‘Wouldn’t it be lovely to spend more time here?’ This was the phrase that kept coming up as our week in the Lake District with my family was coming to an end. Somewhere between packing up at the holiday cottage and our final coffee in Bowness, this went from offhand comments to a genuine plan.
There’s just something about Lakeland, especially if you’re a walker. The peaks might be mere mole hills when compared to the Himalayas or the Andes but they have a majesty all of their own. It’s a beautiful place to be, and it’s no wonder it inspired so many literary legends.
Our favourite Lake District walks
We returned down south only long enough to organise ourselves to be able to head back to the Lakes for another couple of weeks walking. The weather wasn’t so kind to us on our return and we didn’t make it to all the peaks we’d been planning - but that’s for another trip. We took the trusty Wainwright guides with us and made our way through eleven fell walks as well as various other lake tracks.
Here are a few of our favourite walks in the Lake District.
Crinkle Crags (and Bowfell)
Location - Great Langdale
Distance - 12.7km
Elevation - 1,131m
Time Taken - 4.5 hours
This is a biggie. The Crinkles as I like to call them are without doubt my favourite walk so far in the Lake District. It becomes a bit brutal when Bowfell is added as well but when it’s so close you just have to go for it.
The walk begins in the beautiful Langdale Valley, an area we hadn’t visited before but will definitely visit again. You start by following a pretty waterfall uphill to Red Tarn. Then begins the climb to Crinkle Crags, the view gets better and better the higher you go.
The Crinkles are a series of five crags which you scramble over one by one. It’s not difficult but enough of a challenge to make things interesting. You can make it more or less challenging depending on the route you take.
After descending a steep boulder field you are then just 20 minutes (20 steep minutes that is) from the summit of Wainwright number two, Bowfell. The wind was howling and I was a bit tired at this point so I didn’t appreciate Bowfell as much as I probably should have but it felt like a good achievement. The long descent back to Langdale gives you plenty of time to take in your stunning surroundings.
All the details on what to expect are in our post on tackling Crinkle Crags and Bowfell.
Old Man of Coniston
Location - Coniston
Distance - 9.3km loop
Elevation - 596m
Time Taken - 3 hours 15
This was one of the few walks we managed to get a beautiful sunny day for but I think it would be gorgeous in all weathers. The steep climb to the summit passes by several picturesque tarns and abandoned quarries, it reminded me strongly of hiking in the Alps, all that was missing were the cow bells.
Just when you think the view can’t get any lovelier, you ascend a little more and it does. You can make this into a great loop track by descending back to the car park via Goat Water. This is a longer route back but well worth it. You’ll be walking on a track alongside lots of hardy Lake District sheep through the middle of the lush green valley.
All the details for the route can be found in our detailed post on hiking the Old Man of Coniston.
Location - Grasmere
Distance - 4.2 miles (6.6km)
Time taken - 2 hours return
Elevation - 337m - Steep sections from the wood to the summit, but the rest is flat
This is our favourite short walk in the Lake District. In around two hours you can hike to the top and back and if you timed it right also watch a gorgeous sunset at the top. The walk does have some moderately steep sections but overall if you take your time it isn’t a difficult walk. For those who are not fond of all the scrambles on many of the Lake District walks this one has only one short easy one.
It’s a really pretty track with views every step of the way and each one seems even more spectacular than the last. For effort invested vs reward gained this really is one of the best walks in the Lakes. Keep an eye out for red squirrels, this is the only place in England I have ever seen one!
Here’s all the nitty gritty details on what to expect from the Helm Crag track.
Location - Buttermere
Distance - 9.61km loop
Elevation - 652m
Time Taken - 3 hours 50
This was renowned Lakeland hiker and author Alfred Wainwrights favourite walk in all the Lake District and it’s easy to see why. The track is beautiful following a narrow track on the side of a mountain slowly upwards on the way to the summit. It’s a steep track but not horribly so, that is until you reach the mountain of rocks that mark the route to the summit.
This section is a bit of a scramble and not one for vertigo sufferers. If you don’t mind a scramble it is a fun section that offers some amazing views as you boulder your way to the top. The summit itself is mainly huge rocks with the odd grassy area and even a couple of pretty little tarns. If the wind isn’t blowing too hard it’s a wonderful spot for a picnic or simply just a quiet sit down.
The way back is even prettier than the way there, there is lots of wow factor as you follow the path along the mountainside. This section of the track is one of our favourite stretches of trail in the whole Lake District - and that’s saying something!
There are a couple of sections on the descent which are a little slippery and I found walking poles came in handy. It started to rain heavily as we continued the descent as which point it started to get a lot more slippery so if possible save this walk for a dry day.
