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A complete guide to the Lake District National Park, England

Updated On 14th April, 2021

The Lake District National Park is without a doubt one of the best places to visit in England, it’s even a strong contender for the best places to visit in the UK.

If you’re the type of traveller that seeks mountain and lake adventures, The Lake District is going to be right up your street. I’ve been 3 or 4 times now and, despite the very English weather I’ve experienced there (rain), it’s not taken away from the beauty and fun I’ve had in this UK National Park.

In this Lake District National Park travel guide I am going to share with you the best places to stay in the Lake District, the best things to do in the Lake District and my favourite adventures so far.

From picking up fresh (world famous) gingerbread in the tiny village of Grasmere, hiking Englands highest mountain – Scafell Pike and kayaking across the stunning Lake Windermere… all the way to completing the Via Ferrata extreme at Honister Slate Mine and tucking up in a cosy glamping pod in Castlerigg – my time in the Lake District has been nothing short of adventurous!

If you’re planning a visit to the Lake District in 2021, keep an eye out for annual events such as: Keswick mountain festival and Keswick Jazz festival in May, the Derwent water regatta in July, Solfest in August and Ullswater walking festival in September!

Other Lake District guides on my blog with example weekend itineraries for you:

A 3-day adventure in the Lake District

Lake District National Park: my complete guide

Where is the Lake District National Park?

If you came here wondering ‘where is Lake District National Park’, ‘where is the Lake District’, or ‘what does a map of Lake District National Park look like’ you’re in the right place. The Lake District National Park is in the north-west corner of England, in Cumbria. It is one of the most popular National Parks in the UK. At 2,362 km² it’s the biggest National Park in England (and the second biggest in the UK, after the Scottish Highlands). 

To drive to the Lake District, it’s about five hours from London and the South East, 1.5 hours from Manchester and two hours from York. If you’re using a Sat Nav, pop in the postcode of your accommodation or one of these car parks.

 However, it’s recommended to take get to the Lake District by public transport to avoid congestion and pollution. National Express and Stagecoach run buses to the Lake District from all over the UK. The West Coast train line connects the Lake District to London and Glasgow, and there are also direct trains from Manchester. Book your train tickets online on thetrainline.com. 

Check out this map of the Lake District to see where in England it is:

The best things to do in the Lake District

Where to stay in the Lake District National Park:

Where to stay in the Lake District really depends on what type of accommodation you’re looking for, and where you want to be based. There are loads of options, but here are a couple of places I’ve stayed in the Lake District that I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Hostel:

YHA Ambleside (LA22 0EU) is located right on the shore of the lake with stunning views for all to see – also the perfect location for fun outdoor activities in the area. The hostel has 249 beds spread across three floors, with a restaurant, terrace and jetty all onsite.

Hotel:

Linthwaite House is a gorgeous boutique countryside hotel and restaurant with views over Lake Windermere. It was a stunning place to retreat after a day of adventure in the countryside.

A traditional, elegant English property with Hunter wellies lined up at the door and the sound of open fires crackling from within different rooms. The interior was quirky with indulgent leopard print backed chairs, art books laid on side tables and chandeliers gracing the ceilings but the atmosphere was ambient and very welcoming.

Check out booking.com or Airbnb for more hotels or apartments in the area.

Camping and glamping in the Lake District:

I don’t know why but I just love camping pods and shepherd’s huts. The way they are equipped with the necessities and nothing more makes it the perfect winter alternative to camping. They also make for a great alternative for camping in general as I know setting up a tent and getting up close and personal in this way with nature is not for everyone.

Camping pods still strip away the luxury and bring you back down to earth – the perfect detox from city life, which was exactly my experience in the Inspire Camping Pod at Castlerigg Hall Campsite.

The pod has double doors that open up to a wooden terrace with loungers, a bbq and the sounds of water running in the forest immediately in front of you. If that’s not enough the campsite as a whole is set with views over Derwent Water. 

It’s a beautiful location. One that is also home to smaller pods, camping pitches and electric hook ups too for your camper / motorhome. See more and get more information on their website here.

There are also lots of campsites in the Lake District for camping, as well as the fact that if you have permission from the landowner, you can try wild camping in the Lake District. Check out my camping packing list here.

More accommodation in the Lake District:

You can also book accommodation directly on the Lake District website.
They have everything from camping to glamping, hotels to spas, log cabins to country houses, hostels to caravans, barns to BnBs… you name it, it’s there.
What’s more, any commission they get goes towards the upkeep of the park, meaning you do your little bit towards keeping it a nice area for tourists to come. Amazing!
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The best things to do in the Lake District:

1. Climb Scafell Pike, England's highest peak.

The Lake District is one of England’s 10 National Parks and one of the best things to do in England is to hike Scafell Pike, the highest peak in England. At 978m tall, it’s a great hike to get your calves burning as you take in some of the most beautiful scenery in all of England. The incline was pretty relentless and my calves were definitely burning, but there are plenty of places to rest and break it up.

