Last updated November 2021.
I was one year old the first time I set foot in the Lake District National Park. I grew up in Preston, a mere one hour drive from the Southern lakes, and was taken to the Lakes at least once a year throughout my childhood.
It is a special place I have visited without fail at least once a year ever since.
With over 15 million people visiting the Lake District, it is the UK’s most popular National Park, and for good reason. Incredible scenery, hidden tarns, fresh air, great walks, cosy pubs selling local food and real ale, and more mountains than you can shake a stick at.
For me, if you like the outdoors, like hiking and enjoy the countryside, visiting the Lake District is a no brainer, regardless whether it is summer, spring, winter or autumn.
Over the last few weeks I’ve spoken to a few friends and fellow travel bloggers who have never been to the Lake District, and aren’t really sure where to begin. So I thought it was long overdue that I wrote about one of my favourite places, and gave you a list of nine fantastic Lake District walks for beginners.
WHY HAVE I CHOSEN THESE LAKE DISTRICT WALKS?
You’ll find quite a few articles online that list various walks for Lake District newbies. I’ve compiled this list based on my own memories and experiences, but ensuring every hike takes into account the following:
- Each walk takes in special views
- Each walk includes some height gain (but not too much)
- Each walk will not push you out of your comfort zone if you’re worried about fitness and map reading
- Each walk goes past a pub (sometimes two pubs)
- Each walk is close to a river, tarn or lake
- Each walk is based close to the main towns of Ambleside and Keswick, which will help for accommodation options and transport links
MAPS AT THE READY
Although the walks listed below have links with maps attached, I would always advise walkers to buy a map of the area they are walking in, and have it with them during the hike. Don’t rely on your phone to get you out of trouble.
These are the maps I would recommend, depending on which beginner walks you want to do:
- OS Explorer OL4 Map (Keswick & North Western Region) – http://amzn.to/2bXX7jh
- OS Explorer OL7 Map (Ambleside & South Eastern Region) – http://amzn.to/2c4JNpb
- Waterproof, Bigger Scale, Covers All Areas Awesome BMC Map – http://amzn.to/2cgUXdN
LAKE DISTRICT BEGINNER WALKS – AMBLESIDE
These first few walks begin in or around Ambleside. Located in the South Lakes, Ambleside is easily accessible by bus, car or train, and has loads of accommodation options, from hotels, bed and breakfasts, Airbnb’s and an amazing couple of youth hostels. There are also plenty of shops, pubs and restaurants in Ambleside too, so it’s the perfect place to start your Lake District experience.
The highlighted areas on the map below show the suggested walks.
|Highlighted areas show the two beginner walks near Ambleside|
1. WANSFELL PIKE (482m)
- Summary: Great views back over Ambleside and across Lake Windermere
- Height Gain: 482m
- Walking Guide: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/townend/trails/ambleside-to-troutbeck-and-back-via-wansfell
- Distance & Time: 6 miles (4 – 5 hours)
Whenever I’m in Ambleside, this is always the walk of choice for a lazy morning or afternoon. When the weather is clear the views from the top of Wansfell Pike are incredible. The walk also takes in Troutbeck village and the Waterhead pub, located on the shores of Lake Windermere.
|The views over Lake Windermere from Wansfell Pike. Photo source: Gastropig.wordpress.com|
2. LOUGHRIGG FELL (335m)
- Summary: Great views back over Lake Windermere. Includes farm tracks, a tarn, Rydal caves and ancient woodland
- Height Gain: 335m
- Walking Guide: https://www.walklakes.co.uk/walk_141.html
- Distance & Time: 6.5 miles (4 – 5 hours)
This is another great little walk, with great views and lots of variation, from farm tracks and country lanes to boggy fields and a contouring terrace. Great as an early morning or afternoon walk!
|Views from Loughrigg Fell. Photo source – Andrewswalks.co.uk|
|Rydal caves. Photo source – Andrewswalks.co.uk|
LAKE DISTRICT BEGINNER WALKS – KESWICK
Keswick is located in the North Lakes, and is a picturesque, idyllic town. It’s one of my favourite places in the Lake District. From here you can hike up hills big and small. The town was closed for much of 2016 due to awful flooding, but now it’s back in full swing, with pubs, bars, shops, cafes, restaurants and museums all bustling once more.
The highlighted areas on the map below show the suggested walks.
3. CATBELLS (451m)
- Summary: One of the most iconic Lake District beginners walks. Takes in the views of Derwent Water, Castlerigg Fell and the Borrowdale Fells
- Height Gain: 451m
- Walking Guide: https://www.walklakes.co.uk/walk_26.html
- Distance & Time: 4 miles (2 – 3 hours)
Speak to anyone about which mountain you should hike first in the Lake District and more often that not Catbells will come in in conversation. To say it’s a simple walk doesn’t do it justice. It’s fantastic. The map link advises you drive to it’s base and park in one of the many lay-bys (one of the reasons it is so popular), but you can walk the extra 5 miles (2.5 miles each way) from Keswick if you’re feeling sprightly.
|The views looking North towards Keswick from Catbells. Photo source Sunsetsandseas.|
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4. LATRIGG (368m)
- Summary: Located directly North of Keswick, Latrigg is a short with a steady height gain that provides fantastic views over Keswick and Derwentwater.
