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 focus, and select a base at a nearby village or town, planning routes around the immediate fells and lakeside.
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.
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.
At over twelve miles long Windermere is England’s longest and busiest lake 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.
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.
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.
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
Peter 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'. 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.
Another top attraction is Yew Tree Farm near Coniston, used in the film 'Miss Potter' to represent Hill Top, which was deemed too sensitive for filming. There are some lovely walks around here where you can combine the 'Miss Potter' experience with magnificent scenery. Yew Tree Farm is also owned and tenanted by the National Trust and has a walkers' tea room and B&B facilities (details below).
Hill Top - Near Sawrey (tel: 015394 36269) Beatrix Potter's summer home is kept as she left it, and you can see much of the inspiration for her illustrations. Open 31st March to 28th October. More info at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/beatrixpotter
Yew Tree Farm - Coniston (tel: 015394 41433) Walkers' tea-room open at weekends and holidays in the winter and daily in the summer from 11.00am to 4.00pm. B&B all year. www.yewtree-farm.com
Beatrix Potter Gallery - Hawkeshead (tel: 015394 36355) The gallery has a rolling display of original watercolor illustrations and sketches. Open 31st March to 28th October.
Grizedale Forest to the east of Coniston Water is particularly enjoyable for children with many attractions including a sculpture trail. Full details can be obtained from the visitor centre in the Forest.
A Walk from Near Sawrey [SD 378954] OS Maps: Explorer™ OL7
This walk leads through Beatrix Potter country and gives an opportunity to visit her home, Hill Top. It also follows the banks of Windermere Lake and provides idyllic views of wildlife and boats. Part of the circuit passes though quiet mixed woodlands with the distinct chance of spotting the increasingly threatened red squirrel. Start the walk at Far Sawrey post office along a lane that leaves the main B5285 road. Pass through the village and shortly after passing St. Peter's church on the left turn right onto an obvious footpath. This leads through fields and gates. Turn sharp left at a sign indicating Near Sawrey and Hill Top. On reaching a road turn left to reach Hill Top on the right hidden among trees. Continuing from Hill Top turn left onto a minor road signed for Lakeside. Bear left at the next junction continuing along the road past Dub How Farm. Look for a footpath leading left into Garnett Wood. Climb a gentle slope and cross a stile into a field. Follow and obvious terraced track and meet a minor road. Turn left and then immediately right and continue, with the church on the left, to rejoin the B 5285 south-east of Far Sawrey.
A footpath on the right leads down to the lake shore near Jemmy Crag, where it turns left along the shoreline. Pass Ferry House on the right to reach the Windermere car ferry. Find a path opposite Ferry House, and then turn right through a gate. Turn left through another substantial gate and to the right find a National Trust footpath sign indicating Near Sawrey and Hill Top. From an old viewing point descend a paved track. Turn right passing a car park and continue through mixed woodland. On reaching a road turn right and shortly turn right onto another pleasant footpath. Continue to Far Sawrey and the starting point. About 5 miles.
Best Pub for this walk
Tower Bank Arms, Near Sawrey Tel: 015394 36334 (Good Pub Guide)
This little country inn backs onto Beatrix Potter's Hill Top Farm. The low-beamed main bar has high backed settles and a slate floor. Seats outside have pleasant views of the wooded Claife Heights. There is a good choice of bar snacks and more substantial meals.
This walk is fully described in the guidebook 'Pub Walks in the Lake District' by Ron Freethy
The Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild (OWPG) award for Best Guidebook in 2013 was ‘Lake District Walks to Waterfalls’, by Vivienne Crow, published by Northern Eye.
The judges’ commented “This book is part of a small but perfectly formed Top Ten series. There’s little to fault in this winning formula with clear maps and instructions, concise and well laid out with the reader very much in mind. These are great value for money at under a fiver. Of the three from this series submitted for consideration, Vivienne's book narrowly got the nod due to some excellent photography and cover.” We congratulate Vivienne for this important award and for the other excellent guides she has written for the series.
You can purchase this great little book from our bookshop. Just click on the link or image above.
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