Dramatic, beautiful, overstated and proud, the Lake District is a wondrous place that should be on everyone’s wish list. Glassy lakes reflect the awe-inspiring mountains that surround them. Deep valleys and knife-edge ridges tear through the rugged landscape. Delightful villages and hamlets nestle sleepily in the creases of the landscape. The air is fresh, the wind is invigorating and the scenery is jaw-dropping.
Home to the highest mountains and deepest lakes found in any of England's national parks, the breathtaking magnitude of Lakeland might take you by surprise. On one hand, it looks like other national parks, but with a magnificently immense backdrop that is entirely unique. An inspiration for writers, poets and painters for hundreds of years, in July 2017 it was made a Unesco World Heritage Site.
In this Collection, we will focus solely on the northern Lake District. As the largest national park at 912 square miles (2,362 square kilometers), it is advisable not to tackle the entire national park at once. While there is some debate as to exactly where the boundary is, the point is that is does not pay to rush yourself with the Lake District. Choose your area and do it properly.
There should be something for everybody in this Collection. From wild mountain climbs and exhilarating ridge scrambles to lakeside strolls and woodland saunters, from famous classics to little-known beauty spots, it showcases the very best of north Lakeland.
When you discover these routes you experience the universally-loved Cat Bells, fells that reward hikers so very richly with atmosphere and views, and Buttermere, boasting a classic combination of lakes and mountains that has ensured its popularity with visitors since Victorian times. You can also take on England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, at 3,208 feet (978 meters) and scramble along the knife edge ridge of Striding Edge, famous for spine-tingling drops either side, plus many other delights.
A good place to base yourself to explore the northern lakes is the market town of Keswick. Situated between the huge bulk of Skiddaw and the gentle beauty of Derwentwater, it has become the major center for tourism in the northern lakes. The pretty town offers a wide range of attractions, including shops, pubs, cafes, restaurants, museums and much more.
For more information about where to stay in Keswick, public transport and much more, visit: keswick.org.
They might be small by Lake District standards, but what the Cat Bells lack in height they certainly compensate for in character and views. Universally loved, visitors of all descriptions flock to the fells for panoramic views of wild mountains, glassy lakes and rugged valleys.
Owing to the immense popularity, the Cat Bells can get crowded, especially on fine days. However, do not let this deter you. As you gaze over the clear blue lake of Derwent Water on one side and glorious fells rolling away into the distance on the other, the Cat Bells rewards you so very richly. Furthermore, it is actually quite an easy climb, compared to others.
As you venture over Maiden Moor and High Spy, the views keep coming thick and fast before you reach Castle Crag. Legendary fell walker and author Alfred Wainwright said: “If a visitor to Lakeland has only two or three hours to spare, poor fellow, yet desperately wants to reach a summit and take back an enduring memory of the beauty of the district, let him climb Castle Crag."
To end this walk, relax on a lakeside beach and let the waters reflect the breathtaking scenery.
If you do not wish to undertake this entire route, you can make the loop much shorter if you return to the lake right after the Cat Bells summit, which is marked clearly. While the full route is definitely best, this makes for a fast and easy alternative to experience the joy of Cat Bells in much less time.
The classic combination of lakes and mountains has made Buttermere a popular destination with visitors since the Victorian times. Famous for its beauty, the area boasts some of the finest walking in the Lake District to this very day.
Another great asset is that you can stroll the entire way around Buttermere in relative ease, making it one of the few lakes in the national park where this is possible. At just four miles, the circuit is suitable for all ages and abilities.
On this lovely loop, you can revel in the glorious views from the lakeside path, enjoy the peace and quiet of Burtness Wood, and make the most of plentiful spots for picnics, relaxation and, if it’s good weather, swimming.
As you start and finish in the hamlet of Buttermere, there are opportunities for food and drink as it has a few pubs and tearooms.
Fun fact: Buttermere means ‘lake by the dairy pastures’.
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If you are a hiker visiting the Lake District, how could the challenge of conquering England's highest mountain pass you by?
At 3,208 feet (978 meters), Scafell Pike is not only the tallest mountain in the country but arguably the most stunning. With a delightfully remote location, wild atmosphere, breathtaking views and plenty of challenges, it is mountaineering paradise.
