6 Hidden Lake District gems you might not have heard of
New figures from the Cumbria’s official tourist board reveal that, while millions of visitors to the Lake District head for the tourist hot spots such as Ambleside and Keswick, far, far fewer venture into lesser-known parts of the National Park – those hidden corners that are often under-explored but are in no way lacking in the kind of breath-taking scenery and scope for adventure that the Lake District is so famous for.
We understand that, when new to an area, you gravitate towards the iconic places you’ve heard of and seen so may photographs of. Problem is, sometimes once you get there you find that everyone else has headed there too! And while it’s great to visit these must-see places during your holiday, sometimes it’s even better to discover incredible places that are slightly more off the beaten track. Places where, once you post those holiday pics online, your friends will be desperate to know exactly where you’ve been and how you found such amazing locations.
So we’ve put together some of our favourite, lesser-known corners of the Lakes. The places where locals go to find picturesque tranquility or memorable family-fun but without the crowds. Because when you know, you know!
1. Where to go: The Duddon Valley
Why go there: The Duddon Valley is a stunningly beautiful corner of the Lake District. But without a major town or large village, and with no lake, it’s often over-looked by visitors. This is their loss however as the spectacular scenery here will simply take your breath away. And what it lacks in lakes, it more than makes up for with the River Duddon. The idyllic river weaves its way through the centre of the valley and provides wonderful opportunities to interact with it along its length.
What to do: There’s some fabulous walking to be had in the Duddon including along the Walna Scar Road, a walk up to Seathwaite Tarn or along the river. You can also walk up to the Furness Fells including Grey Friar, Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man on quieter footpaths than you’ll find on the other side of the valley.
Throughout the valley, there’s lots of fun to be had along the river. Pack a picnic and spend the day relaxing by the water. Or take the plunge in one of the many secret, crystal clear pools and enjoy some refreshing and exhilarating wild swimming.
Top Tip: Park near Ulpha where there are wide grassy riverbanks for picnics and paddling. Or park further up the valley near Holy Trinity Church and take the footpath through the stile, along the field, over the wooden bridge, through the woods then across a stone footbridge to emerge at The River Duddon for some incredible, secret, wild-swimming spots.
2. Where to go: Loweswater
Why go there: The most north-westerly lake in the Lake District, Loweswater is often overlooked by its flashier neighbours; Buttermere and Crummock. And while those lakes are teaming with visitors during the summer months, far fewer head up to the smaller, but no less, beautiful Loweswater.
What to do: Walk up to Darling Fell on the eastern side of the lake for an incredible viewpoint. Enjoy the beautiful 4.3 mile circular walk around the lake and keep your eyes peeled for red squirrels in Holme Wood alongside the lake shore. For keen hikers, the ‘Loweswater Loop’ taking in the summits of Fellbarrow and Blake Fell is a must. Parking along the eastern shores gives easy access to the water for paddleboarding.
Top Tip: Hire a rowing boat from Watergate Farm at the south eastern end of the lake or visit the fantastic Kirkstile Inn; an award-winning pub at the foot of Mellbreak which serves delicious food and local ales – including the fabulous Loweswater Gold which is brewed on site.
3. Where to go: The Beach
Why go there: Miles upon miles of stunning coastline incorporating sandhills, nature reserves and seemingly endless sandy beaches. And all mostly empty! The Cumbrian coast is also home to a fantastic assortment of wildlife including a growing seal colony at South Walney Nature Reserve as well as numerous bird sanctuaries such as North Walney Nature Reserve at the other end of the island.
What to do: Long beach walks on vast stretches of sand or pebbles. Rolling down sandhills. Slightly gritty picnics. Swimming in the sea. Building sandcastles. Eating ice-cream.
Top Tip: Our favourite beaches include Silecroft and Roan Head. Dog-friendly Silecroft has miles of pebble and sandy beach while Roan Head enjoys absolutely stunning views across the estuary to the Lake District fells and mountains as well as having miles of sandy beaches and sandhills. We also love Bardsea beach near Ulverston. Join the queue of locals for an ice-cream from Ron’s Ices.
4. Where to go: Ennerdale
Why go there: Awkward access by car from the west coast only means few visitors venture all the way to Ennerdale. Plus, the road stops at the foot of the lake so getting to the lake shore requires the last part of the journey to be made on foot. But once visited, Ennerdale is never forgotten.
What to do: Along with Haweswater and Thirlmere, Ennerdale is one of the few major bodies of water in the lakes where swimming and paddleboarding isn’t permitted. Canoes, kayaks and rowing boats are free to use the lake however, and the quieter waters, with no motorboats allowed, make for an incredible day kayaking.
And for those looking for some true Lake District tranquility and a sense of remoteness who aren’t keen on getting wet, Ennerdale is the place to go. There are miles of quiet hiking along forest tracks or you can head into the fells and reach summits including Great Bourne and Starling Dodd.
Top Tip: The forest tracks are perfect for mountain biking and generally quieter than those at Grizedale and Whinlatter Forests.
5. Where to go: Ulverston
Why go there: Historic market town less than half an hour from Coniston with a plethora of independent shops and a healthy choice of great pubs. Ulverston is famous as being the birthplace of Stan Laurel.Fabulous community festivals happen all year round including FineFest comedy festival, the Lantern festival, Buddist Festival, PrintFest, Retro Rendezvous and the highlight; Ulverston Christmas Dickensian Festival which takes place every year on the last weekend of November.
What to Do: Climb Hoad Hill, do some shopping, eat out at one the many wonderful restaurants and pubs. Visit the Buddist Temple. Catch a film at the vintage Roxy Cinema and enjoy a retro ice-cream during the interval. Have your photograph taken with Laurel and Hardy outside the Coronation Hall.
Top Tip: The flag flying on Hoad Hill means the monument is open and those with a head for heights can climb to the very top via a stone-spiral staircase. Visit on a Sunday for your best chance of finding the monument open.
6. Where to go: Eskdale
Why go there: Classically beautiful, lush Lake District scenery. Rivers, mountains, fells, waterfalls and woodland – it’s all here in this magical corner of the Lakes.
What to do: Visit Stanley Ghyll Waterfalls and test your nerve at the glass-bottomed viewing platform. Ride the La’al Ratty narrow gauge railway. Swim in the River Esk. Climb Sca Fell Pike from the stunning and remote Upper Eskdale Valley.Have a picnic by the river. Test your balance, and that of your friends and family, at the stepping-stones at St Catherine’s Church (camera phones at the ready).
Top Tip: Catch the narrow-gauge railway from Ravenglass, where ample parking is available, and avoid the narrow roads leading into the beautiful Eskdale Valley. Good for the Lake District – even better for you – the journey via this iconic steam train is incredible!
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