Things to do in the Lake District

A trip to the Lake District is all about superlatives. Whether you're gazing up at - or down from - England's highest mountains, photographing the country's deepest lake or visiting the homes of famous romantic poets, you're bound to be drawn into the unparalleled natural beauty of England's iconic national park.

Exploring Keswick with Hannah Outside

Join Hannah Outside in the latest of her series exploring Britain from YHA hostels, this time in the Lake District! Hannah and friends tackle parts of the Cumbrian Way and Catbells, with stunning, snowy views of Derwentwater and Keswick.

Top Lake District attractions

Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere

At over 10 miles long, the picturesque ribbon lake Windermere acts as an irresistible magnet at the heart of the Lake District.

Rydal Mount

Rydal Mount

Moving on from the Wordsworth family home to his own house in the village of Rydal, the great poet lived, wrote and entertained here from age 43 until his death at 80 in 1850.

Ullswater

Ullswater

The second largest lake in the Lake District is nine miles long, snaking through a stunning valley between high mountains, none more impressive than Helvellyn to its southwest.

Best things to do in the Lake District

Aira Force waterfalls

Aira Force Waterfalls

Indulge in impressive mountain scenery and a 65ft waterfall that inspired many of Wordsworth's great works.

Indoor climbing wall

Ambleside Climbing Wall

Here at Ambleside Climbing Wall there's an indoor climbing wall, bouldering room, and cafe. There's also a room dedicated to climbing gear, which can be hired.

Ashgill Force

Ashgill Force

The highest waterfall in the area, the gill falls a spectacular 50ft into a pool in the wooded valley below.

Derwentwater boat trips

Boat trips on Derwentwater

Cruise the lake stopping at the lakeshore jetties where you can change boats, or enjoy the 50 minute trip around Derwentwater.

Windermere

Brockhole Visitor Centre

Take in the scenic views and gardens down to the shores of Windermere. Browse the shop and have a treat in the cafe.

Climbing

Climbing in Borrowdale

Shepherd's crag is a unique climbing ground! The buttresses provide good pitches for both beginner and tiger. The rock is generally excellent.

climbing

Climbing in Buttermere

There are fantastic multi pitch climbs on the quick drying Grey Crag to suit all abilities.

Climbing in Keswick

Climbing in Keswick

For an accessible road-side route try Little Chamonix for an entry level climb.

Cross Bay Walks

Cross Bay Walks

The walks cross several estuary channels, some some fast running, so it's best to use a guide across the dangerous sands.

cycling

Cycling around Hawkshead

YHA Hawkshead is a fantastic location for road and mountain bikers, be they novice, families or experienced. Grizedale Forest The forest is a mecca for mountain bikers in the north west and YHA Ha

Cycling at YHA Alston

Cycling at YHA Alston

The hostel is a popular stop off for the Sea to Sea bike ride. The secure bike shed and drying room offer all the facilities a cyclist needs. However we do not have bikes to rent out.

Cycling

Cycling in Borrowdale

Cycling around Derwentwater is a great day in the saddle. Admire the ever changing and breathtaking views across Derwentwater and stop off at the cafe at Grange and Keswick to keep you going.

The best Lake District walks

Borger Dalr

Borger Dalr

Alfred Wainwright, the famous fell walking author, described Borger Dalr as "the finest square mile in Lakeland". A four-mile circular walk between Grange and Iron Age hill fort Castle Crag perfectly shows off the exquisite scenery, magnificent hills, a poignant war memorial and views over the former bed of an Ice Age lake.

The route
Duration: 3 hours
Length: 4 miles
Route details

Nearest hostel: YHA Borrowdale

The Tarn Hows Loop

The Tarn Hows Loop

In the hills above Coniston Water, this picturesque lakeside beauty spot is run by the National Trust. Its flat paths (on Beatrix Potter's former estate) offer short but truly rewarding walks for all abilities. Created in the 19th century by the damming of three tarns, the woodland walk is surrounded by breathtaking crags and ridges.

The route
Duration: 1-2 hours
Length: 1.8 miles
Route details

Nearest hostel: YHA Coniston Holly How

The Alcock Tarn Walk

The Alcock Tarn Walk

Although it doesn't extend far on the map from Grasmere village, those bunched contour lines assure you're quickly ascending 1,000 metres skyward on this stunning four mile walk. The views southwest across the village and valley are superb, and the tarn nestling high in the hills makes a natural stop for well-deserved refreshments.

The route
Duration: 2-3 hours
Length: 3.7 miles
Route details

Nearest hostel: YHA Grasmere Butharlyp Howe

The Mickleden Valley Trail

The Mickleden Valley Trail

Beginning at Old Dungeon Ghyll, this two-hour walk is perfect for ramblers of all abilities and will introduce you to areas of real uninhabited wilderness. There's no loop route available on this flat two mile walk through Mickleden valley but when the towering valley splits into twin mountain passes, you can simply double your pleasure by turning back.

The route
Duration: 2 hours
Length: 3.8 miles
Route details

Nearest hostel: YHA Langdale

Transport

Train railway tracks on autumn landscape

By train

Given the wild, mountainous nature of the terrain, the Lake District is surprisingly well served by rail. Stations at Penrith and Oxenholme are on the London to Glasgow mainline, with a journey time of around three hours from London. Windermere, Kendal and Staveley are the stops on one of England's most spectacular branch lines.

Happy family riding in the car

By car

The main arterial M6 motorway passes close by the Lake District, west of Kendal, so initial travel access is easy. However, the National Parks authorities do underline the stress-free possibility of doing the Lakes by bus, train, boat, bike - and ultimately on foot - relieving traffic on steep single-track roads and busy peak-season car parks.

