Walking in the Lake District: Hiking routes, tips, and checklists for your next break

Glacial lakes, craggy fells and rolling valleys - the Lake District National Park is a hiker's dream. Add a selection of quaint villages and bustling towns into the mix, and you’ve got the perfect destination for a walking holiday in Britain. To help you plan your itinerary, we’ve put together a handy guide to walking in the Lake District.

Whether you’re stopping amid the bustle of Windermere or the sleepy surroundings of Grasmere, there are so many incredible trails to discover in the local area. Best of all, you’ll find everything from accessible trails to technical mountain hikes - making it a wonderful holiday location for those of all ability and fitness levels. After a good walk,  you can head into one of the nearby villages and enjoy a hearty meal in a traditional country pub.

From family-friendly hikes to challenging mountain scrambles, we’ve chosen our favourite routes. We’ve also picked out some of our favourite attractions along the way, as well as shared our essential hiking safety tips.

Easygoing walks

Sometimes, a short stroll is all you need to blow away the cobwebs. These scenic walking routes are all under two miles and should take you less than an hour to complete.

Stockghyll Force

Location: Ambleside

Length: Just under a mile

This short yet scenic walk to Stockghyll Force only takes around half an hour from the centre Ambleside. To find the waterfall, you’ll need to pass by the outdoor shop  Cunningham's, and follow the beck upstream.

Orrest Head

Location: Windermere

Length: Two and a half miles

At just two and a half miles from the train station in Windermere, this Orrest Head route can be conquered in less than an hour and a half. While only a short route, the views from the top are absolutely lovely.

Allan Bank Woodland Walk

Location: Grasmere

Length: Just under a mile

Take a stroll around the expansive grounds of Wordsworth’s former home with this easygoing Allan Bank Woodland Walk. This route is particularly beautiful during the autumn months when the leaves of the trees turn to fiery hues of orange and red.

Hallin Fell

Location: Ullswater

Length: Just over a mile

This short circular Hallin Fell walk winds around the eastern edges of Ullswater, offering delightful views of the surrounding valleys. It’s a bit of a steep path, but nothing too strenuous.

Monk Coniston

Location: Coniston

Length: Just over two miles

Offering gorgeous views across the length of Coniston Water, this Monk Coniston trail is well worth the short trek. Along the way, you’ll find a good choice of scenic picnic spots - perfect for summer afternoons.

Moderate hikes

If you’re not up for a strenuous climb  but plan on spending the afternoon in the great outdoors, these moderate hiking routes might just be what you need. From Coniston to Eskdale there’s plenty to choose from.

Stanley Force - Eskdale

Location: Holmrook

Length: Three miles

Starting at Dalegarth Station, the Stanley Force - Eskdale route is a moderate hike that takes you along pretty riverside pathways and wooded lanes before reaching the dramatic Stanley Ghyll Force waterfall.

Coniston Ride

Location: Coniston

Length: Just over eight miles

Although just over eight miles long, Coniston Ride isn’t too much of a strenuous hike. This scenic trail guides you around the western shores of Coniston Water, through a lovely mixture of pebble beaches and ancient woodlands.


Location: Wasdale

Length: Four miles

While not the tallest mountain the Lake District National Park, Yewbarrow still offers incredible sights from its summit. It’s a fairly steep trek, but it should take you no longer than three hours to complete the circular route.


Location: Buttermere

Length: Five miles

Beginning at the head of Buttermere, Haystacks is another mountain offering picturesque sights from its peak. This scenic walk combines Scarth Gap, Haystacks, and Warnscale Beck - so there’s plenty to see along the way!

Grasmere to Alcock Tarn

Location: Grasmere

Length: Four miles

Grasmere to Alcock Tarn is a delightful circular route that starts and ends in the scenic town of Grasmere. Along the way, you’ll stroll past an abundance of cafes and a local attractions - it’s worth taking your time and visiting as many as you can along the way.

Challenging hikes

For those who love a good challenge, these strenuous hikes are sure to please. From the summit of Scafell Pike to the scramble along Striding Edge, there’s so much to be discovered - and conquered!

