Hiking in Lake District: 9 epic walks

Zorica Lončar

Lake District National Park has to be one of England’s biggest treasures. Not only is it famous for its Lake Poets, but also for the breathtaking nature. The crystal-clear lakes and the lush greenery make this UNESCO World Heritage Site a peaceful oasis for all big city residents.

Yes, spending a lazy vacation there and just enjoying the scenery sounds like absolute heaven. But, if you prefer working up a sweat and being active, make sure you don’t miss out on hiking in Lake District.

Even if you’re somewhat of a beginner, you could feel like a pro hiker, as long as you choose the right trails. They vary in length and incline, but the beauty of the area and the overall experience is permanent. What’s better than picturesque mountain lakes and forests combined with a healthy dose of endorphins?

To save you some effort, we’ve collected a list of the eight best walks in Lake District. Some are easier, others more advanced, but all designed to get you closer to nature.

If you’re planning to hit Lake District’s hiking trails soon, you could get yourself a Wise debit card before going there. It’s the ultimate travel money card, letting you spend in Pound sterling like a local. You can also use it in 200 countries and withdraw up to £200 per month for free. You’ll always get the real exchange rate.

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Now, let’s talk about hiking.

Hiking in Lake District: 9 Epic Walks

Tarn Hows Circular Walk


Let’s start light. When it comes to Lake District circular walks, the Tarn Hows walk is one of the most famous ones. It’s known to be fairly easy and good for those with dogs or children. It’s also suitable for cyclists and there’s a separate trail for wheelchair users as well.

At around 3 km and an hour needed to complete it¹, it’s perfect for a relaxing and quick daytime stroll. If you’re looking for a walk that won’t exhaust you to start off your hiking journey, this could be your match.

Like the name says, Tarn Hows is known for its tarns or its proglacial mountain lakes. However, in this case, they are man-made, but just as stunning as the natural ones. It’s a paradise for photographers and those who like to feast their eyes on majestic landscapes.

Fun fact: most of this area was once owned by the famous writer Beatrix Potter. If you’re a fan of Peter the Rabbit, you’ll be happy to know her cottage called Hill Top is 15 minutes away.

Scafell Pike Corridor Route


If you like getting out of your comfort zone, then Scafell Pike - England’s highest peak - should be on your bucket-list. The Corridor Route starting in Seathwaite is probably the most popular route to take in order to reach the Scafell Pike. An alternative one starts in Wasdale Head, but the Corridor Route is longer - around 15 km in total.²

Besides working on your fitness before coming here, you might want to brush up on your history knowledge as well. There’s an interesting story behind this stunning mountain. As a matter of fact, the National Trust received Scafell Pike as a gift after WW2, to honor the brave soldiers from the Lake District area.³ So, the highest peak in England is also a historic memorial.

When the weather is nice, you can even see Northern Ireland, North Wales and the Isle of Man from the highest point. That would be the cherry on top of a perfect day of hiking in Lake District. Even without it, this walk is one of the best activities the national park has to offer.

Fairfield Horseshoe


The Fairfield Horseshoe is a must-do when it comes to hiking in Lake District. Here’s some basic info about the route: it starts in Rydal, lasts approximately 5-6 hours and it can be challenging for dogs. It’s just over 16 km long, but some parts can get quite steep and muddy, which makes it more strenuous.⁴

The most famous Lake District enthusiast - Alfred Wainwright - noted that Fairfield is quite deceptive. The reason is that, when you look at it from the south, it looks rather small and easy to conquer. Only when you observe it from the north, you get to see it in all its glory, with all its deepest and highest parts.

Helvellyn via Thirlmere (via Striding Edge and Swirral Edge)


Helvellyn has earned its legendary status when it comes to Lake District attractions. The walk leading to it is a hikers’ favourite, so missing it would be a shame. To be specific, the most popular route is one from Glenridding through Striding Edge and Swirral Edge. It’s around 15 km long and one of the harder ones, but also equally rewarding.⁵

Striding Edge is a good chance to get into scrambling. This part of the route is one of the most popular spots for hiking in Lake District in general. Later, when descending, you’ll walk through Swirral Edge, which will give you just as much of an adrenaline rush.

