My infatuation with the Lake District began over 15-years ago. One cold, damp February, I convinced Ian we should go on a walking holiday in the Lake District. We’d never been hiking before, neither of us knew what it entailed, and Ian was an exercise-phobe. (I think I may have just made that word up). But nonetheless, I announced we should head up North, explore the great outdoors and become at one with nature.
You can read a bit more about our first holiday to the Lake District here and find out just how clueless we were. What I fail to mention in that post is how I made friends with two cats, and I’m pretty sure that’s why we keep going back. Because I want to make friends with all the cats!
But with or without the cats, 15-years+ later we’re still going strong. We can read a map and use a compass. I know, right? We understand what layering is and discuss ascents and descents when deciding what walks to do.
Sometimes, that makes me feel like a proper grown-up.
I said sometimes.
Although my body doesn’t allow me to hike classics like the Fairfield Horseshoe, or the infamous Helvellyn anymore, we’re still regular explorers of the mountainous Lake District landscape. From day trips to week long stays, we’ve covered many miles and mountains over the years, yet there’s still so much more to discover.
Last month we spent 4-days in the Lakes, taking a much-needed break before the chaos of the Easter holidays descended upon the area. Here’s an itinerary of how you can do the same.
Mid-week breaks are a winner in my book. The price is lower than staying over a weekend, and when visiting somewhere popular like the Lake District, they’re also quieter. A lot of self-catering apartments also offer a two-person discount.
Arrive in Ambleside around lunch-time and park in Low Fold car park on Old Lake Road, opposite Hayes Garden World. It’s smaller than the main car park on Rydal Road, but doesn’t get as busy. We’ve always found a parking space, no matter what time we’ve arrived.
Take some sandwiches and refuel before setting off to hike the Rothay Circuit. A 9-mile circular walk that starts and ends in Ambleside, it’s a low-level route that takes in glorious views of Rydal Water, and passes by historic sites such as Rydal Mount and Dove Cottage. You can always add these into your walk if they’re things that interest you.
Grasmere serves as the half-way point of the walk, which makes it an ideal place to stop for snacks. Head to the famous Grasmere Gingerbread shop, based between St. Oswald’s Churchyard and The Wordsworth Hotel – but don’t be surprised if you have to queue. And buy more than you think you’ll need – trust me – you’ll only regret it if you don’t. It’s the best gingerbread I’ve ever tasted and it’s vegan too.
The best way to enjoy it is to take it home and heat it up. The instructions on the packet recommend warming it in the oven for 3-minutes to release the infusion of spices. It’ll have you devouring the whole packet in a matter of minutes. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
From the gingerbread shop, head over to Heidi’s café. Sit down and grab yourself a caramel soya latte while admiring the trinkets displayed upon the walls. From ice-skates to wooden letters, hearts and birdhouses, you’ll find yourself admiring a treasure trove of goodies.
After finishing your latte, grab your rucksack and make your way towards Grasmere Water. Cut through the grounds of Tweedies Bar and Lodge, walk past Grasmere Garden Village and head along Red Bank until you reach the wooden gates on the bend.
Make your way down to the gravelly path and follow it along the side of the water, until it opens up along the shoreline. If you have a flask of tea or coffee, this an ideal place to stop and have another quick brew before you begin the ascent to Rydal Cave. Admire the views of the lake as the sunlight glistens on the water, then take some photos before continuing on your way.
When you reach Rydal Cave, look for the shoals of fish swimming around in the shallow water at the entrance. They’re easy to miss, but if you spend a few seconds looking carefully, you’ll see them darting back and forth.
Rydal Cave is a disused quarry and for many years it was cordoned off, deemed too unsafe to enter. But, over the last couple of years it’s been fully accessible again. Let your inner child take over and use the stepping stones to head inside. Stand back and look out of the mouth of the cave, towards the opposite fell. The craggy rocks around the entrance act as a frame for the view outside.
When you’ve finished exploring, make your way back down to Rydal Road and into Ambleside.
Book into your apartment overlooking Stock Ghyll Force. We finally stayed there last month, and I’d highly recommend it. Although there are many other self-catering options available, we always book with Heart of the Lakes.
Meander down into Ambleside to collect a take-away from Jintana Thai Restaurant on Compston Road.
