There’s nothing quite like Lake District winter walks; wrapping up snugly in layers of jumpers, cosy coats, and scarves, and heading outdoors to splash in puddles, admire perfectly frosted trees and flowers and, if you’re lucky, build a snowman or two. There are hundreds of fabulous family walks across the Lake District where you can enjoy spectacular scenery without having to hit the high hills. Here are five of our favourites.
(If this is your first winter visit, do remember that our winter days can be very short and from mid-November to mid-January it can be dark by 4:30pm, so do allow plenty of time for your walk).
Epic Lake District winter walks: Langdale Valley
The Langdale valley is one of the more popular spots in the county and when you get there you’ll see why. There’s plenty of parking in the large National Trust car park (free for members) and a choice of walks for the family to enjoy depending on how adventurous you’re feeling. For those in search of a low level walk, head back to the road and follow the public footpath signs opposite the car park. This will lead you along the valley floor with spectacular views of the fells rising up all around you.
For those after something a little more adventurous there’s the walk up to Stickle Tarn leading out from the top end of the car park. This is a very clear and well-marked route, and although it’s a long uphill climb there are steps along most of the route and plenty of places where you can pause to admire the scenery and catch your breath.
Once you’re done with all the hiking you can enjoy a well-earned dinner and mug of hot chocolate in the Stickle Barn Tavern next to the car park.
Winter walks with variety: Ullswater
Surely one of the prettiest lakes in the entire National Park, Ullswater is blessed with a number of stunning walks. Although famous as the starting point for one the region’s most challenging hikes (Helvellyn via Striding Edge) there are plenty of ways to enjoy a low level adventure there too.
One of the most popular family activities is to take the Ullswater Steamer to Howtown and walk back to Glenridding along the lake shore (you could just take the steamer straight there or you could take a tour of the whole lake and hop off at Howtown on your way back). It’s around 6 miles and undulating in places, but a great way for kids to burn off excess energy.
If you’re in the area for a while you could also tackle the Ullswater Way; it’s a 20-mile route around the entire lake but you don’t have to do it all in one go. Use the steamers and break it down into smaller chunks, and once you’ve completed the whole thing you can pick up an Ullswater Way badge from Catsycam in the village (where they particularly like it if you ask for the badge in a pirate voice!)
After all that hard work you can put your feet up and enjoy a fresh pizza or a steaming plate of fish and chips in the Glenridding Hotel.
Walking in a winter wonderland: Windermere
For such a large lake (the largest in England) there are surprisingly few places to enjoy a walk along the banks of Windermere, but there is one fabulous low level path which most people miss (it’s also a great cycling route too if you have your bikes with you). The easiest way to get to it is to take the small ferry across the lake to Far Sawry, from there you can pop up to enjoy the views from Claife Viewing station (signposted from the lake shore) before following the broad track leading north along the lake shore.
It’s a “there and back” route so entirely up to you how far you want to explore; at the top end of the path is Wray Castle which is a very “hands-on” National Trust property with loads of family activities throughout the year. It also has a nice little cafe for essential coffee and cakes. If you decide you can’t face the walk back down to Far Sawry you can pick up a Windermere Steamer from there too; they run all year round but do check the timetables before you set off.
Beautiful Lake District winter walks: Coniston
Explore the land of Swallows and Amazons with a trip to Coniston; the book was inspired by the lake and many of the scenes from the 2016 film were shot there. “Wild Cat Island” is down at the southern end of the lake (look for Peel Island on the map) and there’s a layby where you can pull in and admire it but not much in the way of walks in that area.
Up in the village there’s a car park which usually has spaces during the winter and a lovely walk along the lake shores. From the village head for the marina (there’s often some parking along the road to the marina during the winter months) then follow the signed footpath leading away into the fields to your right. Once you’ve passed through the campsite there are a number of places where you can get onto the lake shore for essential outdoors activities such as stone skimming and paddling (you may want to wear wellies!)
The lake shore is also a great place for a winter picnic; pack a thermos of soup of take along a disposable BBQ and enjoy a proper outdoor adventure. Just keep your eyes peeled for pirates!
Easy Lake District winter walks: Tarn Hows
This is the only one of our walks which doesn’t have facilities along the route but it’s a spectacular place to visit, especially on a crisp winter morning. There are a couple of small car parks up near The Tarns, which are ideal if you have a pushchair as the route around the tarns is stile free. If you don’t have a pushchair and fancy a little more adventure, park in the National Trust car park at Glen Mary Bridge and follow the footpath up through the woods. It’s not too tricky and there are waterfalls to admire along the way.
The route around The Tarns is very easy to follow and the views of the nearby fells are spectacular, especially in winter when they often have a dusting of snow. Half of the walk is out in the open, half is through woodland, and it’s absolutely perfect for a relaxed family stroll. In fact it’s so good you’ll probably manage a couple of laps.
For post hiking refreshments head for either Coniston or Hawkshead where there are a variety of cafes and pubs to choose from.
What's your favourite?
Have you adventured in a wintery Lake District before? Where do you like to hike? Let's have a chinwag in the comments below, or you can join the flock on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or email us.