The Lake District is overflowing with magnificent mountains and ridiculously beautiful scenery, for walkers this translates into an always open epic adventure playground. From multi-day big mountain traverses to shorter summit assaults, countryside rambles to lakeside strolls and everything in between – the Lake District has it all!
With more hills than you can shake a stick at the Lake District boasts a vast selection of walking routes. Alfred Wainwright documented a rather overwhelming 214 summits (each a ‘Wainwright’) in his famous pictorial guides of the Lake District fells. Given your time in the Lakes will no doubt be limited we focus your attention on the most popular mountains and routes. So grab some Kendal Mint cake and lets go nail some Wainrights!
Helvellyn is an iconic Lake District mountain featuring one of the most popular ridge walks in the UK. Standing at 950m (3,120 ft) she is a proper mountain whose features include jagged ridges, steep faces, rock ledges and a beautiful mountain lake. Helvellyn’s broad summit plateau can be approached from multiple directions, popular starting points are Glenridding, Patterdale, Grassmere and Thirlmere. The classic horseshoe route is on the eastern side of the mountain, ascending via Striding Edge and descending via Swirral Edge – both are rather exposed sharp rocky ridges and involve some scrambling. If you are less adventurous fear not, the gnarly terrain is easily avoided by choosing a different route. If you are in a hurry or during inclement weather an alternative is this Helvellyn circular walk from Thirlmere, it still packs a big punch on the adventure scale and ofcourse lets you tick off a few Wainwrights in the process!
Undoubtedly one of the highlights of walking Helvellyn are the expansive summit views which on a clear day include much of the Lake District and can reach as far as Scotland, the Pennines and North Wales. Sitting below and to the east of the summit is Red Tarn, a mountain lake popular for wild swimming and wild camping.
Notes – the high point of the mountain is somewhat anonymous, marked by a loose cairn (pile of rocks!) close to the top of Swirral Edge.
Great Gable is one of the most iconic mountains in the Lake District. It looms large in the western fells to an elevation of 899 m (2949 ft), making it the fourth highest mountain in the UK. Its name comes from its pyramid-like appearance (which resembles a roofing gable) when viewed from Wasdale, though it appears dome-shaped from most other view points. The summit itself is strewn with boulders and offers panoramic views, which in terms of Lake District mountain vistas are arguably unrivalled. In fact lying approx 100m metres SW of the summit is the Westmorland cairn, it was erected by two brothers in 1876 to mark what was in their opinion the best view in the entire Lake District. Who am I to argue with that!
The summit can be approached via many different routes (as you will see when viewing the map – my preference being the Harvey BMC Lake District map, which is waterproof – well worth the investment given the infamous weather in these parts!), thus you can complete some relatively short circular routes or incorporate it into an overnighter. The Great Gable and Scafell Pike Wild Camp ticks this box perfectly. In terms of day walks this Great Gable circular walk is perhaps the most popular, starting from the small hamlet of Seathwaite.
The classic Fairfield horseshoe walk with epic mountain vistas is one of the most popular day walks in the Lake District. If you’re feeling adventurous why not turn your walk into an overnighter with a wild camp by a Lakeland tarn. For those with energy on tap an optional sting in the tail will ensure you leave everything on the mountain!