If you’re not an expert and you don’t have the right gear, avoid this area when it’s windy. Also, it’s best to go on this hike when the weather is warm and dry, to avoid slipping.

Old Man of Coniston


Another one of Lake District circular walks, with a memorable name and picturesque sights. It’s home to many abandoned mines, since the area was a mining center between the 13th and mid-20th century.⁶ Since the route is very popular, it’s well marked and secure.

Aside from the stunning nature, the mine remnants could also be interesting to photographers. Some of the buildings and facilities are well preserved and offer a glimpse into the past times. Most hikers end their adventure in one of the pubs and we suggest you do the same!

Buttermere loop


When the time comes to tone it down a notch with an easy walk, this one’s ideal. The Buttermere loop is a peaceful hike around some of the biggest gems of this national park.

Even its name sounds pleasant and light! The focal point here is the scenery and the walk is great for families with children. When it comes to Lake District walks for beginners, this one is top tier.

The main attraction is the Buttermere lake, but the Loweswater and Crummock Water lakes aren’t far behind. We suggest visiting during the spring or summertime, so you could enjoy the 7 km walk to the fullest. Interestingly, Buttermere lake is one of the rare ones in the national park that can be walked around completely.

If you decide to give Crummock Water a chance, make sure you also visit Scale Force, a 50 m high waterfall.

Friar’s Crag


This walk usually starts in Keswick and it lasts approximately 15 minutes. When it comes to the level of difficulty, it’s pretty short and sweet. However, the main point here isn’t the hike itself, but the end destination. Friar’s Crag is one of the best stargazing locations in the UK and a must see in Lake District.⁷

Due to the very low levels of light pollution, Friar’s Crag is perfect for sky-watching. To get the best results, two things are important. Number one, that you hike in the summer, when the skies are usually the clearest. And number two, that you do it during the nighttime, obviously.

Blencathra via Sharp Edge


Blencathra is a mountain in the northern part of Lake District. Many also call it Saddleback, due to its shape when you look at it from the east. If you haven’t had the chance to get to know this area, this hike over Sharp Edge is perfect for you. However, it’s only for the biggest adrenaline junkies with lots of experience. You can expect a lot of crawling and climbing, but also overwhelming satisfaction.

You do need to begin somewhere and the best starting point for this hike is in Threlkeld. Six hours of hiking later, you will arrive at your end destination.⁸ When it comes to Sharp Edge, Alfred Wainwright is often quoted for saying it’s ‘sharp enough for shaving’. This should give you an idea of how much precision you need to cross it. If you’re not afraid of heights though, it will certainly be worth it.

Those who prefer a little less danger could skip the Sharp Edge part and opt for Halls Fell. If you, quite literally, like walking on the edge, the original route will suit you. Instead, you could return via Halls Fell and explore that part of Lake District as well.

Grasmere and Rydal Water


To conclude the list, here’s another circular walk through Lake District. This hike is a combination of light exercising and sightseeing. It’s great for those who want to explore the national park’s natural beauty while also appreciating its cultural heritage.

The walk starts in Grasmere, which was the home of the famous poet William Wordsworth. There are many guided tours which explore this area’s attractions. One of such attractions is his house, Dove Cottage, where he wrote some of his most famous poetry. The Wordsworth Museum and the Rydal Mount estate are just a couple more sights you shouldn’t miss.⁹

When it comes to the natural aspect of the route, the panoramic views and the fells are stunning. If you’d like to throw in a swim session into your hike, Rydal Water lake is great for it. Since motor boats are strictly forbidden in this lake, you can take a dip, but remember it’s most likely cold.¹⁰


  1. Lake District.gov.uk - Tarn Hows
  2. WalkLakes - Scafell Pike
  3. National Trust - Scafell Pike
  4. WalkLakes - The Fairfield Horseshoe
  5. Walking Britain - Helvellyn via Striding and Swirral Edges
  6. Coniston Slate - about
  7. National Trust - Friar’s Crag
  8. All Trails- Scales and Blencathra circular
  9. Visit Cumbria - Dove Cottage
  10. Lake District.gov.uk - swimming in Lake District

All sources checked on February 28, 2021

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