The best Borrowdale walks holiday cottages

The best Borrowdale walks

Kim 26 January 2022

Full of rugged mountains and sloping valleys, Borrowdale walks are an absolute delight. This is a spectacular valley to the south of Keswick and Derwentwater with tall fells, rippling rivers and hidden waterfalls.

If you’re looking for the best walks in Borrowdale, then here is a selection of some of our absolute favourites. Some are simple and flat, while others scale some Lake District mountain giants. Make sure you check the walks’ full details in advance and take all relevant equipment with you. Then enjoy this most spectacular of Lake District regions.

Note: parking in Borrowdale is limited and fills up very quickly. Please be considerate of where you park if you plan to drive or, even better, consider taking public transport. You can get to Borrowdale by boat and bus

Cottages in Borrowdale

Castle Crag and Millican Dalton’s Cave

Castle Crag and Millican Dalton’s Cave (View from Castle Crag)Photo credit: David Martyn-Hughes

Approximate distance: 6.8km

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Start and finish: Rosthwaite 

This relatively easy mountain walk follows clear paths along rivers, up small mountains, and through the pretty village of Rosthwaite. There are also some fascinating hermit caves where ‘Professor of Adventure’ Millican Dalton made his home for nearly 50 summers.

Pass by the Flock Inn Tearoom to start the walk. You’ll follow a lane to the river, which passes over a pretty packhorse bridge and into the woods. This is where you’ll find Millican Dalton’s Caves in part of a disused quarry.

The path continues along the river until you take a sharp left uphill to begin climbing Castle Crag. You can walk to the saddle and look back over Derwentwater before starting your descent back into Rosthwaite. However, if you’d prefer an extra challenge, you can continue to the peak of Castle Crag, which, though not far away, is extremely steep.

Once you’re back in Rosthwaite, enjoy a snack at the tearoom.

You can also try out some variations on this route: a shorter walk for young children, or a similar route starting in Grange.

Full route description

Langstrath and Black Moss Pot

Langstrath and Black Moss Pot (Stonethwaite Beck)

Approximate distance: 10km for the full circular walk

Difficulty: Moderate

Start and finish: Stonethwaite

If you like to take a dip halfway through your walk to cool down, then consider this lovely walk through Langstrath, which takes in famous wild swimming spot, Black Moss Pot. This is one of several Borrowdale valley walks that doesn’t require any mountain climbing.

Start where the road runs out in Stonethwaite village and walk by the Langstrath Inn, then pass through the campsite. Follow the river as it bends sharply to the right with a series of spectacular waterfalls. The path continues close to the river for approximately 2km to Black Moss Pot.

Once you’ve had a dip and cooled down, you can just retrace your footsteps, or continue for a longer circular walk. To do this, continue south with the river on your left until you cross at a bridge that sits over some thundering falls. On the other side of the river, turn back on yourself as you join the Cumbria Way and follow it all the way back to Stonethwaite.

Surprise View, Watendlath Tarn and the Bowder Stone

Surprise View, Watendlath Tarn and the Bowder Stone (Watendlath Tarn)

Approximate distance: 12.5km

Difficulty: Moderate

Start and finish: Barrow Bay Jetty

This route is full of excellent photo opportunities, taking in all sorts of sites from the bizarre to the sublime!

If driving, you can park at Ashness Bridge or Surprise View, but we recommend one of the car parks by the lake so that you don’t have a steep walk right at the end of the route. Even better, take a bus or boat right to the start of your walk!

From Barrow Bay Jetty, start heading uphill along the paved road until you reach Surprise View, named for its sudden appearance amongst the trees. Enjoy the outlook over Derwentwater before continuing on your way to reach the isolated hamlet of Watendlath and its tarn, which is also a trout fishery. This is a great spot to enjoy a cuppa at the small cafe, open during the season.

From the tarn, the path heads south west before heading downhill to the road. Here, there’s a little bit of road walking (on narrow pavements) for about 450m until you turn right onto the footpath again and head on up to the Bowder Stone. This amazing rock has been balancing precariously on its edge for over 10,000 years!

The rest of the way back is fairly straightforward, mostly on the pavement alongside the road, but with optional occasional detours through woodland and alongside the lake.

You can also enjoy this walk from Rosthwaite.

Glaramara and Allen Crags

Glaramara and Allen Crags (Glaramara summit)

Approximate distance: 14km

Difficulty: Hard

Start and finish: Seatoller

If you’ve enjoyed a walk through Seathwaite but wanted to see it from above, then this is a fabulous option. See if you can find the remains of an ancient stone axe factory at the top!

From Seatoller, take the footpath that starts behind the car park. Cross the road at Mountain View and follow the footpath through a gate to the left to start your ascent. The path continues through ferns, past waterfalls and along imposing ravines. Keep a close eye on your map as the track fades away at times.

Before you get to the peak of Glaramara, you’ll reach a rocky climb that requires some scrambling. Take care here, or else skirt this tricky spot to your right, where you can make an easier ascent to the peak. Look around you and admire views of Derwentwater, Skiddaw, the Langdale Pikes and the Coniston Fells.

Onwards, you go over undulating landscape and past a scattering of tarns until you reach Allen Crags. Turn right here, following the path round to the left so that Sprinkling Tarn is on your left, and following the ghylls and rivers all the way back to Seatoller.