It took us 2 hours to hike up and 2 hours to hike down the route from Wasdale Head (6 miles up and down, postcode CA20 1EX), so a quicker completion than the 4-6 hours noted online when I researched. Granted, when I went, the weather wasn’t great and the views weren’t the best (probably why it didn’t take us as long, as we didn’t want to stop for long!), but it was still a great day out and a great work out!

Check out my complete guide to hiking Scafell Pike in this blog post. 

See all my hiking tips for beginners here. 

2. Take on one of the many walks and hikes in the Lake District.

There are so many walks and hikes in the Lake District… it really is one of the best places to go walking in England and even in the UK. with breathtaking views of the rolling English countryside, it’s enjoyable come rain or shine! 

Some of the best hikes and walks in the Lake District include: 

  • Gummers How
  • Ullswater Lake
  • Tarn Hows Circular Walk
  • Old Man Coniston
  • Grasmere to Helm’s Crag
THE BEST WALKS AND HIKES TO GO ON IN ENGLAND

3. Go wild swimming in the Lake District.

Yes it will be a bit cold, but so worth it for the refreshing feeling you’ll get from swimming in the Lake District! Wild swimming is one of the most popular things to do in the Lake District, despite the colder temperatures, and technically you can swim in most of the lakes and rivers here. But, some are safer than others. Avoid lakes that have motor boats (for obvious reasons!) and you’ll have a better swimming experience if you avoid lakes that are busy with watersports in general.

Some of the best places to go swimming in the Lake Dsitrict include: 

  • Buttermere
  • Crummock Water
  • Grasmere
  • Loweswater
  • Rydal Water
  • Wast Water

4. SUP, kayak or canoe on Lake Windermere.

If you love watersports, then one of the best things to do in the Lake District is to hit the water… it’s called the Lake District for a reason! There are sixteen lakes in the Lake District, the largest being Windermere. 

The crew at Windermere Canoe Kayak are great. You can choose to SUP, Kayak, Canoe or a combination! Prices start at £20 for two hours SUP or £27 for three hours kayaking. Hire includes a buoyancy aid, dry bag and help from an instructor. Find out more information on their website here.

The best things to do in the Lake District: Lake District National Park guide
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5. Cycle hire at Lowther Castle & Gardens.

The Lowther Estate, made up of the castle ruins and gardens, was built at the turn of the 19th century (although the castle was demolished in 1957). It’s full of stories to be told and stunning views.

Cycling around Lowther Castle is one of the best things to do in the Lake District. The network of cycling trails within the Lowther Estate leads cyclists through some of the most beautiful Lake District scenery. The routes are generally quiet, with minimal to no traffic. You can choose between a push bike or an electric bike, which is pretty cool! Find out more here.

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6. Visit Grasmere's gingerbread for some of the best sweet treats.

Even if it’s just for a cup of tea and gingerbread, a stop off at Grasmere gingerbread house is absolutely worth popping on your itinerary and making a detour for.

I can confirm that the gingerbread, served out of a very small kitchen is divine. The perfect treat after a day on the lake or to take on a hike with you! There’s a reason there is always a queue here…

Grasmere gingerbread dates back to 1854, when Sarah Nelson created her unique recipe. Somewhere between a cake and a biscuit, this gingerbread is sweet and spicy, gooey and crumbly, and the smell is just irresistible. Coming to try it at the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop is one of the most popular things to do in the Lake District.

7. Enjoy a wander through some of the cute towns and villages in the Lake District.

While the Lake District is best known for its stunning countryside landscapes and hiking trails, it’s also home to a lot of Cumbrian history which is nestled away in many villages in the Lake District. Home to many a famous author, the towns and villages in the Lake District boast cobblestone streets, busy market squares, local festivals, cute cafes, cosy pubs and beautiful Medieval churches. 

Some of my favourite towns and villages in the Lake District include:

  • Grasmere
  • Ambleside
  • Hawkshead
  • Kendal
  • Bowness-on-Windermere and Keswick

8. Take on the Via Ferrata Extreme at Honister Slate Mine.

Ever since I did my first Via Ferrata in Switzerland I was hooked. Since then, I’ve done them in the Lake DistrictLoen (Norway) and in Chamonix (France), and loved every minute. It really gets the adrenaline going! Granted, in England you don’t always get the weather that you get abroad, but don’t let that stop you!

