The mountains of the Lake District offer the most spectacular walking in England. So which are the routes that offer the most thrill, photogenic views and excitement for your buck? These five are a great start...
Helvellyn via Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, Central Fells
There is a reason this is the most famous of all Lake District scrambles. This classic of a mountain day will get you puffing on the climb up to your first ridge of the day. There’s no doubt about it, Striding Edge is a thriller. This grade 1 scramble is enough to require respect, but is wide enough to be a manageable challenge for most. If this route does not get you into scrambling, nothing will. There’s something magical about picking your way through the tangle of rock with careful foot and hand placements that connects you to the mountain. The 12km route reaches the top of Helvellyn at 950m and descends by Swirral Edge, your second ridge of the day.
Catbells, Western Fells
No trip to the Lakes is complete without a quick blast up Catbells. This small peak overlooking Derwent Water provides stunning views of the northern Lakes and is a great introductory hill for beginners to sample their first small steps into mountain walking. Starting from Hawes End, its 451m summit is reached in no time at all, with various options from the top. Even for seasoned hillwalkers, it is a great little hill, oozing with character, with easy access from the A66, for when time is short.
Great Gable, Western Fells
This historic hulk of a mountain can be tackled via many routes, and on a fine day, the views from its 899m summit rival that of any in the Lakes. One superb option for a great mountain day out is the route from Seathwaite via a (usually) easy scramble up Sour Milk Gill path, over the summit of Green Gable and then down from the summit of Great Gable past Sty Tarn, and via the footpath following Taylorgil Force. The mountain has been a training ground for some of the earliest climbers who cut their teeth on classic climbs like Great Gable and Kern Knotts, and every Remembrance Sunday (November) hundreds of people make the ascent for a service held at the summit.
Scafell Pike, South-Western Fells
No list of must do Lakeland walks could omit the highest peak in England. There are many well-trodden routes, some include grade 1 and 2 scrambles, others are just fine mountain walks. Surrounded by peaks, the views are incredible and you can include several summits in one outing. Start at Wasdale Head and you can experience the birthplace of British climbing at The Wasdale Head Inn.
Sharp Edge and Hall’s Fell Ridge, Northern Fells
From Threlkeld in the north of the Lake District you can squeeze two of the Lakes most exciting ridges into a neat 10km walk to remember. Sharp Edge is not that technically difficult and is classed as a grade 1 scramble (the lowest level) but it does require a head for heights! That moment when you pop out on Blencathra (868m) is a feeling like no other and you will go home glowing with a sense of achievement and exhilaration… but if you include Hall’s Fell ridge as your descent , the fun isn’t over yet – this airy ridge isn’t quite so pointy as the first, but it will still have you reaching for the rock. This is a great walk to do if you want to test your mettle and if conditions are good!
SAFETY NOTE: these are challenging walks that require a head for heights and a good level of navigation skill: ensure you have a map, compass, the right clothing and avoid bad weather unless you have the experience .
Pubs and the Lake District go together like... well, we can't think of any combinations that are as good. Finding good food is a little trickier though. So if you're a foodie walker, get yourself along to these classic Lakeland locales after a hard day's trek to see if their fare is worth the fuss...
Kirkstile Inn, Loweswater
This traditional hostelry is the epitome of a cosy Lakeland inn and perfect for a post-walk pint and meal, with its open fire, award-winning beer and hearty food. The Kirkstile was a finalist in CAMRA’s Pub of the Year 2016, and is fabulously positioned in the north-west of the Lakes, and is a great base for easy access to many classic hillwalking locations. You can stay from £53 per night.
The Old Stamp House, Ambleside
The Old Stamp House in Ambleside is earning a bit of a reputation despite being a relative newcomer, with rave reviews locally and nationally. You can sample the best of what Cumbria has to offer with its Taste of Cumbria menu, which is £50 a head for five courses.
The George, Keswick
The legendary Cow Pie at The George in Keswick has over 1000 rave reviews on TripAdvisor. They are gigantic and hit the spot after a hard day in the hills, even the half portion is a hearty meal. If you’re not into meaty treats, there are loads of veggie options too – just make sure you arrive hungry.
The Drunken Duck, Barngates
Indulge yourself with some top-nosh, Drunken Duck-style. Situated not too far from Ambleside, the quirky, rustic decor is the perfect setting for its highly acclaimed food and is the perfect treat after an energetic day for those looking for something a little more refined.
Gate Inn, Yanwath
This 17th century Lakeland country inn has finally reopened after the Cumbrian floods of 2016 and is back to serving quality food in its friendly, cosy atmosphere. Situated just off the M6 in the tiny village of Yanwath, it’s a great little find for a fireside pint, oak beams, romantic nooks, candlelight, or a sunlit cottage garden.