Lake District map & highlights

William Wordsworth’s poetry did much to create the idea of the Lake District as a romantic idyll. Ironically, he came to regret his influence, because soon everyone else wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
We all know the feeling of deflation you get, walking up to a viewpoint that the guidebook calls a must, only to find you’re sharing it with 50 other people that have read the exact same thing. Any chance of peaceful reflection disappears, and then you’ve still got to queue for your photo. In the Lake District that feeling can be all too common, especially in the summer school vacations. Honeypot locations such as Kendal, Bowness-on-Windermere and Keswick, and the walking trails around them, get incredibly crowded. But this isn’t only England’s busiest national park, it’s also its largest. There’s a lot of wide open space out there folks, lesser-known fells and walking trails to explore. Go with a local guide as well, and they’ll probably have several of their own favourite views to share with you that you won’t find in any book.
Borrowdale Valley

1. Borrowdale Valley

Fantastic for family activity vacations, Borrowdale Valley offers everything from dinghy sailing and canoeing on Derwentwater to climbing, abseiling and ghyll-scrambling, all under the watchful eye of professional instructors. You can stay at an expansive country hotel which, although it’s within easy walking distance of Keswick, one of the Lake District’s best-loved towns, feels remarkably secluded.

2. Buttermere

‘The lake by the dairy pastures’ is a superb location for center-based walking vacations, with some of the finest terrain in the entire national park nearby, and relatively few visitors. Alfred Wainwright, the pioneering Lakes fell-walker and guidebook writer, was especially fond of Buttermere Valley. His ashes were scattered at the summit of his favourite fell, Haystacks, at the southeastern end of the valley.

3. Coniston

This popular village is situated between Lake Coniston, where Donald Campbell broke four World Speed Records in the 50s before his untimely death, and Coniston Old Man, beloved by fell-walkers. Even back in the days of legendary Lakes writer Alfred Wainwright, the Old Man’s summit could be crowded in summer, and today it’s worse still, so best tackled outside of peak season.

4. Grasmere

Wordsworth called Grasmere “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found” and his former home, Dove Cottage, is now a museum in one of the most popular parts of the Lake District. The island in the lake where Wordsworth would picnic is not accessible to the public, but you can admire Church Row, a scenic line of 17th-century cottages. Don’t forget to try the famous Grasmere Gingerbread, a local specialty.
Honister Slate Mine

5. Honister Slate Mine

Honister Slate Mine is the last of its kind in England, but its owners have diversified into several other attractions. There are exciting via ferratas (climbing routes built into rock) (minimum age 10), as well as mine tours, and you can buy a range of slate handicrafts. A proposed zipline has been criticised, and reflects the conflict between profit and conservation in the Lake District.

6. Keswick

Keswick has poetry in its soul. Described by Thomas Gray as ‘the vale of Elysium in all its verdure’, the town also hosted the Lake Poets: Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey, the latter two both living at Greta Hall. Long a center for tourism (though it had a second industry, pencil-making), Keswick has a weekly local market, a great place to sample local delicacies, and a thriving lakeside theatre.

7. Windermere

Inspiration for Arthur Ransome’s classic, Swallows and Amazons, Windermere was first popularised by William Wordsworth, and has ever since been the heart of Lake District tourism – avoid Bowness-on-Windermere in summer, when it gets crazy busy. Watersports on the lake are controversial, with reports of loud, speeding motorboats appearing after rangers have finished for the day.

8. Ullswater

Inspiration for Wordsworth’s most well-known poem, Daffodils, at 14km long and 60m deep, Ullswater is the second-largest lake in the region. The Ullswater Way is a scenic walking route taking you around it. On the fells above you’ll find the Bronze-age Cockpit Stone Circle, and the 20m Aira Force waterfall. Skip the attractive but diesel-powered steam ships on the lake though, as they’re so polluting.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Lake District or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Travel advice – where to go

Bella Somerset of our specialist operator Bella’s Magic Mountains leads mind and body retreats in the Lake District: “I love the Hellvelyn Loop, Swirrel Edge and Striding Edge. Other personal favourites include the walk down to Borrowdale Valley, Catbells, and Old Man Coniston which is a great day hike.”
Amy Hope from our family activity vacations specialists Activities Abroad grew up in the Lake District: “When I am back home one of my favourite spots is called 'surprise view' and is located just above Ashness bridge, you can drive up to the viewpoint (you will know when you get there) but the road is very narrow and can get quite busy, so we would suggest parking near the bridge and stretching your legs to walk the 15-20 minutes or so up to the view point.”
David Kay from our adventurous walking vacations operator Ramblers Walking Vacations:
“The western Lakes are very underrated. Access is a little more difficult, but it’s fantastically peaceful around there compared with Windermere and Kendal, which are both very busy. We use a lovely country house on the shore of Buttermere, within easy reach of Keswick but far enough from the crowds. It has the atmosphere of a retreat and the hills in the area are much less tramped than those that are more well-known.”
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Oliver Clarke] [Intro: David Perkins] [Borrowdale Valley: Claire Rowland] [Buttermere: Copyright: Lake District National Park] [Coniston: Copyright: Lake District National Park] [Grasmere: Nick Amoscato] [Honister Slate Mine: Jack86mkII] [Keswick: Diliff] [Windermere: Andrew] [Ullswater: Dan (catching up)] [Travel advice – Where to go: Diliff]