10 of the best walks in the Lake District

Borger Dalr, Borrowdale

Distance 4 miles
Start Grange in Borrowdale, grid ref NY253174
National Trust downloadable route and map
Borger Dalr was described by the famed fellwalker and writer Alfred Wainwright as the "finest square mile in Lakeland" and it's not difficult to see why. You'll climb Castle Crag, the site of a hill fort some 2,000 years ago, which, though small in stature, offers some of the finest views you will ever see. Take a moment to pause at Peace How, a small summit bought for the benefit of the nation in 1917 as a place where soldiers returning from the front line could find some tranquillity.

Distance 3.6 miles
Start Maggie's Bridge car park, grid ref: NY134210
National Trust downloadable route and map
There's something morbidly fascinating about corpse roads and there are plenty of them in a place as rural as Cumbria. If you know you're walking along one, you can almost feel the steps of the countless people who've gone before you, carrying their dead from their remote communities to their final resting places. But this walk isn't all gloomy. Loweswater is a really pretty little lake and the woodlands which surround it are home to a number of red squirrels. It's worth heading off on this walk after rain – something there's rarely a shortage of in the Lake District – as Holme Force Falls are at their best on a soggy day.

Distance 4.6 miles
Start Coniston Pier, grid ref: SD307970
National Trust downloadable route and map
In a county so packed with meres, tarns and water (notice I didn't say 'lakes' – there's only one true lake in the Lake District and that's Bassenthwaite Lake, north of Keswick), it would seem odd not to include a boat ride on at least one walk. The beautiful Steam Yacht Gondola was first launched in 1859 then rescued and rebuilt by the National Trust in 1980. Coniston itself is a walkers' paradise with many making the summit of the Old Man their goal. Foodies should seek out nearby Yew Tree Farm, another National Trust tenant, which featured in the film Miss Potter with Renee Zellwegger and sells delicious farm-bred Herdwick and Belted Galloway meat.

Distance 3.5 miles
Start Greendale, grid ref: NY144056
National Trust downloadable route and map
If you want to go walking without the company of scores of other hikers, head west. This side of the Lake District boasts unspoilt simple beauty and, probably because of its perceived inaccessibility, the area doesn't get as busy as the Lakes' heartlands. But those who don't venture the few extra miles are missing out. From the stark beauty of Wasdale and its impressive screes to the timeless views (pictured) and Roman history of Eskdale, these valleys are an exceptional treat. For a quirky picnic point on this walk, stop at Greendale Tarn – it's set in a deep hollow and its stream, oddly, looks like it's flowing the wrong way.

Distance 1.6 miles
Start Car park at Tom Gill (at Glen Mary Bridge), grid ref: SD321998
National Trust downloadable route and map
This idyllic fell-top tarn offers one of the most iconic views in the Lake District – but despite looking like it has been there for eternity, it is actually man-made, created by a Leeds mill owner in 1865. Gifted to the National Trust by Beatrix Potter, the path around it has been made accessible for buggies and mobility scooters, which makes it a haven for walkers of all ages and abilities. Those with more walking experience should try this short steep approach to the tarn past Tom Gill Beck – pick a clear day for stunning views across Wetherlam and the Coniston fells.

Distance 7.5 miles
Start Car park at Ash Landing, grid ref: SD388954
National Trust downloadable route and map
In Windermere, you're right in the heart of the Lakes so finding accommodation, refreshment and a little retail therapy is never difficult. This area has been popular with visitors for centuries and with good reason. It boasts majestic views – an attraction which the Victorians, in particular, made the most of. Claife Heights, on the lake's western shore, featured in one of the first guidebooks to the Lakes, written by Thomas West in 1778. When the viewing station itself was built, its creators put coloured glass in the windows so that visitors could appreciate the views throughout the seasons, no matter when they visited. Light green glass allowed them to see how the scenery looked in spring, for example, with dark blue being reminiscent of moonlight and light blue giving the illusion of winter.

Distance 5.5 miles
Start Seathwaite farmyard carpark, grid ref: NY235121
National Trust downloadable route and map
It's unusual to see bridges designated as Grade I listed 'buildings', but Stockley Bridge near Seathwaite is such a rare specimen that it's been given that protection. It's on an old packhorse route where precious goods such as wool and coal were transported for centuries. And the bridge isn't the only historic relic in this area – it's also where you'll find the very rare vendace, a fish from the last glacial period which only lives in Sprinkling Tarn and the watercourses which flow into Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake. Seathwaite also holds a place in history for its rainfall. On 19 November 2009, 316mm of rain fell here – a UK record for a 24-hour period and a major contributing factor in the devastating floods which hit the county. But don't let the threat of rain put you off – the scenery around here is stunning.

Distance 5.8 miles
Start Market cross, central Ambleside, grid ref: NY376044
National Trust downloadable route and map
National Trust rangers made a great find this winter – the tallest tree in Cumbria and the tallest grand fir in England towering above its neighbours in Skelghyll Woods near Ambleside. At 57.8 metres, its top branches are higher than Nelson's Column. Keep a lookout for it as you pass through the woods at the start of this walk. And if you're here between April and June, it's worth a little diversion to Stagshaw Gardens, a real hidden horticultural gem with an impressive array of azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias. Ambleside itself is a good place to while away a little time with its array of independent shops and restaurants, as well as the quirky Bridge House and nearby Townend, a house with a fascinating history to share.

Distance 3 miles
Start National Trust car park, grid ref: NY172172
National Trust downloadable route and map
The trees at the southern tip of Buttermere, known as The Sentinels, are said to be the most photographed in the country. Crummock Water is fed by Scale Force, the highest falls in the Lake District, and has a pretty pebbly beach at its northern tip which is a great place for a picnic and a swim in the summer. Nearby is the Kirkstile Inn where you can sip a pint of Melbreak while gazing admiringly at the mountain of the same name. There are some easy walks around Buttermere, or around Cinderdale Common at Crummock, but for something a little more challenging, head to Rannerdale Knotts. The valley is thought to be where Norman warriors were defeated in battle – and the bluebells which bloom there every spring are said to grow from their blood. I'm not sure how something so lovely can come from such a gory legend!

Distance 0.75 miles
Start Lakeside car park, grid ref: NY265229
National Trust downloadable walk and map
A view described by John Ruskin as one of the three most beautiful scenes in Europe, Friar's Crag is a promontory jutting into Derwentwater looking out towards Derwent Isle and the surrounding scenery. The land in this area was the first bit of the Lake District to be owned by the National Trust, and this gentle stroll to the lakeside will take you past memorials to both Ruskin and Canon Rawsley, one of the Trust's founders. On a clear summer night, the open space and lack of light pollution makes this a perfect spot for stargazing.

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