Elterwater and swan

13 walks worthy of world recognition

11 July 2017

The Lake District has become a World Heritage Site joining iconic locations such as the Great Barrier Reef as a place of international acclaim. Thirteen major valleys make up the Lakes, all with their own special characteristics. The stunning scenery makes this a must-visit destination for walkers, with routes to suit everyone.

We've selected thirteen ideas for walks - one in each of the main valleys - to kick-start your exploration of this wonderful place.

Most of the routes mentioned are part of our large programme of guided walks. Local experts volunteer their time to lead these walks for the National Park and will show you why the Lake District deserves World Heritage inscription. All our walk routes are well-planned and are designed to showcase this magnificent landscape.

Borrowdale and Bassenthwaite

The largest of the 13 valleys includes majestic Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite. Here you'll find one of England's largest oak woodlands. It's also home to rare upland hay meadows and a pair of visiting ospreys. The bustling town of Keswick is a popular tourist hub.


Boat and Derwent Isle on Derwent Water   photo credit: John Hodgson

1. Ullock Pike     Starting from Dodd Wood car park, wind your way up through the wooded slopes of Dodd. Between April and August you might be lucky and spot the ospreys who nest in the valley below. From the summit of Dodd enjoy stunning views before continuing on to the summit of Carl Side at 746m, along Longside Edge and on to Ullock Pike (692m). It's then a steady walk back down to the car park.


Nestling serenely in the north-west of the Lake District, this stunning valley contains three lakes - Buttermere, Crummock Water and Loweswater. This is an important grazing place for the iconic Herdwick sheep. In spring, the slopes of Rannerale Knotts are carpeted in bluebells, a really must-see sight.


Buttermere from Hindscarth Edge   photo credit: Andrew Locking

2. Haystacks     This is a fabulous high fell walk with commanding views of the surrounding fells. On a clear day you can see neighbouring Scotland. Our Haystacks guided walk starts from the YHA hostel next to the Honister slate mine. We follow the footpath to reach two picturesque tarns before a short but steep climb over rugged ground to reach the summit.


The legacy of mining and quarrying on the fellsides, pastoral farming on lower ground, woodland industries, and the busy village of Coniston, all come together in this striking and characterful working landscape. William Wordsworth, England's famous poet, went to Grammar School in the lovely village of Hawkshead. There's much to learn about the rich industrial heritage of the area. We're developing new walks to bring this fascinating past to life through our walk leaders.

Farm cottage

Tilberthwaite farm cottage, Coniston    

3. Family walk to Cathedral Cave     A must-do walk for fans of the 2014 film, Snow White and the Huntsman. This famous cavern featured briefly in a scene from the movie. The walk itself is popular with families. Starting from Tilberthwaite, walk to Slater Bridge then on to the quarries above. Our guided walk finishes at Hodge Close Quarry.


Traces of ancient settlers can be found throughout the Lake District. In the Duddon Valley, or Dunnerdale as it's also known, you'll find one of the most impressive of the area's many stone circles. The valley may be a modest, less-frequented place but it is a rich, beautiful and inspiring landscape.

Swinside Stone Circle

Swinside stone circle   photo credit: John Hodgson

4. Dunnerdale Forest and Harter Fell      Take your pick from gentle forest strolls or even a short, leisurely meander by the river Duddon. Alternatively, head for the summit of Harter Fell for fabulous views. As the famous English fellwalker Alfred Wainwright described in his Pictorial Guides, the view from the summit leads the eye to 'golden sands and glittering sea.'


Ennerdale is the only valley to have no public road along it. Here, high up on Pillar Rock, true rock climbing began. Water extraction, farming and forestry have all played their part in shaping the landscape here.


Ennerdale   photo credit: Andrew Locking

5. A walk around the lake    Footpaths will take you round the whole of the lake but you can shorten the walk at any point. Ennerdale is the wildest and least inhabited valley in the Lake District and is a wonderful place to get away from the crowds and experience peace and tranquillity.


This is the only place in England where mountains plunge almost directly into the sea. The landscape is a dramatic mix of steep, rugged uplands and soft, green valley floor. The tidal estuary at Ravenglass is the perfect place to watch the sun go down.


