Fifteen Fabulous Cumbrian Walks

It’s hard to talk about Cumbria at the moment without mentioning Storm Desmond – the pictures of flooded towns and destroyed bridges dominated the national and international news. The storm itself affected a relatively small area of the county, but the aftermath of the storm is having an impact right across Cumbria – as a result of the negative media images, people have been cancelling their holidays here or just not booking in the first place for fear of rain, floods or washed away roads ruining their hols.

flood Broughton bridge © Dave Wilson River Irt © Lois Lindemann River Cocker © SpodZone

Well the good news is that we’re made of tough stuff up here and the county is open for business as usual. Most of the shops affected by floods are now open again, the majority of the footpaths are fine and the roads, with a few exceptions, are passable. Your biggest obstacle is the A591 which is closed north of Grasmere, but there’s a shuttle bus now running over a temporary bridge and, if you prefer to drive, the detour via Glenridding is magnificent.

When you think about walking in Cumbria naturally the Lake District leaps to mind, but here are fifteen fabulous Cumbrian walks ideas for walks to suit all ages, abilities and adventure levels; so book your hols, grab your boots and head for the great outdoors!


High Walks

If it’s the high fells you’re after then give High Street a go – there’s a beautiful and usually quiet route up from Haweswater with plenty of free parking, but if you don’t fancy a long drive then there’s also a lovely route up from Troutbeck and a couple of places to take a quick dip in the beck too, if you’re feeling brave.


Low Walks

If you prefer to stay down low then you could do worse than a walk along Derwent Water from Keswick – a lap of the lake is a great way to spend the day with a couple of nice pubs to stop off at along the way. If you try this route be sure to take the detour to Lodore Falls, particularly impressive just after rain.

Coastal Walks

The Cumbrian coastline is largely ignored by many visitors and yet there are some superb walks – the cliffs from St Bees to Whitehaven in the west, Silecroft beach a little further south and Arnside beach in the very south, which not only has an excellent prom and beach walk but also a fabulous chippy to round off the day.

History Walks

Cumbria is chock full of history so you have plenty of walks to choose from. For something off the beaten track, head north to Caldbeck and follow the short waymarked route to The Howk. Along the way you’ll pass an old bobbin mill with information boards describing how the industry once dominated the area.

Lake Walks

Well, we have plenty of these for you to choose from! One of our favourite lake walks is to catch the ferry from Glenridding to Pooley Bridge and walk back along the banks of Ullswater. There’s lots of spectacular scenery and everyone will be delighted to see you – Glenridding was hit particularly badly and has seen a sharp drop in visitor numbers, so do go along and support the local shops.

Waterfall Walks

If rain is good for one thing then it’s good for waterfalls, and there are plenty you could go and visit. Not far from Ambleside is Skelwith Bridge where you can take a visit to the broad, roaring falls, but don’t stop at that; follow the Cumbria Way up to Colwith Force – very different and very pretty falls with plenty of viewing points.

Family Walks

Little legs tire easily and pushchairs don’t fit well through kissing gates, so if you’re after something for the whole family then try the Langdale Valley (pictured above). There’s ample parking in the National Trust car park at the foot of Stickle Ghyll, and from there you can explore the paths along the valley floor or for slightly older adventurers there’s an easy to follow route up to Stickle Tarn. The nearby pub is child friendly and has a pile of games available to keep everyone entertained while you wait for your well earned meals.

Wildlife Walks

There’s always plenty of wildlife to see up here, though most of it moves the minute you reach for your camera! Not far from Kirkby Stephen is the beautiful Smardale Gill nature reserve (owned and managed by Cumbria Wildlife Trust) with plenty of broad, level footpaths and loads of wildlife to see. The beck is home to the rare white-clawed crayfish which is a protected species, though you can often spot herons fishing for them along the banks – there are plenty of dippers along the river too – plus a wide range of butterflies during the summer months.

River Walks

The Lune Valley in the east of the county has been a thoroughfare since Roman times and probably longer, and there’s a lovely footpath alongside most stretches of the river. For something a little different head for Lowgill to the north west of Kendal, where you’ll find a very pretty route along the river with a return route along the nearby hills if you don’t fancy retracing your steps.

Hidden Walks

Sometimes you just want to go somewhere quiet, and that can be tricky up here during the busy season, but Burns Beck Moss is a little gem and usually deserted. Lying just a few miles east of Kendal, there’s a small nature reserve where you can start off on a lovely circular route to nearby Killington. There are stunning views of the Lune Valley and the Howgills and a few properly ancient footpaths to discover.

Spring Walks

There’s nothing finer than a spring wood, and Dorothy Farrer’s Spring Wood is particularly colourful (pictured above). Just a few minutes’ drive from Stavely the floor of the wood erupts into life in April and May, with the gorgeous deep blues of the bluebells contrasting with the snow white of the garlic blossom – be sure to take your camera!

Autumn Walks

For an autumn walk with a difference visit High Dam. There’s another bobbin mill (Stott Park) to explore near the car park and a good mix of broad leafed trees on the way up to the dam, which all turn the most perfect shades of gold during the autumn. While you’re up there tack on a short diversion to Stott Park Heights for fantastic views up along Windermere.

Town Walks

Kendal was one of the places that got hit hard during the floods, and the River Kent (which caused all the trouble) makes for a lovely walk through the town and out into the surrounding countryside. You can follow it for as far as you fancy as there are plenty of bridges where you can cross over and take a different route back.

Pub Walks

What’s a good walk without a good pub at the end? Cartmel is a particularly good place to visit if you’re in the mood for a shortish hill walk with good food at the end. From the village you can head up onto Hampsfell then back down for a big bowl of homemade soup and a pint of beer from Unsworth’s, the local microbrewery in the village.

Canal Walks

Most people think of lakes when they head to Cumbria but not many people think of canals, and yet there are a couple worth visiting. Ulverston Canal is one of the smallest in the UK and won’t take you long to stroll along, but you can round it off with a trip up to The Hoad afterwards – a scale replica of the Eddystone Lighthouse. The Lancaster Canal winds up through the south of the county and there’s a great walk along the towpath from Crooklands – not a walk for big views but perfect for those using wheels or looking for something flat.

Hopefully that has given you a few ideas for walks up here the next time you visit. If you’re on social media be sure to follow @CumbriaTourism for the big events in the area, and Lake District National Parks Authority for news of activities and footpath updates within the National Park. Also keep an eye out for @NotJustLakes who’ll tell you about all the small businesses in the region, so you can track down that perfect little off the beaten track coffee shop.


Holiday Highlights

  • Visiting the iconic lakes of the Lake District National Park, including Coniston Water and Elterwater.
  • Being surrounded by dramatic mountain ranges, including the Helvellyn Range, the Langdale Pikes and Skiddaw.
  • Arriving in Carlisle to explore Hadrian’s Wall and Carlisle Castle and cathedral.
  • Crossing the Lake District National Park at a steadier pace and cherishing the breath-taking mountainous scenery.
  • Experiencing the tranquil beauty of Tarn Hows.
  • Tasting the landscape that inspired literary greats including, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Arthur Ransome and Beatrix Potter.
  • Experiencing the best of the Lake District National Park on the route from Coniston to Keswick.
  • Visiting some of the Lake District’s iconic lakes, including Coniston Water and Derwentwater.
  • Arriving in Keswick with the dramatic backdrop of Skiddaw.

Originally published 25/02/16

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