Recently I had a conversation with someone about holidays and the Lake District, during which they were saying what a shame it is that despite living just outside the Lakes, they rarely have time to explore what’s on their doorstep.
Those are almost exactly the words I would have used myself before I started this blog back in 2015. But having reflected on that conversation, it occurred to me that quite a number of the most beautiful places I’ve visited for Lake District Gems haven’t necessarily taken up a lot of time to visit – or the effort, such as a day’s walking, that you might expect. In fact, many I’ve been able to complete in the space of an afternoon.
And the benefits of taking a few hours out every now and again can be huge. I remember once realising that within just three to four hours of driving to and exploring Elterwater, I’d been able to completely switch off and calm my mind when just earlier in the day I’d felt mentally close to exhaustion! Since then, I’ve tried not to underestimate how important it is to carve out a little time for a change of scenery every now and again – although, to be honest, I have let things slip a bit recently, so do as I say, not as I do! 🙂
For this post therefore, I’ve been inspired to put together a few of the incredibly beautiful places I’ve found it possible to visit in just an afternoon…
(Please note that as with all walks in the Lake District, you should take care to choose appropriate footwear and clothing, take reasonable safety precautions, and find full details of each walk from a relevant map or guide before setting off).
1. Loughrigg Terrace overlooking Grasmere
I didn’t really know what to expect when I tried this walk out, but it’s a lovely route that starts at the White Moss car park on the A591 between Rydal and Grasmere. The walk winds up through woodland, and eventually ends on a path that leads around the side of Loughrigg, overlooking Grasmere. The bluebells here make for a stunning display in the springtime.
As a bonus, there are several benches from which to enjoy the view with a nice flask of tea. Beware what can be a brisk breeze, so wrap up warm. Also beware the many passing dogs if attempting to eat a sausage sandwich here (yes, I do speak from heartfelt experience on that one…).
2. Friar’s Crag, Keswick
I know, I know… it’s one of the most popular walks in the Lake District, and everyone knows it, right?! I personally didn’t discover this walk until I was in my early twenties, and I still meet others who are not aware of it either. It’s just a short 10-minute stroll along the edge of Derwentwater, starting at the Theatre by the Lake just outside Keswick. I particularly love the gnarled old tree roots at the viewpoint looking down towards Borrowdale, and you can explore neighbouring Strandshag Bay too. Get there at a quiet time on a quiet day, and you might even enjoy the Lake District’s most iconic bench to yourself for a few minutes!
3. Claife Viewing Station
The atmosphere on the western shore of Windermere is so tranquil when compared to the eastern shore, that it’s difficult to describe. There are few places I love as much as this. For a pleasant afternoon’s wander, I would recommend leaving the car behind and walking from Bowness-on-Windermere around the Glebe and Cockshott Point to the Windermere Car Ferry, where you can cross the lake as a foot passenger (charges at the time of writing are £1 per person each way). Just five-10 minutes later you’ll reach the Café in the Courtyard (a small pop-up café), with Claife Viewing Station perched high on the rock behind. Restored in recent years by the National Trust, the viewing station is a real window to the past, and it’s amazing to think that in days gone by dances were held here!
4. The view from Elterwater
This was the first walk I thought of when starting to write this post, as I did this one autumn afternoon when I was in desperate need of a break – and it really did the trick! The full walk starts in Elterwater village, with the turning point at Skelwith Bridge (or vice versa), but you can shorten it and walk from either starting point to the iconic view along Elterwater, which is located towards the middle of the route.
5. St Bega’s Church, Bassenthwaite
If you’re in the North Lakes, this is a gem of a find that I discovered whilst visiting historic Mirehouse. You don’t need to be visiting the house for this walk though – follow the Miles Without Stiles route recommended by the Lake District National Park Authority, which will lead you from the car park at Dodd Wood to this beautiful little church set in parkland near to the edge of Bassenthwaite.
6. Holehird Gardens, Windermere
This suggestion isn’t a walk in itself, but Holehird Gardens is a little slice of heaven that surprisingly few people still seem to know about. It covers 17 acres of grounds, with beautiful individual gardens to explore (e.g. roses, the hydrangea garden and the walled garden) as well as tarn and woodland walks. This is more than enough to fill a peaceful couple of hours – take a flask along to enjoy on one of the garden’s many benches, and you won’t be disappointed.
7. Stockghyll Force, Ambleside
Stockghyll Force is such a pretty waterfall to visit, following a woodland route just 20 minutes or so from the centre of Ambleside.
8. Orrest Head, Windermere
Bit of a steep walk this one, but the route mainly follows tarmac, even tracks and the woodland floor, with a steep rocky scramble at the end. The views over Windermere lake and all around are quite breathtaking for a minimum of effort though, and there are lots of benches for a peaceful sit at the top.
9. Stagshaw Gardens, near Ambleside
This magical place is particularly a springtime gem, as this is when its mass of azaleas and rhododendrons are in bloom. It’s a completely natural woodland garden owned by the National Trust, so don’t expect manicured lawns and regular garden planting, but this site has a charm all of its own. Parking is extremely limited, so the garden is probably best enjoyed as part of a walk from nearby Waterhead.
10. Aira Force, Ullswater
And finally for this post… If you find yourself in the Eden Valley in the North East Lakes, this is another stunning waterfall walk to enjoy. Best explored on a quieter day, the sun-dappled woodland paths lead you to a bridge above this magical waterfall, and a platform below it.
More details on the National Trust website… (external link).
Although I’ve selected a list of well-loved and less well known places to visit in this post, I know that there will be many more I haven’t included this time round. As always, it would be lovely to hear your thoughts on the post, and if you’ve a favourite place I haven’t mentioned, do please share your recommendation for the benefit of other readers too. 😀