If you’re heading to the Lake District National Park and are looking to get out on some family-friendly walks in the mountains, then you’re in for a treat! This natural playground has seemingly boundless breathtaking views and an abundance of fells to be explored on little feet. Most who visit the Lake District on a regular basis will be familiar with Alfred Wainwright’s list of 214 fells, all above 1,000ft in height (apart from Castle Crag). What better way to inspire young walkers than to start ticking off some of the Wainwright walks on your visit? Regular walkers will all have their own list of favourites, so this is simply a selection of fun summits and routes that make for a great day out as a family. Don't forget to check out our nearby holiday cottages and be sure to bring suitable attire for your walk.
Please note: the summit heights shown are as listed on the map of Alfred Wainwrights 214 summits and do differ a fraction from those shown on more recent maps.
1. Hallin Fell (387m)
From Pooley Bridge, you drive down the eastern side of Ullswater into the hamlet of Howtown, a beautifully green land of rolling hills. You can park opposite St Peter's Church, then walk back along the road briefly in the direction of Howtown until you spot the clear path leading up to the summit. This is a lovely gentle walk on soft grassy terrain yet, despite its mellow aspect, the summit offers fantastic views out over Ullswater, Martindale valley and the surrounding peaks, with the summit of High Street and Helvellyn in the distance. If you are there in September or October, you may be lucky enough to witness the deer of Martindale in rutting season, or at least hear the testosterone-fuelled rampages. If you have the time, the footpath that loops around the base of Hallin Fell is lovely, taking you down to the shoreline of Ullswater, hopping over tree roots and rocks along a narrow but clear path.
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2. Catbells (451m)
From Keswick, you can look across Derwentwater and see the distinctive ridgeline of Catbells, a deservedly popular peak amongst walking enthusiasts. Most start at its northern foot, where you will find parking spots along the verges, though it’s prudent to get there early before all spaces are taken. The signed path heads straight up the ridgeline to the top and is steep in parts. Two distinctive rocky sections on the way up involve some straightforward scrambling, which certainly adds to the sense of adventure for children and is fun for adults too. The steep and rocky final section makes the summit even more rewarding, and the panoramic views of Newlands, Borrowdale and Keswick will not disappoint. From the summit, most people choose to descend to the col between Catbells and Maiden Moor, where a stone path leads down in the direction of Derwentwater. This takes you to a terraced path, which negotiates the eastern flank of Catbells, leading you all the way back to your starting point.
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3. Loughrigg Fell (336m)
This summit has to be one of the most popular choices for walkers visiting the Lakes. There are so many different routes to the top of Loughrigg and all of them entirely delightful. A good place to start is at Rydal Water, simply because you have the added option of exploring the quarried caverns on the way up, with Rydal Cave being a well-loved tourist attraction. Take a little bridge over the River Rothay and follow the path along the southern side of Rydal Water, walking along Loughrigg Terrace. From the terrace path, a steeper and narrower path leads in a south-easterly direction all the way to the top, which is clearly marked by a summit cairn. This is a fun walk, with narrow grass pathways that meander between multiple high points, through bracken and rocky outcrops. It’s probably best to return via the same route, unless you are particularly adept at navigation, as this sprawling summit has multiple pathways.
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4. Fleetwith Pike (648m)
Though Fleetwith Pike is high in stature, you can choose to start your walk from the top of Honister Pass, which sits at 356m. This makes walking up to the summit a very manageable objective, even for those with young children. Start from the large car park at the top of the pass, from where it is a short and straightforward route to the summit. Initially starting up an obvious gravel track, a small path deviates off to the right. This undulating path on grassy terrain leads straight to the peak, where the view down into the Buttermere Valley is perhaps one of the most dramatic views in the Lakes. Honister Slate Mine itself is well worth a visit for families; this is a working slate mine with a viewing gallery, mine tours and the renowned Via Ferrata, not to mention a cafe with tasty snacks for the fatigued walker!
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5. Latrigg (367m)
If you look towards Skiddaw from Keswick, you will see Latrigg nestled just beneath and, on a clear day, you can usually pick out a line of walkers along its silhouette. This well-loved Wainwright is known for its breathtaking views of Keswick, Derwentwater and the picturesque peaks of the Borrowdale valley. Most people walk from Keswick, setting off at Spooney Green Lane, where a wooden signpost points the way. A well-established path takes a series of gentle bends, snaking up Latrigg’s western flank. Just prior to the summit, you will come to a bench where you can picnic and take in the views. A few short steps from there and you are at the top. You can return via the same route or drop down the other side and around the front of Latrigg to make it into a circular walk. For those with small children, you can choose to shorten the walk by driving part-way up around the back, where there is a small car park at Gale Road, above Applethwaite.