Scafell Pike

Location: Wastwater

Length: Five and a half miles

Part of Alfred Wainwright's Lakeland Fells, Scafell Pike offers the most magnificent views of the surrounding valleys and lakes from its summit. This particular route starts at Wasdale, and although is one of the most popular tourist trails, requires some technical experience in parts.

Old Man of Coniston

Location: Coniston

Length: Six and a half miles

Old Man of Coniston is one of the region’s most well-known fell walks. This circular route begins in the Walna Car Park, and includes visits to Buck Pike, Brown Pike and Dow Crag on the descent.

Striding Edge

Location: Glenridding

Length: Just under seven miles

If you love the thrill of a good mountain scramble, then you’ll definitely want to make your way over to Striding Edge. This craggy ridge is one of the most popular locations for scrambling in Britain, although we would recommend having some prior experience before heading up.

Matt, from UK Scrambles, says “The main place to stop and take in the views would be at the top of Helvellyn. Having a head for heights is also advised, as it can be a little intimidating for novices, especially during the short downclimb section on the ridge.”

Coniston Water

Location: Coniston

Length: 16 miles

While not technically difficult, this Coniston Water circular walk is a full day’s workout - stretching over 16 miles around the shores of the lovely Coniston Lake. This route passes by the Old Man of Coniston, which you can take on if you feel like an extra challenge.

Kirk Fell and Great Gable

Location: Wasdale Head

Length: Just over eight miles

A circuit of two fells, this Kirk Fell and Great Gable trail poses a worthy challenge for keen hikers. Steep, rocky, and with parts requiring a bit of a scramble - you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of the region once you finally reach the summit of Great Gable.

National Trust walks

There are a number of pretty National Trust landmarks dotted around the Lake District, including the delightful Hill Top farmhouse and idyllic grounds of Allan Bank. These walks are perfect for an afternoon stroll while soaking up the sights.


Location: Kendal

Length: Two and a half miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Take a stroll around Sizergh and try to spot as much of the local wildlife as possible - pheasants, buzzards and woodpeckers are just a few of the birds which can be seen along the way. This lovely walk takes you around the castle and through the surrounding fields.

Tarn Hows Circular Walk

Location: Tarn Hows

Length: Two miles

Difficulty: Easy

This scenic and very easygoing Tarn Hows Circular Walk starts from the car park, circling around the picturesque tarn. The views of the surrounding Lakeland fells are absolutely enchanting - you’ll likely find yourself taking plenty of snaps along the way!

Fell Foot

Location: Windermere

Length: A mile and a half

Difficulty: Easy

This gorgeous Fell Foot trail takes you through an 18th-century pleasure ground, boasting its own native flower meadows and a pinetum. A truly stunning landscape in every season.

Mickleden Valley

Location: Ambleside

Length: Just under four miles

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

This scenic Mickleden Valley walk starts from behind the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Ambleside, an inconspicuous path that opens out onto craggy hillsides and wild valleys.

Octavia Hill

Location: Keswick

Length: Three and a half miles

Difficulty: Easy

An easy lakeside stroll starting from the jetty at Derwent Water, the Octavia Hill walk takes you through the peaceful parklands of Brandelhow. If you’ve left your car behind, you can reach the starting point on a scenic boat tour!

Dog-friendly walks

Planning on bringing your pooch along for the adventure? If your pup loves getting out in nature just as much as you do, then be sure to take a look at these popular dog-friendly walking routes.

Rannerdale Knotts

Location: Buttermere

Length: Just over three miles

Difficulty: Easy

Rannerdale Knotts is a short walking trail starting from the village of Buttermere. There’s no road walking involved, making it a safe choice for those with young or nervous dogs.

The best dog-friendly pub nearby: Stop by The Wainwright in Keswick for real ales in a friendly atmosphere.

Walla Crag and the Great Wood

Location: Great Wood

Length: Just under three miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Set on the eastern side of Derwent Water, this Walla Crag and the Great Wood route starts from the National Trust car park in Great Wood, before ascending to the summit of Walla Crag.

The best dog-friendly pub nearby: Pop into The Fox Tap in Keswick to refuel with a well-earned and locally-brewed beer.

