Looking for things to do in the Lake District National Park? We thought we’d have a short break in the Lake District, and we had high hopes for it! So high it would be very difficult to live up to them. We have friends who grew up not far from the Lakes and loads of recommendations from others to visit, so we did!
It was a great adventure, as you’d expect from The Bumper Crew, so read on to find out more about the best things to do in the Lake District National Park and what we got up to during our stay in the Lakes!
What is the Lake District?
The Lake District is a National Park and the largest of all National Parks in England. It measures a whopping 2362 square kilometres, which is massive!
According to the official website, it’s now a World Heritage Site because of its ‘Outstanding Universal Value’. The Lake District National Park is also home to England’s highest mountain – Scafell Pike, which we climbed, but more on that later! It’s also home to Windermere, which is a fairly famous lake and the Lake District’s largest lake covering 14.8 square kilometres.
It should come as no surprise the Lake District is home to the deepest lake in England (Wastwater at 74 metres) and the longest (Windermere, which is 10.5 miles long), and it certainly came as no surprise to us that the Lake District is also home to the wettest inhabited place in England, which is Seathwaite that receives a staggering 3.5 metres of rainfall per year! Ha!
How many lakes are in the Lake District?
There are 16, according to the internet, but only one is a lake by name, and that is Bassenthwaite Lake. The rest are either known as ‘mere’ or ‘water’, such as Windermere or Ullswater. For convenience and navigation, we have lumped our destinations under the nearest lake to which they were located.
12 Things to Do in the Lake District National Park
1 | Visit Ullswater
The first lake on our road trip to discover the best things to do in the Lake District was Ullswater. We blasted up the M6 to Penrith and took a left which led us straight to Ullswater. Obviously, we didn’t blast up the M6 because it was heaving with traffic, as you might expect. But we made it to our campsite at Glenridding before heading down into the village for a wander before bedding down for the night. We stayed at Gillside Camping and Caravan Park, which is at the very foot of the hill you climb to Helvellyn when walking from Glenridding. Ullswater is a beautiful lake with gorgeous walks around.
2 | Wander at Aira Force Waterfall
The first spot we wanted to visit around Ullswater was Aira Force Waterfall, which is owned by the National Trust… it has the coolest name of a waterfall anywhere in the world, don’t you think? According to the National Trust, there is no overnight camping allowed at any of their locations, but that didn’t seem the case when we arrived at Aira Force early doors. It was chocker with campers, all who undoubtedly had spent the night, given they quickly started to disappear.
Aira Force is a beautiful walk that reminded us of the walk at Bruar Falls in Scotland. Head on the Aira Force tree trail, and you’ll see one of the biggest trees you’ll ever see!
3 | Visit Pooley Bridge
From Aira Force, we headed to Pooley Bridge. We had recommendations from a couple of people to visit Pooley Bridge, so we decided to visit. It’s not the biggest place, but it’s cute and has a nice walk from the car park, around the hill. We went for coffee at The Secret Garden. It was pleasant, with a nice view over the river. Given how bad the weather was, the tourists, Cumbrians, or both, are hardy folk because the weather did not stop them from getting in the water!
4 | Climb Helvellyn
In 2018, Helvellyn was voted Britain’s favourite walk in ITV’s Britain’s Favourite Walks: Top 100, presented by Julia Bradbury and Ore Oduba and it’s not hard to see why. It’s got a bit of everything you’d want in a decent walk: epic views with varied and challenging terrain! There are a few routes up the 950m mountain, and we opted to walk the Striding Edge route from Glenridding.
Sadly, we didn’t quite make it. We were 0.4 miles from the top, but the weather was so bad that we couldn’t see anything. You have to scramble over rocks to get around or over the ridges; then there’s one last climb. But given the weather was so bad and changed so quickly, we opted to turn back. Disappointing, but the risk wasn’t worth it. We could hear the voices of two walkers ahead of us, but we couldn’t see them.
The fog cleared briefly, and we could see a couple of lads ahead of us who had taken the wrong route up. When you are some distance back, you can see the track up fairly clearly, but you wouldn’t be able to see this at all when it’s clagged in. Things can get dangerous quickly on the hill!
5 | Windermere
A trip to the Lake District wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Windermere. Undoubtedly, it’s the most famous of all the lakes in the Lake District. It’s also really easy to access, unlike some of the other places in the Lake District.
6 | Ambleside
After leaving Ullswater, we headed for Windermere in search of Wray Castle, but we stopped at Ambleside for a coffee and a wander. Ambleside sits on the northern edge of Windermere. It’s a quirky little town, full of character and atmosphere. We stopped for coffee at Daisy’s Café before having a little wander around. While you’re in Ambleside, it’s worth paying a visit to the 17th Century Bridge House. It sits over Stock Ghyll Beck, is owned by the National Trust and is one of the most photographed things in the Lake District.
7 | Visit Wray Castle
After leaving Ambleside, we headed to Wray Castle, which is another National Trust property. It sits just a few miles from Ambleside on the northeast of Windermere. Initially, we thought parking was a nightmare. Luckily, we found a space at the side of the castle, but it turns out there’s an overflow car park…which wasn’t signposted! So don’t panic if it’s busy, there is parking on the other side of the castle!
The house itself is visually interesting, but there wasn’t much inside at the time of our visit. Described by the National Trust, Wray Castle is a “Gothic Revival castle sitting on the shores of Lake Windermere with turrets, towers and informal grounds.” Technically, I don’t suppose it’s a castle. Almost 200 years ago, it was built for a surgeon and heiress from Liverpool and was lived in until the 1920s. And as the last family moved out, as did all their furniture, hence why there isn’t much inside.
