The English Lake District stole my heart years ago and I’d like to share my three favourite day walks there. Whether it’s pottering about the chocolate box village of Grasmere or hiking through the glorious Langdale Valley, Cumbria is one of the most beautiful counties in Britain and these are my pick of the best walks in the Lake District:
1. Idyllic English villages: Grasmere and Rydal Water
There is no doubt this is Wordsworth country on this circular walk (8.9 kilometres or 5.5 miles). The English poet lived most of his life around the village of Grasmere, while roaming all over the area Lake District walks.
Grasmere itself is touristy these days but beautiful for all that – there’s a reason it’s one of the best places in the Lake District. Don’t miss out on buying some gingerbread from Sarah Nelson’s shop!
If you are looking for easy walks in the Lake District, this is a nice circuit walk, taking the path uphill from Grasmere, through the woods for around one-and-a-half miles to Rydal. Soon you will catch glimpses over Rydal Water and turn down towards the village at the T-junction.
The house here – Rydal Mount – was also a Wordsworth residence, a much one from his later more affluent days. Continue to the main road, turn left and then right over Pelter Bridge. Then climb up a lane to the right into the woods again and then onto the open fell. Stay high alongside the lake enjoying views of Nab Scar and Rydal Fell.
Keep left at the fork and take a lower path to the junction, when you turn left to skirt Loughrigg Fell with views over Grasmere lake and village (that’s Helm Crag behind them). Just before the woods start again turn right down a grassy path to the lakeshore and follow this (left) through water meadows to a road that will take you back to Grasmere.
2. Views of Windermere: Wansfell and Troutbeck
Another circular walk in the English Lake District that let’s you feel you’re getting up high and offers spectacular views along the length of Lake Windermere – England’s longest lake. (10.5 kilometres of 6.5 miles)
One of the best Windemere walks starts from Ambleside at the head the lake and proceeds from Bridge House through the town centre following signs to ‘The Waterfalls’. You soon get to Stockghyll Force – a series of cascades in a ravine. Just before the top of the falls turn right at the T-junction and follow the public footpath sign for Kirkstone.
Next turn is to follow the footpath sign to Troutbeck via Wansfell. The ascent is quite tiring with a steady gradient, as you would expect with fell walking, but the effort is certainly worth it and from the top you will enjoy one of the best views in the Lake District.
To return, follow a walled track called Nanny Lane down to the lovely old village of Troutbeck, with its whitewashed 17th and 18th century cottages. The path back to Ambleside is just past the post office on the right (Robin Lane).
3. The Great and Little Langdale Valleys
This is my absolute favourite day walk in the English Lake District and feels like proper Lake District hiking. The hills are reddish with dead bracken and below the grass is emerald in the sunshine. The views of the most famous Lake District peaks – the Langdale Pikes – are spectacular. We had lunch with the sun on our backs on the terrace of The Sticklebarn. In Baysbrown wood the sunlight hit the moss on the forest floor and made everything glow.
Start is near the head of the Great Langdale Valley at the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. Climb up to Blea Tarn (top photo) before dropping into Little Langdale Valley below the Wrynose Pass.
The path continues along to Little Langdale Tarn before climbing back over to Great Langdale and along the side of the valley to the starting point (12.9 kilometres or 8 miles). For me, this is one of the best walks in the Lake District.
4. Scafell Pike from Wasdale Head
The easiest and shortest walk up the highest mountain in the Lake District is from Wasdale, a tiny village at the head of beautiful Wastwater. Scafell Pike is England’s highest point and the return walk takes between five and seven hours. There is a National Trust carpark at the beginning of the track with a tea and snacks kiosk, Lake District maps and information.
The track to the top of the highest peak in the Lake District maintains a fairly steady gradient, curving gradually around the fellside before a final rocky stretch and the summit. Make sure you keep looking back as you climb to enjoy the gorgeous sight of Wastwater. From the top the views are outstanding. You can see most of the significant Lakeland Fells and on a very clear day you can even see the Isle of Man to the west in the Irish Sea.
People of all ages walk up Scafell so don’t be intimidated – just take your time and enjoy the view. After climbing Scafell Pike the village of Wasdale is the perfect place to unwind, with an excellent pub and village shop (this latter provides walkers with a certificate for summiting the highest mountain in England).
Where to stay in the Lake District
There are many options for accommodation in the Lake District and the YHA has no less than six hostels! I have stayed in the YHA Patterdale and found it good. There are also hostels in Windermere, Buttermere, Keswick, Ambleside and Helvellyn.
On another trip to Cumbria when Lake District walks were on the menu, we stayed at The Wild Boar, a gorgeous old inn with blazing fireplaces, a really good restaurant and luxuriously appointed rooms. This is a great option if you’ve got a bigger travel budget.
Lake District walking holidays
When planning Lake District walks make sure to check the weather forecast, carry a Lake District map, wear good walking shoes/boots, dress for all weathers and tell someone where you are going.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you been on walking holidays in Cumbria? What do you think are the best walks in the Lake District?
Have a look at my post on top family activities in the Lake District.