5 great lakeside walks in the Lake District
- Credit: Viv Crow
There are sixteen different lakes within the national park, all surrounded by stunning landscapes. Vivienne Crow selects her favourite five,
It’s hard to say why so many of us find walking beside the water irresistible. Whether it’s the sea, a river or a humble canal, the mere idea of ambling along within sight of that sparkling blue mass makes me, and no doubt many others, giddy with anticipation. In the Lakes we have the added bonus of those long ribbons of water being surrounded by the most beautiful scenery England has to offer.
While high fells tower over water-filled valleys, wildlife comes to feed or make its home along the lakes’ wooded shores. The lakeside walks here are five of the best.
As with Windermere, Coniston Water’s best side is, for walkers at least, its west shore. A road runs along the eastern shore, while, on the opposite side, the only ‘traffic’ you’ll encounter are sheep and the occasional backpacker attempting the Cumbria Way.
You could catch the boat from Coniston village to the Sunny Bank jetty and then stroll back, watching birds flit from tree to tree along the water’s edge. For a more interesting circular walk though, consider combining the lakeside path from Coniston with the track-bed of the disused Furness Railway branch line, a walk of about six miles if you get as far as Torver.
Watched over by Borrowdale’s craggy fells and with a shoreline cloaked in ancient woodland, the ‘Queen of the Lakes’ is surely one of Lakeland’s most regal bodies of water.
Smaller than Ullswater, the full lake circuit is about nine miles, and, if you’re feeling tired or you get distracted by the many potential refreshment stops on the way round, you can always cut the walk short by catching the boat from one of the Keswick Launch piers. Starting from Keswick, the walk leads in and out of the trees, along the edge of peaceful bays, over wildlife-filled wetlands and across stony beaches with incredible views.
Completing a lake circuit is always a blissful thing, but Ennerdale Water in the western Lake District has some particularly special charms. The views, as you head deeper into the valley, are of magnificent, craggy mountains; the diverse woodland is sumptuous, and full of birds and other wildlife; and, with there being no public road through Ennerdale, the valley is relatively quiet.
The full circuit is seven miles of pure, almost uninterrupted joy, the only difficulty coming below Anglers’ Crag where the route involves a short clamber on bare rock – something that nervous walkers might find a little off-putting.
Windermere’s western shore
While a busy road hugs the eastern side of Windermere, the western shore is a place of calm and tranquillity. Here, the slopes leading down to the water’s edge are draped in dense woodland – the leaves of deciduous trees tickling the surface of England’s longest lake.
One of the best ways to experience this serene shore is to buy the Windermere Lake Cruises’ ‘Walkers’ Ticket’ available from April until the end of October. This takes you from the eastern shore across to Wray Castle. You can then walk south for four miles to Ferry House and catch two boats back to your starting point.
Ullswater is my personal favourite. There’s something very alluring about the way this serpentine body of water draws you in, pulling you ever closer to the fells. Heading south-west from Pooley Bridge, where bucolic geniality is the order of the day, the scenery becomes steadily more ostentatious.
Before you know it, the gentle slopes of the north-eastern end are forgotten and the mountains are crowding in, their crags tumbling right down to the water’s edge in places. For a full, 20-mile circuit, try the well-waymarked Ullswater Way. Do it in one go or spread it over three or four days using the Ullswater ‘Steamers’ or local buses.
Vivienne Crow is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer, specialising in the outdoors.
She has written more than a dozen guides to Cumbria and the Lake District, including Lake District: Low Level and Lake Walks and Lake District: High Level and Fell Walks (Cicerone, £9.99 each).
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