- Height Gain: 368m
- Walking Guide: https://www.walklakes.co.uk/walk_4.html
- Distance & Time: 4 miles (2.5 – 3 hours)
There are many variations of this route – some shorter, and some longer (which take in the old Keswick Railway Route). I’ve chosen the middle length of 4 miles. Perfect for a quick walk and great views.
|Views over Keswick from Latrigg. Photo source Freenorthchurch.org|
5. CASTLE CRAG (290m)
- Summary: Includes a war memorial, Peace How and amazing views of the flat valley bed that was formerly the bottom of an Ice Age lake.
- Height Gain: 290m
- Walking Guide: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/borrowdale-and-derwent-water/trails/borger-dalr-geology-walk-borrowdale
- Distance & Time: 4 miles (3 hours)
This is more of a lowland walk, but still has fantastic scenery, and gives you more of a glimpse into Borrowdale. The area was described by Alfred Wainwright as ‘the finest square mile in Lakeland’ – need I say more.
|The rocky, scenic Castle Crag. Photo source – Carlislecameraclub.co.uk|
6. ROSTHWAITE & WATENDLATH (436m)
- Summary: Discover oak woodland mountain tarns and a hamlet that sounds like it should be in Game Of Thrones.
- Height Gain: 436m
- Walking Guide: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/borrowdale/trails/rosthwaite-round-fells-tarn-and-beck-walk
- Distance & Time: 5 miles (3 hours)
This is a lovely little circular walk around Rosthwaite and Watendlath, as well as taking in Great Crag. This one involves a short drive from Keswick, but is well worth it for a morning or afternoon walk.
|The path towards Watendlath Beck. Photo source – Andrewswalks.co.uk|
7. CASTLERIGG (BLEABERRY) FELL (590m)
- Summary: Loads of highlights, from the scenic Ashness Bridge, the hike of Wall Crag and the views from the top
- Height Gain: 590m
- Walking Guide: https://www.walklakes.co.uk/walk_189.html
- Distance & Time: 6 miles (3 – 4 hours)
The biggest height gain of all the walks so far, Castlerigg Crag is a distinct fell South of Keswick. It takes in some of the regions best known features and places including Walla Crag and Ashness Bridge, and has cracking views of Derwent Water. If you’re feeling sprightly, you could extend the walk by an extra 4km and take on another peak in High Seat (608m).
|Views from the top of Castlerigg Fell. Photo source – 50Peaks|
|Ashness Bridge – my late grandfathers favourite bridge. You can see why! Photo source: E-Group.UK.net|
I’M A BEGINNER, BUT A FIT & EXPERIENCED HIKER
Granted, this post has been designed for both Lake District and hiking beginners. So what if you’re not a hiking beginner and are simply new to the Lake District and don’t know where to start? I’ve got you covered with two absolute peaches.
8. BLENCATHRA (868m)
- Summary: One of the most famous Lake District mountains. A good climb, with a variety of routes up and down.
- Height Gain: 868m
- Walking Guide: https://www.walklakes.co.uk/walk_40.html
- Distance & Time: 5.5 miles (4 – 4.5 hours)
This was my walk last Sunday. Slightly hungover from too much ale, we took the direct, steep and ever so slightly dangerous Hall’s Crag route up. I won’t like, there are some difficult sections on this route up, and it is dangerous in parts, so I would recommend taking the path up from the West of the mountain (Blease Fell), and descending down either Doddick Fell or Scales Fell. Either way, it’s a great climb with incredible views looking South over pretty much the entire Lake District.
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9. CONISTON OLD MAN (803m)
- Summary: From the scenic town of Coniston, through old quarry workings, past a heart shaped tarn and views over Coniston and Coniston Water to finish.
- Height Gain: 803m
- Walking Guide: https://www.walklakes.co.uk/walk_2.html
- Distance & Time: 4 miles (3 – 4 hours)
Another mountain I bagged this year for the first time since I was in my teens. Starting in Coniston, you walk past several pubs, Church Beck (where you can go canyoning) then up and around Coniston Old Man, through some old quarry workings and finally endure a scramble to the top. Well worth it to bag a great mountain.
|At the summit of Coniston Old Man back in May|
There you have it – my nine top Lake District walks for beginners! Are there any others you think I should add to the list? And if you’re using this list as a guide, let me know how you get on 🙂
Oooh, and if you’re not sure what to pack for your Lake District trip, check out my packing list!