A Hiker’s Travel Guide to The Lake District

Travelista contributor and solo travel pro Maja Proescholdt shares her tried-and-tested hiker’s guide to the Lake District including the best hikes and where to stay.

The Lake District is one of my favourite places on earth – ever since my first visit 7 years ago, it’s a destination I’ve returned to, time and again. It’s a playground for outdoor lovers and hikers like myself, with so many different towns, valleys and lakes to explore. I go to the Lakes for my birthday every year, usually visiting a mix of new places and old favourites. Planning a hiking trip to the Lake District can be overwhelming when there are simply so many options. So here’s our hiker’s guide to the Lake District, with all the hiking and accommodation info you need to make the most of your adventure-filled trip to the Lakes.

This article has been sponsored by Classic Cottages. All words are unique and authentic to the author.

A Hiker’s Guide To The Lake District

Overview

1) Windermere
2) Penrith
3) Buttermere
4) Wasdale 

Windermere

I’m kicking off this Hiker’s Guide to the Lake District than none other than Windermere – the largest lake in England by both length and volume. The bustling tourist town on the water’s edge of the lake is in fact Bowness-on-Windermere, and the village of Windermere is set further back from the lake. Both are about a 20-minute walk (or short drive) away from each other and each one is well worth a visit. Windermere is a fantastic choice for exploring the Lake District if you’re relying on public transport, as it has a train station and plenty of bus connections for travelling further afield.

In Bowness-on-Windermere, visit the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, where the children’s stories of Peter Rabbit and friends are brought to life. Be sure to take a cruise on the lake; more adventurous travellers can try their hand at wakesurfing, wild swimming or stand-up paddleboarding. There are also a great selection of bars and restaurants in Bowness-on-Windermere. Head to Ash Street for your pick of some of the best.

The Best Walks in Windermere

Orrest Head

The hike up Orrest Head starts in the town of Windermere on Church Street, not far from the train station. The starting point is marked with a large sign, and the trail is signposted all the way. While there is an uphill climb to reach the top, the views over the surrounding area are simply magnificent.

Length: 3.5km (2.2 miles)

Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Difficulty: Medium

Gummer’s How

Gummer’s How is another great hike around Windermere, at the southern end of the lake. Start at Gummer’s How picnic area, and head up the stepped path to the top of the hill. You’ll be rewarded with a beautiful panorama of the lake and the little village of Lakeside, across the water. This is easily one of the best short walks in the Lake District with the biggest reward – and for that reason it’s a great one to do with kids or if you’re short on time.
Length: 2.3km (1.4 miles)

Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Difficulty: Medium

Where to Stay in Windermere

The Hollies is a gorgeous holiday home, conveniently located between Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere – making it easy to explore both. It’s perfect for groups and families, as the property can sleep 10 people between the five plush bedrooms. The original beams and flooring give this stylish stay plenty of character. Relax outside in the pretty courtyard garden, or settle in front of the wood burner after a busy day exploring the Lake District. 

Penrith

Penrith is one of the main towns, located just outside the boundary of the Lake District National Park. With direct trains to London and regular bus services into the Lake District, it’s a top choice for basing yourself on an adventure in the Lake District if you don’t have a car.

There’s lots of history in the area – the ruins of Penrith Castle are opposite the train station, while Lowther Castle and Brougham Castle are nearby. Ullswater is only a short drive away, with some of the best walks in the Lake District close by.

Best Walks in Penrith

Aria Force

Aira Force is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the Lake District, with a 65-foot drop. The starting point is typically the main National Trust car park, however there are other nearby car parks and starting points for this walk – the length and time will vary depending on where you start and what trails you choose to follow. Keep your eyes peeled for red squirrels in the area.
Length: Varies

Time: Varies

Difficulty: Easy 

Gowbarrow Fell

Extend your walk around Aira Force and head up to the summit of Gowbarrow Fell. This is a steep hike up, on a well-marked and stepped path. It’s well worth it for the classic Lakeland view that greets you from the top. Hike across the summit plateau to Green Hill, where you can gaze down on Ullswater.
Length: 5.9km (3.7 miles)

Time: 2 to 2.5 hours

Difficulty: Medium

Ullswater Way

Up for a challenge? The Ullswater Way is a lengthy trail which circumnavigates the entirety of Ullswater lake. There are a variety of starting points for this Lake District walk, and the route can be hiked in either direction. While some hardcore hikers will aim to complete the entire loop in one long day, it’s possible to break up the hike over two days. Walk half of the lake, and return to your starting point via boat – Ullswater Steamers run lake cruises between Pooley Bridge and Glenridding.Length: 32km (20 miles)

Time: 1 to 2 days

Difficulty: Hard

Where to Stay in Penrith

16 Lowther is a cosy cottage with contemporary interiors, sleeping four in two bedrooms. The property is within walking distance of Lowther Castle, and a perfect spot for exploring more of Ullswater and the Eastern Lakes. Sleek and modern interior décor makes this feel like a true home away from home. After a day spent enjoying the great outdoors, settle in around the wood burner or outside in the courtyard. Best of all, this property is dog-friendly (one dog allowed) – so your four-legged friend can join along on your Lake District adventures!

