Growing up a mere 20-minute drive from the tip of the southern Lake District is one thing I will always be thankful for. As a child, I spent every free weekend, the Easter holidays, and most of the summer there, hiking the Wainwright’s, swimming, rock climbing and eating picnics with my family. My sister and I loved it, it is such a beautiful and unique place, a lot of our most special childhood and teenage year memories are there. Come rain or shine – this was our church. Every Sunday for years, my mum and dad would get up early, pack corned beef sandwiches and crisps, a flask of sweet coffee, and off we would go! To this day it is still the most special place to me, and I urge everyone to go at least once, although it is pretty impossible not to want to return. For that reason, I want to share my love for the Lakes and the bit of insider knowledge I’ve gained for anyone planning their trip, check out my tips below!
WALK A WAINWRIGHT
For those of you who don’t know who Alfred Wainwright is, he created hand-drawn pictorial guidebooks for over 200 fells across Cumbria, each with beautiful illustrations, information of the area and maps. The books became the definitive guides to the Lakes and are still in use to this day. Choose from 214 fells in ranging difficulty and get rewarded with amazing views and a real sense of accomplishment. Experienced hikers who want a challenge can opt for Helvellyn, Blencathra, Fairfield, or Scafell Pike. For those who want a slightly easier time with the same outcome choose The Old Man of Coniston, Catbells or Loughrigg Fell.
Some of my other favourite walks include Tarn Hows, a picturesque tarn near Hawkshead, Orrest Head in Windermere, Wainwrights first ever walk with a viewpoint at the top looking over the length of Lake Windermere below, Thirlmere, a ten-mile round walk of a stunning and secluded reservoir, and Gummers How, one of the ‘Outlying Fells’ Wainwright listed that are all separate to the original 214.
VISIT THE ART TRAILS IN GRIZEDALE FOREST
Grizedale Forest is a vast woodland area cared for by Forestry England with miles of forest, hills, tarns and tonnes to do! Mountain biking and cycling are very popular here, as is the Tree Tops obstacle course and GoApe zip line. My favourite thing about Grizedale is the art trails – with around 50 pieces of fantastic art across the park for you to find on your walks. Dating back to the late 70’s it’s been an ongoing project with artists, and some from my childhood are still standing today. The Ancient Forester and Lady of the Water are my personal favourites! If you are looking for a walk here, Moor Top and Bogle Crag are great choices.
SWIM IN LAKELAND WATER (WEATHER DEPENDANT!)
The shores of Coniston water are where we spent the majority of our summer afternoons growing up. The perfect day started or ended with a dip in the pool, we took huge picnics, our own dinghy, and fold-able furniture set up camp for the day and played until the sun went down. Other great locations are the plunge pools of Tilberthwaite Gill, a picturesque river to the west of Coniston, and Loughrigg Tarn. Bear in mind the lakes here are always refreshingly chilled, even during summer, so during Winter, this is a no-go!
If swimming isn’t your bag hiring boats or other water sport activities are so fun and a great way to spend the day. My favourite is getting a boat from Coniston and spending an hour being your own captain!
Cumbria and the Lake District have some great breweries and distilleries, and a lot of the country pubs will have this on sale ready for you. The Hawkshead Brewery offers a core range of classic beers, with a beer hall and tours on offer if you decide to visit. My favourite gin comes from The Lakes Distillery, a delicious Rhubarb & Rosehip Liqueur! You can find these and many more in copious pubs and restaurants across the region with my standouts being Chester’s by the River, The Beech Hill Hotel, The Angel Inn and The Drunken Duck Inn.
TAKE IN SOME HISTORY
Hodge Close offers breathtaking, but knee-knocking, views down a 150 ft sheer drop to the blue water, flooded mine system below. The area gives you a real insight into the industrial history, surrounded by easy walks through woodland up to a small tarn and even has a route down into the open cave mouth complete with old mine cart railway tracks (careful as this is steep and can be slippery). Nowadays you can spot brave abseilers working their way from one side of the quarry to another, or divers exploring the 150 ft deep tunnels underwater.
If you are a fan of literature, you will love Hill Top Farm located between Coniston and Windermere, and Dove Cottage in Grasmere. One of Britain’s most famous poets William Wordsworth fell in love with the Lakes and moved to Dove Cottage in the 1700’s – it is now open to the public complete with a museum and freedom to explore the beautiful gardens too. Hill Top Farm is where the beloved author Beatrix Potter lived and wrote many of her classic stories, using the surrounding farm and countryside as her inspiration. It’s easy to see why they both loved this place so much!
IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER:
– Plan your walks and tell people your route – if you are venturing on a long or strenuous hike, let someone know your planned journey. It is easy to get turned around in the more secluded areas, and the weather can change on the peaks really quickly so letting people know where you went allows them to make sure you turn up home again!
– Drive if you can – public transport in this area can be rare if at all, so the best way to experience it is to drive. As this is a National Park, a lot of the car parks require payment, so make sure to bring plenty of change with you.
– Suitable clothing – just because it is summer doesn’t mean you won’t get caught in a sudden downpour! My advice would be to always pack a spare pair of socks, a lightweight raincoat for summer, and a hat to suit the season. Winter can be bitterly cold so wrap up warm and bring extra layers in your backpack.
– Invest in some hiking boots – the proper footwear is really vital here. Trying to climb a mountain in a pair of Converse is asking for a slip and slide so always wear something with plenty of traction and preferably waterproof.
– Hydration – pack plenty to drink for your walks and don’t forget your picnic or some high energy snacks for any long excursions. Make sure you take your litter home with you if there are no bins! Let’s help keep this fantastic place clean!
The Lakes has so much to offer that these tips just touch the surface! I always look forward to heading back to where my heart belongs, and am sure I will share more in the future!
Let me know in the comments if you’d like to visit the Lake District! Or if you have already – what was your highlight?