But don’t let that put you off because there’s a café, great walks with amazing views over Windermere, and there’s even a little ferry that will take you to and from Waterhead Pier in Ambleside. You can find out more about the ferry here.
8 | Derwentwater
Our next lake was Derwentwater, where we explored a bit of Keswick and Borrowdale. Keswick is a bustling town that sits on the very edge of Derwentwater, where you can catch a boat ride on the lake or feed the birds. Not far from Keswick is Chapel House Farm Campsite in Borrowdale. Chapel House Farm is very much a no-frills campsite but is well-placed to discover Borrowdale, Derwentwater and Buttermere. We paid £10 a night, and there is no electric hook-up available. Also, the showers are coin-operated with 50p coins!
If you stay in the area, we recommend a visit to the Scafell Hotel in Rosthwaite. They do one of the best dark ales I have ever tasted!
9 | Galleny Force Waterfall
There was a great little hidden gem a short walk from the campsite in the form of a waterfall called Galleny Force Waterfall. We hadn’t planned to visit Galleny Force Waterfall…because we didn’t know it existed! We like to have a little look at Google Maps and see what pops up. It’s usually a good indication of what’s popular in the area, so if we’re at a loose end, we can find stuff to do on there. In this case, it totally paid off!
The walk was lovely, and the waterfall did not disappoint. We’d bought a DJI Air 2S drone a couple of days before our trip, so we took the opportunity to fly it around here. There’s a little barn near the waterfall called Tilly’s Barn. It’s a holiday let in a very remoter location. Wouldn’t it be cool to spend a few days there with Borrowdale as your back garden?!
10 | Explore Inside Honister Slate Mine
Our next lake was Buttermere, although we didn’t stop at the lake. We got some awesome views of it, and we drove alongside it, but that’s as close as we got. We watched a TV programme about the Lake District the week before we went. It was so crap and uninspiring that we can’t remember the name of it. Ha! Anyway, the hosts (some guys out of a TV dance programme) travelled via Honister Pass, which is where we needed to head to visit Warnscale Bothy.
The weather was shocking (shocker!), so we sought refuge in Honister Slate mine for breakfast and decided to head on the tour before deciding whether to head to the bothy or not, depending on the weather. Walking isn’t much fun in gale-force winds with almost zero visibility, is it? You wouldn’t have known it was summer! Ha!
The slate mine tour is £17.50 and is well worth a visit. There are some other activities too if you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, like the Via Ferrata. You’ll learn the history of the mine as well as a little bit of geology, and it turns out Honister Slate Mine is the last working slate mine in England. For more info on Honister Slate Mine, click HERE.
There’s a National Trust car park right next to the mine. If you buy a tour, parking is included for the day. If not, it’s £5 all day. To park at the NT car park is free if you’re a member. If not, it’s cheaper to park in the slate mine for the day.
11 | Warnscale Bothy and Dubs Hut
The weather perked up in the afternoon, so we headed up the massive hill in search of Warnscale Bothy. Warnscale Bothy belongs to the Mountain Bothy Association (MBA). But what is a bothy? Quoted from the MBA, “Bothies and bothying have been described as many things. Holiday homes they are not. Camping without a tent is closer to the mark, though lots of things can be useful in a bothy that has no place in a tent, such as candles or a line for drying socks from.” They have no facilities such as lights, running water, or beds. Quite simply, they are a shelter you can stay in for free on the mountain.
On route to Warnscale Bothy, we found another bothy called Dubs Hut. It was a little larger but lacking the epic views of Warnscale Bothy. Would you fancy staying in a bothy overnight? It’s firmly on our bucket list now. To make life a bit easier, you can park overnight at Honister Slate Mine for £15, and you can walk from there with your supplies for the night.
12 | Climb Scafell Pike
We left our campsite at Seascale and headed towards Wasdale Head via the most direct route. We wanted the scenic tour, knowing we wouldn’t save much time over the route that took us the long way around. The direct route took us through Wrynose Pass. It was definitely a mistake heading this way. We arrived at Wrynose Pass and made it about three-quarters of the way up before we had to turn back. The road is so steep that we couldn’t get any traction. I expect the whole valley could hear the tyres screeching. So, we turned back and headed for the long road around.
Taking the long way around did offer an opportunity to get the drone up again, so all was not lost!
After making our way back to the main roads to take the long way around, we finally made it to Wasdale Head. We couldn’t visit the Lake District and not climb Scafell Pike. It was the last of the ‘Three Peaks’ for us. You can read about our Snowdonia trip HERE and our Ben Nevis trip HERE.
Unsurprisingly, the weather up Scafell Pike was shocking, just like Ben Nevis and Snowdon. We were soaked when we got back, but thankfully, it was warmer than our jaunt up Snowdon. The car park for Scafell Pike is located at Wasdale Head and belongs to the National Trust. There’s a little honesty box where you can put some money for the pleasure of using their car park. And that was our short break in the Lake District!
Things to Do in the Lake District:
- Visit Ullswater
- Wander at Aira Force Waterfall
- Visit Pooley Bridge
- Climb Helvellyn
- Visit Wray Castle
- Galleny Force Waterfall
- Explore Inside Honister Slate Mine
- Warnscale Bothy and Dubs Hut
- Climb Scafell Pike
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