, and on a clear day, the hills of Scotland. The top is marked by a trig point and a view indicator, helping you to identify the surrounding peaks.

The return journey can follow the same path back via Lonscale Fell, or for a longer loop, you can descend via Skiddaw Little Man, providing more extensive views and a different descent experience.

Climbing Skiddaw via Lonscale Fell is a must for any peak-bagger. It’s a walk that combines the satisfaction of summiting one of the Lake District’s highest fells with the joy of discovering the quieter, less-trodden paths.

Back in Keswick, the town’s vibrant atmosphere is the perfect contrast to the day’s solitude on the fells. With plenty of eateries and pubs, it’s the ideal place to celebrate your ascent and share tales with fellow walkers.


Haystacks Circular from Honister

DISTANCE

8 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

2-3 hrs

ELEVATION GAIN

524 m

DIFFICULTY

Hard

Haystacks, famously the favourite fell of Alfred Wainwright, the renowned guidebook author, offers a walk full of character and stunning vistas. The circular route from Honister Pass provides a varied and engaging walk, taking in both rugged terrain and serene lakeside paths.

The walk begins at Honister Slate Mine at the top of Honister Pass, where there is a car park available. This high starting point means you’re immediately immersed in the dramatic high fell environment.

From Honister, the path ascends past the working slate mine and onto the open fell. The route to Haystacks is a steady climb, with the landscape opening up to reveal views of Buttermere and Crummock Water as you gain height.

Reaching the summit of Haystacks is a rewarding experience, with its series of small tarns and rocky outcrops providing a landscape that’s rich in texture and interest. The summit itself offers a 360-degree panorama, taking in the Scafell range, Great Gable, and the expanse of the Western Fells.

One of the highlights of Haystacks is the chance to visit Innominate Tarn, where Wainwright’s ashes were scattered. It’s a place of pilgrimage for many Lake District enthusiasts and a spot to pause and reflect.

The circular route continues, descending towards Scarth Gap before looping back around to the shores of Buttermere. The path then follows the lake edge, providing a gentle walk with beautiful views, before climbing back up to Honister Pass.

This walk is one of contrasts, from the industrial heritage of the slate mine to the natural beauty of the fells and tarns. It’s a microcosm of the Lake District’s diverse landscapes.

The return to Honister Slate Mine marks the end of the circular walk. The mine’s visitor centre and café offer a chance to learn more about the area’s slate mining history and to refresh before departing.

Essential Reading

Pictorial Guide To the Lakeland Fells

Completely unabridged and unedited, the maps and text are just how Wainwright wrote them. There simply is nothing quite like Wainwright’s guides, and having been treasured by generations of keen walkers, this set makes a wonderful gift for a new enthusiast.

Perfect for walkers and lovers of the Lakeland Fells, as well as those who simply love stunningly presented books. The Eastern Fells The Far Eastern Fells The Central Fells The Southern Fells The North Western Fells The Western Fells The Northern Fells


Latrigg Circular from Keswick

DISTANCE

9 km return

ESTIMATED TIME

2 hr 30 min

ELEVATION GAIN

335 m

DIFFICULTY

Moderate

Latrigg is one of the most accessible fells in the Lake District, offering a gentle walk with some of the most rewarding views over Keswick, Derwentwater, and the surrounding valleys. The circular route from Keswick is perfect for families or those looking for an easier walk that still offers the grandeur of the Northern Lakes.

The walk starts from the town of Keswick. You can begin the ascent right from the town centre, heading towards Spooney Green Lane, a well-marked route that leads out of Keswick and onto the open fell.

The path to Latrigg is a gentle incline, traversing through fields and woodlands before opening out to reveal sweeping views. The ascent is manageable for most, making it a popular choice for a half-day walk.

When you reach the summit of Latrigg, you are greeted with a panoramic vista that is simply stunning. The viewpoint provides a perfect spot to sit and enjoy the sights of Skiddaw to the north and the full expanse of Derwentwater to the south.

The circular route takes you around the shoulder of Latrigg, offering different perspectives of the valley below. The path is clear and well-maintained, looping back towards Keswick and descending through Brundholme Wood.

Latrigg is a fell that truly is for everyone. Its accessibility makes it a favourite for those with young children or for those who prefer a less strenuous introduction to fell walking.

The return to Keswick allows you to explore the town’s many attractions, from the local shops and cafes to the lakeside parks. Keswick is a hub of outdoor activity, and completing the Latrigg walk gives a sense of achievement that can be enjoyed by the whole family.


Embarking on any of these 20 best walks in the Lake District promises an adventure that will linger in your memory long after you’ve returned home. From the serene shores of Buttermere to the challenging heights of Scafell Pike, each route has been carefully selected to showcase the very best that this stunning region has to offer.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a casual walker, the Lake District’s diverse landscapes provide a perfect backdrop for everyone. With each step on these walks, you’ll discover why this corner of England has inspired poets, artists, and adventurers for centuries.

Remember, the best walks in the Lake District are not just about reaching the summit; they’re about the journey, the landscapes, and the moments of tranquillity. So lace up your boots, pack your OS Maps, and set out to explore the fells and valleys that make the Lake District a walker’s paradise.

Make it a Weekend Adventure

There is simply too much to see and do in the Lake District to visit just for one day, so why not make it a weekend adventure and book a nearby hotel?

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