Hause Gill and the River Derwent

Hause Gill and the River Derwent (River Derwent)

Approximate distance: 7.5km

Difficulty: Moderate

Start: Honister Slate Mine

Finish: Grange

Follow the river from its start high on Honister Pass to the village of Grange. This is a linear walk, so don’t forget to check bus timetables or have someone pick you up. It’s worth the extra effort, though, for the gorgeous greenery, tranquil riverside sounds, and abundant wildlife.

At the National Trust car park at Honister Slate Mine, head for the road and continue downhill until you veer away onto an old coach road. You’ll pass back onto the current road again briefly before continuing your descent on the coach road. The path eventually heads into pretty Seatoller where you can see some of the massive boulders that protect the hamlet.

From here you start following the river more closely. The path becomes the Cumbria Way shortly after Rosthwaite and continues to a fork just before Grange, where you’ll head off to the right and into the village. There are a couple of cafes in the village where you can refresh yourself.

Walla Crag and Ashness Bridge

Walla Crag and Ashness Bridge (Ashness Bridge)

Approximate distance: 10km

Difficulty: Moderate

Start and finish: Keswick

Picture-perfect views and famous Lake District scenes await you on this walk to the national park’s most famous packhorse bridge!

From the centre of Keswick, head out of town via St John’s Street and Ambleside Road until you turn right onto Springs Road. This will lead you into pretty Springs Wood where you follow a tumbling river uphill onto a minor road. Rejoin the footpath slightly further along at Rakefoot.

Follow the wall towards Lady’s Rake and Walla Crag until you find a gate in the wall. Here, you can cross onto Walla Crag proper to admire the spectacular views over Derwentwater. Take care though, as the paths are slippery and narrow, and the drop is sheer. Once you’ve had your fill, make your way along the path and back over the wall.

Set out across the moorland now, over the head of Cat Gill and around Falcon Crag. Once you hit the road, you’ll see the famous Ashness Bridge. If you want to head a little further uphill, you’ll also be able to admire the outlook from Surprise View.

Shortly downhill from Ashness Bridge, a footpath heads to the right. Follow the lower path into Great Wood (Walla Crag is now right above you). You can cross the road from here and join the lakeside path at Calfclose Bay, following it all the way back into Keswick via Friar’s Crag.

Alternatively, if you’re tired by the time you get to Ashness Bridge, simply walk down the hill via the road until you meet the jetty, where you can catch a boat back to Keswick.

Derwentwater Circular

Derwentwater Circular (Derwentwater)

Approximate distance: 16km, with options to shorten the route

Difficulty: Moderate

Start and finish: Keswick

This is one of our longest walks around Borrowdale, but if you get tired on the way, you can catch a boat from one of the many jetties. If you’re up for the full circular, you’ll enjoy ancient woodlands, lakeshore rambles, and amazing views.

This waymarked route is easy to follow and the paths are all relatively flat and evident. It is distance alone that makes this a moderate walk instead of an easy one! Start at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick or the centre of Portinscale and head south in a clockwise direction around the lake. On your way, look out for Friar’s Crag, red squirrels, the Ruskin Memorial, sculptures, waterfalls and the Chinese Bridge. 

Great Gable

Great Gable (View from Great Gable)Photo credit: Amit Jagnade

Approximate distance: 10km

Difficulty: Hard

Start and finish: Seathwaite Farm

Though most recognisable from its Wasdale end, one of the most popular routes up Great Gable is from Borrowdale. You can expect rugged scenery, views of Wastwater, waterfalls, a touch of scrambling, and even the best view in the Lake District, according to many.

Steep scrambling starts almost immediately as you ascend via Sour Milk Ghyll, over Gillercomb and back down into the valley before you climb Green Gable. On the other side is the snigger-inducing Windy Gap, named for the strong winds that often funnel along it. The intimidating face of Great Gable lies ahead, with some enjoyable scrambling to be had.

Close to the top, look out for Westmorland Cairn, a stack of stones erected by two brothers in 1876 which marks the spot they considered to be the best view in the Lake District. Check it out and see if you agree! After casting your vote, it’s time for the descent to the north west before circling round to the left, following tricky scree paths. Look out for Napes Needle as you follow the Climbers’ Path.

The rest of the way down passes Styhead Tarn, with Seathwaite Fell on your right.

Lodore Falls

Lodore Falls

Approximate distance: 2km 

Difficulty: Easy

Start and finish: Kettlewell car park (National Trust)

Many Borrowdale walks are long and difficult and may be too much if you’re not an experienced walker. This one to Lodore Falls is a lovely easy option (though with rough paths) that meanders through woodland to the wonderful waterfall.

From Kettlewell car park, cross the road and pass through the gap in the wall and into the woods. Follow it right until you see Mary Mount Hotel on the opposite side of the road. Bear left at this point - you might even hear the noise of the falls to guide you! Behind the Lodore Falls Hotel, head left up a gully where you’ll find a bench at a convenient viewpoint.

To head back, simply retrace your steps!

Holiday cottages in Borrowdale

After all that hiking, you’ll want some refreshments and a rest! Take a look at our guide on where to eat in Borrowdale and then head back to a cosy holiday cottage in Borrowdale to reminisce on your wonderful walk.

Browse Borrowdale cottages

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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