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6. Rannerdale Knotts (354m)
Rannerdale Knotts is locally known for the incredible carpet of bluebells that covers the waistline of the fell around May/June. At this time, thousands of people will flock to witness the intense periwinkle hues. However, Rannerdale Knotts itself is beautiful year-round and worth a visit at any time. At the southern end of Crummock Water, find a parking layby at Hause Point (note: parking is very limited here. Please park considerately). From here, you walk a few meters along the road (in the direction of Buttermere) until you find the path on the left that leads to the summit. The path zigzags its way steeply upwards until a tiered rocky summit presents itself as the final challenge to a short but tiring ascent, rewarding you with views of three lakes and the sea to the west. From the summit, it’s best to take the path following the ridgeline of Low Bank until you can double back on yourself, following Squat Beck down an idyllic valley path that meanders past hawthorn bushes and trickling waterfalls. Follow the path on the left side of the beck until it curves back around to your starting point.
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7. Barf (468m)
From Keswick, you can drive up to Whinlatter Visitor Centre, where there is a large car park. From the visitor centre, there is maze of trails through Whinlatter Forest, several of which will take you to the summit of Barf. A recommended route is to follow the wide forest track that curves around the eastern side of the forest, leading you to Beckstones Gill (a small waterfall by a solitary conifer tree). A step over the narrow gill takes you up a steep but short path that zigzags to the summit of Barf. The paths in this forest are a bit of a maze, so you will need to concentrate on the map to make sure you take the right turn at each fork in the forest trail, all good practice for young navigators! Barf is perhaps a lesser-known neighbour of Lord’s Seat but is really worth including as the views over Bassenthwaite Lake are beautiful and it’s a fun summit. For those still feeling energetic, you can choose to continue to the slightly higher summit of Lord’s Seat (552m) along a peaty path that is so springy you will just want to run along it!
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8. Castle Crag (300m)
Though the lowest in height of all the Wainwrights, don’t be lulled into thinking this is an easy summit. A steep and rocky top section makes for an exciting walk for the more adventurous families, but it is not ideal for those unsteady on their feet or nervous on steep terrain. From Keswick, you drive down the Borrowdale valley to Rosthwaite, parking at the National Trust car park. From here, you follow a short section of the Cumbrian Way northwards along the River Derwent until a sign points you to a path leading up towards Castle Crag. This path ascends fairly steeply until you reach a high point, from where you will see a ladder stile going over a dry-stone wall. It is from here that the route gets really fun! This section of the fell was mined for the same green slate that is taken from neighbouring Honister Slate Mine and the path now snakes its way up a scree slope of loose slate pieces. A short, rocky section takes you onto the summit, a flat plateau of grass with stunning views over Derwentwater and the surrounding fells. Return via the same route or make a circuit around the bottom of the peak before walking back to your starting point.
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9. Holme Fell (317m)
Holme Fell can be accessed via the A593, from either Coniston or Ambleside. From the A593, you take a minor road, crossing Shepherd’s Bridge, all the way to its end at Hodge Close Quarry, where there is a large parking area. This summit has been included partly for its own merit but also because it sits next to Hodge Close Quarry, a massive disused excavation that has left behind a dramatic landscape of caverns and precipitous rock faces that drop vertically into turquoise pools of water. This is an area with unfenced vertical drops, so extreme care is needed if you are bringing younger children along. You will want to spend a good couple of hours just exploring the quarry itself. A 15-minute drive will take you to Cathedral Cave, which should not be missed (bring a torch for the dark tunnel). It really is impossible to overemphasise how dramatic and beautiful these quarries are. Once you have finished exploring Hodge Close, you can ascend Holme Fell from the western side, via Uskdale Gap. It’s a short but challenging ascent through open fell with a rock aspect throughout. From the top, you get a fantastic view of Coniston Water, as well as a grand panorama of the surrounding mountains, such as the Langdales, Helvellyn and the Fairfield Horseshoe. Return via the same route.
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10. High Rigg (354m)
High Rigg is a sprawling rocky fell top, nestled in the quiet valley of St John's in the Vale. From Keswick, you drive through back roads to St John’s Church in St John's in the Vale. There is a small parking layby opposite the church and youth centre. On the church side of the road, you will spot the footpath leading steeply up the fellside to the summit. This is such a perfect area for children of all ages to enjoy, with grass tussocks underfoot, little tarns dotted about and a multitude of rocky outcrops to scramble over and around. The summit is marked by a cairn, which is useful because High Rigg has a broad, flat top with several high points. This can be a bit of a boggy route in wet weather, so perhaps best to try it when it’s dry. You can come back via the same route if you want a short walk or continue right over the top, following the nose to the base and traversing around the eastern side and back to your starting point.
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We hope this gives you lots of ideas for your next family Lake District adventure. Don't forget to book a perfect holiday cottage for your stay. Whilst you’re here, you might also be interested in reading the following: