Walking in England’s Lake District

Over the late May bank holiday weekend, Catherine and I rented a car and headed north for some six hours to the Lake District, England’s largest national park. It’s a beautiful part of the country with the mountainous landscape being very different to anything I had seen before in England.

Given the popularity of the area, there are hundreds of BnB’s, along with a few camping options, and we decided to base ourselves at Syke Farm in the tiny village of Buttermere. Situated at the lake’s edge, it’s a lovely campsite in a super location and at £8/person/night about as affordable as you’ll find anywhere in England.

On our first day we headed around the Lake and up Haystacks and Fleetwith Pike. Both offered views all the way up and we particularly enjoyed our picnic at the top of Fleetwith with its super view over the lake.

Buttermere Lake from the summit of Haystacks
Buttermere Lake from the summit of Haystacks

After coffee back at our tent and a little rest, we drove over Newlands Pass and made our way up the steep Knott Rigg and the more gentle Ard Grags. It had been a little cloudy for most of the day all but those cleared in the early evening and it turned into a beautifully warm evening as we made our way along the ridge, with a view over the valley, and a loop back to our car. We found the village’s only pub and sat in the warm sunshine enjoying cold beers before making our way home once the sun had set.

The next morning we drove an hour to  Nether Wasdale and walked to Wasdale Head, the base for walks up both Scaffel Pike (the country’s highest peak at 978m) and Great Gable. Though you could park at Wasdale Head, the 8 km walk along the edge of Wastwater Lake offered a fantastic view of Great Gable; a view voted the country’s best in a 2007 poll! It was an absolutely beautiful day with a temperature in the low 20s and a few light clouds about.

England's favourite view! Great Gable is to the right
England’s favourite view! Great Gable is to the right

Wanting to avoid the crowds, we skipped Scaffell Pike and made our way up Great Gable, a tough five hour climb (perhaps more so because of the three hours we had already covered). It’s not a walk that rewards you with views going up plus it’s tough going walking on loose stones. All that’s forgotten, though, when you’re on the summit admiring the 360 degree view with Wastwater Lake, the sea and in the distance the Isle of Man to one direction, Scafell Pike in another and various other summits mountains in all other directions.

Thankfully we hitch-hiked back to our car and wearily made our way home!

Atop Great Gable!
Atop Great Gable!
Great Gable – far steeper than it looks!

On our final full day we were back in the car driving 30 minutes just past Keswick to climb Blencathra. It was a beautifully clear and bright morning as we set off but the clouds moved in very suddenly, reminding us how quickly the weather can change. And also how incredibly lucky we had been as it frequently rains here.

Climbing Blencathra is a lovely and easy-going walk that first takes you to a beautiful tarn at the base of the mountain. The push up to the summit from here is steep in parts but less so than Great Gable and on far friendlier firmer terrain. While the valley was in view from the summit, above that the blanket of cloud hanging over the mountains meant we weren’t able to enjoy the ‘full view’ unfortunately. We were back at the car some 4.5 hours after setting off and headed into town for a coffee and some cake.

Our legs had one final climb in them and after pottering around Keswick for a few hours we made our way to Hawes End to climb Cat Bells. Though it may be a little mountain (450m) and a gentle one hour climb, it offered perhaps the best view of our weekend over Derwentwater Lake.

Perhaps the best view we had - from the summit of Cat Bells
Perhaps the best view we had – from the summit of Cat Bells

We headed back to Buttermere for a delicious pub dinner and made our way back to London in the morning. It was a wonderful few days and I’m looking forward to exploring more of the park on future trips. I doubt we’ll enjoy such fine weather when we do return but you never know!


1 Comment
  1. posted by
    Sep 21, 2017 Reply

    Sounds like you lucked out with the weather! Cheers for the tips – beautiful area!

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