Location - Keswick
Distance - 6.27km (one way)
Elevation - 400m
Time Taken - 3 hours
Cat Bells is a fantastic introduction to fell walking in the Lake District, with a bit of everything along the trail. Narrow ridges, steep climbs and a couple of scrambles too. The views in every direction are breathtaking and the narrow ridgeline even reminded us a little of our beloved Kepler Track in New Zealand.
It’s a really fun track and we found every single section to be absolutely beautiful, even the descent down the many steps towards Grange are particularly scenic surrounded by lush ferns.
If you have time you can even treat yourself to tea and scones at one of the two teashops in Grange at the end of the track. Catbells is definitely not a track you want to miss!
Here’s an indepth guide to what to expect from Catbells.
Location - Wasdale Head
Distance - 5.73km one way
Elevation - 926m
Time Taken - 2 hours (one way)
England’s tallest mountain is definitely in the sights of most hikers who visit Lakeland. We’d read that the walk itself is not actually that pretty and so we were pleasantly surprised when the track turned out to be beautiful (and we supposedly took the least attractive route too!).
If you walk the track in the early morning it is as peaceful as any other in the area despite it’s huge popularity and we were happy to find that we hardly saw another soul despite walking on the only day with a decent weather forecast for that week.
You’ll follow a river and then make your way up some fairly unrelenting stairs before reaching a boulder field which is easy to navigate. The views are great throughout and would be even more impressive along the final ridge and at the summit - that is if the clouds don’t swoop in and totally obscure the views as happened to us! On a clear day you can see as far as Blackpool in the south and Scotland in the north.
Here’s our full route guide to climbing Scafell Pike.
Location - Borrowdale (Rosthwaite)
Distance - 4.1 miles (6.74km) if doing the loop, shorter if you return the way you came
Time taken - 2 hours
Elevation - 285m, some steep sections to get to the summit, but the rest is flat
Castle Crag isn’t a long or difficult walk but it has one of the most interesting summits of all the walks on this list. There are a couple of different routes you can take, with just a two hour good weather window to play with we chose the one from Rosthwaite and it was a really pretty track.
You start by meandering first along a river and then take a short sharp climb up a grassy hill to the slate heap that marks the route up to the summit. The slate heap looks a bit intimidating if you’re unsteady on your feet as I am but it was actually not slippery at all going up and only in one spot going down.
Once you’ve made it up the slate heap you’ll find quite a large summit area with lots to explore, as with all the walks on this list the views are terrific. Rather than retracing your steps we’d recommend taking a right at the bottom of the slate heap to create a loop. This route back to Rosthwaite was longer than the route in but much prettier. The woods are beautiful and the river is a great place to paddle on a warm day. There are even a couple of rope swings but we wouldn’t want to fall in that river even in the summer - the water is really cold!
Tarn Hows with Black Fell
Location - Close to Coniston
Distance - 1.7 miles (2.74km)
Elevation - 72m, but very very gradual
Time Taken - 35 minutes
This is such a great little walk, not too taxing and perfect for a morning or afternoon stroll. If you want to make it even easier you can just circumnavigate Tarn Hows, skipping the side trail to Black Fell which is the part of the track that adds the elevation.
Tarn Hows is an incredibly pretty mountain lake or some might say large pond that wows you with gorgeous reflections on a sunny day. The path is really well formed and is even easy enough to take a push chair along, making it a great walk for families.
If you do decide to add on the worthwhile side track to Black Fell you’ll see the crowds melt away as you climb a short hill before arriving at some pretty spectacular views. It’s not the best walk for a windy day because it really blows a gale up there but we found the views definitely made up for it.
Here’s what to expect from the easiest walk on this list, Tarn Hows with Black Fell.
Location - Keswick
Distance - 10km return
Elevation - 641m
Time Taken - 2 hours 42
England’s third highest mountain is another fantastic track and one that should make it on to every hikers Lake District itinerary. There are a couple of different routes to the top as well as a worthwhile side trail to Little Man if you have the time.
Unfortunately we had a dire forecast for our visit so we had to take the shortest route to the top which is reflected in the above stats. The walk is pretty much one big uphill slog for the majority of the time but the views are terrific as is the sense of accomplishment at the top.
The summit and ridge you walk along to get there is huge so if you have good weather it’s a great place to linger and take in the views. If you have poor visibility at the top like we did it is still atmospheric - it certainly feels like you’re on top of a mountain- and then with a bit of luck by the time you make your descent the clouds will start to disperse and you get a chance to admire the scenery.
What to pack for the Lake District
We recommend stocking up on hiking gear to make sure you’re comfortable on the trails. We both wear Merrells and they have served us well for years. We also use Osprey backpacks and carry a resuseable water bottle to cut down on single use plastics.
You can check out our recommendations on Amazon below.
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