7 easy walks in the Lake District for beginners and families
Brilliant Lakeland walks for everyone regardless of age or experience
Castlehead wood - the best easy walk for the ultimate view
The rocky lookout at Castlehead wood offers one of the finest views of Derwentwater . And it’s reached by a short, easy loop of around 2 miles. It’s a brilliant route for young children, who’ll love the sense of accomplishment of conquering a little Lakeland summit. There are some excellent pubs en route too, where you can stop for a rest and a real ale. The dog-friendly Dog & Gun is a particularly good choice if you’re taking your four-legged friend.
Starting from the lively market square in Keswick, the route heads southward, striking up the low, tree-cloaked hill of Castlehead. There’s a scrambly bit just below the top, which adds to the sense of adventure, before the big reveal at the top. From here you can look over Keswick, Bassenthwaite Lake and the full length of Derwentwater, surrounded by mountains. A dial marker names the 30 fells that can be seen. The route returns to town by dropping down to follow the lakeshore. Pause on a bench by the water’s edge to soak up the water-level views.
Buttermere - the loveliest lake loop
Buttermere is a beauty. Tucked into the northern Lake District, it’s surrounded by dramatic fells. But, being off the main beaten track, with no big settlements nearby, it remains quieter than other honeypot sites. Indeed, it has a slightly faraway, fairytale feel.
A path of around 4.5 miles circles Buttermere, perfect for a leisurely, easy-to-navigate stroll of a few hours. Longer if you stop for stone-skimming and picnics. The views en route are spectacular. Buttermere lies at the head of the River Cocker and is hugged by impressive mountains including Fleetwith Pike and the High Stile Range. Also visible is Haystacks, which the Lakeland writer Alfred Wainwright considered ‘the best fell-top of all’.
Begin in the hamlet of Buttermere, where there’s a car park and places to grab refreshments. Then walk anticlockwise around the lake, first along the tree-lined west side before returning along the eastern edge. The latter includes walking through a dark, atmospheric tunnel, hacked from the rock in the 19th century.
Catbells - the Wainwright-approved walk
Looking for something to suit your whole family? This moderate ramble has the ultimate seal of approval. Alfred Wainwright himself called Catbells a ‘family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together’. At 451m, the rugged peak of Catbells isn’t that high, but feels higher. You’ll feel you’ve mastered a much mightier mountain for relatively little effort.
Many climbers start from the car park at Hawse End but it gets very busy. The best way to reach the trailhead is to take a steamer across the lake from Keswick to Hawse End jetty.
The path itself comprises a short, steep, zigzag, then a straightforward trail before a simple scramble to the panoramic summit. From here there are magnificent views along Derwentwater, with the iconic fells of Skiddaw and Blencathra looming beyond.
Stock Ghyll - the wet weather wonder
If it rains while you’re in the Lakes (and it probably will), that doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun outside. Pull on your wellies and head out on a 1.2-mile loop from the charming town of Ambleside to Stock Ghyll Force. This raging waterfall plunges more than 20m down a series of cascades. And it’s at its thunderous best during a downpour.
The trail leads from the centre of Ambleside and along a tree-flanked mountain stream into Stock Ghyll Park. Here, the path climbs up though the woods to the top of the falls and back down. There are bridges to cross, rock-cut steps to navigate, benches to rest on and fenced look-outs offering up-close views. Warm up afterwards in one of Ambleside’s cafes.
Grizedale Forest - the arty amble
Sprawling between the waters of Windermere and Coniston, Grizedale Forest is both an outdoor playground and a living art gallery. As well as numerous walking trails, there are around 80 sculptures scattered amid the trees here. Some are easy to find, some need to be searched out. Some are being reclaimed by nature.
Pick up a map from the visitor centre and head out on a walk. The moderate, 4-mile-long Grizedale Tarn Trail, which rises east out of the valley, is a good choice. It takes in many striking sculptures, including Some Fern, with its huge fronds poking from a rocky outcrop, and the musical Clockwork Forest. It also crosses the smart Centenary Bridge and visits Grizedale’s only natural tarn (mountain lake).
Eskdale - the ramble by heritage rail
The narrow-gauge Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway is one of the most fun ways to access a Lakeland adventure. Its steam and diesel locomotives run right into the highest fells, so you can reach prime walking country without a car.
End-of-the-line Dalegarth station sits in sight of Scafell Pike, England’s tallest peak. But an easier walk from here is a 3-mile clockwise loop into Eskdale. The going is relatively easy, along quiet lanes, rugged paths, rocky steps and bridleways. You’ll cut through woodland that’s scampered by red squirrels. And you’ll follow a stretch of the River Esk, where you might spot salmon battling their way upstream.
Don’t miss the detour to Stanley Force. A short out-and-back trail leads along a brook and over footbridges to this dramatic waterfall, which roars down the ravine.
Loughrigg - the perfect panorama of the Lakes
It can seem like the whole Lake District is on show when you look out from the top of Loughrigg. At 335m, it’s not especially high. But spin around up here and you can see Windermere, the Old Man of Coniston and the iconic Langdale Pikes. It’s a feast of fells.
There are also several options for walks. If you start from White Moss car park, a loop to Loughrigg summit, via a gentle climb, is around 3 miles. This includes traversing Loughrigg Terrace and returning via cathedral-like Rydal Cave, where a green pool flickers with tiny fish. However, if the ascent is too much for little legs, follow the wooded riverside path from White Moss to Grasmere instead. The path along the north bank is suitable for all-terrain buggies too.
We’ve got ideas for hundreds of wonderful walking routes across England, Scotland and Wales, long and short, easy and challenging. Search for routes on our website. Or join a guided walk with a local Ramblers group. Find your nearest Ramblers group and choose a walk that suits your pace, fitness and interests.
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