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best walks in the lake district

The Lake District National Park is littered with towering fells, glistening waters and elusive beauty, so it is little wonder that these Lake District walks are dearly loved.

From the likes of Beatrix Potter, Alfred Wainwright and William Wordsworth, these best walks in the Lake District have moved the pens of greats and it is easy to see why! From challenging mountain hikes to gentle lakeside strolls, we have uncovered the best walks in the Lake District to enjoy all year round.

Continue reading to discover the 10 best Lake District walks…

1. The Old Man of Coniston

The Old Man of Coniston

The first route on our Lake District walks guide promises to be a picturesque challenge! The 7-mile circular walk is the most popular route to the summit of The Old Man of Coniston, so you are sure to have company along the way!

Begin the walk from Coniston, the village of the same name and head north-west towards Church Beck to Coniston Waterfall. Afterwards, take in the scenery around Coniston Quarries; pass the tarn of Low Water before ascending to the summit of the Old Man. Once you have reached the height of 2,634 feet (803 m), savour the views of Coniston Lake and beyond to the coast at Morecambe Bay.

After capturing the views on your camera, the route descends to Goat’s Hawse before turning south to visit Dow Crag. From here, you can catch a glimpse of Skiddaw and the Helvellyn range, before continuing south past Goat’s Water to Buck Pike and Brown Pike.

Afterwards, follow the Walna Scar Road back into Coniston, where you can refuel in one of the many cafés or pubs!

Car park: Old Station car park, Coniston LA21 8HG
Distance: 7 miles
Difficulty: Hard

2. Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell

aira force waterfall rocks

The second of our best walks in the Lake District offers the roar of the waterfalls, coupled with the tranquillity of a woodland setting and lush green ferns.

Leaving the National Trust-owned car park, pass through a grassy area known as The Glade, before heading through the arboretum and following the path up. Take in the views over Ullswater before dropping down a long steep flight of steps to reach the viewing platform at the base of this UK waterfall.

Continue this Lake District walk over the bridge and up the steep steps for a view down the Aira Force. Now, you can truly escape the hustle and bustle of the waterfall, as the quiet path to Gowbarrow Fell is a welcome contrast.

On the summit of Gowbarrow, you can look south to Place Fell and Red Screes over to Kirkstone, whilst Blencathra, Bannerdale and Carrock Fell can be seen to the north-west!

From here, follow the path down bearing right until you reach an old shooting lodge and continue around the eastern flank of Gowbarrow. Meander towards the woodland before spying Lyulph’s Tower and taking the left-hand fork to re-join the footpath back to the car park.

Car park: Aira Force National Trust car park, CA11 0JS
Distance: 4.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

3. Helvellyn via Thirlmere


Helvellyn is the third-highest point in England and is one of the more difficult Lake District walks on our guide. Not for the faint of heart, Helvellyn’s highest peak reaches 950m (3,117 ft) and is best suited for those with hiking experience.

Whilst Helvellyn via Thirlmere is the more straightforward route to the summit, you will spend a couple of hours of solid ascent on engineered paths.

You begin this Lake District walk by crossing the bridge over Helvellyn Gill, before meandering across a stony path that runs alongside the ghyll. From here, follow the signpost for Helvellyn and begin the climb. Be sure to take a moment to soak up the views of Thirlmere behind you and to Skiddaw range a little later on.

After the challenge of the stone staircase, the path becomes gentler before the final stretch to the summit. From the top, you have two options. You could retrace your steps home or follow the main ridge path south to Dollywaggon Pike. This circular route will add an additional 4.5 miles to your walk!

Once completed, just over a mile from Gelridding you will find the Travellers Rest, which offers some excellent pub food and a selection of beers to quench your thirst!

With so much to see and do, it’s little wonder that Helvellyn made our guide of the best mountains in the Lake District.

Car park: Swirls car park, Thirlmere, CA12 4TW
Distance: 4.5 miles (up and down) or 9 miles (circular)

4. Catbells


One of the easier routes on our Lake District walks guide is Catbells, promising unrivalled views over Keswick, Derwentwater and Borrowdale.

Begin this short, yet steep climb from Hawes End Landing Stage before the path zigzags steeply up Skelgill Bank. After a few scrambly sections over the bank, take the path to the right-hand side of the face before you reach the summit.

Once at the top, be rewarded by panoramic views of mountains and lakes before descending south to the saddle of Hawes Gate. Here, four paths meet; take the path to your left (east) towards a plantation of conifers, where you will join the main terrace path heading back to the road.

Complete the walk by following the lakeshore path, eventually returning to the start point at Hawes End.

It’s little wonder to see Catbells on our guide to the best Lake District dog walks!

Car park: Free roadside parking near Hawes End, CA12 5UB
Distance: 3.5 miles 

5. Friar’s Crag

Friar's Crag

Famed for its views across Derwentwater is this easy Lake District walk, Friar’s Crag, a rocky outcrop just under one mile long.

