The Lake District
In 2017 the Lake District was officially recognised as a World Heritage Site – not simply for its outstanding beauty but also for its cultural importance. It has inspired innumerable writers and artists including the early 19th-century Lake Poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as well as 20th-century writers such as Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome. The region is surprisingly compact. It’s less than 50km from east to west and the same from north to south. But crammed into the 2300 sq km of the Lake District National Park is an astonishing variety of landscapes and these 40 walks will take you to a range of lakes, peaks, rivers, tarns and waterfalls. They’ll also introduce you to the haunts of many of the people who have loved and celebrated the Lakes and made this area such a strong cultural, as well as natural, attraction. Each walk has its own distinctive mood and character. Most are easily accomplished in an afternoon or a long summer evening. They don’t scale the highest mountains but they will take you to many lake shores and several of the lower peaks which, regardless of their height, provide immense views and the satisfaction of reaching a summit.
The variety of landscapes found here is, in part, derived from the rocks that lie beneath them. In the heart of the Lakes you’ll find the Borrowdale Volcanics which give rise to lofty rugged mountains like Scafell, Helvellyn and the Langdale Pikes, beloved of climbers and serious fellwalkers. Ranged around this central core are the smoother slates in the north and slates and sandstones in the south. These underlie the rounded slopes of Skiddaw and the gentle terrain around Windermere and Coniston. Finally, there are the granites of Eskdale and Ennerdale and the limestone which occurs in patches around the rim of the Lakes – particularly noticeable in the airy ridges of Whitbarrow and Scout Scar. This is a landscape shaped by glaciation. Ice retreated from here 10,000 years ago but has left its mark all over the Lake District. You’ll find textbook examples here of U-shaped valleys with steep sides and flat floors, mountain tarns and corries and, of course, the wonderful ribbon lakes that give the area its name. More recently sheep have transformed wooded hills and valleys into the grazed fields and fellsides we know today. Hardy sheep breeds were introduced by the Vikings, ranched on a wide scale by the monks of Furness in the Middle Ages and are still reared by families who have farmed the fells for generations. Grey Herdwicks, horned Swaledales and Rough Fell sheep are the most common breeds and the best of the best are shown competitively at colourful valley shows which take place in the summer and autumn months. Tourists have been coming here for more than 200 years and have brought their own pressures. The World Heritage Site award provides a template for balancing the impact of tourism and development on an area of outstanding but fragile beauty. The National Trust made its first land purchase here in 1902 and the Lake District became one of the UK’s earliest National Parks back in 1951.
Using this guide
These walks are not overly strenuous but this is the Lake District so there will invariably be some ups and downs. Several routes include a climb and a few feature very steep descents so, where possible, less
hair-raising albeit longer alternatives have also been given. Make sure you read the route description through from beginning to end before setting out as some are linear and you will need to plan your return to the start.Though the descriptions in this volume highlight the features that will help you navigate the route, not every gate, stile or bridge that you encounter will be described and these features also tend to appear and disappear over time. At times, signed diversions will be in place; these should always be observed. Most of the walks are on clear paths but the terrain can be rocky, uneven or simply muddy, so if possible wear walking boots or walking shoes. It can rain hard in the Lake District. Seathwaite in Borrowdale, for example, is notoriously the wettest place in England, so check the weather forecast and always take a waterproof jacket (and even overtrousers). Temperatures fall by one degree for every 90m of height gained and it will often be cooler on the hilltops than at your start point, so take an extra layer and a woolly hat and gloves. There’s UV radiation even on a cloudy day, so remember a sunhat and sunscreen. The maps in this volume will give you the lie of the land and the general shape of the walk, but you should always take the relevant OS map with you (and know the basics of how to read it). Also take a whistle in case you have an accident and need to attract attention (as there may be no signal for your mobile phone) and a torch in case you run out of daylight. Finally, if you consider a walk is wasted without a dog, don’t forget your lead and make sure your dog is well under control, particularly near sheep or other livestock.
By necessity, a good number of the routes in this volume start from car parks, but with narrow single-track roads and steep gradients in places, as well as traffic snarls and parking scrums during peak season, using the bus, train or boat is much more environmentally friendly and often a lot less stressful. In many parts of the Lakes car-free travel is definitely a viable option, though in more remote areas or during the winter months it can be less straightforward to get around. You can reach the area by train either in the South Lakes at Windermere (Wordsworth tried to stop this line from being built but then famously bought shares in it) or in the North Lakes at Penrith, where you can catch a bus into Keswick from the station forecourt. Many double-decker buses are open top, weather permitting, with fantastic views.
It is harder to access the Western Lakes such as Wastwater and Ennerdale by public transport. However, there are well-established minibus tour companies, including Mountain Goat, Lakes Supertours and Bluebird Tours, that run bespoke tours to destinations. You can combine some bus journeys with boat trips using launches on Derwentwater, Windermere and Coniston and the steamer on Ullswater. Some tickets include free parking on arrival or free entry to visitor destinations. A good website for exploring possibilities and checking timetables is Go Lakes (www.golakes.co.uk/travel) with a link to Stagecoach’s Lakes Connection guide.