Best walks in Cumbria

This vast county in northern England comprises the Lake District National Park, the Solway Coast and sections of the Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines. It's a rugged landscape of hills, mountains and coastline, perfect for lovers of the trail

Hikers on a country lane near Bowness-on-Windermere in the Lake District National Park, Cumbria ©Jake Graham

Cumbria is the third largest county in England behind North Yorkshire and Lincolnshire with a total land area of 6,768 sq km – that’s almost three times the size of Luxembourg. 

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Despite its size, Cumbria has one of the lowest populations in the country, and just one city – Carlisle. Countryside prevails here, meaning there is ample opportunity to explore the county on foot, from the wild Northern Pennines to the picturesque waters of the Lake District.

The road to Elterwater, Lake District, Cumbria ©Jake Graham
The road to Elterwater, Lake District, Cumbria ©Jake Graham

We’ve put together a list of our favourite walks in Cumbria, ranging from easy riverside rambles to tough mountain hikes.

Buttermere and Rannerdale Knotts

Buttermere lake
Buttermere lake©Getty

This autumn walk includes some of the Lake District’s most beautiful trees and forests, where myth and legend tangle with the Scots pines and the golden needles of larches.

Route details

  • 7.5 miles
  • 4 hours
  • Moderate

Map and route

Buttermere map

Cat Bells

A“proper little mountain”, a “family fell’, a “mountain in miniature”. If ever there was a hill to be fond of, it’s Cat Bells
A“proper little mountain”, a “family fell’, a “mountain in miniature”. If ever there was a hill to be fond of, it’s Cat Bells ©Alamy

This Lake District mountain is small compared to its neighbours, yet what it lacks in height it makes up for in accessibility, views and atmosphere.

Route details

  • 5.7km/3.5 miles
  • 2.5 hours
  • Moderate

Map and route

Cat Bells map

Lingmoor Fell Circuit

Lingmoor Fell
Lingmoor Fell rainbow ©Getty

This lowland loop walk through the heart of the Lake District National Park is packed with splendours – from glistening tarns and craggy fells to magical, mossy bridges.

Route details

  • 13.4km/8.3 miles
  • 5 hours
  • Hard

Map and route.

Lingmore Fell map

Ennerdale and Haystacks

The view from Haystacks with High Stile separating Ennerdale and Crummock Waters, The Lake District, Cunbria, England.
The view from Haystacks with High Stile separating Ennerdale and Crummock Waters ©Getty

Ennerdale is the most remote valley in the Lake District and one of the National Park’s best-kept secrets – follow this lakeside route to the summit of Haystacks.

Route details

  • 22.9km/14.2 miles
  • 7 hours
  • Hard

Map and route

Ennerdale and Haystacks map

Keswick to Latrigg

Latrigg, Cumbria
Latrigg, Cumbria ©Alamy

Easy and accessible, this short walk to the summit of a classic Lake District fell is the perfect day out.

Route details

  • 8km/5 miles
  • 3.5 hours
  • moderate

Route and map

Keswick to Latrigg map

Hawkshead and Latterbarrow

Winter veil: the village of Hawkshead in the Lake District National Park wakes to a blanket of thin frost and low-lying mist
Winter veil: the village of Hawkshead in the Lake District National Park wakes to a blanket of thin frost and low-lying mist ©Simon Whaley

The small village of Hawkshead in the middle of the Lake District National Park is a great base for exploring the surrounding hills, including the modest peak of Latterbarrow.

Route details

  • 5km/3.1 miles
  • 2 hours
  • Easy/moderate

Map and route

Hawkshead and Latterbarrow map

Wasdale Head Inn, Gosforth

Above the Wasdale Inn rises Wasdale Fell, a favourite with trail runners
Above the Wasdale Inn rises Wasdale Fell, a favourite with trail runners ©Alamy

This venerable inn, hidden within the valleys and mountains of the Lake District, has housed some of Britain’s best novelists and poets – find out what inspired these great writers with a five-mile walk.

Route details

  • 7.9km/4.9 miles
  • 3 hours
  • Moderate

Map and route

Wasdale Head Inn map

Grizedale Forest

Weatherlam and The Old Man of Coniston in Autumn (Fall) viewed across Grizedale Forest
View of the Old Man of Coniston across Grizedale Forest ©Getty

Rippling across the crags between Windermere and Coniston, Grizedale is 8,000 acres of mixed forest laced with tracks and endowed with a renowned series of outdoor sculptures.

Route details

  • 12.2km/7.5 miles
  • 4 hours
  • Moderate

Route and map

Grizedale Forest map

Old Man of Coniston

Old Man of Coniston, Cumbria
Old Man of Coniston, Cumbria ©Getty

The village of Coniston, an attractive little spot bisected by the bustling waters of a mountain stream, sits near the northern end of beautiful Coniston Water in Cumbria. Walk beside high tarns and copper-mining relics to a magical fell-top vista in the Lake District National Park.

Route details

  • 11.1km/6.9 miles
  • 5 hours
  • Hard

Map and route

Old Man of Coniston map

Brigsteer Woods

brimstone

Walk past a medieval castle and glowing wild daffodils with this four-mile walk in the Lake District National Park.

Route details

  • 6.6km/ 4.1 miles
  • 2 hours
  • Easy/moderate

Map and route

Brigsteer Wood map

Holme Wood and Loweswater

Holme Wood is a classically English mixed woodland of oak, chestnut, ash, sycamore, alder and lime ©Getty
Holme Wood is a classically English mixed woodland of oak, chestnut, ash, sycamore, alder and lime ©Getty
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Holme Wood lies not far from the Lake District National Park boundary and sits on the shores of one of its most idyllic lakes – explore this special corner of Britain with a four-mile walk.

Route details

  • 5.9km/3.7 miles
  • 2 hours
  • Moderate

Map and route.

Holme Wood map

Bowness-on-Windermere to Kennel Wood

Kennel Wood oak, Cumbria ©Jake Graham
Kennel Wood oak, Cumbria ©Jake Graham

A mile or two from the bustle of Bowness-on-Windermere in the Lake District National Park stands a lonely oak, at its most enchanting after a night of snowfall in winter.

Route details

  • 2.8 miles/ 4.6km
  • Moderate
  • 2 hours

Map and route

 

Bowes-on-Windermere map

Rydal and Grasmere

Rydal Water at Grasmere in the Lake District in autumn
A stroll in the footsteps of the Wordsworth family offers exquisite reflections of autumn colour in the still waters of Rydal Water at Grasmere in the Lake District ©Alamy

On this six-mile walk in Wordsworth country, the Lake District’s autumn hues rival those of New England. But it’s just at picturesque in winter, spring and summer.

Route details

  • 6 miles
  • 4 hours
  • Moderate

Map and route

Rydal Water and Grasmere, Cumbria map

Howgill Fells

Sedbergh sits beneath the Howgill Fells in the Yorkshire Dales ©Getty
Sedbergh sits beneath the Howgill Fells in the Yorkshire Dales ©Getty

This challenging walk in the north-western corner of the Yorkshire Dales begins in the village of Sedbergh and climbs into Howgill Fells – take a break on The Calf, with staggering views west over the Cumbria landscape and east over North Yorkshire. Map and route.


Smardale Gill

In spring and summer, luxuriant grasses flood the verges of Smardale's river ©Getty
In spring and summer, luxuriant grasses flood the verges of Smardale’s river ©Getty

An old viaduct, built in 1861, rises almost 30m on 14 stone arches above Smardale Beck – it’s a fine vantage point for spotting all-year-round residents to the national nature reserve, such as sparrowhawks, buzzards and treecreepers. Enjoy a spectacular 7-mile walk through a secluded gorge in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Route details

  • 7 miles
  • 4 hours
  • Moderate 

Route and map

Smardale Gill map

Cross Fell

Cross Fell, Cumbria ©Alamy
Cross Fell, Cumbria ©Alamy

Feel on top of the world by conquering one of Britain’s best hikes with in the North Pennines.

Route details

  • 13.2km/8.2 miles 
  • 5 hours
  • Hard

Map and route

Cross Fell map