Grasmere and Rydal Water

Location: Grasmere

Length: Five and a half miles

Difficulty: Moderate

This charming Grasmere and Rydal Water circular offers lovely views across the River Rothay. Along the way, you’ll pass by the quaint Dove Cottage which was once the home of  William Wordsworth.

The best dog-friendly pub nearby: The Priest Hole in Ambleside offers tasty home-cooked meals and a good selection of drinks.

Keswick to Threlkeld Railway

Location: Keswick

Length: Just over six miles

Difficulty: Easy

The Keswick to Threlkeld Railway trail is an accessible six-mile pathway, following the historic route of the old Keswick to Penrith Railway. You’ll pass through the River Greta gorge before arriving in the sleepy village of Threlkeld.

The best dog-friendly pub nearby: Tuck into tasty pub grub at the Dog & Gun in Keswick.

High Yewdale

Location: Yewdale

Length: Just under a mile

Difficulty: Easy

This short walk in High Yewdale takes you to the iconic Yew Tree Farm, which was featured in Miss Potter - a 2006 film with Renée Zellweger based on the life of Lake District local, Beatrix Potter.

The best dog-friendly pub nearby: The Flying Fleece in Ambleside serves up lovely food throughout the week, including a delicious Sunday Lunch.

Family-friendly walks

From riverside strolls to scenic walks around the Lake District’s historic castles, these routes are easygoing enough for the whole family to enjoy. Afterwards, you can pop into one of the local cafes for a well-deserved lunch.

Calder Bridge

Location: Calder Bridge

Length: Just over a mile

Difficulty: Easy

If you’re just after a short, relaxed stroll then be sure to make a stop at Calder Bridge. Set on the western edge of the Lake District National Park, this route takes you along the river and the ruins of Calder Abbey.

Best place to grab lunch: For authentic Italian food in a friendly atmosphere, head over to The Wild Olive in Gosforth.

Grasmere Riverside

Location: Grasmere

Length: Just over a mile

Difficulty: Easy

This easy Grasmere Riverside route takes you from the heart of the village and along the peaceful banks of the River Rothay. You’ll pass by the famed Grasmere Gingerbread Shop on your way - so be sure to pop in!

Best place to grab lunch: If you’ve got enough room after tucking into some local gingerbread, Grand at Grasmere is a lovely spot for both lunch and evening meals.


Location: Loweswater

Length: Two and a half miles

Difficulty: Easy

This accessible level walk along Loweswater is ideal for families with pushchairs, following a stone track to Watergate Farm and then through a gate into Holme Wood.

Best place to grab lunch: The Wheatsheaf Inn is an award-winning pub in the tranquil surroundings of the Vale of Lorton.

Kendal Castle

Location: Kendal

Length: Just over two miles

Difficulty: Easy

A good way to stretch your legs without having to do anything too strenuous, this circular trail through Kendal Castle is ideal for walkers of all fitness and ability levels. It’s also a good way to familiarise yourself with all the attractions and amenities within the town.

Best place to grab lunch: Dating all the way back to 1711, The Sun Inn Pub in Kendal has a real traditional country pub vibe.

Aira Force

Location: Penrith

Length: Just over a mile

Difficulty: Easy

This circular trail to Aira Force is quite steep in places, but shouldn’t take you too long. As you continue along the path, the crashing sounds of this mighty waterfall can be heard getting closer and closer.

Best place to grab lunch: The Royal Hotel is just a 15-minute walk away from Aira Force, serving up a selection of traditional Cumbrian dishes.

Staying safe while exploring the Lake District

As with any outdoor activity, hiking carries some risk. However, you can keep yourself safe while exploring the great outdoors with these top ten safety tips:

1. Always walk facing the oncoming traffic

Sometimes, walking routes require you to pass by roads in order to carry on along the trail. If you find yourself on a road or pathway with traffic, make sure you walk facing the oncoming cars. That way, you’ll be able to move out of the way in good time.

2. Try not to listen to music with headphones

On the same note, we’d advise walkers to take caution while listening to music using earbuds or headphones while on busy paths - you might not be able to hear the jingle of a passing cyclist or a car approaching.

3. Walk single file

Out of respect for other walkers and for your own safety, it’s advisable to walk single file where possible - this is especially important if you are walking on a road that has occasional traffic.

