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Flat Walks In The Lake District (My Recommendations)

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When you think about the Lake District, it’s easy to imagine that all the walking routes are comprised of very steep scrambles taking you to the tops of some of England’s highest mountains…followed by similarly steep scrambles bringing you back down again. Whilst that may be just what the mountain goats amongst us are looking for, there are lots of people who are on the hunt for the best flat walks in the Lakelands.

Here’s a secret that those mountain goats won’t even realise. Some of the best views in the Lakes are from the valleys, not the hill tops. Looking up to the soaring mountains and watching the waterfalls cascade down into the lakes. There are some gems hidden along flat walks in the valleys, such as railway paths that meander through woods filled with bluebells, ancient ruins with more than a story or two to tell, and views that inspired both famous stories and paintings.

The Lakes aren’t just about defying death on vertiginous climbs and we’re going to look at some of the best flat walks that the Lake District has to offer. These are great whether you’ve got kids with little legs that won’t take them too far, buggies that you can’t push over rocky terrain, wheelchairs that won’t make it up steep inclines, or you just fancy an easy stroll on a flatter gradient.

There are a variety of surfaces and distances on these routes, but all have a shallow gradient throughout of up to around 1 in 10 and a path of either tarmac or compacted gravel. Many have options to extend the routes with additional ‘spurs’ to interesting views or locations, but you can decide for yourself if you’re willing and able to add these in. I hope you’ll find at least one of these walks is right for you and that you enjoy a fantastic Lakeland day out.


Buttermere lakeshore walk

Distance: 0.9miles or 1.5km
Start/Finish: Buttermere village centre
Refreshments: plenty of options in Buttermere; Croft House Farm café is especially cosy
Best OS map: OS Explorer OL4 The English Lakes – North Western area
Highlights: views of Buttermere and Haystacks (Wainwright’s favourite hill)
Grade (1 Easy to 5 Strenuous): 1

Buttermere is one of those lakes that seem to encapsulate everything that is so fantastic about the Lake District. The whole package of water and hills. This is a short walk (out and back) that has options to add on sections, if you’re feeling up to it, though the terrain does get progressively tricky. Even without these though the primary walk route from Buttermere village is a favourite of mine. The end of this walk reaches the lakeside at the Northern end of Buttermere. From here you can see down the full length of the water to a couple of mountains at the far end. One of these, Haystacks, was Alfred Wainwright’s favourite place to walk in the Lakes (and I have to agree with him on that).
The flat walk to the lakeside is a delightful walk and you can find more details of the route here.


Tarn Hows

Distance: 0.5miles or 0.75km
Start/Finish: Tarn Hows small car park
Refreshments: In Summer there is often an ice cream van in the main car park area
Best OS map: OS Explorer OL7: The Lake District, South-eastern area
Highlights: the tarn and surrounding hills (The Hows) are gorgeous
Grade (1 Easy to 5 Strenuous): 1

I’ve done so many laps of the main route round the tarn pushing a buggy or holding a small child’s hand. It’s a great one with young kids as there are plenty of benches to climb on, sticks to play with, and wooded areas to play hide and seek in. The path is great, although a little steep in certain places (more than 1 in 10). However, recently I found another lovely little flatter path that has a great seat at the far end overlooking a cracking view of the tarn.

The landscape that you see owes much to development carried out in Victorian times when three smaller tarns were dammed and expanded, with extensive tree planting carried out. This has created a delightful area to spend time walking and exploring. Interesting pub quiz fact is that, at one time, Beatrix Potter the author owned and managed the estate that includes Tarn Hows. Possibly one to tell the kids and get them to search for Benjamin Bunny and Peter Rabbit amongst the trees.

You can see a map of the route and more details of both walk options here.


Loweswater

Distance: 2.5miles or 4km
Start/Finish: Maggie’s Bridge car park
Refreshments: Kirkstile Inn in Loweswater village is the closest
Best OS map: OS Explorer OL4 The English Lakes – North Western area
Highlights: a peaceful spot away from the crowds
Grade (1 Easy to 5 Strenuous): 1

On a busy summer’s weekend it can sometimes feel as if the Lakes is a little too crowded for comfort. So it’s great to be able to get away to a quiet corner of the National Park for a stroll amongst the trees on the wooded side of the lovely Loweswater. With hills round about and a bothy at the water’s edge this is a lovely spot to pass the time.

You can find more details of the walk and route here.


Dubwath Silver Meadows walk

Distance: 1.6miles or 2.5km
Start/Finish: near The Pheasant inn, Dubwath
Refreshments: The Pheasant inn
Best OS map: OS Explorer OL4 The English Lakes – North Western area
Highlights: Environmentally-friendly growing willow hides
Grade (1 Easy to 5 Strenuous): 1

This walk is a must for all bird watchers. The main walk option is a figure-of-eight loop comprising a boardwalk made from recycled plastic bottles, giving a smooth level surface to stroll or roll on. The walk takes you through a ‘fen’ or wetland area with much plant and birdlife to see along the way.

I particularly love the viewpoints and hides along the route. These have been constructed by local volunteers using traditional materials and methods, including wattle and daub and live willow shoots.

After you’ve walked this path, head slightly further North to the mouth of the river Ouse. Here there is a short path which goes down to the side of Bassenthwaite Lake for spectacular views.

For more details of the two walks, see here for a map and route description.


Derwentwater lakeshore walk

Distance: 5miles or 8km
Start/Finish: Hawse End access road
Refreshments: The Swinside Inn
Best OS map: OS Explorer OL4 The English Lakes – North Western area
Highlights: views over Derwentwater and up to the summit of Cat Bells (more details of the Cat Bells walk here – not flat but it is fantastic!)
Grade (1 Easy to 5 Strenuous): 2

One of the things that I particularly love about Derwentwater is hopping on and off the ferries that do circuits of the lake stopping regularly as they go. Time it right and you can combine the ferries with this walk to either walk further or spend more time exploring as you go round. It’s also an option to park in Keswick on the other side of the lake and then take the ferry across to the ‘start’ of this route.

The walk itself starts close to Hawse End pier (one of the ferry stops) and goes along the shore to the Southern end of the lake. Along the way you’ll pass to the Eastern side of Cat Bells, another favourite walk of mine in this area. The end point of the walk is just after the Chinese Bridge, at which time you turn and retrace your steps.

More details and map of this route can be found here.


Calder Bridge walk

Distance: 1.2miles or 2km
Start/Finish: small car park area near church at Calder Bridge
Refreshments: Stanley Arms Hotel at Calder Bridge
Best OS map: OS Explorer OL6 The English Lakes – South Western area
Highlights: the River Calder and the ruins of Calder Abbey
Grade (1 Easy to 5 Strenuous): 1

This is a lovely short stroll at the Western edge of the Lake District. Calder Bridge is a delightful little hamlet, with a great pub, and a river filled with salmon, trout, and herons trying to catch them. The walk begins in the village before heading along the river to Calder Abbey. The Abbey is now in ruins, but was built in the 12th Century as a Benedictine monastery.

You can get full details of this lovely walking route here.


Conclusion

Not many people realise that we’re actually spoilt for choice with flat walks in the Lakes. And, in fact, flat walks through the valleys are some of the best ways of seeing that mountains, whilst also seeing the hidden gems such as lakes, wooded valleys, and ancient ruins.

I hope you’ve discovered one (or more!) walks on this list that are right for you. If you’re looking for a beginner’s guide to walking in the Lake District, then have a read of my article on what you need to take with you and how to prepare.

Enjoy your walk!