By Rachael Parkin
Depending on your point of view, snow during your stay in the Lake District can be either a blessing or a curse. For some, a pristine blanket of fresh, glistening snow transforming the mountainous landscape to a sparkling winter wonderland can catapult a holiday into the realms of frozen fantasy. For others, the slightest hint of a snow flurry can send them hurrying for warmth, shelter and a hot chocolate.
The prospect of being cut off from the rest of the world by a heavy fall can either become an absolute dream come true or a complete and utter nightmare, depend on your preference. But if you love the white stuff then there’s no better place to be during wintery weather than the beautiful Lakes. Here are some ideas of where to go and what to do during a Lake District snow day.
Best for sledging:
Popular spots for this traditional snowy, family pastime include Tarn Hows; a steep hill sloping towards the lake is always busy with thrill-seekers after a snow fall whilst Fell Foot at the southern end of Windermere offers gentler slopes and is ideal for those with young families. Other popular spots include Cold Fell, off the road between Ennerdale Bridge and Calder Bridge, and Dunmail Raise which has the advantage of steep, grassy slopes which are easily accessible from the A591, connecting Keswick in the north with Grasmere, Ambleside and South Lakes.
Best for skiing:
The Lake District Ski Club is based on Raise, Helvellyn’s lofty next-door neighbour. Raise’s position means it attracts some of the best snow in the Lakes and the club’s tow gives access to a substantial part of the mountain. There are up to nine runs available, depending on conditions, the longest of which is almost a mile. Raise's ungroomed slopes provide for a unique experience and there are guest passes available for £30 a day for visitors to the area lucky enough to benefit from one of the 60 days of skiing the club usually achieves.
Best for winter walks:
Tarn Hows: Once you’ve had your fill of sledging down its grassy slopes, a stroll around the tarn itself is the perfect way to take in the snowy surroundings. From the path around the tarn you can enjoy magnificent views of the Old Man and Wetherlam, resplendent in their snowy winter cloaks, and walk amongst snow-heavy fir trees as the path gently weaves its way around the tarn.
Coppermines Valley: If you want to experience snow in the mountains, without the need of crampons, ice axes and mountain rescue then a walk up to the Coppermines Valley from the centre of Coniston is a perfect place for a winter expedition. As the valley is home to our Mountain Cottages as well other homes and a Youth Hostel, the mountain track leading up there is treated and, as far as possible, cleared of snow to remain as accessible as possible during wintry weather. To access the track, take the road from the centre of Coniston which runs between the Black Bull Inn and the village Co-op. Follow the road as it becomes a gravelled track up and heads up into the valley. Once in the valley, the path levels out as the fells loom high above you; the perfect place for a bracing winter walk in a spectacular setting.
Best for taking in the views:
Taking a boat trip on one of the Lake District’s bodies of water is one of the best ways to take in the stunning snow-capped mountain views - whilst still managing to keep your feet dry. Coniston Launch, Windermere Lake Cruises and Ullswater Steamer operate services all year round and offer heated cabins from which to warmly enjoy the surrounding scenery, whatever the weather. (Please see individual operators’ websites for winter timetables and, during bad weather, remember to check on the day to ensure sailings will operate as scheduled.)
Best for indoors:
If you prefer to avoid the cold weather as much as possible then the Lakes has plenty to offer in terms of indoor activities. Attractions such as Ambleside Climbing Wall, Lakes Aquarium and the World of Beatrix Potter offer opportunities for keeping you and the family entertained as well as warm. Historic houses and castles such as Sizergh Castle, Brantwood, Holker Hall and Muncaster Castle also offer indoor-based days out whilst museums such as the Ruskin Museum here in Coniston, the Lakeland Motor Museum, Backbarrow and the Museum of Lakeland Life in Kendal provide opportunities for absorbing some culture, as well as some heating.
Best for shopping:
If the idea of shopping in a Dickensian landscape of snowy rooftops and glowing shop windows within a historic market town sounds appealing then Cumbria is the place to be. In fact, the friendly, south Cumbrian town of Ulverston celebrates all things Dickensian during its festival dedicated to Dickens held every year on the last weekend of November. The market towns of Kendal and of course Keswick are also a haven for the winter shopper, offering the embracing warmth of local retail establishments alongside well-known national stores.
Best pubs for winter: If your idea of wintery perfection is holing yourself up in a traditional, low-beamed pub next to a crackling log fire then if you’re in the Lakes you’re in the right place. Here there’s no shortage of pubs offering hot food and a warm welcome during the winter months. Some of our favourites include The Cuckoo Brow Inn in Far Sawrey, The Wilson’s Arms in Torver, The Black Bull Inn in Coniston, The Queens Head Hotel along with the highest pub in Cumbria; The Kirkstone Pass Inn, both on Kirkstone Pass, The Wild Boar near Windermere, The Mason’s Arms on Strawberry Bank and The Punch Bowl, Crosthwaite.
Note of caution: Remember to always heed road closures; high passes are often rendered impassable in snow. In the event of low-lying snow stick to well-used A-roads, which are the most likely to be treated and cleared, as much as possible. If you are planning on walking in the snow then only take to the fells if you are fully equipped to deal with the icy conditions with items such as crampons, goggles and an ice axe. Have fun and stay safe snow lovers!