The GO Outdoors Guide to the Lake District - 50 Reasons to visit
The Lake District is one of the nations favourite National Park, and if you ask many fans of the outdoors it is their go to area of the country for many different outdoor activities. We’ve pulled together a list of reasons you should definitely make a trip to the Lakes this year.
With the help of our friends at Lake District National Park and Go Lakes, we’ve compiled our top picks of places to visit with your family. Home to countless outdoor activities, from walking routes and cycling trails to rock climbing and skiing, the Lake District serves as an ideal location in which to engage with nature, as well as British culture and tradition. Alongside the well-trodden paths, we have included some of our favourite lesser known routes for you to explore.
Before you go, you’ll need to make sure that you’re fully equipped with the necessary clothing and safety gear – both of which are essential for any trip to the Lakes. Renowned for its changeable weather, particularly high up on the fells, you’ll need to ensure you’ve taken all eventualities into account – this is where our extensive collection of outdoor clothing, rucksacks and sturdy footwear comes in handy.
There’s a reason the Lake District is such a popular place to visit – and that’s down to the sheer diversity of activities you can take part in, regardless of your ability and personal preferences. So whether you’re hoping to try your hand at something new or you prefer to rediscover some of your favourite hidden gems, you’re sure to find a reason to keep coming back to this fantastic location.
- Lake District Walks
- Lake District Cycle Routes
- Lake District Climbing Routes
- Lake District Family Activities
- Lake District Try Something New
In the first part of our Lake District series, we take you through 10 great walks in the Lake District. With walks that tackle any experience level, and even some for the kids, there’s something for everyone.
- Gruffalo’s Child Trail (suitable for all abilities)
A walk in the countryside can seem a daunting prospect for youngsters, particularly if the weather is cold and wet. The Gruffalo’s Child Trail however offers the perfect opportunity for your little ones to discover the beauty of nature in a fun and educational way – they’ll soon see why you love the outdoors so much! Follow the trail through Grizedale Forest and complete Gruffalo themed activities along the way. Pick up a free activity sheet from the Visitor Centre or buy a Gruffalo activity pack to add to your experience along the trail.
The route can be downloaded from: http://www.exploresouthlakeland.co.uk/e/21710/GruffalosChildTrail"
- Tarn Hows (miles without stiles)
If you don’t want to be huffing and puffing your way around the Lakes, opt for the more relaxing Tarn Hows, which offers an accessible route for all, whether you’ve got a pushchair in tow or one of your party is wheelchair-bound. We love that there’s plenty of stunning scenery and rest stops along the way so you can take it as easy as necessary.
The route can be downloaded from: http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/visiting/thingstodo/walking/mileswithoutstiles/mws13
- Derwentwater Lakeshore (miles without stiles)
This five mile walk starts at Hawse End and follows the woodland trail along the Derwentwater shoreline, offering spectacular views of the lake along the way. If like us, you enjoy just stopping every now and again to admire the view, there is a number of picnic benches ideally positioned to allow you to do just that while you get your breath back.
Routes can be downloaded from: http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/visiting/thingstodo/walking/mileswithoutstiles/mws34
- Broughton Railway (miles without stiles)
This relaxing, gentle walk along the old and disused Broughton railway line is a must for all nature lovers, allowing you to get stuck in without too much difficulty. The route can be accessed from two locations: Wilson Park and Mireside, depending on whether or not you require wheelchair accessible paths.
The route can be downloaded from: http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/visiting/thingstodo/walking/mileswithoutstiles/mws18
- Coniston Hall on the Lake (suitable for all abilities)
Offering breath taking views of the marina and the chance to discover the grounds of Coniston Hall, we recommended this gentle stroll for those with pushchairs and wheelchair users – it’s even suitable to explore by bike due to the easy bridleway terrain.
The route can be downloaded from: http://where2walk.co.uk/lake_district/lake_discoveries/coniston-hall-on-the-lake/
- Walla Crag and the Great Wood (relatively easy)
For walking newbies, Walla Crag and the Great Wood offers the perfect combination of stunning views and manageable routes. Considerably shorter than the Grisedale Pike and Hopegill Head route, this walk should only take around an hour and a half to complete, leaving you with plenty of time to discover more of the beautiful Lake District. Similarly to the route above, the terrain is very rough and will require basic map reading skills to navigate.
The route can be downloaded from: http://www.walklakes.co.uk/walk_112.html
- Grisedale Pike and Hopegill Head (moderately difficult)
For walkers with some winter skills training, we recommend exploring Grisedale Pike and Hopegill head. The whole route will take you a minimum of four hours so be sure to take a picnic along with you for en-route – we’ve found that hungry walkers are not always happy walkers. Look out for the cascades and waterfalls which look stunning during the winter months.