Aside from the awe-inspiring views from the summit, other highlights on the route include Sprinkling Tarn, a picturesque stretch of still, mirror-like water tucked into the mountain. While Broad Crag is often overlooked by hikers tackling Scafell Pike, if the weather is good, climbing up its rocky slopes is well worth the effort for some more incredible views.
Whatever approach you take to climbing Scafell Pike, this one included, it is a tough, steep hike that involves a lot of scrambling over hard terrain. Regardless of your skill level, be sure to check the weather forecast before climbing and make sure you have the right clothing, equipment and supplies.
While thousands of people complete the climb every year, Scafell Pike should not be underestimated. That said, it should not be overly feared and is definitely suitable for most.
Located at the northern tip of Wainwright’s North Western Fells, Ling Fell and Sale Fell will reward you with awe-inspiring views of the Lake District. In fact, you might even see the Gallow Hills in Scotland on a clear day.
While many opt to climb them separately, combining Ling Fell at and Sale Fell — at 1,224 feet (373 meters) and 1,178 feet (359 meters) high respectively — provides an interesting route with lots of variation, plenty of ascents and descents, superb views and a lovely ridge to tackle.
Despite how wonderful these fells are to hike, you will be surprised to find them quieter than many of the famous ‘Wainwright Fells’ that the legendary fellwalker and illustrator, Alfred Wainwright, recorded in his books. As such, you can generally enjoy this route in relative solitude.
After experiencing the rugged fells, you finish by sauntering through the magical Wythop Woods. The peaceful woodland overlooks the glorious Bassenthwaite Lake and is home to lots of wildlife, including roe deer, badgers, rabbits, and rare birds such as Pine Martin and Osprey.
There are plenty of ways to climb Helvellyn but this ascent along Striding Edge is definitely the most spectacular — and the most exhilarating.
Just a few miles into this superb route, you will find yourself climbing onto the legendary Striding Edge. With spine-tingling drops on either side and breathtaking views all around, the narrow ridge has a reputation for being terrifying and difficult. However, if the weather is good, it is easy enough and makes for the perfect introduction for new scramblers.
After completing the knife-edge, it’s not long before you are treated to the panoramas of the Helvellyn summit at 3,117 feet (950 meters). With winds raging and views stretching, the invigoration and sense of achievement will no-doubt leave you breathless.
On the way back, you have another exhilarating ridge of Swirral Edge to tackle. The easier of the two ridges that comprise the horseshoe of Helvellyn, this will seem like child’s play after Striding Edge, leaving you to enjoy the scenery.
Often overlooked in favour of its sister lake Buttermere, Crummock Water is a stellar choice to enjoy the wonder of the Lake District away from the crowds.
With the mighty Grassmoor and the rugged fells of Mellbreak surrounding the mirror-like waters, it has unparalleled views from either side, as well as from the waterside. If it is a warm day, it makes for a great swimming spot too.
To start, this route takes you around Crummock Water. On a still day, see the mountains, fells and trees reflected in the crystal-clear water like a glorious underwater oil painting. On any day, prepare to be enthralled by the landscape.
Continue enjoying the scenery through the trees of Lanthwaite Wood and on the beaches by the water before a slog up to Mellbreak at 1,679 feet (512 meters) where you can enjoy magnificent views of Crummock and the surrounding area.
Recounting his experience of Crummock and Mellbreak, legendary fellwalker and author Alfred Wainwright said there was “no pairing of hill and lake have a closer partnership than these”. It is great to say that nothing has changed today. Breathe the fresh air and let the stunning scenery sink in to your soul.
Finding an easygoing route in the Lake District which offers some solitude is a challenge as great as climbing Scafell Pike. However, the peaceful little lake of Loweswater is a lovely escape for the savvy Lakeland visitor as it is often overlooked.
Nestled into the wooded valley of the Vale of Lorton, Loweswater is approximately one mile in length and half a mile wide. As it is so small, it provides an excellent lake circuit for walkers; a leisurely route to enjoy the still, glassy waters and magnificent scenery the area has to offer.
While we do not tackle the full circuit in this route, it is definitely recommended if you have more time. Instead, this little route makes for a quick and easy introduction to a serene area where you can spot lots of wildlife, including extremely rare rare red squirrels.
Enjoy the stunning views around Loweswater, the peace and quiet of Holme Wood and relax on the beaches by the waterfront. While a visit to the Lake District can be tough and challenging, you can enjoy the more relaxing side here.