The best winter walking routes in Cumbria

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winter walking routes

From buying gifts to getting the fridge stocked and ready for the big day, the ‘to-do’ list can feel never-ending before Christmas! Therefore, taking a much-needed break from the festive frenzy can be a blessing, and while you might be tempted to stay indoors and recoup, visiting one of Cumbria’s best winter walking routes could be the perfect way to re-energise.

Simply wrap up in plenty of layers and have your windproof umbrella at the ready to make the most of the frosty mornings in the stunning Lake District with these scenic walking routes.

The Old Man of Coniston

This 2,634 ft mountain will put your stamina to the test, but the panoramic views are worth it! Start your walk at either the Scout Scar car park or the school in Coniston, and you’ll begin on relatively easy terrain, but this does become more challenging as you get further up. You’ll have an unrivalled birds eye view of the surrounding area, looking down onto the sleepy village of Coniston. On a perfectly clear day, you’ll also see glimpses in the distant of the Irish Sea and Morcombe Bay. It’s a breath-taking route and depending on the route you take you could be walking for up to six miles, so after you’ve tackled the decent, be sure to stop off for a pint of the local ale or a much-deserved coffee. For dog friendly places, there are a variety of Coniston Pubs that will cater for you and your furry friends.

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Haweswater was originally a natural lake, but the incredible beauty spot is now a reservoir valley after a dam was installed following the flood of 1935. This spot is off the beaten track, so you’ll be guaranteed peace and quiet tucked away in the valley of Mardale — you can access Haweswater from a single track road from the village of Bampton near Shap. There’re ruins of what was once a village beneath the water and in drought season they become visible — but in winter, they’re likely to be encased below the icy depths. If you’re keen to walk around the reservoir then you’ll cover around 10 miles. A good starting point is Mardale Head. Old Roman roads are nestled throughout the area, making it a notably historic spot. The car park towards the south of Mardale Head will fill up quickly, so arriving early is advisable! This is a relatively easy route with a few challenges, but if you do fancy pushing your limits then head towards High Raise and take on the summit.

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Dodd Wood and Fell/Skiddaw

Dodd Fell might not be up there with the highest of summits in the Lake District, but at a humble 500m above sea level it is still a lengthy trek at five miles, taking between three-four hours to complete. If you’re looking for a walk that child-friendly, Dodd Fell is a great option (it’s also suitable for multi-terrain prams!). If you choose to tackle the climb on Christmas Eve then you won’t have to worry about any restless little ones when it comes to putting the presents under the tree — they’ll use up all their energy for the walk! There’s also baby changing facilities in the toilets, with onsite light refreshments too. Dodd is extremely accessible, near Keswick and the close-by M6. Once you reach the top, you’ll be able to look out over Bassenthwaite Lake, with the Helvellyn range, the Derwent fells and Whinlatter Forest all visible depending on your spot.

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Looking for a bit more of a challenge? Take on the Thirlmere to Blea Tarn route, where the idyllic views come at a cost to your stamina — it might only be a three to four hour journey, but it gets harder as you progress. Following the Harrop Tarn route will give you some light relief, but if you want to justify eating those extra few slices of turkey on Christmas Day then push yourself and venture towards Blea Tarn! The views are almost otherworldly, and on a calm, frosty December morning it’s an unmissable sight. Nestled just beyond Keswick, enjoy your walk and then head into the town centre for a warming hot chocolate afterwards.

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Loughrigg Tarn

Just north of Windermere, you’ll find the beautiful Loughrigg Tarn. Begin your walk bright and early in the picturesque town of Ambleside, the 3.4 mile journey is brisk and refreshing, and it’s achievable in around two hours. Whether you’re walking with a loved one, the whole family or even if it’s just you and your four-legged companion, this is a delightful wintery walk and the trail is varied. From fells to descents and a skim around the tarn, you’ll come across a bit of everything. Stop off at Skelwith Bridge when you’re finished, taking in the unique natural scenery, admiring the jutting fells that decorate the landscape, laced with snow.

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There’s no better way to feel refreshed than by getting active, and the Lake District offers up a whole host of stunning spots for doing exactly this. Why not even make it a new Christmas tradition, and work your way through all of these routes each year?


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