The route can be downloaded from: http://www.walklakes.co.uk/walk_31.html
- Helvellyn (moderately difficult)
Wind your way around the Helvellyn Gill Path right to the top of the mountain to experience breath taking views of the Lake District. We found this moderately difficult walk to be popular with dog owners – be warned though; it will take between five and six hours to complete so be sure your dog is in peak fitness.
The route can be downloaded from: http://www.lakedistrictfordogs.co.uk/walk_55
- Latrigg (for experienced walkers)
Journey the six miles over Keswick’s personal fell, Latrigg to experience some truly stunning scenery. With steep inclines along the way, we recommend this route for more experienced walkers. Starting from Moot Hall, Keswick and climbing 1,000 feet, it should take you around three hours to complete – any less and we salute you as champion fell walker.
Routes can be downloaded from: http://www.dokeswick.com/walkers/medium-keswick-walks/latrigg.htm
- Ullock Pike, Long Side, Carl Side, Skiddaw, Little Man and Lonscale Fell (for experienced walkers)
Starting at Ravenstone Hotel and finishing at Latrigg Car Park, this difficult walk is a must for adventure seekers, combining steep climbs with sharp descents as you make your way up and down England’s 4th highest mountain and across six of the Lake District’s infamous fells – we could hardly catch our breath when we heard about this fantastic walk.
The route can be downloaded from:
In the second edition of our guide to the Lake District, we focus on cycling. The Lake District offers some fantastic opportunities for cyclists of all abilities. We've listed some great routes to look up, and some helpful places to hire bikes should you not have your own.
Bike Hire and Essential Equipment
Should you need to hire a bicycle, we’ve included the best cycle hire locations below (although it’s always more fun if you have your own equipment!). Whether you’re interested in mountain biking
(like us) or prefer to take road routes (also enjoyable), we have a wide range of top quality bicycles
from leading and well-trusted brands here at GO Outdoors, such as Whistle, DBR and Calibre.
- Grizedale Mountain Bikes
Head on over to Grizedale Mountain Bikes, based at Grizdedale Visitor Centre, Hawkshead where you’ll find a huge selection of bikes for hire. Once you’ve found your perfect fit, there’s no excuse for not getting as close to the stunning scenery of the Lake District as possible.
- Country Lanes
Whether you’re looking for cycle hire or mountain bike hire, for individual use or for group cycle events, you’ll find just what you need at Country Lanes, based at The Railway Station Precinct, Windermere.
- Coniston Boating Centre
Stop off at Coniston Boating Centre where you’ll find a wide choice of bikes available for hire, including tag-alongs, electric bikes and trailers. Helmets, puncture repair kit, map and locks are all included in the hire price, giving you one less thing to worry about. Details of where to find it are included on our Miscellaneous Outdoors map below.
- Forestry Commission – Grizedale
Whatever your ability, Grizedale offers a wealth of cycling routes and opportunities for exploration, from the moderate Moor Top Trail through to the more advanced North Face Mountain Bike Trail. So whether you’re looking for a particular route or prefer to just set off on your bike and see where you end up, you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied here.
The route can be downloaded from: http://peakdistrict.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/122244/blackharry.pdf
- Forestry Commission – Whinlatter
If you’re hoping to experience the thrill of real mountain biking then head along to Whinlatter where you’ll find spectacular views of the Lakes – it took our breath away! Choose from the moderate 7.5km Quercus Trail or the more difficult Altura Trail depending on your ability.
The route can be downloaded from: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-8Z4EET
- Little Langdale
If you favour a shorter mountain bike challenge with the option of a pub lunch en-route (who doesn’t love a slap up meal in the heart if the English countryside?) then why not try the Little Langdale cycle trail. Take care on the ascent to Hodge Close as the climb can be a little strenuous.
The route can be downloaded from: http://mediafiles.thedms.co.uk/Publication/CU/cms/pdf/adventure-cycling-coniston-route1.pdf
Our friends over at Pedal North have supplied us with their pick of cycle routes in the Lake District for varying abilities – so you can take as easy or as advanced a route as you prefer.
- Loweswater Loop (easy difficulty)
Cycling beginners can start off easy with the gentle and short Loweswater route. At just 5.3 miles long, you can complete this route in a fairly short space of time before rewarding yourself with a slice of cake from Newhouse Farm tea rooms or a pub lunch from the Kirkstile Inn – sure to get your taste buds tickling and your mouth watering.
