36 Hours In ... The Lake District

Iseo Lake/ Photo by:piergiov-istock-getty-images-plus

by Oliver Berry, The Daily Telegraph, August 24, 2016

An insider's guide to what to do on a short break in the Lake District, including the best walks, prettiest villages and festivals in the area as well as top tips for foodies. By Oliver Berry, Telegraph Travel's Lake District expert.

Why go now?

If you want to see the Lake District at its most verdant, summer is definitely the time to go. It’s a big area, so this itinerary just concentrates on the quintessential Lakes scenery around Keswick, Borrowdale and Buttermere.

At this time of year, the fells are busy, the meadows and hedgerows are in full bloom, and lively festivals spring into life on many a village green, including the Grasmere Sports Day (held on the August Bank Holiday), when locals battle it out in traditional sports such as hound trailing, guides racing and Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling.


Other events to look out for here include the gruelling Borrowdale Fell Race (August 4;  borrowdale-fell-runners.org ), the Lake District Summer Music Festival (until August 12;  ldsm.org.uk ) and the Grasmere rushbearing ceremony (August 4 – it’s always on the Saturday nearest to August 5), when bundles of rushes are paraded through the village’s streets to the parish church where they were once used for flooring, a practice that dates back to medieval times.

The NPA (National Park Authority;  lakedistrict.gov.uk ) also runs guided hikes throughout the summer, an ideal way for novice walkers to get acquainted with the Lakeland fells.

Where to stay

Special treat

Over at the north end of Windermere, The Samling (1) (01539 431922;  thesamlinghotel.co.uk ) is one of the Lake District’s most luxurious addresses, tucked away at the end of a private drive. It has a stately old-school elegance; doubles from £280.

Mid range

Howe Keld (01768 772417;  howekeld.co.uk ) is the pick of Keswick’s numerous B&Bs. Rooms are sleek and contemporary, and breakfast treats include pancakes, veggie rissoles and fresh smoothies. Doubles £90 to £130.


Keswick’s thoroughly modernised YHA (0870 7705894;  [email protected] ) has a riverside location overlooking Fitz Park. Dorms from £18, doubles from £45.

On arrival


Start with a twilight cruise across Derwentwater aboard the Keswick Launch (01768 772263;  keswick-launch.co.uk ). The lake looks at its best in the light of early evening, bathed in pastel colours and surrounded by sunlit fells.

Hopping aboard a pleasure boat is an idyllic way to explore the Lake DistrictCredit: AP/FOTOLIA


Back on dry land, stroll into town for supper at Morrels (01768 772666; Lake Road, mains £10.95 to £19), a townhouse bistro that serves modern British dishes among pop-art prints and gloss-wood floors.


After supper, join the locals for a drink at the Dog & Gun (2 Lake Road, 01768 773463), one of several homely pubs dotted round town. You can drink with a clear conscience: for every pint of Thirst Rescue you down, the Dog & Gun makes a donation to the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team.

Day one


Pick up a gourmet picnic from Pumpkin (01768 775973; 19 Lake Road), Keswick’s classiest artisan café, then stroll up to the Castlerigg Stone Circle, dramatically sited on a hilltop just outside Keswick. Location was just as important to prehistoric builders as it is today: the wraparound view of the surrounding fells is a knockout.

The mysterious Castlerigg Stone Circle sits atop a hill just outside KeswickCredit: AP/FOTOLIA


Hop into the car and drive south into Borrowdale, perhaps the quintessential Lakeland valley, with its patchwork of dry-stone walls, bottle-green meadows and slate-topped cottages. Stop off at the local beauty spots of Lodore Falls and Watendlath Tarn, then pop in for homemade scones and jam sponges at the Flock-Inn Tearoom (01768 777675;  borrowdaleherdwick.co.uk ; cakes £3 to £5), a farmhouse café in the little hamlet of Rosthwaite.


Savour the drive through Borrowdale’s bucolic scenery, as it’s about to get wild and windswept. Perched at the top of the steep pass between Borrowdale and Buttermere is Honister Slate Mine (01768 777230; honister-slate-mine.co.uk ), where you can take a tour into one of the disused mines (£9.95/ £4.95 adults/ children), or test your mettle on the hair-raising via ferrata, a system of fixed ropes and ladders originally used by slate miners. 


From Honister, follow the road down into Buttermere, a classic glacial valley framed by more lofty fells and two lakes, Buttermere and Crummock Water. It’s a walker’s favourite. Alfred Wainwright, author of the Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells, rated it as the finest place to hike anywhere in the Lake District.

Lakeside trees are reflected in the limpid waters of ButtermereCredit: AP/FOTOLIA

His favourite fell (and last resting place) was Haystacks (597m/1,958ft), around six miles or five hours’ return walk from Buttermere; slightly less from the car park near Gatesgarth Farm. From the top, on a clear day, you can see all the way to the Cumbrian coast.


Reward yourself with a well-deserved pint and a fireside supper at the Kirkstile Inn (01900 85219;  kirkstile.com, mains £10-16), which has scooped numerous awards for its home-brewed ales. After dinner, there should be enough light for a dusk stroll around the peaceful shores of Loweswater before driving back to Keswick.

Day two   


In the morning, enjoy an amble around Keswick’s cobbled streets before heading three miles north to Bassenthwaite Lake, where you can spy on England’s only resident ospreys from two treetop hides in Dodd Wood.  

Storm clouds envelope Keswick, a reminder that anoraks are essential even in summerCredit: ALAMY


Finish up with a leisurely lunch at the excellent Pheasant Inn (01768 776234;  the-pheasant.co.uk, mains £12 to £20) nearby. It’s another Lakeland classic, full of hunting prints, beams and hearths, and it serves superb country food.

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This article was written by Oliver Berry from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.