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Which Are The Best Hikes In North West England?

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Think hiking in the North West of England is all about the Lake District? Whilst those classic Lakeland routes are some of the most iconic in the UK, they’re not all that the North West has to offer. There are plenty of fantastic hiking trails in this area that get you out into some of the most amazing landscapes that Britain has. Lots of them are in the Lake District National Park but there are also some hidden gems that give you a different view of the North West.

Here are a selection of some of my favourites. There’s a few here from the Lake District and there are also a couple of great hikes that take you outside the park and into the rest of Cumbria, the Yorkshire Dales and Lancashire.

I’ve got a brief summary of each route, including the key highlights, along with opportunities for refreshments (an essential!), a link to the relevant OS map, and a link where you can go and find more detailed information on the route. If you need a refresher on what you need to pack and how to prepare for hiking, then take a look at my guide to Walking in the Lake District for Beginners.

The North West of England is one of my favourite places to go hiking and I hope you find one or more routes on the list that will help open your eyes to this beautiful part of the world.


Roeburndale Walk, Forest of Bowland AONB
Distance: 7.5 miles or 12 km
Start/Finish: Wray village
Refreshments: Bridge House Farm tearooms, Wray
Best OS map: OS Explorer OL41 Forest of Bowland & Ribblesdale
Highlights: Fantastic birdlife and an ancient woodland to explore
Grade (1 Easy to 5 Strenuous): 4

The Forest of Bowland is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and it’s not hard to see why. From the deep valleys to the highest point (where you’ll find Ward’s Stone at 561m/1841ft) this is an area that is steeped in history. True the area only got it’s AONB status in 1964, but it’s a region that has been lived in, fought over and changed hands frequently over the centuries. Indeed the name Bowland is derived from old Norse, meaning “bend in a river” and is thought to refer to the meandering course of the river Hodder as it flows through the Forest of Bowland before eventually emptying into the river Ribble. And it’s not rivers that enjoy meandering through this picturesque location, you’ll find plenty of walks in varying lengths and difficulties that will let you explore the wilder parts of the Forest. This walk, from Wray village, is one of my favourites. It’s just under 8 miles in length and takes in some delightful ancient woodland areas with opportunities to see local birdlife, and possibly even the deer from which many of the area’s landmarks take their names.

You can find more details of the Roeburndale route here.


Grizedale Valley, Lancashire
Distance: 5 miles or 8.5 km
Start/Finish: Scorton village
Refreshments: The Applestore Café, Wyresdale Park
Best OS map: OS Explorer OL41 Forest of Bowland & Ribblesdale
Highlights: Grize Dale and Nicky Nook
Grade (1 Easy to 5 Strenuous): 3

Grizedale valley is a wonderful area and this is a lovely introduction to it. The route is circular, starting and finishing at the village of Scorton, before heading across the M6 bridge to the East of the motorway, and deep into some stunning countryside. The walk initially goes past Wyresdale lake, before turning South to head down to Grizedale reservoir, and then on and into Grize Dale itself. This section passes the delightfully named, Nicky Nook, a small fell of only 214m from which, on a clear day, you can see across to the Isle of Man.

You can find more details of the Grizedale valley route here.


The Pendle Way, Barrowford
Distance: 45 miles or 72 km, or can be split into stages
Start/Finish: Barrowford
Refreshments: Pendle Heritage Centre Tearoom
Best OS map: OS Explorer OL41 Forest of Bowland & Ribblesdale
Highlights: Pendle Witches and Spectral Horseman!
Grade (1 Easy to 5 Strenuous): 5 (easier if completed in stages)

If you like your walking to be a little more challenging and with more opportunities to see witches and ghostly horsemen, then look no further than The Pendle Way! This is a superb 45-mile circular route in the South Pennines that takes you around the borough of Pendle. Whilst there are some adventurous types who set out to complete the hike in a single day, the walk was actually designed to be broken down into eight separate sections. A more appealing option for those of us who like to take in the sights as we walk along rather than having them pass in a blur. And there’s plenty to see on the walk from historical connections to the infamous witch trials of the 17th Century, the literary Bronte family, and the headless horseman who allegedly returns to Wycoller. Ghostly and ghoulish history aside, there’s also some fantastic scenery to feast your eyes on and plenty of accommodation options along the route if you’re doing the walk in stages.

You can find more details of the Pendle Way route here, including individual stages.


Scafell Pike, Lake District National Park
Distance: 8 miles or 13 km
Start/Finish: Wasdale Head
Refreshments: Wasdale Head Inn (highly recommended!)
Best OS map: OS Explorer OL6 The English Lakes – South Western area
Highlights: views from England’s tallest mountain
Grade (1 Easy to 5 Strenuous): 4-5 (depending on weather)

A roundup of the best walks in North West England wouldn’t be complete without a route that takes in England’s tallest peak, Scafell Pike. In the heart of the Lake District National Park, Scafell Pike stands tall over Wast Water and the surrounding area. It’s 978m or 3209ft tall and yet comes some way down the list of the tallest mountains in Britain. That being said, it’s not a climb for the faint-hearted and should only be attempted with the right skills, gear, and knowledge, and only when the weather matches your skill level.

There is a popular route, following the Brown Tongue path, which climbs directly up from Wast Water to the summit. However, this hike which takes in the Corridor Route, is a much more interesting path and gives a better sense of the mountain.

You can find more details of the Scafell Pike route here.


Cat Bells, Lake District National Park

Distance: 3.5 miles or 5.7 km
Start/Finish: Hawes End pier
Refreshments: The Lingholm Kitchen
Best OS map: OS Explorer OL4 The English Lakes – North Western area
Highlights: views over Derwentwater to Keswick and beyond
Grade (1 Easy to 5 Strenuous): 3

Possibly one of my favourite walking routes in the whole of the North East of England. Cat Bells is easily seen from nearby Keswick and is just begging for you to hop on a ferry over Derwentwater and go and climb it. Pick a day when the crowds are thin and you’ll have a fantastic lung-burning clamber to the top with amazing views back over Derwentwater. I’ve got more details of this wonderful walk here in my guide to the best circular walks in England.