Buttermere

Buttermere is one of the most popular places to visit in the Lake District, with good reason. There’s a smattering of hotels, pubs, cafes and tearooms around the village, plus the lake itself and nearby Crummock Water. Nestled at the foot of iconic Lake District peaks, and close to Honister Slate Mine, there’s plenty to keep you busy here. Visit nearby Loweswater for one of my favourite pubs in the Lakes, the Kirkstile Inn – I make an effort to go here whenever I’m in the area.

Best Walks in Buttermere

Buttermere Circuit

No visit to Buttermere is complete without walking a circuit of the tarn. This is a relatively easy trail, which can be started at various points – Buttermere village and Gatesgarth are usually easiest for parking. The trail is flat, without much elevation gain, and the footpaths are signposted.
Length: 6.7km (4.2 miles)

Time: 1.5 to 2 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Rannerdale Knotts

This Lake District walk involves a bit of a climb up to the summit, but with impressive views of Crummock Water and the surrounding fells. The best time to do this hike is in May, when the countryside bursts into colour with the arrival of bluebells. It’s possible to do this hike as a loop from Buttermere, but you can also do a short out-and-back from the roadside parking next to Crummock Water.
Length: Varies (1.5km to 5.2km)

Time: Varies (1 to 2 hours)

Difficulty: Medium

Buttermere Wainwrights

For a challenging hillwalk in the Lakes, head up to summit the fells surrounding Buttermere. I recommend doing this hike in a counter-clockwise direction. Starting at Gatesgarth, walk along the western side of the lake and start the tough climb up to Red Pike. From here, follow the trails up and down High Stile, High Crag, Haystacks and finishing at Fleetwith Pike. This is a fantastic route, incorporating some of the finest fells in the Lake District. The view down Fleetwith Pike is one of the best in the Lakes.
Length: 15.6km (9.7 miles)

Time: 6.5 to 8 hours

Difficulty: Hard

Wasdale

Wasdale is a more remote area of the Lake District, but one of the best places to visit for its wealth of outdoor activities. Wastwater is the deepest lake in the Lake District, and there are several spots along the shore that are perfect for swimming, stand-up paddleboarding and other watersports. Most people visit to climb Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England – but the area offers so much more than that. Be sure to stop for a pint at the Wasdale Head Inn at the end of the day!

Best Walks in Wasdale

Scafell Pike

As the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike sees a regular stream of hikers heading up to the top. Start at the Wasdale Head village green, before beginning the ascent up. Additional parking is available at the National Trust car park closer to Wastwater. While the route itself is straightforward and rather unexciting, there’s no better feeling than standing at the summit and being the highest person in country.
Length: 9.4km (5.8 miles)

Time: 4 to 6 hours

Difficulty: Hard

Ritson’s Force

Ritson’s Force is a beautiful waterfall, tucked away in the woodland around Wasdale Head. This is a short and easy walk from Wasdale Head Inn, and a top choice if you enjoy wild swimming. The water will be chilly, but it’s a perfect spot for relaxing.
Length: 1.4km (0.9 miles)

Time: 30 to 45 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Mosedale Horseshoe

This is one of the classic horseshoe walks in the Lake District, taking in several Wainwrights and offering incredible views over Wasdale, Wastwater and the Scafell range. The starting point is the National Trust car park at Wasdale Head – the route then goes up Yewbarrow (be prepared for a scramble), to Red Pike, Scoat Fell, Steeple and Pillar, before descending back down into Wasdale.
Length: 17.4km (10.8 miles)

Time: 6 to 9 hours

Difficulty: Hard

Read more Travelista articles on The Lake District.
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There are so many phenomenal areas to visit with this Hiker’s Guide to the Lake District. The Lakes really are a paradise for hikers and outdoor adventurers. With this Lake District travel guide, you’ll be prepared to plan your hiking trip and walk the best trails the Lakes has to offer.

Visit Classic Cottages  for more self catering cottages in the Lake District and the rest of the UK

Maja Proescholdt is a travel blogger and freelance writer, originally from Minneapolis, USA. Although she now calls York in the UK her forever home, she is currently solo travelling around Australia. You can follow along with her adventures on her blog, Away With Maja, and her Instagram @awaywithmaja.

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