The route can be downloaded from: http://www.pedalnorth.com/content/loweswater
- High Street and Boredale (medium difficulty)
High Street and Boredale will appeal to those looking for a longer and more challenging route. With a combination of steep climbs, ridge riding and a five mile unbroken descent along the way, this medium difficulty route is a Lake District classic not to be missed.
The route can be downloaded from: http://www.pedalnorth.com/content/high-street-and-boredale
- Tour de Coniston (medium difficulty)
If you’re rewarded with a clear day, take the Tour de Coniston cycle route and enjoy impressive views of the Lakes from the top of the Walna Scar and Parkamoor. If you begin your trip from the foot of the lake, you’ll also have your pick of facilities and refreshments to keep hunger at bay during your ride.
The route can be downloaded from: http://www.pedalnorth.com/content/tour-de-coniston
- Walna Scar (hard)
Not for the faint hearted, Walna Scar is up there with the toughest of the tough mountain bike routes - but for those in love of a gruelling challenge, it’s the Lake District’s best-kept secret.
The route can be downloaded from: http://www.pedalnorth.com/content/walna-scar
- Loughrigg Loop (hard)
Located in the heart of the Lakes, Loughrigg Loop is a favourite among walkers and cyclists alike. Although the tough climbs and descents will test your ability, the stunning scenic views make it all worthwhile.
The route can be downloaded from: http://www.pedalnorth.com/content/loughrigg-loop
The Peak District National Park has over 65 miles of off-road cycling trails and an abundance of more challenging routes. Details available from http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/visiting/cycle/cycling-information/cyclingnearyou
The National Park Cycle Hire Centres offer a wide variety of cycles for hire suitable for all ages and abilities including a range for the less able including tricycles, tandem trike, hand crank cycles, wheelchair bikes and mobility cycles. http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/visiting/cycle/cycle-hire-centres/cyclesforhire
As part of our guide to the Lake District, we've also hunted out some brilliant climbs for the more adventurous among you. The Lake District is full of some diverse climbing routes and here we've compiled 10 of our favourites for your to try out.
- Keswick Climbing Wall & Outdoor Activity Centre
Experience the outdoors indoors at Keswick Climbing Wall & Outdoor Activity Centre. With more than 40 rope climbs to a height of eight metres, this indoor climbing wall offers the perfect challenge for keen scramblers of all abilities. If like us you’re keen to get back out in the fresh air, why not test your climbing skills outside, where you’ll be awarded with spectacular views across the Lake District for your trouble.
Find out more at: http://www.keswickclimbingwall.co.uk/
- The Bowder Stone
The Bowder Stone is not just any old rock – legend has it that it was most likely carried to this very spot by glaciers during the Ice Age. A short climb up the ladder will take you to the top of this famous 2000 ton stone. The site is popular for climbing and bouldering (without ropes) and it’s not hard to see why when you look at the wide expanse of unspoilt scenery.
Find out more at: http://www.visitcumbria.com/kes/the-bowder-stone/
- Heron Crag
Boasting no fewer than 24 climbs, Heron Crag in Eskdale is the perfect spot for advanced climbers to do what they love most. The crag reaches a maximum height of 60 metres and can be very mossy in parts so be sure to take extra care if you visit during the winter.
Find out more: http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/crag.php?id=721
- Hodge Close Quarry
With 81 different climbs to get stuck into, there’s no time for a rest at Hodge Close Quarry. Developed in 1980, this modern quarry offers varied routes for all abilities, from the nail-biting unprotected slabs to the well-bolted lines for the still-getting-the-hang-of-this-climbing-malarkey tourists.
Find out more: http://www.visitcumbria.com/amb/hodge-close-quarry/
- Langdale Boulders
As the name suggests, Langdale Boulders is home to a multitude of climbs over rough rock – and it certainly doesn’t disappoint, particularly if you’re a keen climber. Watch out for restricted areas where climbing is not permitted.
Find out more: http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/crag.php?id=354
- Badger Rock
Featuring 26 different climbs, this large boulder can be found near Kentmere Hall. With stunning landscape views, exciting problems and flat landings, it’s easy to see why Badger Rock is so popular among tourists and locals alike.
Find out more: http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/crag.php?id=3825
- Buckbarrow Crag
Buckbarrow Crag is punctuated by a series of climbs, all with wonderfully intriguing names such as ‘Crystal Maze’ and ‘The Soup Dragon’. With a mix of routes accessible during the winter, this is an ideal location to challenge yourself to something more advanced.
Find out more: http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/crag.php?id=486
- Dow Crag
There are climbing routes of all grades to be explored at Dow Crag, which features an impressive 143 climbs in total. Uncover the secrets of ‘Pandora’s Box’ or climb your way to the ‘Paths of Victory’. With names like these, you’re sure to be as intrigued as we were.