Eskdale from Hardknott   photo credit: John Hodgson

6. Esk Estuary Escapade This is one of our favourite guided walks. It starts in Ravenglass with a short boat ride to sand dunes. Then it's boots off for a paddle across the shallow estuary. The walk continues by the river and ends at Muncaster Castle.

Grasmere, Rydal and Ambleside

This glacial u-shaped valley lies at the very heart of the Lake District. Both Grasmere and Ambleside attract the crowds but you don't have to walk far to experience peace and quiet on the slopes of the surrounding fells. The area is associated with Wordsworth and visitors from around the world flock to his former homes at Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount. The 16th century Rydal Hall features The Grot, a tiny summerhouse framing a view of a tumbling waterfall.

Rush bearing

Ambleside rush bearing   photo credit: John Hodgson

7. Grasmere's Wordsworth We have worked closely with the Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum to develop a short themed walk around the village. Discover one of England's most famous poets, learn about his life and hear some of his poems.


Haweswater is a reservoir valley. Originally a natural lake, a dam was built and the valley flooded in 1935. In this less-visited part of the National Park, you can experience a real sense of wilderness. During periods of drought the remnants of the villages of Mardale Green and Measand, emerge from their watery world. All the farms and dwellings of the villages were demolished, as well as the centuries-old Dun Bull Inn at Mardale Green.


Haweswater   photo credit: Andrew Locking

8. Measand Beck and Waterfalls     Take a pleasant stroll to the cascading waterfalls of Measand Beck. Starting point is from Bampton Village Hall. Look out for Buzzards, Peregrines, Ring Ouzels and Wheatears who inhabit this quiet corner of the Lake District.


Human activity in Langdale can be traced to Neolithic times and the production of stone axes. Today, Langdale is an important valley for grazing Herdwick sheep. It's stunning fells attract walkers all year round. After high rainfall the waterfalls of Dungeon and Stickle ghouls are an impressive sight.


Herdwicks in Langdale   photo credit: John Hodgson

9. The Dramatic Langdale Pikes     This is one of our very hard graded guided walks which starts from the National Trust car Park, ascending by Stickle Ghyll to Stickle Tarn. We then head to the Pikes taking the easy gully path. There's an option to summit Pike O'Stickle before heading to Loft Crag and back down to the valley floor. An exhilarating, physical climb.


The valley of Thirlmere is relatively small but is dominated by the reservoir, supplying Manchester with water, and its looming steep-sided fells. The stone circle at Castlerigg near Keswick is one of lakeland's best -known archaeological sites.

Beautiful Thirlmere

Thirlmere   photo credit: Belinda Turnbull

10. Castlerigg Stone Circle     Our popular guided walk to the circle starts at the Moot Hall in Keswick. The circle offers panoramic fell views. It is among the earliest British stone circles, raised in about 3000 BC during the Neolithic period.


Ullswater, Boredale

Boredale, Ullswater   photo credit: John Hodgson

11. The Ullswater Way     You can now walk around the whole of the lake on a 20 mile route. No visit to Ullswater is complete without a sail on the lake. Our friends at Ullswater Steamers offer a discounted rate if you're walking with us on one of our special guided walks.



Scafell   photo credit: John Hodgson

12. Scafell Pike, England's highest mountain     Due to demand, in 2018 we'll be introducing a new guided walk to this peak-bagger's bucket-list must-do. We'll be ascending from Seathwaite in Borrowdale to take you this popular summit. Look out for our walks and other activities on our website.


Windermere view

Windermere   photo credit: Thomas Beecham

13. My First Fell - Bowness Family walk     This is a delightful walk, suitable for families from the busy hub of Bowness-on-Windermere to the summit of Brantfell. It's a steep (in places) two and a half hours walk but the views are outstanding from the top. The pace is slow and steady to accommodate little legs.

We love hearing about your adventures in the Lake District so share your memories with us on Twitter using the hashtag #WeAreTheLakes

Author: Belinda Turnbull

Volunteer Led Activity Coordinator
Lake District National Park

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