A Long Weekend in the Lake District Perfect for Adventurers
A Long Weekend in the Lake District Perfect for Adventurers

A Long Weekend in the Lake District Perfect for Adventurers

I spent the best part of a week in the Lake District National Park in the north of England that was jam packed with adventures. England’s largest national park is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most beautiful and fun places to explore in the entire UK. Even still, in the time I had there, I only scratched the surface. Most people who go to the lakes get even less time than this. So, based on my trip, I’ve put together the ultimate travel guide for a long weekend in the Lake District. 

I’ve broken the article down into each day and included all the logistical and practical information you need to know to make the most of the adventures I recommend. Let’s get into this long weekend Lake District travel guide.

Where to stay for your long weekend Lake District break

There are plenty of places to stay in the Lake District with towns dotted throughout. We stayed in Cockermouth at the northern edge of the national park. The benefit of staying in Cockermouth is that being relatively far from the better-known towns, such as Ambleside, there weren’t masses of tourists.

That’s not to say Cockermouth is a sleepy little village away from all Lake District tourism; it’s just not the first choice for many. Cockermouth is still a large town with a supermarket and plenty of shops and places to eat. 

Derwent bridge crossing the river Derwent at Cockermouth, Lake District. There is a tree and a path before the bridge.
David Dixon CC BY-SA 2.0

However, being based so far north in the Lake District is also a downside. You aren’t that close to the mountains or to many of the amazing waterfalls there are to explore within the national park. This means that it can be a long drive to get to hike start points and other cool spots.

Cockermouth is roughly a 1-h drive from many of the main peaks including Scafell Pike and Helvellyn. Because of this we ended up doing a fair bit of driving. Driving within the Lake District is enjoyable thanks to the breathtaking scenery. But it’s definitely not as enjoyable at the end of a long and tough day of hiking when you’re ready to crash.

The Langdale valley. The Langdale Pikes are on the left and Crinkle Crags on the right.

For your long weekend in the Lake District, I recommend basing yourself in a more central location. This will reduce the amount of driving to do the itinerary I recommend in this article. Grasmere, Buttermere and Langdale would be more ideal places to be based than Cockermouth.

Langdale would be a particularly great base as that’s where the start point is for the Scafell Pike hike I recommend below. In terms of accommodation, the Youth Hostel Association has hostels in these three areas offering affordable and comfortable places to stay. 

Getting around during your long weekend in the Lake District

Wherever you base yourself, I recommend hiring a car. Renting a car is a great way to see the English lake district, as it will give you the freedom to do the activities I recommend at times that beat the crowds.

For parking, there are National Trust car parks located throughout the national park. Although convenient, National Trust car parks are always pay and display. Unfortunately, this means there’s no free parking in the Lake District.

Even though I recommend renting a car, you can still enjoy a long weekend in the Lake District getting around via public transport. There are a number of bus services linking the main towns within the national park.

Adventurous long weekend in the Lake District itinerary

My adventure-filled itinerary for a long weekend in the Lake District includes rugged, challenging hikes, scenic waterfall walks and good food.

Day one

Scafell Pike

The summit of Scafell Pike shrouded in mist.

The highest mountain in England at 978 m, Scafell Pike gifts hikers great views over the most dramatic scenery that the Lake District National Park has to offer. Whichever route you take, it’s a tough hike that puts your fitness to the test.

There are five main routes that most people choose from. We did what I think is the most adventurous one: the Scafell Pike from Great Langdale circular route. I highly, highly recommend that you also do this route. Not only do you summit Scafell Pike, but the hike tacks on Bowfell, Esk Pike and Rossett Pike too. 

Views of mountains from the summit of Scafell Pike.

It’s a truly adventurous day that is great for those who love a challenge. I recommend starting early in the morning—pre 8 am. This will give you plenty of daylight. The route starts and finishes at the Old Dungeon Ghyll National Trust car park. All in, the Scafell Pike from Great Langdale circular is 20 km long and takes between 7-9 h to complete.

Lake Windermere

After conquering Scafell Pike, turn the adrenaline down a notch and head to Lake Windermere for a relaxed end to the day. At just under 15 km2, Windermere is the largest lake in the national park and there are several places from which to enjoy it.

We headed to Ambleside to grab an ice cream and sit by the beautiful lake. This is one of the best places to see Lake Windermere and it was the perfect way to let the legs rest after 8 h of hiking. 

Although we didn’t do this, during the summer there are boat trips that go out on the lake. There are various types of boat trips available differing in duration. Depending on the type of boat trip you choose at Ambleside, you may explore the northern tip of the lake and the towns located along it, or you may head further south along the water.

It is possible to fit in a shorter boat trip after hiking Scafell Pike. 

Borrans Road National Trust car park is your best bet for finding a space for your car if visiting lake Windermere at Ambleside. There is also Lake Side car park right at the water’s edge; although this has a very limited number of spaces. 