This beautiful and varied walk begins along the road from the theatre down to Derwentwater foreshore. Here, the iconic wooded islands and the Jaws of Borrowdale come into view, which legendary fell-walker Wainwright described as the ‘loveliest square mile in Lakeland’.

From here, the kissing gate and bridge take you into a small woodland, where you can join the road to Strandshag Bay. Continue from here alongside the roadside path north, before taking the track left into Cockshott Wood, retracing your steps back to the car park.

Discover more stunning lakeside views to enjoy, with our guide to the best Lake District lakes!

Car park: Theatre by the Lake car park, CA12 5DJ
Distance: 0.7 miles

6. Orrest Head

Windermere Lake and Orrest Head.

Next on our guide to the best walks in the Lake District, Orrest Head offers inspirational moments, spurred by majestic mountains and views of the largest natural lake in England!

On this walk, you follow in the footsteps of Wainwright once again and begin at Windermere railway station. Follow the road signposted for Orrest Head before climbing through the woodland ahead of the track rising alongside a wall. Taking centre stage is the unrivalled viewpoint at Orrest Head, 239 metres above sea level.

Rest a while here, before striding out across the large field and finding Far Orrest Farm. Complete the walk at Windermere, where you can catch your rest or take to the waters for even more adventure!

Read about more incredible Windermere walks.

Car park: Windermere car park, LA23 1AH
Distance: 4.5 miles

7. Loweswater

Loweswater, Cumbria

This easy Lake District walk offers the opportunity for all to relish in one of the quieter corners of this stunning national park.

The route begins at Maggie’s Bridge car park, before taking to a stone track to Watergate Farm. From here, you can savour the views across Loweswater to the southern slopes of Fellbarrow as you meander along.

Now fully accessible for wheelchairs, the path then offers a tranquil spot to enjoy a picnic, whilst enveloped by the varied landscape. Afterwards, continue alongside the shoreline before re-joining the main track to return to Watergate Farm.

Car park: Maggie’s Bridge car park, CA13 0RU
Distance: 2.5 miles

8. Buttermere and Rannerdale Knotts


Offering an opportunity to explore Buttermere Valley up to the summit of Rannerdale Knotts is our next superb Lake District walk.

Begin the route across the small fell at the Buttermere National Trust car park and head towards the ridge of Rannerdale Knotts. Here, take a moment to savour the views over the lake and the surrounding mountain landscape.

Following a gentle incline, you will be rewarded with more spectacular views. With your camera in hand, gaze at the panorama of Rannerdale and Crummock Water.

From here, head downhill and walk along the shoreline of Crummock Water, before exploring the Nether How woodland. Complete the walk by spending some time in the pretty village of Buttermere, where peace and tranquillity are guaranteed.

Car park: National Trust car park, Buttermere, CA13 9UZ
Distance: 3 miles

9. Castle Crag Loop

Castle Crag

Don your walking boots and head to the south of Derwentwater in the heart of Borrowdale for our next challenging route.

Begin in the pretty village of Rosthwaite and venture to the riverbank before crossing the stone bridge. From here, head towards the slate scree, where the path zip-zags up the mound. After the viewpoint, the route leads to an abandoned quarry brimming with loose pieces of slate.

Here, you will find a collection of impressive stone towers and you are welcome to create your own! Enjoy the final ascent of this Lake District walks to Castle Crag. From the rocky outcrop, relish the views of Derwentwater over to Keswick, with the fells of Skiddaw and Blencathra in the backdrop.

Complete the walk by retracing your steps back down the quarry and stay on the path as it takes you through a narrow valley.

Car park: National Trust car park, Rosthwaite, CA12 5XN
Distance: 4 miles 

10.  Haystacks


Concluding our guide to the best walks in the Lake District is Haystacks, once described by Wainwright as “one of the pleasantest of foot-passes.” This trail offers unique scenery and is well within the capabilities of most people!

Begin the walk near Buttermere at Gatesgarth Farm car park before climbing Scarth Gap, where you may spot an occasional bluebell. From here, continue along the well-defined path with no difficulties. Higher up the path you go, there are a few sections requiring the use of hands. This scrambly section can be a bit tricky; however, cairns clearly mark the path as you go along.

Now, the views of Haystack unfold before you cross the stream that comes out of Black Beck Tarn. Soon after, the path descends steeply and Dubs Quarry is straight ahead.

You will finish this Lake District walk by following the well-worn path back down to Gatesgarth Farm.

Car park: Gatesgarth Farm car park, Gatesgarth, CA13 9XA
Distance: 5 miles

Discover even more stunning walks in the Lake District using our handy travel guide and secure your perfect place to stay amongst this collection of Lake District Holiday Cottages

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