4. Keep your dog on a short lead

If you’re planning on bringing your pup along, be sure to keep them on a short lead while on narrow pathways or along routes where there are other walkers about.

5. Take care when walking past livestock and horses

You’re bound to encounter some livestock while walking through the Lake District. When passing by cows or sheep, it’s important to pay attention to their behaviour and reactions - especially if they have young.

Try to move quickly and quietly, ideally around the herd. Remember to close any gates on your way.

6. Don’t stray too far from the trail

It can be tempting to stray off the beaten track, especially while in search of great views. However, there’s always the risk of getting a little bit lost by doing so, which is likely to result in you spending quite a bit of time trying to get back on the right path.

With that in mind, it’s important to ensure you will have adequate hours of daylight to navigate back to your car or your accommodation.

7. Pack plenty of food and water

Whether you’ll be hiking in the hot summer months or heading out in the winter chill, it’s essential to pack plenty of food and water for your hike. It’s typically advised that adults should have at least half a litre of water for every hour of hiking.

When it comes to food, your best bet is something high in protein and carbs. Flapjacks and protein bars make a great snack too!

8. Don’t push yourself too far

Only take on what you can manage - if you start to feel tired or achy, it might be time to turn back or to take a well-earned rest stop.

9. Bring a physical map

In a digital world, it’s easy to forget about things like maps and compasses - but they’re still essential while hiking. If your phone loses signal or runs out of battery, maps are a reliable backup.

10. Check the weather before heading out

Be sure to check the weather before heading out on your hike, so you can pack all the right equipment in advance.

Packing the essentials

Before setting off on your travels, you’ll want to make sure you’ve packed all your essentials. To make this easier, we’ve put together a handy checklist for you to tick off:

  • Map of the local area
  • Torch
  • First aid kit
  • A tasty lunch, ideally with plenty of carbs to keep you fuelled
  • A big bottle of water
  • Suncream
  • Walking poles (if required)
  • Waterproof outer layer
  • A fully-charged mobile phone
  • Spare socks, in case you get caught out in a puddle!

Are there any rights of way, rules or laws for walking in the Lake District?

With over 1990 miles of rights of way in the Lake District, there’s certainly no shortage of walking trails! These rights of way are divided into five categories, which can be identified on signposts by their designated colours. These can help you identify which forms of traffic you may come across on the route:

  • Yellow arrows (public footpaths) - For those on foot only.
  • Blue arrows (public bridleways) - For cyclists, horse riders, and those on foot.
  • Purple arrows (restricted byways) - For cyclists, horse riders, horse-drawn vehicles, and those on foot.
  • Red arrows (byways open to all traffic) - For all of the above, as well as cars and motorbikes.
  • White arrows (permitted path) - For those on foot only - unless specified otherwise.

The best landmarks to visit along the way

Whether you prefer exploring natural landmarks or historical homes, the Lake District National Park is full of interesting attractions. From Beatrix Potter to William Wordsworth, you’ll be surprised at what you discover on your adventures.

Wordsworth House and Garden

Location: Cockermouth

Wordsworth House and Garden is a delightful National Trust property and was the birthplace of famed poet, William Wordsworth. Visitors can stroll through the grounds and within the majestic home itself - brought to life as it would have been in the late 18th-century with a roaring fire and fresh food on the kitchen table.

Hill Top

Location: Ambleside

Yet another famous literary location, Hill Top was once the home of Beatrix Potter. This lovely 17th-century farmhouse is a time capsule of her life and works, filled with unique curios from her life. Outside, the beautiful garden is awash with colour - lined with red carnations and vegetable rows.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

Location: Castlerigg

Set just outside of Keswick, the Castlerigg Stone Circle is among the earliest examples found in Britain - dating back around 4000 to 5000 years. This natural plateau boasts the most exceptional views across the surrounding valley, so it’s well worth a visit.

Wray Castle

Location: Ambleside

Wray Castle is a unique sight - this Gothic Revival castle isn’t quite as old as it looks, originally built in 1840. This imposing building is surrounded by lush grounds, renowned for its abundance of tree species. Open year-round, they’re a really lovely spot for an afternoon picnic.