Day two

Scale Force Waterfall

Scale Force Waterfall. The smaller falls are in the foreground and the top of the larger falls are behind.

With the highest peak in England under your belt, start day two with a more tame but just as scenic walk at Crummock Water to see Scale Force waterfall. The waterfall is the highest single-drop falls in the Lake District at just shy of  51 m. It’s located on the western side of the Crummock Water close to the town of Buttermere.

The short walk is a circular route starting and finishing at the Buttermere Court Hotel.  You’ll find two National Trust car parks, one either side of the hotel, to park your car. The entire loop is only 6.6 km and should take around 2 h to complete.

The 2 h includes plenty of time to explore Scale Force. I recommend getting to Scale Force waterfall pre-midday to catch it during a quieter time.

You’ll head along the western shore of Crummock Water for the majority of the walk before bearing left up the narrow valley to Scale Force Waterfall. The western shore is a prime spot to take in the beautiful views of the large lake and to enjoy views of Grasmere mountain on the far side. 

The  full extent of the Lake District’s natural beauty is on display here and it’s one of my favourite spots in the national park.

Scale Force waterfall itself is an impressive sight. It’s tucked away in a narrow gorge and requires a light bit of rock scrambling to see in full. The cascade is a powerful stream of water that drops into a small pool at the waterfall’s base.

The return walk to the Buttermere Court Hotel is even more scenic. From the elevated path you get even more beautiful views of Crummock Water. You can also see the little village of Buttermere.

Keswick

Keswick town centre in the Lake District. There is a church and shops.
Billy Wilson CC BY-NC 2.0

You’ll probably have worked up an appetite after the Scale Force waterfall circular walk. So to fill the hole in your belly, I recommend heading into Keswick for a bite to eat.

Keswick is a larger town and it is a short drive from Crummock Water—no more than 30 minutes. The town gets busy with the hustle and bustle of tourism. One of the reasons for this is that it has a ton of places to eat. You can find lots of a local produce in Keswick.

We ate at The Square Orange, which is an interesting little joint. It has the vibe and the aesthetic of local pub, but offers a good food menu. We went for the nachos. The pizza also looked good, which they prepare and cook in a small oven in front of you.

Another draw for visitors to Keswick is that it is one of the Lake District’s market towns. Venders set up stall on Thursdays and Saturdays turning the town centre into an old school market. It’s a blast from the past for many visitors as market days have disappeared from many places in the UK.

I recommend continuing the more relaxed approach to this second day into the evening. We finished the day curled up on the sofa of our comfy Airbnb. This was the best way to end the day. We gave our bodies the rest needed to tackle Helvellyn the next morning.

Day three

Helvellyn

For day three of your long weekend in the Lake District, I recommend another hike—Helvellyn.

Helvellyn competes with Scafell Pike for the title of highest mountain in England, standing tall at 950 m. We hiked the beast taking a circular route starting and finishing at Glenridding car park. The route is 14 km and takes most hikers roughly 5 h 30 m and goes via the famous Striding Edge.

Striding Edge is a narrow, jagged ridge that takes you almost to the summit of Helvellyn. It’s an incredibly adventurous section of the hike, but one that’s not to be messed with. The jagged rocks mean that the terrain is challenging. The ridge gets narrow in spots and there is sheer a drop either side.

My top tip for Helvellyn: climb the mountain on the clearest of days. That sounds like a really obvious tip, but if you’re going via Striding edge, then it’s especially important. The ridge becomes  dangerous when visibility is poor.

We got caught in thick fog during the hike. Not only did we miss out on what are some of the best views in the Lake District. But we also found this section of the hike much more challenging to navigate than it already was.

Despite the weather not being in our favour, we made the most of the beautiful location and fresh air. I’ve been told (and seen pictures) of how Helvellyn is one of the most beautiful places in the Lake District on a clear day.

A return trip to tackle Striding Edge when skies are clear is definitely on the cards.

Can you do the Lake District in a weekend?

Of course, you can do a trip to the Lake District that lasts just a standard weekend. You could take the itinerary I’ve laid out in this guide and simply chop off a day. If you chopped off one of the hikes, then you’d still fit a hike and a lake walk into your Lake District weekend trip.

A sheep on the trail up to Bowfell. There are mountains and a lake in the background.

However, to make the most of a trip to the Lake District, you really want to spend a long weekend there at least. The extra day may not sound like much. But it’ll make a big difference in helping you take advantage of the adventures on offer in the national park. 

More adventure travel content on A World Over

I want to make sure that this guide is as useful as possible. So let me know in the comments if you use it to plan your long weekend in the Lake District. Also, let me know if you think there are other adventurous things to do in the national park that deserve to be in this itinerary.

For more adventure travel guides to the Lake District National Park, check out the following:

Otherwise, head to the A World Over blog to find all my travel guides and inspiration. 

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