Find out more: http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/crag.php?id=355
- Fairy Steps (Whin Scar)
If shorter routes and boulders appeal to the climber within you then Fairy Steps is the place for you. With plenty of problems for climbers of all abilities, it’s easy to while away the hours getting stuck into climb after climb.
Find out more: http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/crag.php?id=1407
- Gouther Crag
The perfect rock routes to climb in the winter or summer, Gouther Crag is drier than most and offers a variety of climbs to suit all ages – a fantastic day out for the whole family!
Find out more: http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/crag.php?id=485
National Parks are a fantastic way to get young children excited about the outdoors. As part of our guide to the Lake District, we've pulled together some wonderful activities for all the family to enjoy, and here are our 10 favourites.
With so much to get stuck in to in the Lake District, it can be difficult to know where to start. So make Brockhole – the Lake District Visitor Centre
your first port of call. Here you’ll be able to plan your break and find out information about the best family-friendly activities in the Lakes. Put your balancing skills to the test on the nail-biting Treetop Trek
and enjoy bouncing around for hours on end in the Treetop Nets
- Beatrix Potter
Pay a visit to the home of your favourite Beatrix Potter characters at The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere. If you’re in the neighbourhood
Find out more at: http://www.hop-skip-jump.com/
- South Lakes Safari Zoo
Take a walk on the wild side with a trip to South Lakes Safari Zoo. With so much to see and do, you’ll need a few days to really make the most of the experience.
Find out more at: http://southlakessafarizoo.com/
- Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway
Travel back in time on a miniature steam train through the stunning delights of the Lake District.
Find out more at: http://ravenglass-railway.co.uk/
There’s something for all ages at Rheged, whether you’re interested in sampling the local cuisine, trying your hand at arts and crafts or quenching your thirst for the great outdoors. What are you waiting for? Keep the whole family entertained with a trip to Rheged.
- Puzzling Place
Now you’ve tested your physical abilities with our many walking and cycle routes, it’s time to put your mental skills to the test – with the help of the Puzzling Place. Stuffed to the brim with brain teasers and curious challenges, it’s the perfect place to feed your mind.
Find out more at: http://www.puzzlingplace.co.uk/
- Mirehouse Gardens
Enjoy an active day out with the family whatever the weather with a trip to Mirehouse & Gardens by Bassenthwaite Lake. Let off steam in the woodland playgrounds, get lost in the heather maze and find your way through the rhododendron tunnel – it’s as much fun for adults as it is for kids; believe us, we tried it out for ourselves and loved every minute of it.
Find out more at: http://mirehouse.com/
- Muncaster Castle
Prepare yourself to be spooked out by your visit to the historic haunted Muncaster Castle.
Find out more at: http://www.muncaster.co.uk/
- Lakes Aquarium
Don’t get bogged down and disheartened by gloomy weather – if your trip to the Lakes is more rainfall than sunshine, liven up your mood again with a visit to the Lakes Aquarium. Here you’ll come face to face with otters and get up close and personal with sharks – well, not too close of course. And if you’re feeling extra brave (we’re looking at the kids here), why not get involved with the daily creature handling? From snakes and giant snails to massive millipedes and cockroaches, show your parents how daring you really are.
Find out more at: http://www.lakesaquarium.co.uk/
- Predator Experience
You don’t have to just watch the action – why not take part in it directly by booking the ultimate predator experience day? From walking with wolves to cheetah encounters and falconry tuition, don’t miss this amazing opportunity to get up close with the most formidable of creatures. Note: some experiences are for over 16s only and weather dependent so be sure to check before you purchase tickets.
Find out more at: http://www.predatorexperience.co.uk/
- Honister Slate Mine
If you’re visiting the Lake District, you can’t go home without seeing the last working slate mine, found at Borrowdale in Keswick. New for 2014 is the Subterranean Climb The Mine, which takes you deep into the mine, challenging you to a series of heart-in-your-mouth activities to navigate your way back to the top. As this activity is particularly tough, there is an age restriction of at least 10 years (all children must be supervised by an adult) and a minimum height of 1.3m.
Find out more at: http://www.honister-slate-mine.co.uk/
In the final edition of our GO Guide to the Lake District we touch on some activities that might be new to you. For example, did you know you could ski in the Lake District during the winter? Maybe you fancy a ride on a heavy horse, a spot of potholing. We cover off 10 of our favourite ‘something new’ activities below.
