Walking in the Lake District National Park
Walk besides the lake shores, or stand and gaze from the fell sides on a peaceful sunny morning, and the emotional impact of the stunning beauty all around you can be overwhelming. One cannot help but be elated by the majesty and drama of the mountains, the idyllic settings of the serene blue lakes and the harmony of human intervention in the attractive little towns and villages. Yes, you guessed it - we love the Lakes!
Every season has its special charms; springtime, with lakeside daffodils and woodland carpeted with bluebells, and autumn, with its glorious leaf colours. Summer is a much busier season, with plenty of activity in the towns and on the lakes and when the lake shore woodlands are a palette of rich greens. Draped in its white winter coat Lakeland has a different mood, but one of great beauty and appeal for walking the lower fells, lakesides and valleys and finishing in one of the many welcoming warm cosy pubs.
The Lake District is England's largest National Park and contains Scafell Pike, its highest mountain and Wastwater, its deepest lake. There is a bewildering choice of walking possibilities within the Lake District and if you want to explore the region on foot it can be difficult to know where to begin. The best option is to choose one of the main lakes as a focus, and select a base at a nearby village or town, planning routes around the immediate fells and lakeside.
Derwentwater - This lovely lake has many intriguing islands within its oval shape. It's about three miles long by one mile wide with the town of Keswick close to it northern end. To its west rise the fells of Cat Bells, and to the east is Friar's Crag, which juts out into the lake and is a fantastic viewpoint. The River Derwent flows from the southern foot of the lake past the pretty village of Grange and leads into the beautiful Borrowdale valley.
Ullswater - This winding snake-like lake is about seven miles long, but only a mile across at its widest point. It is surrounded by stunning mountain scenery to its south with the villages of Patterdale and Glenridding providing bases for exploring these spectacular fells. Towards the north of the lake the hills are lower and softer, until at the foot at Pooley Bridge the lakes waters leave the fells behind as they flow into the River Eamont.
Steamers run the full length of the lake from Glenridding to Pooley Bridge, stopping at Howtown half way along and this trip is worth taking just for the magnificent views. Dramatic views can be seen on foot by walking the eastern shoreline from Howtown to Patterdale.
Grasmere and Rydal water - These are very tiny lakes, nestling at the foot of some spectacular fells, but they are so idyllic that on no account should they be missed. A lovely relaxing day can be had walking around the lakes. Rydal water often has beautiful reflections to the west of Loughrigg Fell. On the western side of the lake is a footpath up to Loughrigg Terrace and its huge cave, formed by quarrying.
The attractive village of Grasmere is a pleasure to potter around with its numerous shops, pubs and cafes. A visit to the tranquil churchyard and the grave of the great poet Wordsworth is worth including. Wordsworth lived at Rydal Mount, which you can visit. Dora's Field, named after Wordsworth's daughter, is next to the church and is covered in daffodils in springtime.
Windermere - At over twelve miles long Windermere is England's longest lake and its busiest with the towns of Windermere on the eastern shore and Ambleside at the northern head. The lake is surrounded by a mixture of gently sloping wooded hills and more dramatic fell tops like the very popular Orrest Head and Gummer's How. There is a vehicle ferry across the lake from Bowness to the western shore and Sawrey, the home of Beatrix Potter. At the southern foot of the lake is the town of Newby Bridge.
Ambleside, just to the north of the lake, is a bustling tourist town tucked into a valley between protective fells, and has plenty of gift shops, cafes, restaurants and a cinema. It also has good outdoor equipment shops, should you feel your current walking attire inadequate. Many walking guide routes start from Ambleside making it a good base.
To the west of Ambleside the breathtakingly beautiful Langdale Valley leads up to the Langdale Pikes. The valley includes the lovely village of Elterwater with its pub and craft shops, and Chapel Stile. These villages, located on the B5343 valley road, are the start of countless walking routes, both high and low level. Among the low level options is a walk from Elterwater village to Elterwater lake. This small reed fringed lake often has fantastic reflections of the Langdale Pikes. You can continue past the lake to Skelwith Bridge.
Coniston - This is a deep, narrow lake about 5 miles long and half a mile wide. The village of Coniston is near the head of the lake on the north western shore. The mountain of the Old Man of Coniston towers over the lake and the village, rising dramatically from the western shore.
Coniston is famous as the location where Sir Donald Campbell was killed in 1967 whilst making an attempt on the world water speed record in his speedboat 'Bluebird'. There is a Ruskin Museum in the village which features an exhibition about Sir Donald Campbell. On the eastern shore you can visit Brantwood, John Ruskin's home with its beautiful gardens and views.
Hawkeshead, to the north east of Coniston lake, can make a good base for exploring Coniston, Grizedale Forest to the south and the western shore of lake Windermere. It is a pretty village with cobbled lanes and plenty of pubs, shops and cafes. Hawkeshead has many associations with Beatrix Potter and also Wordsworth. Nearby is the small lake of Esthwaite Water, but this is privately owned.
Wastwater - Wasdale is a deep valley gouged into the western flank of the Lakeland fells and almost entirely engulfed by Wastwater. On the south-eastern shore the valley side rises almost shear out of the water in a massive scree slope. On the north-western shore a narrow road leads up the valley from Nether Wasdale to the isolated hamlet of Wasdale Head with just a pub, several houses and the tiny church of St Olaf. Wastwater's setting is spectacular and dramatic; the view from the south-western foot of the Lake takes in the mountains of Yewbarrow, Great Gable and Lingmell behind. Scafell Pike, England's highest mountain, is situated to the east of Wastwater can be climbed from Wasdale Head.
Watwater is most easily reached from the coast, but there is a route from the east along the narrow mountain road which crosses the Wrynose Pass and the Hardknott Pass and then descends through Eskdale. The beautiful Eskdale valley includes the villages of Boot, Beckfoot, Eskdale Green and Santon Bridge, all passed on the journey to Wastwater. From Boot the miniature Ravenglass and Eskdale steam railway meanders down the valley to the coast at Ravenglass, the only coastal town actually in the National Park boundary.
Bassenthwaite Lake - Not far north-west of Keswick, and overlooked by the massive bulk of Skiddaw, is the five mile long Bassenthwaite Lake, strangely the only lake in the National Park that actually has the word 'Lake' in its name. The area is designated as a National Nature Reserve. The Forestry Commission's Visitor Centre in Dodd Wood on the eastern side of the Lake has many different trails and an osprey viewing point. On a clear day from the top of Dodd you can see into Scotland.
Beatrix Potter and the Lake District
Rabbit fans will enjoy discovering the author's home, Hill Top at Near
Sawrey on the western shore of lake Windermere. If you fancy a walk
which will avoid the crowds and also visit Hill Top there is an excellent
route in the guide 'South Lakeland - Walks with Children' (see listing).
Hill Top, together with much of Beatrix Potter's other land and property,
was bequeathed to the National Trust. There is also the NT Beatrix Potter
Gallery in nearby Hawkeshead which is well worth a visit.
OS Maps: Explorer OL7
A Walk from Near Sawrey [SD
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