5 Top Waterside Walks in the Lake District

A boat crosses the water beneath fell peaks in the Lake District, home to incredible waterside walks.

by Sue Talbot

Renowned for its mountainous landscape, pristine lakes and wildly beautiful nature, the Lake District is home to some of the country’s most scenic walks. Among the stunning locations, there are several waterside walks that stand out for their beauty and unique charms.


Laying claim to being the second largest lake in the Lake District, Ullswater boasts a spectacular setting for a waterside walk.

One of the most popular routes is the Ullswater Way, a 20-mile circular trail that takes you around the perimeter of the lake. Along the way, you’re treated to captivating reflections that ripple on the water and views of majestic peaks such as Helvellyn and Place Fell.


Iconic landmarks that pepper the walk include the historic Glenridding Pier, and you might even spot red squirrels, otters and a variety of bird species in the area.


As the largest lake in England, Windermere is one of the most popular destinations in the Lake District.

The Windermere Way, a 45-mile route that circumnavigates the lake, is home to a diverse mix of landscapes, from hushed woodlands to tranquil shores. Wherever you look, you’re greeted with stunning views of shimmering waters, dotted with sailboats and surrounded by dramatic fells.

An aerial shot of the blue waters of Windermere, populated by white sailboats.
Windermere's far shore is green with bushy trees.
A waterside walk along the Windermere Way reveals fantastic views across the water to the dramatic shapes of Langdale Pike.

Wray Castle and Ambleside Pier are just a couple of the interesting places you can explore on the walk, and you may catch a glimpse of the elusive red deer or ospreys that inhabit the region.


Just moments from the market town of Keswick, Derwentwater is a gem among the lakes of the Lake District, famous for its imposing fell scenery.

A wooden rowboat sits on the shore of Derwentwater, framed by pine trees.
Walkers enjoying a waterside walk cross the sharply curved stone packhorse bridge of Ashness.

The Derwentwater Circuit, part of Contours' Derwentwater Round, is a popular six-mile walk that offers breathtaking views of the lake and the rugged fells. Along the route, you’ll come across peaceful woodlands, picturesque jetties and charming villages.

Landmarks like the iconic Ashness Bridge and the Centenary Stone add historical intrigue to the walk, while wildlife such as red squirrels, herons and kingfishers are often spotted around the lake.

Grasmere and Rydal Water

Grasmere and Rydal Water are two of the smaller but equally enchanting lakes in the Lake District. The four-mile trail along the shores of Rydal Water and around the Grasmere Circuit meanders past lush meadows and peaceful woodlands, and there are some great little spots for dipping your toes or even braving a swim.

A photo taken across the still waters of Grasmere to the lumpy Lake District hills beyond.
Vines and other greenery shroud the small grey shape of Dove Cottage, once home to William Wordsworth.

This romantic setting inspired famous poets like William Wordsworth, whose former home, Dove Cottage, is a notable landmark along the route. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for roe deer, badgers and various bird species along the way.


Buttermere is a more remote lake surrounded by rugged peaks. This hidden gem promises a scenic waterside walk with a few surprises along the way.

Lake District fells in the background, Buttermere in the foreground, encircled by a winding path between trees on the shore: this is Buttermere Circuit, one of the five best waterside walks in the Lake District.

The Buttermere Circuit is a four-mile trail that encircles the lake, with awe-inspiring views of epic fells such as Haystacks and Fleetwith Pike. If you want to extend your walk, continue around Crummock Water to Scale Force waterfall or as venture up to Warnscale Bothy for the most magnificent views of Buttermere.

Sue Talbot

Adventure Travel Blogger

Sue Talbot is an adventure travel blogger and iPhone photographer who’s often found hiking up the Lakeland fells or swimming in fairy pools. Her outdoor adventures and photographs can be found on her blog, Lifehop, and also her Lake District Lovers Facebook page.

Read more blogs by Sue Talbot

Interested in a waterside walk in the Lake District?

Contours Holidays offer a huge number of short circular walks in the Lake District walking holiday: from the Derwentwater Round to our bespoke North Lakes Short Break. See our full selection of Lake District walking holidays here:

Originally published 09/04/24

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