The Lake District is widely regarded as the most dog friendly place in Britain – a well deserved accolade earned by its bounty of dog friendly accommodation, eateries and shops. This has led to dog owners flocking to the region year round, and while great for the local economy, it can lead to many of the popular walks feeling a little like motorways with walkers passing continuously in both directions! I’m going to share with you five walks we have found which offer the spectacular beauty of the Lakes but which are much quieter than some of the Instagram hotspots which are scattered across Lakeland.
1. Grizedale Forest
When you think of the Lake District I expect that the first things that spring to mind are mountainous fells and tranquil stretches of water. But there is a whole world waiting to be explored at Grizedale Forest, a Forestry England network of walking and cycling trails, with a Go Ape activity centre to boot. I think the majority of visitors to Grizedale make a beeline for Go Ape and therefore the ten walking trails are largely deserted. There is a car park at the Visitor Centre and you can pay on the day (cash or card) or after your visit online.
We chose to venture up to Carron Crag which is the highest point in Grizedale Forest. The walk is largely through woodland, with plenty of opportunities for off-lead walking, before summiting Carron Crag to provide panoramic views of the distant fells.
Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This walk has the benefit of being one of the only Lakeland walks we have found which is completely devoid of sheep. When there are sheep around you should ALWAYS keep your dog under close control, preferably on a lead, in particular at lambing time. No sheep means no need for leads, so Merry went absolutely nuts sprinting around the woods, and for once we went home with a fairly tired spaniel! Couple this with the lack of people and you have the perfect recipe for a quiet dog friendly walk.
Four of us made a trip to Ennerdale about two years ago and the experience has stayed with me ever since. We did a massive day long walk (similar to this route on Walking Britain but slightly shorter!) and yet we didn’t see any other people – the sole exception being Red Pike which is easily accessed from Buttermere. The Western fells (with the exception of Scafell Pike) are much quieter than the more accessible central fells and are worth the longer drive to get there. If you want to stay overnight accommodation options are more limited – we have previously stayed at the Bower House Inn which is dog friendly and does amazing food! I would recommend asking to have a room away from the bar though as it was a bit noisy when we stayed.
Ennerdale is the focus of a re-wilding project which started in 2003. Wild Ennerdale has led to the gradual spread of native tree species, the re-emergence of a rare species of butterfly and a change in grazing management from sheep to cattle. It really does feel wilder than other parts of the Lake District, which is only magnified by the total absence of other walkers.
Dog friendly rating – 2/5. Although I love this walk, it isn’t the most dog friendly you’ll find on this blog. While most dogs will love being out on the fells all day, and there aren’t many stiles that I recall, there are sheep throughout this walk so dogs should be kept on a lead the whole way around. We did have one instance where our friend was nearly dragged down a fell in pursuit of a sheep! Luckily he managed to brace himself and hang onto the lead. However, if your dog is likely to pull you hither and thither to chase livestock, you might not have a particularly enjoyable experience. If your dog is well behaved on the lead though please do not let that put you off this walk – it truly is one of my two favourite Lake District walks! For my other favourite, continue reading…
3. The Langdale Pikes
I am always shocked that there aren’t more people exploring Langdale. Langdale is a short drive from Ambleside and easily accessible, and yet for some reason, it is never as crowded as other nearby locations. There is a pay and display car park in Langdale where you can leave your car,
The Langdales, along with Ennerdale, are one of my favourite places in the Lake District. Their distinctive ridge beckons to the keen walker, and there are a multitude of walks waiting to be explored, including the Langdale Pikes. My favourite route is available on WalkLakes, and although it can be busy on the way up to Stickle Tarn, as soon as you reach the Pikes themselves the walkers dwindle until you are almost completely alone.
Finish off your walk by calling into the National Trust pub, Sticklebarn, which is dog friendly and offers some seriously tasty grub. They are also working hard to be sustainable which is always a good reason to support a business.
Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Similarly to Ennerdale, there are sheep throughout this walk, but there is an added bonus with the swimming opportunity presented at Stickle Tarn. Merry absolutely loved swimming in the water (even in the freezing cold!) and had to be persuaded to come out with the promise of a handful of cheese. There is water throughout much of the walk, so plenty of chances for your dog to have a drink, but be aware that there are also stiles on this walk. When we did this walk we stayed at the dog friendly Queen’s Head which I would definitely recommend.
4. Sale Fell
If you don’t fancy as strenuous a walk as those suggested in Ennerdale and Langdale, head north west to tackle Sale Fell. Parking is free in a lay-by on the roadside. WalkLakes offers a short walk which is relatively easy and can be tackled in an hour or two. Despite the short length, you still get a beautiful view of Bassenthwaite Lake, where you should keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of the ospreys which visit during the summer months. To find out more about the Bassenthwaite ospreys you can go to the Osprey Watch website.
Dog friendly rating – 2/5. This is a fairly short walk which won’t tire out most dogs. You will also need to keep your dog on a lead as there are livestock grazing. However, there are no stiles on this walk, which is definitely an appealing factor for owners of larger dogs!
5. Lanty’s Tarn
I’ve decided to include Lanty’s Tarn on this list even though it starts from the bustling town of Glenridding. Much of Glenridding’s popularity stems from its association with Helvellyn, but other walks are available! Including this route to Lanty’s Tarn via the small fell Keldas. Perhaps because everyone was heading up Helvellyn, we saw very few people on our walk, despite doing a few laps at the top of Keldas when we got lost! There is a large car park (pay and display) in Glenridding.
Dog friendly rating – 4/5. There are sheep on this walk, but also opportunities for off-lead walking, which are pointed out in the route description.
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