With its high mountains, deep lakes, fast-running rivers, and ancient forests, the Lake District offers something for every kind of adventurer. It was officially designated a National Park in 1951, but the area's beautiful scenery had been attracting outdoorsmen and women for centuries before that—as well as inspiring artists from Beatrix Potter to William Wordsworth.
These days, the lakes and their surrounding fells are like one massive outdoor adventure playground—offering some of the best day hikes and long distance walks in the UK, as well as world class trail running, mountain biking, water sports, and a whole host of other, more quirky activities.
From the peak of Skiddaw in the north to the National Trust castle of Sizergh in the south; and from the beaches of the Cumbria coast to the shores of Lake Windermere, we've tried a lot of different activities over the years. Whether you're travelling with the family or on a more adventurous trip with your friends, here are our pick of the best things to do in the Lake District.
- Things to do in the Lake District: Walking & Hiking
- Things to do in the Lake District: Mountain Biking
- Things to do in the Lake District: Wild Swimming
- Things to do in the Lake District: Kayaking, Canoeing & SUP
- Things to do in the Lake District: Rock Climbing & Via Ferrata
- Things to do in the Lake District: High Rope Course
Things to do in the Lake District: Walking & Hiking
There are few places in England that are better suited for hiking than the Lake District National Park. Whether you want to tackle the tricky traverse to Helvellyn via Striding Edge scramble up Crinkle Crags or just amble round Elterwater, you'll find well easy to follow directions in tourist offices, and well sign-posted paths out on the trail.
Spectacular views are a given almost anywhere you go in the Lake District, but we're particular fans of Langdale. The walk up Harrison Stickle gives you amazing views over Stickle Tarn, with the Great Langdale Valley and Lake Windemere beyond.
For more information, check out our guide to the best Lake District Walks.
Things to do in the Lake District: Mountain Biking
The Lake District was made for mountain biking. There's something for all ability levels too. Hardened pros will enjoy the challenging rides on the high trails of Helvellyn and Skiddaw, while families who prefer meandering lowland trails will love the likes of the Keswick Railway Path.
There are countless other options scattered throughout the National Park, but our favourite spot is the Forestry Commission’s Grizedale Forest, where the 16km North Face Trail provides some serious single-track descents and thigh-burning ascents.
For more information check out the Grizedale Forest section on the Forestry England site.
Things to do in the Lake District: Wild Swimming
Taking to the water is a refreshing way to enjoy the Lakeland scenery. Crummock Water is a cool and safe spot for taking a dip, because water sports are banned.
The eastern side of Coniston Water is also popular, while at Galleny Force, near Stonethwaite in Borrowdale, you’ll find two large, shallow pools complete with mini waterfalls, which are great for paddling and splashing.
For more info, check out the relevant section on the Lake District National Park website.
- READ NEXT: Lake District Walks - 10 of the Best Routes
Things to do in the Lake District: Kayaking, Canoeing & SUP
Boats are part and parcel of what makes the Lake District so appealing. You'll find everything here, from sailing dinghies to rowing boats, to motorboats of all shapes, speeds and sizes. Of all the different kinds of watercraft available, however, we'd argue that the Lakes are best suited to kayaks, canoes and SUPs.
The flat, gentle waters are great for beginners and on most of the bigger lakes—including Windermere, Coniston, Ullswater and Derwent Water—boat hire is widely available. More serious canoeists and can take to the rapids of the Middle Derwent.
Check out Joint Adventures for details of their one-way or round trip kayaking tours.
Things to do in the Lake District: Rock Climbing & Via Ferrata
The Lake District is one of the best places for rock climbing in the UK, with crags like Napes Needle, Long Scar and Gimmer Crag, in the Langdale valley offering countless classic routes (including the brilliantly-named Vlad the Inhaler on Long Scar).
For those who aren't quite ready for the full responsibility of rock climbing, the Lake District is also home to one of the few Via Ferratas in the UK. Italian for "Iron Way," Via Ferratas consist of a series of metal cables and ladders which run up, over, and along rock faces, offering some of the thrills of climbing without the same requisite technical expertise. they're hugely popular in Europe, and less so in the UK, but at Fleetwith Pike, overlooking Buttermere, you can have a go.
Following a Victorian miner's route along the craggy cliff-face, the steel ladders and solid bridges eventually lead you to the 600 metre-plus-high summit, where the views are uninterrupted. Check out the Honister Via Ferrata website for more details.
Things to do in the Lake District: High Rope Course
Yes, there's a Go Ape in the Lake District: Go Ape Grizedale is a tree top adventure where you can swing from the trees safe in the knowledge that you won’t hit the deck.
Fly across Grizedale Beck and trip along the boards between the 18-metre high Douglas Firs. This is a great one for Stag Do groups (especially if the stag is at all scared of heights) but also one of the top days out for families in the Lake District.
Check out the Go Ape Grizedale forest website for more info.
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