- Keswick Museum and Mountain Heritage Trust exhibition;
An ideal activity for a rainy day, discover the effects of World War I on the climbing community of Keswick with this exhibition from the Mountain Heritage Trust.
Find out more at: http://www.mountain-heritage.org/mht/keswick-museum-and-mountain-heritage-trust-exhibition-opening/
- Lake District Ski Club
Winter is an ideal time for skiing and there’s no better place to do so than at the Lake District Ski Club, which boasts up to nine pistes in total (weather depending). Positioned in a prime location for the Lake District’s best snow, you’ll wonder why you never tried skiing before.
Find out more at: http://www.ldscsnowski.co.uk/
- Yad Moss
Visit England’s premier snow slope this winter for endless hours of skiing and snowboarding fun. For confident skiers and snowboarders only, Yad Moss provides the ideal backdrop on which to show off your snow sporting skills. It is located just one mile to the south east of postcode CA9 3HB.
Find out more at: http://www.yadmoss.co.uk/
- Castlerigg Stone Circle
What better way to discover the heritage of the Lake District than with a visit to the iconic Castlerigg Stone Circle. Boasting spectacular views of Helvellyn and High Seat Mountain, this unspoilt area offers the perfect opportunity for quiet reflection after a strenuous day in the great outdoors.
Find out more at: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/castlerigg-stone-circle/
- Lake District Winter Skills
Before you embark on an epic hill walk in the Lakes this winter, it’s a great idea to take part in a winter skills course. Once you’ve completed one of these essential courses, the hill walking possibilities are endless, allowing you to make the most of the fells and mountains of the Lake District.
Find out more at: http://thelakedistrictwalker.co.uk/mountain-skills/winter-skills-training/lake-district-winter-skills-courses.html
- Coniston Boating Centre
Take a break from the more strenuous activities and observe the beauty of the Lake District from the inside of your very own boat. Choose from electric rowing boats and motor boats which seat the whole family or hire a kayak and race each other down the lake.
Find out more at: http://conistonboatingcentre.co.uk/
- Roger Savage Gyroplane Tours
Look down on the impressive Lake District from above when you take a ride in a gyrocopter. It’s up to you whether or not you let the experts take control – if you’re feeling adventurous though, why not give flying yourself a go. For safety reasons, there is a 16 stone weight restriction imposed for everyone flying in the gyrocopter.
Find out more at: http://www.rogersavage.co.uk/
- Cumbrian Heavy Horses
Your visit to the Lake District National Park will not be complete until you’ve experienced the ultimate horse riding experience on offer at Cumbrian Heavy Horses, the only specialised Heavy Horse Riding School in the UK. With horses matched to your ability and private riding across fields, on farmlands and through the streams of the Lake District, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable experience.
Find out more at: http://www.cumbrianheavyhorses.com
From canoeing and sailing to kayaking and raft building, there’s a water sport for everyone to get involved in at River Deep Mountain High, whether you’re hoping to try a new sport or looking for a family friendly activity for the day.
Find out more at: http://riverdeepmountainhigh.co.uk/
- Adventure Makers Potholing Courses
It’s no surprise that the weather conditions in the Lake District can be adverse during the so escape the wind and rain for a few hours and explore the many caves and underground passages at Adventure Makers, based near the Lakes in the Yorkshire Dales – no equipment needed as they will provide you with all the tools. Just bring your sense of adventure!
Find out more at: http://www.adventuremakers.co.uk/
GO Lakes: Adventure Capital Project
With so much to see and do, just one visit to the Lakes will not cut it. Adventure seekers will be glad to hear however that Cumbria Tourism and its partners are backing an initiative known as Cumbria’s Adventure Capital UK Action Plan which aims to both improve and add to the existing family friendly outdoor activities on offer in the Lake District. It is hoped that this will lead to Cumbria being recognised as the Adventure Capital of the UK by 2018.
Cumbria Tourism’s Adventure Capital Project Manager, Andrea Runkee, said: “Cumbria and the Lake District already has an international reputation for breadth of its outdoor adventure offer linked to its rich cultural heritage.
“We can safely say that ‘Adventure Capital UK’ is now firmly recognised by consumers and visitors to Cumbria alike and it is now firmly embedded in the plans and strategies of a range of organisations and partnerships across the county, further helping to strengthen our desire to become the UK’s Adventure Capital by 2018”.
For more information about the Adventure Capital project, visit www.golakes.co.uk/adventure-capital. Share your thoughts on how the outdoor activity offering can be improved on the GO Lakes Facebook and Twitter pages.
So there you have it – our top 50 reasons to visit the Lake District. Be sure to get in touch with us and let us know what you thought of each of these adventure experiences.