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Active Things To Do in the Lake District

Author: Kathryn Bennett
More by Kathryn

Lake District - Outdoor Activities

The Lake District is known as the adventure capital of the UK. On your visit here, you’ll no doubt be looking for an active adventure or two to make the most of your time. Fortunately, it’s likely that the Lake District will have exactly what you fancy on offer, no matter how active you want to be.

Both England’s largest national park and a World Heritage Site, as well as containing the majority of its highest peaks, the Lake District offers endless space for exploration and adventure. Hike through rugged peaks and sweeping valleys, find lakes and meres around every corner, get lost on forest trails and discover the unique charm that calls people back to the fells time and time again.

Delve into our guide to find the perfect active things to do in the Lake District.

Hiking in the Lake District

Few other mountains in the world have the same character as the Lake District fells. Striking ridgelines mark the skylines and earthy tones combine to create stunning landscapes of mossy green hillside, rust-brown bracken, and inky blue lakes. Whatever level of walking you enjoy and whatever you have time for, you’ll find the perfect hike to enjoy these stunning scenes.

Walking Around A Lake In The Lake District

Walk Around a Lake in the Lake District

Completing a circuit of a lake, mere or tarn (small mountain lake) is the perfect way to enjoy a relaxed walk in the Lake District.

We recommend experiencing one of the most scenic walks in Cumbria by completing a circuit of Tarn Hows. Known for being a spectacular beauty spot, you’ll find lush woodland and peaceful waters framed by the lofty peaks of Langdale and Coniston behind. Circulating the tarn is an excellent track, with no stiles, which spans 2 miles with options for extensions if needed.

Tarn Hows Route Details

Views on the walk to the summit of Scafell Pike

Climb England’s Highest Mountain

With so many mountains surrounding the lakes, you’ll probably find yourself compelled to reach the summit of one – so why not go for the highest in England?

Scafell Pike might not seem very high at just 978m (3,209 ft), but once conquered, you’ll have stood at the highest point in the country. The quickest way up is from Wasdale, but we’d recommend going in from Borrowdale and along the Corridor Route for a more thrilling mountain journey to the top.

Scafell Pike Route Details

Fairfield Horseshoe

Complete a Lake District Horseshoe

If you’re up for an even bigger adventure, why not try one of the Lake District’s iconic horseshoes? Reaching from valley floor to high mountain ridge, these ready-made circuits offer the most satisfying adventures as you climb peak after peak in one walk. There are several of these circuits, but the most famous is the Fairfield Horseshoe. It starts and finishes in Ambleside, and takes in nine beautiful Lakeland hills over 16.4 km/10 miles. Make sure you plan well for these routes as it’s a challenging day. Start early, and take lots of food, water and layers for all weathers.

Fairfield Horshoe Route Details

Lake District Water Activities

Buttermere

Whilst many come to the Lake District for the fells, there’s plenty more to do on the lakes and meres. One of the UK’s fastest-growing outdoor pursuits is wild swimming, and the Lake District is one of the most beautiful places to get involved. For those who don’t like the sound of braving getting IN the water, there are plenty of ways to take part ON the water too.

In the Water – Go Wild Swimming

Wild swimming has become a hugely popular activity in the UK. Whilst the water is often cold, that’s part of the beauty of the activity; a refreshing dip which fully immerses you in the natural landscape. In the Lake District, there are dozens of beautiful places to go. Start off with the most iconic big lakes – Derwent, Windermere, Buttermere and Ullswater all offer roadside access for you to head in from. For a wilder wild swimming experience, head into the fells and find sparkling blue swimming holes tucked away amongst the valleys, which make for perfect plunge pools.

Water Safety: With any of these locations, remember to stay safe – don’t stay in too long if you’re unused to cold water, and enter the water carefully at all times. We also don’t recommend swimming alone. Use a safety float if you’re planning to swim for more extended periods of time and on a busier lake. You can find more location ideas and safety tips here

Above the Water – Explore by Boat/Board

Explore the beaches, shores and islands of the Lake District’s many lakes. From Windermere, Coniston and Derwentwater, you can hire canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and even a giant stand-up paddleboard with room for your whole group on board. An excellent activity for all the family, hiring your own watercraft means you can explore at your own pace and go exactly where you choose. Our top tip is to head to Derwent, take a picnic and find an island to enjoy your lunch on. More info here.

Biking in the Lakes

Thrilling forest trails, high mountain routes and snaking passes bring cyclists and bikers from all around to the Lake District. Whether you prefer downhill mountain bike trails or long days out over high passes on your road bike, there’s something for everyone here. Bring your own, or hire a bike whilst you’re here Most bike shops offer rentals, including e-bikes.

Mountain biking in the Lake District

Mountain Biking

Beginners and experienced riders alike will fall in love with biking in the Lake District. There are two main forest locations, Whinlatter and Grizedale, which are famous for mountain biking. Both offer everything from relaxed, open bridleways to gnarly downhill trails with grades from blue to black. Further afield, there are a whole host of famous routes to explore, such as high-level lake circuits and challenging summit loops.

Road cycling in the Lake District

Road Cycling

Home to England’s only mountain passes, there are many well-known climbs to test your legs on in the Lakes. The most famous route is to conquer Wrynose and Hardknott. This iconically steep pass twists up the mountains from Langdale. However, one of our favourite routes is a circuit from Keswick, which eases you in with a gradual ascent and stunning descent over Newlands, before taking in the challenge of Honister pass after a scenic ride along the quiet shores of Buttermere.

For The Thrill Seekers

The Lake District is home to Keswick, also known as the adventure capital of the UK, so it’s only fitting that you try a few adrenaline-pumping activities whilst you’re here. With climbing, caving, paragliding, white-water kayaking and more on offer, it can be hard to choose. Here are a couple of our top recommendations.

Via Ferrata

High up in Honister slate mine, iron ladders and cables will take you on a breathtaking adventure across steep cliff faces. No climbing experience is necessary to experience this wild adventure. However, a head for heights (or willingness to face your fears) will help, as the exposure is real with vertical ladder climbs, an overhang descent, a Burma bridge and a sky ladder all on the route. Topped off with a scramble to reach one of the Lake District’s most beautiful views, this is one of the most satisfying adventures you’ll find in Cumbria. Find out more.

Ghyll Scrambling

Jumping into deep mountain pools, whizzing down water slides and swimming under waterfalls – ghyll scrambling is packed with the most ridiculous fun, and offers the perfect day out for family or groups.

It involves following the path of a ‘ghyll’ (a stream in a narrow valley) as it descends down the mountain. Local guides offer plenty of options – our favourite place to go for ghyll scrambling is Eskdale, where the trek up the fell to start your descent is well worth the effort.

Something Completely Different

If hiking doesn’t sound very exciting to you, how about hiking with a llama or alpaca? The good folks at Alpacaly Ever After run guided walks where you’ll get to know one of these incredible woolly creatures up close. There are relaxed, low-level walks on offer, or guided mountain treks. What’s more, you’ll know you’re supporting a good cause, as this company is a social enterprise which works to save and rehome llamas and alpacas from all across the UK.

Our Trips to the Lake District

Meet the Author: Kathryn Bennett

I grew up on the edge of the Dales in Yorkshire, fed by small but beautiful walking and cycling days out and holidays in the UK, where I discovered it’s more than possible to love being outside no matter the weather. Many soggy sandwiches eaten in the rain later, and this joyous determination to experience the outdoors only grew, pushing me to learn and do more than I ever imagined I would.

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