The Lake District is one of the UK’s top tourist destinations. In 2018 alone, 19.38 million tourists visited the Lake District. Ongoing restrictions due to COVID-19 has meant more holiday makers staying within the UK than ever before. The Lake District has been getting an increased share of new UK-based tourists, too. But for those who wish to experience the more quiet and relaxing places in the Lake District—away from the hotspots—there are still plenty of areas within the Lake District to explore.
Here are a few of our favourite places in the Lake District to experience quiet and calm. We also provide suggestions on mindful activities to do once you get there.
Ennerdale & Ennerdale Water
Ennerdale Water is the westernmost lake in the Lake District, so it sees fewer people. Ennerdale has a different “feel” compared to the rest of the Lake District. For a start, the valley contains no settlements at all. Secondly, Ennerdale is part of a rewilding project called Wild Ennerdale. This is a partnership between the main landowners of the valley (Forestry England, National Trust, and United Utilities), and Natural England. The project aims to let natural processes shape the landscape in a very “hands off” minimalistic manner.
As a result, Ennerdale feels more wild and remote, more akin to a Scottish glen than a Lake District dale.
Ways to relax in Ennerdale
Ennerdale has some extensive woodland, especially on the southern side of the valley.
Go for a gentle stroll in the woods and allow yourself to “get lost” for a while. Indulge in some “Forest Bathing”, a term taken from the Japanese shinrin-yoku. Also referred to as nature therapy, it involves slowly and mindfully wandering around the forest and engaging all your senses.
Breathe in the fragrance of the forest and taste the freshness of the air. Observe the way sunlight filters through the trees and all the myriad of colours. Listen to the birds, the wildlife, and the trees themselves.
A beautiful mindful activity to take part in is spotting all the fauna in the woods of Ennerdale. Bigger animals you might find include red squirrel, roe deer, and farmed Galloway cattle.
The forests are also full of birds. See if you can spot any of these:
In the conifers: siskin, goldcrest, coal tit, sparrowhawk, song thrush, willow warbler, and wren
In the oak: pied flycatcher, wood warbler, tree pipit, green woodpecker, nuthatch.
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Away from the woods there is of course all 2.5 miles of Ennerdale Water. Take a seat by the shore of the lake, close your eyes, and listen to the relaxing sounds of the water lapping, the trees rustling, the lambs baaing, and the birds singing.
Bring some paper and a pen or pencil with you and try to sketch the scene down the lake towards the fells. You don’t have to be good, just be mindful, and “in the moment”; immersed in the act of observing and drawing.
Some of the bigger fells at the head of Ennerdale include Pillar (892 m/2,927 ft), Scoat Fell, (841 m/2,759 ft), Steeple (819 m/2,687 ft), High Stile (807 m/2,648 ft), and Green Gable (801 m/2,628 ft).
Haweswater is a reservoir in the Eastern Lake District. The valley that holds the lake, Mardale, once contained a much smaller one plus a few farming villages. In the 1930s the Manchester Corporation dammed the lake and flooded the villages to create a larger reservoir. This was to provide water for the growing city of Manchester.
Today, Haweswater is over 4-miles long and there are no settlements in the valley, except for a single hotel and a small car park. The reservoir is managed by United Utilities, who work with the RSPB to manage the site. A joint venture, Wild Haweswater, between the RSPB and United Utilities has been created. It aims to help people discover their conservation and restoration projects, as well as seasonal wildlife encounters in the area.
Given Haweswater’s proximity to the ever popular Ullswater, the valley tends to be much quieter than the rest of the Lake District.
Ways to relax around Haweswater
Enjoy a short but sharp 200m ascent up the Old Corpse Road. Park at Mardale Head, the only car park, and walk back up the valley for about a mile. You’ll see a path zigzag up the fellside to your right. This is the Old Corpse Road. Taking this trail gives you exceptional views across Haweswater for you to relax and gaze at.
If you want complete solitutde, take an easy walk from the car park, around the Rigg, and up Riggindale. You’lll probably find you have this little side valley all to yourself.
For something more mindful and focused, go on a leisurely “hunt” for nationally rare flora around the lake. Sketch or photograph what you find and immerse yourself in identifying them. Rare flora to look out for include:
bird’s eye primrose
alpine enchanter’s nightshade
small water pepper
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This is a great place for wildlife spotting, too. In the spring look out for wheatears, ring ouzels, pied flycatchers, and redstarts. During the summer you might spot red squirrels, peregrines, buzzards, red deer, and finches. As the autumnal colours start to appear see if you can spot field fares and redwings. And in the winter, you can see dippers, ravens, and goosanders.
The Duddon Valley, otherwise known as Dunnerdale, is one of the more secluded and remote valleys in the Lake District. It’s located in the Southwestern part of the Lakes, sandwiched between the Coniston Fells to the east and the Eskdale fells to the west. No matter which direction you’re travelling from, access to the valley will be a long drive. But the reward is one of the quieter parts and prettiest areas of the Lake District.
There are no major populations centres in Dunnerdale aside from one or two small farming settlements and the tiny village of Ulpha. Towards the head of the valley is the junction with two famous Lake District mountain passes, Wrynose and Hardnott, both of which see a lot of traffic owing to their notoriety. And although travelling to the Duddon Valley will take a while, it’s well worth it when you get there.
The quiet beauty of the valley did not escape the poets of the Romantic era, and Wordsworth himself wrote extensively about the area. More modern poets such as Norman Nicholson have also succumbed to the thrall of Dunnerdale.
Ways to relax around Dunnerdale/the Duddon valley
Responsibly and safely enjoy some outdoor swimming around Birks Bridge. This 18th-century traditional stone bridge spans a small gorge in the River Duddon. The crystal-clear waters here make a wonderful swimming experience. Make sure you have the right gear and something warm to eat and drink afterwards.
Near the settlement of Seathwaite in Dunnerdale you can take the road up to Seathwaite Tarn, dammed in the early 20th century to create a reservoir. Although the tarn is at the western end of the Coniston Fells, it tends to get ignored in favour of the Coniston peaks and other tarns such as Levers Water and Goats Water. You will likely have Seathwaite Tarn all to yourself, surrounded by fells such as Grey Friar reaching 600–700m high.
Savour a quiet 10km circular walk around the valley, taking in the sights and sounds. The walk starts at Birks Bridge and heads southwest through Dunnerdale Forest, popping out at Grassguards Farm. Continue down the fellside track towards Stonythwaite Farm and follow the path through the farm and underneath Wallowbarrow Crag to High Wallowbarrow Farm. The trail then heads east, and you can follow the riverside footpath alongside the Duddon all the way back to the car park.
Where do you like to experience calm in the Lake District?
Do you have some personal favourites where you like to relax in the Lake District, away from the worries of the world? Perhaps you know of some idyllic oases of calm?