5 great autumn walks in the Lake District
- Credit: Archant
With the countryside turning stunning shades of red and gold, this is probably the best time to pull on your boots and go for a heavenly hike.
Who can fail to be moved by Lakeland’s sublime spectacle of autumn colours?
Scientists may explain it away with biochemical reactions, using mystifying words such as carotenoids and xanthophylls, but nothing can dilute the magic of a walk on a cool, crisp autumn morning when, all around, the previously green countryside is turning red, gold, yellow and bronze.
Throughout the national park, an already inspiring landscape takes on an almost surreal beauty. Ask a dozen people to name the best places for viewing this display, and you’ll get at least a dozen different answers. These are just a few of my personal favourites.
Kelly Hall Tarn and Coniston Water
Easily reached from Torver, Kelly Hall Tarn lies hidden on low moorland above Coniston Water and is a superb spot from which to view the nearby mountains, including Dow Crag and the Old Man. Beyond the tarn, the seven-mile walk continues across the moorland, where the greens of summer have been replaced by shades of gold and ochre. Dropping to the shores of the lake, an easy stroll leads north, in and out of tranquil woodland.
After flirting with the edge of Coniston village, the walk then picks up the route of a disused railway and follows this almost all the way back to Torver.
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Claife Heights and Windermere Shore
This area is beautiful at any time of the year, but it’s particularly spectacular on a clear, autumn day when the trees are going through their annual metamorphosis and the views are genuinely breathtaking.
For a good, 10-mile leg-stretcher, start from Hawkshead and follow a meandering route through the forest to Wise Een Tarn and Moss Eccles Tarn, a favourite haunt of the children’s writer Beatrix Potter. Dropping to Windermere’s wooded western shore – a tranquil contrast to the other side of the lake – the walk then heads north and climbs little Latterbarrow for one of the finest and most far-reaching viewpoints in this part of the Lakes.
Loweswater Corpse Road
Is there another walk in Lakeland that provides so much reward for so little effort? The hike up on to the ancient route once used to transport coffins and then back through Holme Wood along the southwest shore of the lake is 5.5 miles long and involves just 890ft of ascent.
For this you get open fell, amazing scenery, woods and lake. Oh! and, if you’re quiet, you might just spot red squirrels storing up food for the winter. Don’t forget to take a picnic too – there’s a bench almost half-way through the walk where you can sit and enjoy an elevated view across the lake to mighty Grasmoor.
Circuit of Loughrigg Fell
This one isn’t just about woods; it’s about the ever-changing autumnal views that accompany the circuit of Loughrigg Fell. Yes, the route passes in and out of trees, and, at one stage, it looks down on the colourful canopy of the woods around Grasmere, but the fell views are also extra special at this time of the year, particularly as the dying bracken turns the lower slopes a beautiful bronze, briefly redeeming itself for being the walkers’ most hated enemy all through the summer.
Set off from Ambleside and, for the best views, walk the seven-mile route in a clockwise direction.
A Borrowdale Ramble
No autumn visit to Lakeland would be complete without a walk in Borrowdale where ancient woods cling to the steep fellsides and spill over the banks of the River Derwent. These are the precious remnants of an immense oakwood that once cloaked Europe’s Atlantic coast.
The sessile oak is one of the most common species but other native trees can be found, including birch, holly, hazel and alder, all adding their own unique contribution to the valley’s amazing pallet of colours. A 10-mile, undulating route from Rosthwaite takes in many highlights, including Castle Crag (951ft), the shores of Derwentwater, the Lodore Falls, remote Watendlath and the River Derwent.
Vivienne Crow is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer, specialising in all things to do with the outdoors. She has written more than a dozen guides to Cumbria and the Lake District.
All the walks mentioned here are described in full in Vivienne’s book, Lake District: High Level and Fell Walks. Priced £9.99, it includes detailed route directions for 30 graded walks, OS mapping, colour photographs and information about facilities en route. Available in shops, tourist information centres and online.