Having lived and worked in the Lake District for many years, I’ve got to know the mountains here pretty well. After all, both my work and leisure time is spent amongst them. To name only five favourite walks feels somewhat challenging and unfair on the many walks that will be left out. Ask me again next week and the answer may be different, but all the walks will be amongst some of the most inspiring and outstandingly beautiful scenery our world offers.
I have included both mountain and valley walks, as not everyone wishes to explore the high summits, and for the cloudy days (yes even here in the English Lake District it’s been known!) the valleys offer shelter from inclement weather and provide ever changing magnificent scenery.
So here goes, five walks, in no particular order that simply cannot fail to delight any landscape lover:
1) The Langdale Pikes
Their profile can be seen from as far away as Yorkshire and is instantly recognisable. Their rugged beauty is captivating, and to walk over and through them is a must. The best starting point is the New Dungeon Ghyll in Langdale. A well-maintained path follows the waterfalls of Stickle Ghyll up to Stickle Tarn. Take a breather here and absorb the landscape. Then take your pick, there’s Pavey Ark, Harrison Stickle, or Pike O’Stickle amongst others. And all of these peaks can be easily linked to create a mountain walk that’s hard to beat. Return to the valley alongside the big waterfalls of Old Dungeon Ghyll and finish the day off with a hot chocolate (or something stronger) in one of the valley pubs.
2) Styhead and Sprinkling tarn
This is a route we often take our clients on and it never fails to impress. Two mountain tarns, both surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery along with history and nostalgia. Start at Seathwaite in the Borrowdale valley and follow the wide track to Stockley bridge, have a paddle in the stream if the day is warm. Take the path on your right that ascends towards Taylor Gill Force. The initial steepness soon lets up and a pleasant path leads to Styhead Tarn, a fine place to rest and take in your surroundings which include Great Gable, Great End, Lingmell, and Scafell Pike. Take the left hand path leading uphill to reach Sprinkling Tarn about 30 minutes further on. Sprinkling tarn has a magical feeling about it, a place to re-energise, connect with the earth, and breath fresh mountain air. From the tarn turn left again, crossing a small stream and follow Ruddy Gill as it flows downstream into the Borrowdale valley. Don’t forget to dip your feet in the stream again on the way down, so refreshing.
3) Watendlath and Dock tarn
I remember being asked some years ago to lead a stag party along this route, it all seemed a bit odd. Stag party, walking in the hills, no pubs for miles! But once en-route I got it. For amount of effort put in, this may well be the most rewarding of any Lakeland walk. Yes initially the ascent has some steep sections, but they are short lived. Start in the tiny hamlet of Stonethwaite in the Borrowdale valley and follow the river to Rosthwaite, here turn right to make the ascent to Watendlath. There is a café and loos at Watendlath. After stopping for a brew, follow a path alongside the Western shores of the tarn and soon begin the ascent into increasingly wild terrain leading to Dock tarn. Bog Myrtle and Bog Asphodel plants flourish here like I haven’t seen anywhere else in the District. From the Southern end of Dock tarn a path follows the stream as it gushes down the hillside and into the Langstrath valley. Once back in the wooded valley follow the river back to Stonethwaite. Tasty lunches are served at the pub here. The stag party indulged at this point!
4) Wallowbarrow Gorge
Having heard much about this route but never actually walked it until this year, I couldn’t imagine what all the fuss was about. With a friend I had planned to go rock climbing on a nearby crag, but rain had put a stop to that. As we had driven into the Duddon valley anyway we thought a walk was in order and so we discovered the Wallowbarrow gorge. Starting in the hamlet of Seathwaite (a different one), deep in the Duddon valley, follow the River Duddon Northwards through ancient woodland to the Fickle Steps (stepping stones). Turn away from the river here and follow a tributary up to Grassguards before heading South over an open landscape commanding fine views over the valley. Descend past the climbing venue of Wallowbarrow crag, see if you can spot the site of Viking Longhouses near the farm below the crag. A good track leads back to Seathwaite.
5) Elterwater and Colwith waterfalls
If a visitor asks advice for a walking route that has it all, this is always my answer. Serene lake, impressive waterfalls, good paths, ancient woodland, 2 great pubs, and even a dash of industrial history. Starting in Elterwater village follow the river downstream to reach Elterwater lake, take a moment to check out the view by the bench, a photo opportunity if ever there was one! Continue along the excellent track to reach a metal bridge by Skelwith Force, cross here and walk through the woodland to reach the open ground of Elterwater Park, the Langdale views open up yet again. A short but steep descent leads down to the River Brathay and the impressive Colwith Force (best viewed during/after heavy rain). Refreshments can be enjoyed at the tea room at High Park, although opening hours are variable. Descend back to the Brathay and if time allows deviate into the Cathedral quarry, locally known as ‘The Black Hole’. This cavern never fails to impress and is equally good on a wet or dry day. When finished in the quarry, cross the river via Slaters Bridge to reach Little Langdale and the Bridleway back to Elterwater. The Britannia Inn has a fine seating area outside, which is well worth a stop.
With thanks to Mark, one of our qualified hiking guides on our yoga retreats to The Lake District. Check out his website here. We travel to The Lake District every Spring and Autumn for a weekend of hiking adventures. Join us!