Keswick Museum & Art Gallery

Location: Keswick

In between your hikes, be sure to make a stop in the bustling market town of Keswick. Among its quaint cafes and independent shops is the Keswick Museum & Art Gallery, where you can discover more about the region’s history and local artists.

What time of year should I visit?

The Lake District is a perennial delight; from the vibrant blooms of spring to the crisp, snow-dusted landscapes of winter. In our opinion, there isn’t a ‘best’ time to visit - each season brings something new and just as lovely to discover.

Those who prefer the warmer weather will undoubtedly want to visit between June and September, while hikers who like a good challenge will find plenty to whet their appetites from October to February. The spring months - March to May - is when the national park comes alive with colourful blossoms and the re-emergence of its local wildlife - a must-see for nature lovers.

Guided walks in the Lake District

See the stunning sights of the Lake District with a guided tour - a great way to familiarise yourself with the area while getting all the insider info on the best locations and hidden gems in the region. Here are some of our recommended tour providers:

Mountain Goat

With over 40 years of experience, the guides at Mountain Goat know the local area inside-out. Visitors can enjoy a variety of daily walking tours, including half-day and full-day excursions.

English Lakes Tours

English Lakes Tours offer a fantastic variety of walking tours across the Lake District National Park, ranging from easygoing sightseeing tours to their ‘Eight Lakes’ half-day experience.

Wandering Aengus Treks

Wandering Aengus Treks offer both self-guided trips and private guide tours on some of the more challenging peaks in the national park. From mountain scrambles to tours of the region’s hidden gems, there’s plenty to choose from.

Frequently asked questions

Are there any level walks in the Lake District?

You’ll find many accessible and fully-level walks in the Lake District, including scenic routes around the historic Broughton Railway and the lakeshores of Monk Coniston.

Which mountain is the easiest to climb in the Lake District?

One of the easiest mountain trails in the Lake District has to be the short trek to the top of Latrigg Fell. Despite its short distance, the views from the summit are absolutely spectacular.

Can you walk around Lake Windermere?

Yes, you’ll find an easygoing walk around the shores of Lake Windermere, but if you feel like having a day off you can always enjoy the sights from a lake cruise!

Is Scafell Pike taller than Snowdon?

No. As the highest mountain in the Lake District National Park, Scafell Pike towers at 978 metres above sea level. However, Mount Snowdon is just a little taller at 1,085 metres.

What is the most challenging hike in the Lake District?

You’ll find many challenging hiking routes in the Lake District, although their difficulty will depend on your own experience and fitness level. We’d suggest taking on Scafell Pike - a steep, craggy trail to the mountain’s peak.

Useful resources

Tour guides

Hiking Highs

  • E:  bookings@hikinghighs.co.uk
  • T: 07976 949488

NaturesGems Wildlife Tours

  • E:  naturesgemtours@gmail.com
  • T: 07970 669190

Geoff Cook - Guided Tours & Walks

  • E:  N/A
  • T: 07875 662124

Lake District Activities

  • E:  contact@lakedistrictactivities.co.uk
  • T: 07702 942980

Lake District Adventuring

  • E:  info@lakedistrictadventuring.co.uk
  • T: 01539 555541

Hiking equipment and supplies

George Fisher

  • E: george@georgefisher.co.uk
  • T: 017687 72178

Gaynor Sports of Ambleside

  • E: sales@gaynors.co.uk
  • T: 015394 33305

Cotswold Outdoor Ambleside

  • E: ambleside.shop@cotswoldoutdoor.com
  • T: 01539 751244

The Epicentre

  • E: info@theepicentre.co.uk
  • T: 01539 528 528

Lake District Outdoor

  • E: N/A
  • T: 01900 823071

Nordic Outdoor

  • E: enquiries@nordicoutdoor.co.uk
  • T: 0131 552 3000

Alpkit Ambleside

  • E: ambleside@alpkit.com
  • T: 015394 54954

The Mountain Factor

  • E: info@themountainfactor.com
  • T: 01539 432752

Rathbones of Keswick

  • E: info@rathbonesofkeswick.co.uk
  • T: 017687 74900


  • E: webstore@stewartrcunningham.co.uk
  • T: 015394 32636

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