Five of the best lowland Lake District winter walks
PUBLISHED: 10:29 29 December 2014 | UPDATED: 22:19 25 January 2016
Outdoors writer and photographer Vivienne Crow picks some of her favourite lowland Lake District walks for winter
Wind and rain, snow and ice, and a sun that rises at 8am and has disappeared by 4pm. All these things conspire to keep walkers off the fells during the winter.
But boots don’t have to be consigned to the back of the cupboard at this time of the year; there are plenty of great walks in the valleys, beside the lakes and on the low fells.
And, with the mountains covered in snow, this can often be one of the most visually stunning times to visit the National Park. So, hunt out your hat and gloves, make yourself a flask of steaming coffee, and enjoy the Lakes... whatever the season.
Here are five of my favourites
Walk 1: Hardknott Fort and Harter Fell
Harter Fell may be only 2129ft high, but the way its craggy outline towers over Eskdale, you’d be forgiven for thinking this knobbly peak reached a far greater height. On the way to the summit, the Lake District’s most spectacularly located Roman remains can be visited: the substantial walls of Hardknott Fort sit high up on a grassy spur about 650ft above Eskdale with views of the Scafell range. That amazing prospect – and more besides – dominates much of the walk as you then climb to the summit of Harter Fell. Return via unfrequented country with views to the coast to complete this 4¼-mile route.
Walk 2: Buttermere
For an easy, 4¼-mile walk in magnificent surroundings, look no further than the circuit of Buttermere. This little lake, probably one of the most photographed in the Lake District, is ringed by spectacular mountain scenery. The steep slopes of the craggy High Stile range loom over the south-western shore, while the narrow, shapely ridge of Fleetwith Edge comes almost all the way down to the water’s edge. With mostly good paths underfoot, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the views. A short tunnel hewn through the rock at Hassness provides a moment of excitement on the return route.
Walk 3: Great Langdale
Dominated by the iconic Langdale Pikes and culminating in the high wall of rock thrown up by the ridge comprising Crinkle Crags and Bow Fell, Great Langdale is one of the most dramatic of Lakeland valleys. There are many ways to enjoy it without having to climb on to the high fells. A 9¾-mile route from Elterwater starts with a stroll along the low, grassy ridge of Dow Bank. It then uses good tracks and paths in the valley bottom to make its way gradually up towards the valley head. The turning point is Mickleden Beck, which has to be carefully forded.
Walk 4: Castlerigg Stone Circle and High Rigg
High Rigg is a lovely little lump of fell – sometimes grassy, sometimes craggy – towered over by all its neighbours. Its highest point is just 1171ft above sea level, and yet it has much to offer: hidden tarns, dark crags, springs and becks galore, knobbly summits, even a short section of narrow, heather-covered ridge – it’s like the Lake District in miniature. It makes a great introduction to fell-walking. For a straightforward 8½-mile walk, approach High Rigg from the enigmatic Castlerigg Stone Circle and then return via St John’s in the Vale and the open pastures of Low Rigg.
Walk 5: Ullswater Shore
Ullswater is the second largest lake in the National Park, curling from the eastern fells to within a stone’s throw of Penrith. Its shores can be explored on several linear walks using the Ullswater ‘Steamer’. Start from Howtown to follow the glorious lakeside path along the base of the fells to Patterdale and Glenridding. At first, gentle green slopes run down to the water’s edge, but as you make your way south, the views become craggier and more dramatic. For an impressive finale to this 7-mile route, come away from the well-trodden lakeside path to climb juniper-clad Silver Crag.
Vivienne Crow is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer, specialising in all things to do with the outdoors. She has written more than a dozen guides to Cumbria and the Lake District. All the walks mentioned here are described in full in Vivienne’s latest book, Lake District: Low Level and Lake Walks. Priced £9.99. It includes detailed route directions for 30 graded walks, OS mapping, colour photographs and information about facilities en route. Available in shops, tourist information centres and online (ISBN 978-1-852847340).