Visitors come to the Lake District for all sorts of reasons, but up there at the top is the chance to take a gentle walk alongside the water. And the Lake District is not short on waterside walking routes. With 16 lakes, and several tarns, meres and “waters”, there’s a vast array of options open to you.
So, whether you want a serious challenge or a gentle stroll, here’s our pick of the best lakeside walks in the Lake District:
1. Friar’s Crag
- Distance: Less than a mile
A great option for beginners, Friar’s Crag is a gentle and scenic lakeside walk. If you make your starting point the Theatre By The Lake in Keswick, you can get to Friar’s Crag in just a 15-minute stroll southwards with amazing views across Derwentwater and the “Jaws of Borrowdale”.
Once you’ve reached Friar’s Crag, you have the option to turn on your heels and walk back the way you came, extend your walk towards Stradshag Bay or do a full circular walk back to Keswick via Cockshot Wood.
2. Buttermere Circular
- Distance: 4.5 miles
Buttermere, in the northwest of the Lake District, is a hot spot for photographers for its extremely photogenic aspect. With gentle waters and scenic backdrop, it makes for a stunning waterside walk.
This three-hour walk starts at Buttermere village where you’ll find ample parking. It’s worth noting Buttermere is a Miles without Stiles (the Lake District’s answer to accessibility) route, and so a good option for families. Kids also love the 100-foot-long Hassness Tunnel on the eastern shore which was carved out of the rock to enable the 19th-century owner to walk around the water unimpeded.
3. Aira Force & Ullswater Way
- Distance: 3 miles or 6.5 miles
The Ullswater Way is slightly more taxing, with its 20 miles of paths (which, incidentally, can be broken up with short trips on the Ullswater Steamers or local buses).
You can start your walk at Pooley Bridge, Glenridding, Glencoyne or Patterdale, but keep in mind that the Ullswater Way will take you away from the lake itself between Aira Force and Pooley Bridge. Aira Force to Glenridding is a beautifully scenic 3-mile route, with Glenridding to Howtown making a longer 6.5 stretch.
4. Rydal Water
- Distance: 3.7 miles
Walking the perimeter of Rydal Water is around 3.7 miles, beginning at White Moss car park between Rydal and Grasmere. It’s not technically a lakeside walk, as it doesn’t take you to the edge of the lake directly, but there are lots to take in nonetheless: two sets of caves, stunning views across Rydal Water from Loughrigg Terrace, and William Wordsworth’s former home at Rydal Mount.
- Distance: 6.5 miles
Ennerdale Water is well-known for being one of the more tranquil and less-walked of the Lakes. Despite being not way-marked, it’s easy to walk around the perimeter of the shore, a distance of 6.5 miles in total.
The walk itself takes you through forests, tracks, and rocky footpaths as well as a steep climb and scramble up and over Angler’s Crag. Once at the top, however, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views across the lake.
6. Western Windermere
- Distance: 4 miles
Windermere is probably the Lake District’s busiest stretch of water, but the western edge can be remarkably peaceful. Starting at Wray Castle, the walk takes you toward Claife Viewing Station.
At this point, you can head to Ferry House and take a ferry across to the eastern shore on Windermere Lake Cruises. They offer a Walkers Ticket which starts at either Ambleside or Bowness-on-Windermere, dropping you off at Wray and returning you to your start point later on.
7. Pooley Bridge
- Distance: 1 mile
Pooley Bridge is one of the Lake District’s most photogenic areas. Starting at Pooley Bridge car park, follow the footpath along Ullswater towards Gale bay (this is roughly half a mile). It’s a short but fantastically pretty walk, but you can obviously extend it by walking the perimeter of Ullswater before walking back to Pooley Bridge.
8. Loweswater Lake
- Distance: 4 miles
Located in the far northwest of the Lake District, Loweswater is one of the more secluded of the Lakes.
If you start at the Maggie’s Bridge car park you can walk clockwise around the lake, through Holme Wood and onwards towards Hudson Place. From here, you have the choice of turning around and making your way back or carrying along the path around the opposite side of the lake.
9. Coniston Water
Coniston Water is one of the Lake District’s favourite hotspots, with the option of walking the lakeside footpath or enjoying a trip on the Coniston Launch, the resident boat service. Catch the launch at Coniston Jetty towards Sunny Bank or Torver jetties and complete your journey on foot around the lakeside path or along the road.
- Distance: 10 miles
For more of a dedicated trek, Derwentwater offers a 10-mile lakeside waymarked walk around its perimeter. The route takes you around ancient woodland, and you also have the option of breaking up your walk with trips on the Keswick Launch – this way you can pick and choose which bits of the walk you want to complete.
Derwentwater is also scattered with hidden gems, including beaches at Brandelhow – perfect for a picnic in good weather – and pubs and tearooms along the route.
Whether you’re looking for a gentle stroll or a big challenge, the Lake District has a gamut of options to suit all tastes, ages and abilities.
If you’re looking for your own unique experience of the lakes, we offer a range of guided walking tours to give you an immersive trip into this UNESCO World Heritage Site.