Have a look through their extensive menu and chat with the staff about vegan options. They’re very knowledgeable and extremely helpful. Although the menu doesn’t list vegan options, most of the items listed as vegetarian, are also suitable for vegans. Just double check first.
Wake up to the view of the water falls rushing past your window down below. If the weather’s good, watch the early morning sun breaking through the trees, while listening to the birds chirp their morning song.
Drive up to Keswick and hike around Derwent Water. The route starts just a few minutes outside of Keswick in Portinscale, where you can find free parking down a side road just off High Hill. The track around the lake is approximately 10-miles long, and takes in woodland, shoreline and glorious views of the water. It’s one of the Lake District most popular walks so expect some company from other walkers along the way.
Having said that, not everyone hikes the full 10-miles. Many people just hike the first mile or two before turning back. So, if you’re planning on walking the full trail, you can expect the crowds to thin out a little a few miles in. The views of the lake are magnificent, and you’ll need to allow yourself at least 4 hours to complete the route. Maybe longer if you’re planning on taking your time. There are plenty of photo opportunities, and don’t forget about stopping for lunch while admiring the views.
After walking 10-miles, you might also want to head to Roly’s Fudge shop in the centre of Keswick. Treat yourself to some extra crumbly, super sweet, vegan fudge before returning to your apartment.
We like staying self-catering when we go away, it adds variety and helps keep the cost down a little. We do a mix of cooking, takeaways and eating out. Grab yourself an Old El Paso Fajita kit and have a quick and easy tea.
- 1 x red pepper
- 1 x green pepper
- 2 x red onions
- 6 x mushrooms
- 1 x chopped avocado
- Fry’s vegan southern-style tenders
You’ll also need (extra) salsa, vegan crème fraiche and some jalapenos.
You could even make your own fajita seasoning and take it with you. Just remember to buy some tortillas to go with it!
- 1/4 tsp oregano
- 1.5 tbsp cornflour
- 2 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1.5 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp onion granules
- 1 tsp, garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
Have an easy morning and hike Jenkins Crag. It’s only 5-miles long, but it’s one of my favourite walks in the Lake District. It starts at the back of Low Fold car park and heads up into Skelghyll Woods with glorious views of Lake Windermere on the way.
But the views don’t end there. You’ll also find a generous mix of woodland and luscious rolling green countryside. The terrain is a little rugged and steep in parts, but overall, it’s not too strenuous.
You have the option of walking to Brockhole and grabbing yourself some refreshments in the visitor centre, but we skip this step. With plenty of kid’s activities going on throughout the year, Brockhole is a haven for families which is our idea of hell. We visited once and haven’t returned since.
You can’t stay in Ambleside without visiting the Apple Pie Shop. So, if you’re skipping Brockhole, head back to Ambleside and grab some refreshments there. A caramel soya latte and a cheeky vegan cupcake will go down well after your morning hike.
Jenkins Crag should only keep you occupied for a couple of hours, which means in the afternoon, you can head over to Grizedale Forest and hire a mountain bike. With day rates, half day rates and a variety of bikes available, there’s something to suit everyone.
From beginners to more advanced riders, there are trails to accommodate every ability. Just ask the staff for recommendations.
After your hike and your mountain bike adventure, the last thing you’ll feel like doing is cooking. And just like the Apple Pie shop, you can’t stay in Ambleside without visiting the vegetarian restaurant, Zeffirellis. There are plenty of vegan options to choose from, and with Violife as their vegan cheese option – the Rainforest pizza is now my favourite item off the menu.
For starters, I recommend the sweet potato wedges with pomodoro sauce, and some garlic bread to share. A bit heavy on the carbs perhaps, but after the calories you’ve burnt over the last few days, it’ll be a welcome meal. And what you don’t eat – you can box up and take away.
Check out of your apartment and make the most of your day before returning home.
Hike two of Ambleside’s most popular routes: Stock Ghyll Force (the waterfall walk) and High Sweden Bridge. Both are only 3-miles long, but you can link them together to create a 6-mile walk before you leave the Lakes. They can get a little busy at times, but they’re well worth doing.
High Sweden Bridge is the ideal place to stop for lunch, so make sure you’ve packed some food. On a warm day, take your boots off and cool your feet in the stream before heading back to Ambleside.
I love the Lake District, it’s my favourite place for hiking. From day trips to week long stays, it’s somewhere I never get tired of exploring. I hope you liked this itinerary. Let me know in the comments what you think.