There's something truly magical about taking a walk by water, and with sixteen official lakes in the Lake District, as well as countless other tarns, meres and waters dotted across the county, you have plenty of choice for a fantastic stroll. So whether you're heading out for a picnic with your family, taking a walk with your dog where they can splash about in the water, or are seeking out that perfect wild swimming spot, we've got the walk for you!
And if you're looking for a self-catering cottage with access to these fabulous routes? Well, we have those, too. Take a look at our cottage search to find your perfect holiday home!
You can also scroll to the bottom of this article to watch our video guide.
Safety Note: The following walking suggestions are intended as summary descriptions only, so always get hold of a full route description and the relevant Ordnance Survey map (and a compass if you plan to go far) before you set off. Even on low level walks, always wear suitable and sturdy footwear, and don't forget to take warm, dry clothing and plenty of food and water to, to make sure your outdoor adventure is a safe and enjoyable one!
1. A Circuit of Buttermere
Buttermere, is one of the lesser-known lakes found in the north west of the Lake District and is a huge favourite with photographers thanks to its tranquil water and gorgeous surroundings. As a designated miles without stiles route, it's a perfect walk for families with young children or for those with limited mobility. The National Trust recommends you allow around three hours to walk the 4.5-mile circuit, and you can park in Buttermere village itself. Children will love the 100-foot-long Hassness Tunnel on the eastern shore, which was created out of the rock so that its 19th century owner could walk around the water unhindered!
If you love Buttermere as much as I do, then you might like to explore more walks near the pretty lake!
You can also take a look at our cottages around Buttermere.
2. Windermere Western Shore
Windermere is often considered to be one of the busiest of the Lake District's stretches of water, but the peaceful western shore will help you see this area in a whole new light! The western shore walk is approximately 4 miles long, beginning at Wray Castle and ending at Claife Viewing Station, where you'll find the charming Café in the Courtyard. Nearby Ferry House is directly opposite Bowness-on-Windermere, and you can return to the eastern shore on the ferry. Windermere Lake Cruises offer a handy Walkers Ticket, which starts out at Ambleside or Bowness-on-Windermere, drops you off at Wray, and returns you to your starting point later in the day.
View our range of cottages in and around Windermere.
3. Friar's Crag, Keswick
If you're after a gentle stroll rather than an energetic hike, the views from Friar's Crag make this short walk above the lake a must! Starting at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, Friar's Crag is just a 15-minute walk south and has stunning views along Derwentwater to the dramatic 'Jaws of Borrowdale'. You can return the way you came, extend the walk to take in a wander along neighbouring Strandshag Bay, or make this a circular walk by returning through Cockshot Wood.
Enjoy walks straight from your door with a cottage in Keswick.
4. Derwentwater Walk
If you'd like something a bit more challenging, check out the Derwentwater Walk, a fabulous 10-mile waymarked walk around Derwentwater. The relatively flat passes through ancient woodland and takes in incredible views of the surrounding scenery. You don't need to complete the whole 10 miles, either: you can have lots of fun hopping on and off the Keswick Launch to explore the areas that appeal to you most. And why not enjoy a leisurely picnic on the beaches at Brandelhow or stop off at one of the pubs and tearooms on the way? Pick up a Derwentwater Walk leaflet at Keswick Tourist Information - and don't forget a Keswick Launch timetable too!
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5. Pooley Bridge to Gale Bay, Ullswater
This is the perfect short stroll for budding photographers or those who want plenty of gorgeous snaps to remember their Lake District holiday! Making a refreshing stroll, this route from Pooley Bridge starts at the lakeside car park and follows a footpath along Ullswater to Gale Bay for half a mile. You then simply return to the town, giving you the chance to take another good look at that incredible scenery!
Take a look at our cottages around Ullswater.
6. Aira Force to Glenridding, and Glenridding to Howtown, The Ullswater Way
If you're after an energetic day out walking around Ullswater, The Ullswater Way provides 20 miles of waymarked pathways, which can be broken up with trips on board the Ullswater 'Steamers' or the local bus services. It can be walked in either direction from any drop-off point, and Glenridding, Glencoyne, Patterdale and Pooley Bridge are all great starting points if you need to park the car. Glencoyne is especially handy for a lakeside picnic spot close to a car park!
If it's a true lakeside walk you're after, bear in mind that The Ullswater Way directs you away from the lake itself between Aira Force and Pooley Bridge. Popular routes with great views over the lake include Aira Force to Glenridding (3 miles) and Glenridding to Howtown (6.5 miles).
7. A circuit of Rydal Water
A complete circuit of Rydal Water is approximately 3.7 miles and starts out at the White Moss car parks on the A591 between Rydal and Grasmere. Although the route doesn't go along the lake edge itself, there's lots of interest here, including two sets of caves (note: stones do fall from the cave roofs, so it's best to admire the caves from outside) and fabulous views across Rydal Water from Loughrigg Terrace. The walk also joins the Ambleside to Grasmere Coffin Route at Rydal Hall and Rydal Mount, William Wordsworth's former home.
View our cottages in the Grasmere and Rydal area.
8. A circular walk around Loweswater
If you're after a peaceful and secluded walk along a tree-lined shore, Loweswater in the far north western Lake District is the place to find it. Starting from the National Trust's small Maggie's Bridge car park, the walk is particularly beautiful when heading around the lake clockwise, following the lakeshore through Holme Wood. On reaching Hudson Place, you can either return back along the same path, or complete the four-mile circuit by walking along the road on the opposite side of the lake.
Visit our properties in the Loweswater area.
9. Boat Ride and Walk Along Coniston Water
One of the best ways to appreciate the landscape around Coniston is from Coniston Water itself, so you might like to combine a walk with a trip on the Coniston Launch. One option is to catch the Launch at Coniston Jetty to either of the Sunny Bank or Torver jetties. From here you can then take the walk back along the road and lakeside footpath to your starting point.
View our cottages in and around Coniston.
10. A Circuit of Ennerdale Water
For a lakeside walk in the most tranquil of locations, it doesn't get any better than the 6.5-mile walk around Ennerdale Water. This isn't a way-marked route, but it's possible to walk freely around most of the lakeshore. The walk takes in forest roads, tracks, narrow and rocky footpaths (which are frequently very wet), and a steep climb and short exposed scramble over Angler's Crag. Your reward? Superb views across one of the Lake District's least visited lakes!
Take a look at our fantastic range of cottages in the Ennerdale area.
Whatever your walking tastes and ability, we hope we've been able to inspire you with some of our ideas for lakeside walks in this post. If you haven't yet booked your next visit to the Lake District, browse our collection of Lake District Cottages by using the Cottage Search tool.
For further walking ideas, take a look at all of our walking ideas.