Spellbinding hikes in the South Lake District

Hiking Collection by komoot

The Lake District is a mesmerizingly beautiful landscape of vast mountains, knife-edge ridges, wildflower meadows, sleepy hamlets and mirror-like lakes that reflect the spellbinding scenery right back at you.

In the 1720s, Daniel Defoe described Lakeland as “the wildest and most frightful of any country”. Romantic poets such as William Wordsworth encouraged people to fall in love with the rugged beauty of Lakeland with their verses praising ‘sublime nature’. The introduction of the railway to Windermere in 1847 made it possible nature enthusiasts to travel their in their leisure time.

At 912 square miles (2,362 square kilometers), the Lake District is the largest national park in England. As such, it is best not to tackle the entire national park at once. In this Collection, we focus solely on the south Lake District. While the north is characterized as more mountainous, wild and remote, the south lakes are a little easier going and have some fantastic sights that all visitors enjoy.

Lake Windermere — at 10.5 miles (16.9 kilometers) long, one mile (1.6 kilometers) wide and 220 feet (67 meters) deep — is the largest natural lake in the Lake District and in England. The long thin lake itself forms the central spine of the Windermere area of the Lake District, which dominates the southern region.

There is something for all abilities and interests in this Collection: absolute classics, hidden gems, gentle saunters, relentless mountain challenges, and plenty of opportunities to relax on the beaches of mirror-like lakes.

The Old Man of Coniston is one such classic. While the summit is barely two miles (three kilometers) from the village of Coniston, you will need to climb 1,969 feet (600 meters) to experience the jaw-dropping panoramas it boasts. Another classic challenge included is the Kentmere Horseshoe: one of the longest and most remote walks in the Lake District.

On the other end of the spectrum, you can enjoy breathtaking mountain scenery without leaving lake level on the Elterwater to Loughrigg Tarn route or simply explore the treats of Ambleside — its beaches, parks, Roman fort, and much more — without even donning your boots!

As the Lake District is so popular, it can get crowded. But fear not, there are some hidden gems included in this Collection too. The Black Combe and Swinside Stone Circle route, for example, is a little-hiked beauty tucked away in the south-west corner of the lakes.

There’s a superb range of places to stay in the south Lakes, from camping and hostels to luxury spa hotels and holiday cottages. Bowness-on-Windermere is on the east shore and the busiest tourist destination in the Lake District. Ambleside, at the northern tip of the lake, is also very popular with visitors. Newby Bridge at the south end of the lake is slightly less well known and consequently a little quieter.

For more information on where to stay, visit: visitcumbria.com/south-lakes-towns-villages.
For information on travel and getting around, visit: lakedistrict.gov.uk/visiting/planyourvisit/travelandtransport.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

  • Intermediate
    8.20 mi
    1.7 mph
    2,450 ft
    2,450 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    It is hard to imagine visiting Coniston without tackling the ‘Old Man’. Standing at 2,634 feet (803 meters) high, the Old Man of Coniston dominates the landscape from the village and simply begs to be climbed.

    This wonderful route takes you through the remains of the copper mines that thrived in the area from the Roman times to the 17th century. Feast your eyes on the great crevices of an industry since passed, waterfalls, mysterious tunnels and inclines.

    While the summit of the Old Man of Coniston is barely two miles (three kilometers) from the village of Coniston, it is not an easy ascent and requires 1,969 feet (600 meters) of solid climbing. Once at the summit, though, you are treated to incredible views of the Lake District. On a clear day you can even see as far as Blackpool Tower and the Isle of Man!

    The views keep coming thick and fast at the summit of Brim Fell and the glassy highland lake of Levers Water, a bleak and rugged stretch of water that is nestled into the Coppermines Valley.

    To finish the route, it is well worth a visit to Waterhead Pier and Beach. While it can get a little crowded on sunny days, it is good for reason. The pier is a great place to relax and there are many opportunities for food, drink and refreshment.

  • Easy
    2.19 mi
    2.0 mph
    425 ft
    425 ft
    Easy hike. Great for any fitness level. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The great thing about this easy-going route is that you escape the crowds with such little effort, it almost feels too good to be true.

    As a tourist honeypot, Bowness-on-Windermere can get very busy indeed. Upon setting off you might find it hard to imagine that, within just a few miles, the crowds melt away into the distance leaving you with immense solitude and peace.

    With a relatively small amount of effort you can climb onto the heights of Brant Fell. Once at the summit, you can enjoy magnificent views over Windermere to the Coniston fells and the central heights of the Lake District, in relative solitude.

    To finish, this route takes you to prime honeypot territory of Bowness Bay Beach. After escaping the crowds so easily, though, the summertime hustle should be a welcome sight, as should the ice cream vans, cafes and pubs.

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  • Difficult
    3.84 mi
    1.6 mph
    950 ft
    950 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    This route, or some variation of it, is one of the most popular in the Lake District. A delightful fell and lakeside walk with superb views around every corner, it truly is a Lakeland classic.

    Despite being short, this is a challenging route. However, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the valley your own way, with many, many paths to discover. In fact, one of the reasons the area is so loved is the plethora of paths to explore around Loughrigg Fell and Rydal Water.

    After enjoying the view over Rydal from low down, you are rewarded with an oil-painting of a view after pushing up to the summit Ewe Crag. It really could not be more Lake District if it tried!

    From there, the interest keeps coming on Loughrigg Fell. While it might not be the tallest peak in the national park, it boasts unrivalled panoramas due to its unique positioning.

    After a superb walk, there is a good opportunity to discover your individual child by larking around in Rydal Cave and on Rydal Water Beach.

  • Difficult
    12.8 mi
    1.9 mph
    3,050 ft
    3,025 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The Kentmere Horseshoe is one of the longest and most remote walks in the Lake District.

    Traversing all of the fells bounding the upper Kentmere valley, it is a grueling yet rewarding hike with lots of interest.

    Starting from Kentmere, you climb steadily to the top of the Garburn Pass and the first Wainwright fell of Sallows is quickly in view. From there you follow a brilliant undulating ridge walk to Yoke, over Ill Bell, and then Froswick before it terminates at Thornthwaite Crag.

    After enjoying the technical Nan Bield, you need a solid push to the top of Kentmere Pike with fantastic views over Longsleddale. Continuing to Shipman Knotts needs a little bit of care. Some people visit the intermediate Goat Scar but author Alfred Wainwright didn't consider it significant enough for a chapter on its own, so most people bypass it.

    One asset on this route is the almost constant view of the reservoir, which always seems to twinkle in the distance.

  • Difficult
    11.9 mi
    2.0 mph
    2,175 ft
    2,175 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Tucked away in the far south-west corner of the Lake District, this route is a hidden gem for visitors wanting the beauty without the crowds. While the honeypots of Ambleside and Windermere flood with tourists on beautiful days, you can experience the solitude and peace of the Lake District here.

    The first great experience on this route is Black Combe. William Wordsworth once described Black Combe as having the ‘amplest range of unobstructed prospect may be seen that British ground commands’. It is not too often that you find such mountains that rise almost from the sea so dramatically and the views out to sea are simply stunning.

    From there it is a steady, if a little undulating, descent to Swinside Stone Circle. While the circle itself is on private land it can be seen very easily from the public right of way and is a superb example of an early Bronze Age stone circle.

    While this is a lengthy route, it is a fantastic way to experience a little discovered side of the Lake District and the peace and tranquility it affords those who venture off the beaten track.

  • Intermediate
    4.24 mi
    2.3 mph
    325 ft
    325 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Great for any fitness level. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    If you enjoy mountain scenery without having to climb into the clouds, then this route is perfect for you. With the majority of the hike at lake level, and lots of things to keep you interested, it is a delightful hike that most will find easy enough.

    Strolling along the glassy River Braythay, breathing the fresh air and admiring the scenery and mirror-like water, it is easy to forget about the trappings of modern living.

    From there, you can enjoy Skelwith Force, a little waterfall with a lot of character. Surprisingly, Skelwith Force is not visited as often as you might expect, so you can enjoy it in relative solitude.

    The next main point of interest is Loughrigg Tarn. Breathtakingly beautiful, the tarn is almost circular in shape with striking views north-west towards the Langdale Pikes. With a variety of aquatic plants too, it is a stunning place to visit. William Wordsworth described it as being ‘round, clear and bright as heaven’. True words indeed.

  • Easy
    2.69 mi
    2.4 mph
    100 ft
    100 ft
    Easy hike. Great for any fitness level. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    When you visit the Lake District it can seem like there is nothing but mad mountains, terrifying knife-edge ridges, all-day walks and a requirement that you should have supreme map-reading skills.

    However, this delightful saunter around Ambleside gives you a whole lot of interest, some amazing sights and some fantastic picnic spots — and you don’t even need your walking boots!

    First things first, take some time in Rothay Park. Surrounded by a dramatic landscape, it is a fine place to relax and provides opportunities for play and relaxation, from a full size football pitch and children's play area to picnic benches, large grassed areas and natural rock outcrops.

    From there, check out Ambleside’s Roman Fort at Galva. Free to enter, the well-marked remains date from the second century. It was probably built under Hadrian's rule to guard the Roman road from Brougham to Ravenglass and to act as a supply base.

    Close by the Roman fort is Borrans Park. Universally popular, the park boasts splendid views of the surrounding fells and across the lake to Waterhead. To finish, be sure to visit The Bridge House, an iconic building dating back to the 14th Century.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    45.9 mi
  • Duration
    23:55 h
  • Elevation
    9,500 ft