The English Lake District is one of the most beautiful hiking areas in Great Britain. Here, you can expect rugged mountains, green valleys, small villages and, of course, deep blue lakes. Apart from larger towns like Keswick or Windermere, which are fully geared up for tourists, most of the Lake District feels very original and quintessentially English, with picture book cottages, farmland and, of course, the obligatory pub in every little town.
I lived the English hiking dream in the Lake District for eight days, walking a loop through the region in eight stages. For the route planning, I followed the Cicerone walking guide ‘Tour of the Lake District’ by Jim Reid. However, I made a few changes to the original route along the way with the help of komoot, so my Tour doesn't quite correspond to the one in the book.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT WALKING IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
🥾 BEST TIME TO VISIT THE LAKE DISTRICT
The best time to visit the Lake District – as is the case for the whole of the UK – is in May and June and September and October.
I slept in my tent and in hostels/guesthouses. Theoretically, the suggested route in the hiking guide allows you to hike without needing a tent. There are hostels in almost every town en route which are great places to stay overnight. You don’t necessarily have to sleep in a dormitory, although this is by far the cheapest option. However, hostels are often fully booked by groups, even outside of the high season. Booking in advance is recommended, especially if you don’t have a tent with you.
Most towns along the route have at least one small village shop and a pub or café. The pubs usually also sell snacks such as chocolate bars or crisps and will probably make you a sandwich to go.
🥾 ROUTE AND DIFFICULTIES
The hiking guide distinguishes between high-level and low-level routes on some stages. While the low-level routes mostly lead along existing and paved paths, the routes at higher altitudes sometimes include more or less pathless passages. Good orientation skills (or a full smartphone battery for komoot) and stamina for the climbs are required here. The route is not an official long-distance hiking trail or is not signposted.
🥾 WILD CAMPING IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
While wild camping is officially only allowed in Scotland and not in England and Wales, it is more or less officially tolerated in the Lake District – especially if you are at higher altitudes and not pitching your tent in the front garden of a cottage. (More information in German: fraeulein-draussen.de/wildcampen-grossbritannien-irland )
🥾 EQUIPMENT TIPS
As the terrain is sometimes steep, trackless or swampy (or all of the above), you should definitely take hiking poles with you. It can also get very cold in spring and autumn. You should pack a good pair of waterproof trousers and a rain jacket regardless of the weather forecast. I was quite lucky with the weather and didn't have a single drop of rain in eight days. But you definitely shouldn't rely on that much luck.
More tips and a detailed report on the Tour can be found in my blog article (in German language only): fraeulein-draussen.de/lake-district-trekking-bericht.
The first peak of the tour! The guide suggests climbing from Elterwater first to Coniston and then from there via the normal route to the Old Man of Coniston. Instead, I walked to the summit via Little Langdale over the Wet Side Edge. From there, as described in the hiking guide, mostly pathless and a bit swampy down to Sethwaite Tarn, near which I pitched my tent.
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From Buttermere you hike through a fairly lonely, steadily rising valley to Rigg Beck, from where you descend again. I found this section beautiful. Later one follows smaller roads and the Cumbria Way to Portinscale and Keswick, the first major town since Ambleside.Accommodation & Meals: There is plenty of choice when it comes to accommodation and meals in Keswick. In addition, there is one outdoor shop after the next in the pedestrian zone.
From Keswick you should actually walk a few kilometers back on the way from the day before. I got around that and took the ferry from Keswick to the Hawse End station on the west bank of Derwent Water for a few pounds (there is an extra ferry in the morning for hikers that goes straight there. Here is the ferry schedule: keswick-launch.co.uk/cruises/times).