magnificent, much-loved national park is one of the best places in Britain for
a stroll: small wonder that many a wandering poet and writer has fallen for its
blustery, formidable charm over the years.
Skiddaw is one of Cumbria’s highest mountains. The eight-mile round trip, which
starts and ends in the town of Keswick, leads to its peak – it can be a tough
old slog, but the views of Bassenthwaite Lake and Derwentwater should justify
the effort. A pint of Thirst Rescue at the Dog & Gun on your return will
certainly make it all worthwhile (01768 773463; 2 Lake Rd).
Coniston and Esthwaite Water, Grizedale Forest is criss-crossed by hiking
trails and biking routes. Deer can be seen here – somewhat easier to spot are
its 60 or so sculptures, such as an untitled, Tolkien-esque ‘man of the forest’ (near
Hawkshead; admission free). North of the forest, the Drunken Duck is one of the Lakes’
finest pubs, doing a cracking line in modern bistro grub and micro-brewed ales
Horeshoe, a 11-mile day-hike across several fells north of the town of
Ambleside, takes in a bumper crop of Wainwrights, the 214 hills written about
in his Pictorial Guides. Fairfield’s peak is one of the most dramatic lookouts
of the eastern Lakes, with Helvellyn to the northwest and the brooding Scafells
and Langdales to the west (near Ambleside, Windermere). Back in Ambleside, kick
off your boots at the Unicorn, a local haunt with bags of charm (01539 433216;
The most popular
peak in the park after Scafell Pike, Helvellyn’s 950-metre summit is best
reached by the eight-mile ridge route along Striding Edge. It’s a challenge,
with dizzying drops and a few scrambles on all fours required, but is suitable
for reasonably fit individuals. The views here are mind-boggling, especially
east to Ullswater (near Glenridding and Patterdale).
fell on Cumbria’s western coastline, Black Combe is often overlooked, but
deserves wider recognition. From the top of its isolated peak, the view spans
from the Solway Firth bordering Scotland down to Duddon Sands and Morecambe
Bay; clear days have been known to reveal the peaks of Snowdonia, 90 miles or
so to the southwest. From the village of Whicham to the south, the five-mile
walk should take a couple of hours (near Millom).
‘For a man
trying to get a persistent worry out of his mind, the top of Haystacks is a
wonderful cure,’ wrote fellwalker Alfred Wainwright in his Pictorial Guides to
the Lakes. He chose his words well. Although relatively diminutive at 597m
high, at its peak you can see Innominate and Blackbeck Tarns, as well as low
hills blanketed in greens, crimsons and yellows – as perfect a Lakeside view as
they come (near Gatesgarth Farm, Buttermere Valley).
Loweswater, a little lake in the supremely pretty, jade-green Vale of Lorton,
is unspoiled by traffic, crowds or the razzmatazz of other larger Cumbrian
lakes, and is a supremely peaceful place to meander around. The vale is
scattered with farmhouses, beech copses and rickety old barns, and the lake
itself is just a mile in length and easy to circumnavigate (Vale of Lorton).
the nearby Lyth Valley, Winster feels wonderfully remote, despite being only a
few miles from Windermere. It’s known for its abundance of Westmorland damsons,
a plum-like fruit that ripens in September. On your way, look out for roadside stalls
selling damson-based goodies – a bottle of damson gin makes for a more original
souvenir than Kendal mint cake (near Crosthwaite).
Lakelanders often cite Ennerdale, a valley an hour’s walk northeast of Wasdale
Head, as the most scenic corner of the park. The blue-green arc of Ennerdale
Water is hidden from the view of passers-by dense plantations of conifers.
There is less road access than at other lakes in the park, and you can
appreciate its dramatic majesty without having to shin up a mountain (near
Where to stay
Keswick’s Howe Keld is akin to a boutique b&b,
and is certainly a cut above most guesthouses in town. Its 14 revamped rooms
now feature goose-down duvets and slate-floored bathrooms ( 5–7 The Heads; from
Winder Hall is a charming family hotel
with parts dating back to Tudor and Jacobean times. It’s surrounded by
delightful grounds, and the restaurant is a winner for Sunday lunch (Low
Lorton; from £135).
Wild In Style can claim some of the
best yurts in the region. Their classy 16-foot homes-fromhome come with wooden
floors, gas hob kitchens and electric lighting (Low Wray National Trust
Campsite, near Ambleside; from £250).
The north–south M6 runs near Kendal and Penrith. Windermere station has direct train services from Manchester (from £16
return). Visitors from the south of England or Scotland should change at
Oxenholme or Lancaster for the Windermere line (London– Windermere from £85).
Buses in main towns are regular, but less so in rural areas. Driving may be
convenient, however roads are often narrow, windy and hilly – and traffic jams
in and between towns are not uncommon in the summer. Car hire is available in Kendal
(from £35 per day).
The article 'Mini guide to the Lake District’s walks' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.