We had a great time, even though it was chucking it with rain. It actually make it that much more of an adventure!

You can also visit Honister Slate Mine as part of a caving adventure. It’s well worth the trip as it’s the last working mine in England.

Check out my Via Ferrata in the Lake District here. 

Other extreme sports in the Lake District include white water tubing, gorge walking, rock climbing and scrambling! There are plenty of things to do in the Lake District that will get your adrenaline going, even if you don’t fancy a via ferrata. 

9. Visit Castlerigg Stone Circle, the Lake District's own Stonehenge.

No one really knows why we have stone circles in England, such as Stonehenge, but that doesn’t make them any less impressive. Castlerigg is one of the oldest British circles, dating back approximately 5,000 years, and it boasts panoramic views of the countryside and the mountains from the top. 

10. Take a foraging course and pick your own dinner.

Get up close and personal with nature as you wander through the forest and pick what you’ll cook and eat for dinner. With the knowledge of a guide, you will discover which plants are edible, and spend some time collecting them before you can cook them. When you’re foraging in the Lake District you can find many things, including hawthorn berries, mushrooms, rosehip, elderflower and wild garlic and bistort. If you’re foraging near the water, you might even find sea spinach, sea cabbage, sea kale and seaweed.

11. Take a llama or an alpaca for a walk in the Lake District!

Alpacas have such a loving calm nature (they are often taken into hospices to cheer up the patients) and they have such funny tendencies. Alpaca or llama walking is one of the most popular and the best things to do in the Lake District – give it a try when you’re next here!

There are quite a few companies that offer it, many of which rehome alpacas and llamas from all over the country, giving them a life surrounded by nature and allowing you to experience these gentle giants and the stunning views simultaneously. Alpacaly ever after are based in Keswick and offer this experience! 

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12. Tour The Lakes Distillery.

“The nature of our art is whisky, the inspiration of our art is nature.”

If you want to learn more about the art of making local whisky, gin or vodka, then the Lakes Distillery needs to be on your Lake District bucket list. Visit the place where the magic happens, a Victorian farmstead on the shore of Bassenthwaite Lake, and take in the sights, smells and information as you tour the distillery. Find out more about the tours here.

13. Enjoy some countryside pub grub.

No matter what the weather is saying, add in an English country pub dinner or cosy up with a drink to your itinerary and you’re doing England right.

Heading into a country pub to warm up, quench your thirst or have a chat with the locals is honestly one of my favourite things to do in England. It’s definitely a good thing to do in the Lake District as you’re breaking up a long walk!

If you’re looking for something a little more elegant / for a special occasion, Linthwaite House was a stunning place to retreat after a day of adventure in the countryside. It’s a gorgeous, traditional, elegant English property with Hunter wellies lined up at the door and as you walk through the entrance, the sound of open fires crackling from within different rooms welcomes you. You get the picture. The menu is amazing and very earthy too!

Fellpack is also another restaurant recommendation I have for you in Keswick. The perfect post-Scafell Hike meal!

14. Look at the stars, look how they shine for you...

There’s something spectacular about staring up at the sky when it is completely dark and looking at all the twinkling stars. This can be hard to do in city centres where there is a lot of light pollution, but England is home to six international dark sky reserves.

While there isn’t an official dark sky reserve in the Lake District, most of the park is completely free from light pollution at night and it’s the perfect place to snuggle up under the stars and make a wish. The Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre in the Ennerdale Valley is an accredited ‘Dark Sky Discovery Site’ and the experts here can guide you on what to look for!

15. Spend a cosy weekend in a camping pod, shepherd's hut or cottage in the Lake District.

There’s nothing quite like booking a weekend away with your girlfriends or partner and having a cosy weekend. That’s exactly what I did with my friend Lydia on my last trip to the Lake District, where we stayed in this camping pod

It’s easy to book accommodation directly on the Lake District website. For accommodation in the Lake District, they have everything from camping to glamping, hotels to spas, log cabins to country houses, hostels to caravans, barns to BnBs… you name it, it’s there. What’s more, any commission they get goes towards the upkeep of the park, meaning you do your little bit towards keeping it a nice area for tourists to come. Amazing!

Scafell Pike: A guide to climbing England's highest peak

What are your favourite things to do in the Lake District?

Where are your favourite places to visit in the Lake District National Park? Anything you’d add?

Love as always and happy adventuring,

Mollie.

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A complete guide to the Lake District National Park, EnglandA complete guide to the Lake District National Park, England
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