Winter doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Some of the most beautiful scenes can be found on winter walks in the Lake District. Snow-dusted peaks that loom on the horizon, the satisfying crunch of frost underfoot, and piercing blue skies are just a few of my favourite things. And, of course, you’re never too far away from the heartwarming crackles of a log fire in a cosy pub.
But for those of you who don’t have the confidence or essential mountain skills to tackle lofty and icy fells, I’ve cherry-picked a selection of the best winter walks in the Lake District.
Blea Tarn Trail
Parking: Blea Tarn National Trust car park
Distance: 1.8 miles
Time: 1 – 2 hours
Nestled between Little Langdale and Great Langdale, Blea Tarn is one of the most scenic walks in the Lake District. With the iconic Langdale Pikes taking centre stage, this is one of the best short walks in the Lake District with stunning 360 degree views. And the good news is, for very little effort you’ll be rewarded with spellbinding scenery.
Start out from Blea Tarn National Trust car park. Cross the road and pass through the gate opposite to walk along the well-defined path that leads you through woodland and around the tarn. There are plenty of benches and viewpoints where you can capture amazing photos and soak up views of the Langdale Valley. You can either complete the circular route or retrace your steps to avoid walking back along the road.
Catbells, Maiden Moor, High Spy Circular Walk
Parking: Hawes End
Distance: 9.9 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Time: 4. 5 hours
Okay, so there is considerably more effort required for this walk, but this half Newlands Horseshoe walk is definitely worth it. Peering over Derwentwater and the Newlands Valley, the summits of Catbells, Maiden Moor, and High Spy provide views to die for.
There’s a small area for parking at Hawes End and from there you can follow the sign for Catbells, which is 1 mile. The route to the summit is fairly straightforward and no doubt you’ll be accompanied by other walkers as it’s a very popular hike.
Once you’ve reached the summit after a short scramble and taken in the views, continue down the col and follow the uphill track. After another short scramble you’ll see a wide scar as you head for Maiden Moor. Stay on the main track to avoid the summit, especially in snowy conditions, then continue to the cairn on the summit of High Spy.
Once past the summit, follow the track downhill, across the stream and over the steps to Dalehead Tarn. Alongside the stream a narrow path leads you down to the Newlands Valley, passing gushing waterfalls along the way. As the path forks, follow the track on the left along the stream.
The track runs above fields before you arrive at Little Town. Follow the path to the right as it forks, then continue through the quarry to the road at Skelgill where you’ll find the car park a few hundreds yards on the right.
Grasmere and Rydal Circular Walk
Distance: 5.6 miles
Time: 2 hours
A beautiful walk for both adults and kids. Fringed by imposing peaks, this lakeside walk around Grasmere and Rydal Water is perfect for the winter months as it’s reasonably flat and easy to navigate.
Park at one of the car parks in Grasmere and head for the A591 on foot. Continue right along the road where you’ll pass historical sites such as Dove Cottage which was once the home of William Wordsworth. The road leads to White Moss Common and the infamous Coffin Route before you reach Rydal Mount and Rydal Hall.
Cross the bridge over the River Rothay and follow the woodland path down to Rydal Water. The lakeside track is easy to follow and takes you slightly uphill to Grasmere. Keep following the lakeside path until you return to Grasmere Village.
Derwentwater Lakeshore Walk
Parking: Keswick Lakeside Car Park
Distance: 10 miles
Time: 3.5 – 4 hours
Although this lakeside walk around Derwentwater is 10 miles, it’s a wonderful route surrounded by fells, with plenty of fascinating sights along the way. And if you feel like cheating, you can always hop on the boat at one of the landing stages and take a short cut across the lake!
Walk up past Theatre by The Lake in Keswick, towards the lakeside then head left along the shoreline. You’ll find several waymarked routes on your journey that will keep you on the right track. Make sure you look out for popular viewpoints and places of interest such as Friars Crag, Calfclose Bay and the Centenary Stone, Ashness Bridge, the Ruskin Memorial, and the Entrust hand sculpture.
Tarn Hows Circular Walk
Parking: Tarn Hows National Trust Car Park
Distance: 1.8 miles
Time: 1 hour
Wildlife abounds in this picturesque setting, making it one of the best winter walks in the Lake District for families of all ages. What makes it even more special is the recognisable backdrop of the Langdale Pikes. Park at the dedicated Tarn Hows car park and head down to the waterside where you can choose to walk either clockwise or anti-clockwise around the tarn. There are several benches dotted around the shoreline so you can take your time soaking up the scenery.
I’d recommend walking down to Tom Gill Waterfall which you can access from the side of the tarn, just by the bridge a little further down from the car park.
Pooley Bridge to Howtown and Hallin Fell
Parking: Dunmallard Car Park, Pooley Bridge
Distance: 8 miles
Time: 3 hours
Combining a gentle lakeside walk along the shores of Ullswater with a moderate climb to the summit of Hallin Fell, this walk from Pooley Bridge has it all. Starting from Pooley Bridge, walk along the eastern shore of Ullswater following part of the Ullswater Way. The first part of the walk runs along the lakeside and you can enjoy gorgeous views of the lake and some of the Far Eastern Fells. Continue along the road that leads you into Howtown before navigating your way up to the summit of Hallin Fell.
As you approach Howtown, the distinctive peak of Hallin Fell comes into sight. The path that leads to the summit is a steep but short climb and relatively easy to navigate. Although this is one of the smaller Lake District fells, the views from the top pack an almighty punch. As well as the mesmerising panorama across Ullswater, there are fabulous views of Helvellyn, Stybarrow Dodd, Great Dodd, Shefield Pike and many more. Return to Howtown and follow the same route back to Pooley Bridge.
Kentmere Reservoir Walk
Parking: Kentmere Institute
Distance: 8 miles
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Time: 3 hours
One of the lesser-known walking routes in the Lake District, the Kentmere Reservoir walk lies inside a valley below magnificent fell scenery that makes up the Kentmere Horseshoe. As well as enjoying a quieter route with fewer walkers, this 8-mile walk from the Kentmere Institute takes you between imposing peaks and among an array of wildlife. The area is known to avid nature lovers who like to spot birds on their walks.
While the path can be a little hilly and rugged in parts before you reach the main stone track, the majority of the walk is relatively flat. Along the walk there are lots of small waterfalls that run down the hillsides where you can stop and admire the setting. With any luck the peaks will be dusted in snow and you’ll have plenty of photo opportunities.
AD – Winter Breaks in the Lake District
If you’re planning on making the most of your winter walks in the Lake District, there are lots of cosy inns where you can enjoy hearty homecooked food and stay overnight. Check out these fabulous winter breaks with dinner, bed and breakfast from just £99 per room per night.