Close up shot of the bell button on the bus

By bus

All of the major towns in the Lake District, as well as many more inaccessible villages and visitor attractions, are linked by reliable bus services. Stagecoachs Explorer day tickets (£10 adult; £7.50 under 16) can make great sense if you're travelling on a budget, enabling you to travel throughout Cumbria on most services.

By Bicycle

By bicycle

Take your bike by train or car or take advantage of the many hire firms in the Lake District. The unspoiled high terrain offers fantastic challenges for adrenaline-fuelled off-road cyclists looking for a Tour de Lake challenge, while the lowland valleys, lakeside and river routes are far easier going and every bit as spectacular.

Find your perfect Lake District accommodation

Pikes and fells

Scafell Pike

Scafell Pike

As the highest mountain in England at 978 metres, Scafell Pike offers three routes to the summit with various degrees of difficulty; all of which reflect the lonely grandeur of the scenery. The Hollowstones route is most popular, rewarding properly equipped hikers with unrivalled views to the west coast - and Scotland, Wales and Ireland on clear days.

Nearest hostel: YHA Wasdale Hall

Helvellyn

Helvellyn

Situated north of Ambleside, the high point on the Helvellyn range is the third most lofty summit in all of England. Access is easier here than to the two higher peaks, offering amazing views over surrounding fells and down into Red Tarn. Experienced hikers may be tempted by the thrilling adjoining knife-edge ridges and scree slopes.

Nearest hostel: YHA Helvellyn

Skiddaw

Skiddaw

Skiddaw may only be the Lakes' fourth highest peak, but it is the oldest, dating back over 400 million years. Lured by inviting views of the pyramid peak from Keswick below, there is a relatively easy six mile walk ascending over 600 metres to the 931 metre peak. However, there are tougher routes for experienced walkers.

Nearest hostel: YHA Skiddaw Bunkhouse

Castle Crag

Castle Crag

Your ascent to Castle Crag begins in the nestling village of Rosthwaite. First following the River Derwent then rising above beautiful Borrowdale amid neighbouring fells, the route eventually passes through green slate quarries to the wooded crag, a one-time Iron Age hillfort.

Nearest hostel: YHA Borrowdale

Lake District adventures & activities

Mountain Biking

Mountain biking

Whether you're cycling country lanes in the lowlands, taking on established cross-country routes or cruising the purpose-built off-road trails at Whinlatter or Grizedale Forest, a day's mountain biking offers a completely different way to enjoy the Lake District whatever your cycling ability.

Watersports

Watersports

With countless square miles of fabulous open water fed by thundering river torrents, there's nowhere better than the Lake District to indulge your passion for watersports. Sailing, canoeing and windsurfing are available at most lakes, while kayaking and rafting are mostly river based. Check out our watersports page to find out which of our hostels are best equipped to accommodate watersports enthusiasts.

Climbing

Climbing

Walking in the Lake District is open to everybody with a stout pair of boots and a map, but higher-adrenaline activities such as mountain climbing, scrambling and canyoning in this natural wonderland are best taken on in expertly supervised groups. All levels of experience are welcome at the area's many specialist centres. Check out our climbing page to find out which YHA hostels accommodate keen climbers.

Swimming

Swimming

The Great North Swim takes place annually in June in Lake Windermere, with events running from half a mile to 10,000 metres. Its popularity has led to a rise in open water swimming in the lakes that allow it, but remember you'll need to seek instruction and safety support from a local provider.

Weather Chart

Weather

Average monthly sunshine and temperature charts reflect the expected summer highs for the Lake District - perhaps naturally, the most popular time to visit. However, average rainfall is not hugely lower during peak season than at other times of the year.

Lakeland scenery changes dramatically as the seasons spin by, and springtime and autumn breaks are now becoming popular especially if you're looking to wind down the year amid the spectacular reds and oranges of October and November.

Where to take your camera

Wasdale Head

Wasdale Head

A far-flung hamlet strewn across the head of the Wasdale Valley, Wasdale Head is usually considered to be the starting point for some of the Lake District’s most picturesque walks. Snap the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike, and Wastwater, its deepest lake and don’t miss St Olaf’s, allegedly the smallest church in England.

Nearest hostel: YHA Wasdale Hall

Loughrigg Fell

Loughrigg Fell

It may not be the highest fell in the Lakes, but from Loughrigg the views in every direction have an uncanny ability to catch the light and transform a photo into a work of art. Whether you’re shooting Loughrigg Tarn, Grasmere or Windermere down below, you’ll always grab some impressive snaps whatever the weather.

Nearest hostel: YHA Langdale

Grasmere

Grasmere

Grasmere village has been resolutely unspoiled by progress since Wordsworth’s time and offers dozens of vantage points for breathtaking photos. Encircled by the central fells and containing Wordsworth’s “most loveliest” lake, the area is a must for any serious photographer.

Nearest hostel: YHA Grasmere Butharlyp Howe

Kendal Castle

Kendal Castle

A 12th century castle that was already a ruin by the 16th, it’s almost as if the people of Kendal have deliberately preserved the old tower and great hall’s decay, nurturing this irresistibly photogenic pile on its mound-like hill outside town.

Nearest hostel: YHA Windermere

The best budget accommodation in the Lake District

Whatever Lake District itinerary you have for your adventure, we will have a hostel to match it. From remote shepherd's bothies to secluded lakeside retreats, you're sure to find unique Lake District accommodation for the best prices with YHA.