What makes a Lake District walk a classic? To be honest, this is totally down to personal opinion, but the walks I’m going to share below all offer magnificent views even if the sun doesn’t come out! For this reason they are all quite popular with walkers, but don’t let the chance of encountering a few more walkers than normal put you off – everyone should try all of these walks at least once!
In the sunshine, a walk around Grasmere is as pleasant a stroll as you are likely to find anywhere in the country. In the rain, it is eerily atmospheric, and the trees along the shore at least provide you with a bit of shelter from the rain!
Grasmere can be walked alongside neighbouring Rydal Water to make a circular walk of about five and a half miles. The scenery along this walk is as quintessentially Lakeland as it comes, with the fells rising dramatically from the foot of the lake in every direction. Every time I have done this walk it has absolutely bucketed it down but that has never diminished my enjoyment of it. If you are lucky the sun might come out for five minutes!
Dog friendly rating – 5/5. There is plenty of water on this walk as you would imagine! We actually had to walk away from the lake, and leave Merry swimming around to get him to come out of the lake, he was having so much fun! There is also a woody area by Grasmere with no livestock where Merry has spent many hours charging around following exciting smells and jumping/climbing over fallen logs (he’s part spaniel, part three day eventer). Whatever the weather this is a perfect walk for dog owners – I’d just recommend taking a water proof coat – just in case!.
4. Tarn Hows
Tarn Hows is somewhere I’d always seen people talking about and posting pictures of, but that I’d never managed to get to. We rectified that in February this year on a weekend trip where the weather forecast was a bit too ‘unfavourable’ to head up on to the fells.
This walk had it all – mountain views, a beautiful tarn and an optional detour to the Tom Gill waterfall. The walk around the tarn is a very easy 2 mile circular route starting from the Tarn Hows car park (National Trust members park free, charges apply for non members).
The tarn was originally three smaller natural tarns which were combined to form the single body of water you can see today. The site is an important habitat for a range of species and as such is a designated SSSI. As part of the ongoing conservation on the site, the National Trust graze both Herdwick sheep and Belted Galloway cattle. We only saw the cows on our trip and they definitely weren’t remotely interested in us, I’m sure many readers will be relieved to hear, probably as they see so many people everyday that it’s not that exciting anymore!
The path is level and pretty flat all the way around (not on the detour to the waterfall though), and it is perfect for an easy stroll if you don’t want an arduous trek, but still want nice views. Because it is so accessible it can be pretty busy but it wasn’t too bad when we visited – albeit in-between storms in February!
Dog friendly rating – 4/5. Merry loved this walk! There is a slightly wooded section which offers plenty of exciting smells as well as the chance to have a swim at times. I’ve just knocked off a point as the site can be pretty busy and around livestock leads should be on.
3. Scafell Pike
I couldn’t write a blog called ‘5 Classic Lake District Walks’ and not include Scafell Pike. Probably the most heavily trodden route in the Lake District, England’s highest mountain gets more than its fair share of visitors. As such it’s not my favourite as you do feel a bit like you’re on a conveyor belt with other walkers constantly passing in both directions. However, the views from the summit on a clear day are spectacular and you soon stop worrying about all the other people knocking about!
The most popular route and the one that we did starts from Wasdale Head. Many people assume that as it is so heavily walked, the route to the top is easy and requires no map reading or navigation skills – think again! Wasdale Mountain rescue have a really helpful page dedicated to Scafell Pike which includes maps of the different routes to take and things to bear in mind before setting off, and this is definitely worth a read before heading up the mountain.
Lots of people who hike up Scafell are heading up there as a box ticker for highest mountain in England or as part of the 3 Peaks Challenge. If you want the great views but less people, try neighbouring Great Gable, where the views are almost the same (or better if you follow the route including Kirk Fell) and the summit is nowhere near as crowded.
