The Lake District by Ramble Guides
In our continued series on the UK's national parks, Ramble Guides share an abridged version of their guide to the Lake District.
Words & photography: Courtesy of Ramble Guides
The Lake District
I remember the first time I visited the Lake District. I didn’t have much idea of where to go or what to do, I just loaded my car with tent, boots and dog and headed northwards. It was late evening as I drove into the Langdale Valley; golden hour when sun beams reflect in your rear-view mirror, blinding you with beauty. My eyes were drawn to the hills; peaks and pikes shrouded in a soft blanket of pale pink light, winding roads edged by dry-stone walls, grazing sheep, pure air. It was the first of many trips, and even more still to come. I’m sure it would take a lifetime to visit all the secret corners and crevices of the entire Lake District, but this Ramble Guide is designed to direct you to the places we feel make this part of the world so special. We’re still exploring, so the guide is updated regularly!
Consisting of 855 square miles of protected land; rugged hills, softly flowing streams, glittering tarns and wide open lakes. The Lake District is Britain’s most popular National Park, a place to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life and live slow for a while.
Indeed, phone service is sparse here and there are no major towns or cities within the park - the closest being Carlisle and Lancaster to the north and south respectively.
The Lakes have a vibrant outdoor-adventure scene, with climbing, hiking, camping, fishing, cycling and water-sports all popular and easily accessible. Adding to that a number of pretty villages and towns, country pubs, cosy cafes and artisan restaurants, as well as a strong literary and cultural scene, and the English Lake District certainly becomes the perfect place to escape for a weekend. The Lake District is well connected by train services from all over the UK; only three hours from London to Windermere (via Lancaster) and two hours from Manchester. So pack your bags and head to this beautiful natural space in the corner of England, a place where time goes slow and the weight of the world feels so very far away.
Langdale Pikes - Hike
The Langdale Pikes is one of the most popular walks in the Lake District, covering eight miles of ground and a total of eight fells: Pavey Ark, Pike of Stickle, Harrison Stickle, Thunacar Knott, High Raise, Sergeant Man, Tarn Crag and Blea Crag. Starting from Dungeon Ghyll, this is a strenuous walk that begins with a steep ascent to the 2000ft summit of Pavey Ark, before continuing over the remaining fells and descending into the stunning Langdale Valley. Craggy hilltops, open moors and a patchwork valley down below, the Langdale Pikes is an incredible, must-do hike in the Langdale area of the Lake District.
Getting there: From Ambleside, head towards Great Langdale and park in the pay and display carpark at New Dungeon Ghyll to begin the hike.
Hike: This is an 8 mile strenuous walk which can be followed by using OS map OL7 Lake District, South East.
Gear: Wear walking boots and bring a warm jacket and raincoat as the weather can be unpredictable at any time of year atop the Pikes.
Blea Tarn - Site/Walk
Mountains upon mountains. On a still and clear day, you’ll be lucky enough to see a perfect reflection of the Langdale Pikes projected into Blea Tarn, and it is a sight that will certainly take your breath away. This little tarn at the foot of the hills is a highlight of the Lake District and also one of the most easily accessible spots, with a carpark on the adjacent road. It is a gentle walk around the tarn, or head up the hillside to Side Pike for a more strenuous walk with views across to the Pikes and looking down on the tarn.
Getting there: From Ambleside, follow the A593 before taking a narrow road to the right towards the tarn. The carpark is on the right-hand side.
Food & Drink: Bring plenty of food and water on the walk, on your return both the Old Dungeon Ghyll and New Dungeon Ghyll have plenty of options for hungry hikers. The National Trust cafe and bar at Stickle Barn has a great variety of food and drinks.
Homeground Coffee + Kitchen - Cafe
Located in the town of Windermere, Homeground Coffee + Kitchen is the perfect cosy cafe serving specialty coffee, an extensive all-day brunch and light lunch menu, and one of the best cake selections we've come across.
Everything is made in-house - from the jams to the sauces - and ingredients are sourced from local farms and traders. Stop for breakfast before a hike or sit outside on a sunny day and enjoy a coffee and generous portion of Homeground cake.
Getting there: Windermere is situated just off the A591 at the southern end of the Lake District. There is roadside pay & display parking, or park at Broad Street carpark, just round the corner from the cafe; £3 for 2 hours. There is a train station in Windermere with direct train service from Lancaster.
Opening times: Open 9-5 everyday. Kitchen open 9-3 weekdays and 9-4 weekends. Visit the website for more information.
Dove Crag via Low Pike and High Pike - Hike
Starting from the village of Ambleside, there are a number of walks ascending into the hills. The most famous would be the Fairfield Horseshoe, an 11-mile strenuous hike that ascends Low Pike, High Pike, Dove Crag and Hart Crag, before returning over Great Rigg, Heron Pike and Nab Scar, through Rydal and back to Ambleside. We take you as far as Dove Crag, where you then have the option to complete the full Horseshoe or return back to Ambleside via Sweden Bridge.
Climbing out of the village, views back onto Lake Windermere and the surrounding hills become clear and are truly breathtaking. The walk follows a craggy ridgeline in the heart of the hills, a fairly gradual ascent with some more difficult sections. Cairnstones mark the summit of Dove Crag. Descending via Sweden Bridge is gentle and sheltered, or continue to complete the full Horseshoe.
Getting there: Ambleside sits on the A591 and is easy to reach from the M6. If getting the train to Windermere, it is then possible to take a bus to Ambleside.
Hike: Information on the full Fairfield Horseshoe can be found here. Or follow the route as far as Dove Crag, then take a path to the right that descends down the hillside. Take another right over the stile and walk through the valley towards Sweden Bridge then back to Ambleside. Use OS Maps OL5 & OL7.
Gear: We’d recommend boots for this hike as the terrain is rough at times. Definitely bring a windproof coat and warm clothing as the weather can be unpredictable when high up.
Food & Drink: Bring plenty of food and drink for the hike. Ambleside has a wide selection of cafes and pubs upon your return.
Old Man of Coniston - Hike
The Old Man of Coniston is one of the Lake District’s most iconic hikes, and it’s not hard to see why. Technically classified as a mountain, the Old Man sits tall at 2,634ft and requires just under four miles of hiking to reach the summit. It is a varied walk, beginning in Coniston village before arriving at the beautiful Coppermines area. Once you reach Low Water, the feeling of being truly surrounded by mountains sets in. The remainder of the walk is steep and follows rough terrain, but views from the summit are spectacular. There are a number of paths you can follow to descend.
Getting there: Park in Coniston village. Hike: Use OS Map OL6.
Gear: Bring a warm jacket even in the summer as the weather can be unpredictable. We’d recommend walking boots due to the rough terrain heading towards the summit.
Food & Drink: Bring plenty of food and water for the walk, there are a number of cafes and pubs in Coniston on your return.