Dog friendly rating – 3/5. For fit dogs, this is a great walk, but it might be a bit much for older dogs and would definitely be too far for puppies. There is a water crossing on the way which Merry loved splashing around in, but there are also long stretches with no water, (and no shade if you are walking on a hot day), so take something for your dog to drink. There is livestock all the way up and down on this walk so keep your dog on a lead and pick up poos – so many people walk this route that someone is definitely going to step in it if you don’t and it’s the last thing anyone wants at the end of a long hike!
2. Derwentwater Round
Starting from the bustling and popular town of Keswick, the 10 mile Derwentwater round is perfect for those looking for a long walk with great views, but who don’t want a strenuous climb.
I walked this on my own as my first solo hike and it was perfect – if you’re a woman and unsure about starting off on your own like I was – the walk is popular enough that you won’t feel isolated and navigation is pretty easy by making sure you keep the lake to one side! I wasn’t totally alone as Merry accompanied me, as always.
There are lots of interesting features and viewpoints along this walk, including Friar’s Crag, and Lodore Falls can be easily incorporated through a quick detour. Lodore Falls are located just behind the Lodore Falls Hotel and Spa and are a relatively quiet spot, and and this was roughly half way on the circuit I did, It was the perfect place to stop for lunch. The hotel was a bit out of my price range so it was a packed lunch only for me!
Once you arrive back in Keswick, why not call into one of the many dog friendly cafes to recover your energy. Two of my favourites are Java Coffee Shop and Jasper’s Coffee House, both of which are dog friendly. The lovely people at the Java Coffee Shop let me stretch out a hot chocolate and piece of cake for about two hours while I was waiting for Sam at the Keswick checkpoint on the Cumbria Way Ultra, and Jasper’s Coffee House is nowhere near as busy as other coffee shops because it’s not on the main road with all the outdoor shops.
Dog friendly rating – 4/5. There are plenty of sections on this walk where your dog can be let off the lead, as well as lots of swimming spots, so Merry loved this walk. There is a small amount of road walking in places and a few fields with livestock in. However, don’t let this put you off, as this is a fab walk and well worth the effort!
Blencathra, a.k.a. Saddleback, is one of the mostly northerly fells of the Lake District, and we’d driven past it dozens of times before deciding to stop off on our way home at the end of a weekend away last year. And I don’t know why we didn’t do it sooner!
The views from the summit are cracking, and I don’t know if it was just the light on the day we visited of if other people experience the same feeling when they climb Blencathra, but for me it was like looking through a series of windows into other places. On a clear day you can see a number of ranges in the Lakes, the Forest of Bowland, the Cheviots and the distant mountains of Galloway in Scotland. You also get awesome views of the mountain itself on your ascent/descent – we chose not to walk Sharp Edge which meant we got a great view of it on our way down!
Blencathra is a very popular walk, but we chose a less well trodden route starting from Mungrisdale, and we barely saw anyone until we reached the summit itself. Our return via Souther Fell was equally quiet and we only saw one or two fell runners on this path. A similar route to the one we followed is this 11 mile circular walk on Lake District Walks. I have to say this is one of my favourite walks in the Lakes – the views are so varied and ever changing, and away from the summit it’s so quiet you could be a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of peaks like Scafell Pike and Helvellyn.
Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Like the majority of fell walks in the Lake District there are sheep throughout this walk, so keep your dog under close control, preferably on a lead. We did take an extending lead with us on this walk as large sections of the path were flat and grassy, so Merry still got to run up and down, without us having to worry about him chasing any sheep! There was very little water on the route so you will need to carry extra for your dog, especially as this is a bit of a longer walk. I would definitely recommend avoiding Sharp Edge if you are taking your dog on this walk – lots of dogs can and do manage the ridge – but I am always aware with Merry that all it would take is one puddle that looks big enough to swim in at the bottom and I’d be pulled straight down the side!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog today! For those looking for a quieter walk in the Lakes, have a look at my post 5 Undiscovered Lake District Walks. If you don’t want to miss our next post make sure that you subscribe below: