Peak Experiences

Our 6 Favourite Lake District Fells

We’ve put together a list of some of our favourites you might want to attempt on your next visit.

Most have multiple routes up so there are plenty of options whether you’re a novice or an experienced hiker.

The world looks different from the top of a mountain

A visit to the Lake District puts you within climbing distance of the ten highest mountains (known as fells in Cumbria) in England, and some of the best views too.

But remember, the weather can change in an instant so make sure you plan your routes and are always properly prepared before setting out. And don’t forget to grab yourself a set of guides from the master fell-bagger and chronicler himself, Alfred Wainwright.

1. Scafell Pike

  • Difficulty: fairly strenuous, whichever route you choose.
  • Time: all day – at least 6.5 hours, depending on the route.

Let’s start at the top with the highest mountain in England – Scafell Pike. Standing 978 metres (3209 feet) high, it’s also one of the peaks in the National Three Peaks Challenge (along with Ben Nevis and Snowdon) and attracts thousands of intrepid summit-seekers from all over the world every year. And no wonder – when you reach the top, you’re rewarded with incredible 360-degree views of the surrounding fells, and on a clear day you can see all four nations of the UK.

There are several routes up, none of them easy, but if you’re new to climbing, the shortest and most direct route up is from Wasdale Head. 

Not much longer, there is also a gentler ascent from Borrowdale, which may be more suitable for families who want to make the trek.

The route from Langdale is for more experienced walkers and involves hiking across several other peaks to reach the summit.

2. Helvellyn

  • Difficultyfairly difficult – the fitter you are, the better.
  • Time: from 3 hours to all day, depending on which route you choose.
  • Where to Stay: Check out our properties in Grasmere or Keswick.

William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge both climbed Helvellyn, so you’ll be following in their illustrious poetic footsteps when you reach the top of this popular (250,000 visitors a year) mountain – the third highest in England at 950 metres (3117 feet).

There are various ways up, with the easiest – and by easiest, we don’t mean easy – being the route from Thirlmere, which takes around three hours depending on how fit you are.

The best-known route (and the most popular) is the scramble-tastic climb via the imposing Striding Edge, which begins in the village of Glenridding, near Ullswater. Not for the faint-hearted, it’s best avoided in bad or windy weather – the thrilling, narrow ridge can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. And even if you do. Fun fact: in winter, Fell Top Assessors climb Helvellyn every day to check the weather conditions.

3. Cat Bells 

  • DifficultyModerate – ideal for all ages.
  • Time: Approximately 3-4 hours up and down.
  • Where to stay: Keswick

If ever a fell was family-friendly, it’s Cat Bells. Just a couple of miles outside Keswick, it’s a great starter fell for novices, and popular with walkers of all ages, and it’s easy to see why.

It offers panoramic Lake District views that encompass mountains, lakes and valleys, with not too much effort on your part – though there is a little bit of a scramble on the last stretch to the summit.

So popular is Cat Bells, the hardest bit of the day may be finding somewhere to park. If you’re staying in Keswick, you can walk or get a bus to the starting point. When you get there, it should only take you an hour or so to hike the mile and a half to the top of this mini mountain, an ascent of 450 metres (1480 feet), but like any climb, your fitness level will determine the time it takes – and you may well want to stop for a picnic on your way up. 

If you find yourself on the eastern slopes of Cat Bells, see if you can work out where Beatrix Potter sited the home of Mrs Tiggywinkle.

4. Skiddaw 

  • Difficulty: easy to moderate, depending on which route you choose.
  • Time: 3 to 7 hours, dependent on route and your fitness level.
  • Where to stay: Keswick

You can go (fairly) hard, or go easy, to get to the top of spectacular Skiddaw.

Close to Keswick – you can walk to it from the town centre – this 931 metres (3054 feet) hunk of rock offers routes suitable for families and more experienced walkers alike.

The sixth-highest mountain in England and the fourth-highest in the Lakes, it’s climbed by thousands of visitors every year, who come to enjoy the incredible views over Bassenthwaite Lake and far beyond. 

A well-trodden route starting from Keswick takes you up a picturesque five-mile tramp to the summit, but you can also start from Millbeck or Applethwaite if you want a shorter trail to the top.

If you’re after something a bit more challenging and less marked out so you can give your map and compass an outing, the Ullock Pike and Skiddaw circular route has you covered.

5. Helm Crag 

  • Difficultyeasy to moderate – ideal for all ages.
  • Time: around 2 to 3 hours.
  • Where to stay: We have a selection of different cottages in Grasmere.

Modest in stature (405metres, 1329 feet) compared to other peaks and known locally as the Lion and the Lamb thanks to its distinctive outline which resembles the animals (there are legends), Helm Crag is a relatively easy if steep scramble that’s ideal for the whole family.

Close to the popular village of Grasmere (don’t forget to pick up some Grasmere Gingerbread to keep you going), it should only take you a couple of hours to complete the 4km round trip. Alfred Wainwright recommends doing the walk in the late afternoon during the summer months so you can take in the sunset. And who are we to argue with Mr Wainwright?

We might be biased but we think the view from the top is one of the best in the Lake District. If you’re still feeling energetic when you get to the top you can climb ‘The Howitzer’, the rocky outcrop that’s the true summit of Helm Crag.

6. The Old Man of Coniston 

  • Difficulty: moderate to hard, depending on the route.
  • Time5 to 7 hours.
  • Where to stay: Check out our holiday cottages to rent nearby in Coniston & Langdale.

On a clear day, you can see Morecambe Bay, Blackpool Tower and the Isle of Man from the top of Coniston Old Man (to give it one of its alternative names). But first you have to get to the top.

The good news is you can start out from Coniston to begin the 803 metre (2634 feet) trek to the summit – taking in mountain tarns, disused copper mines, and plenty of other photo opportunities along the way. You can choose the shorter, steeper routes for more of a challenge, or the longer gradual route if you’re more of an ambler than a scrambler – there are plenty of lovely spots for a picnic too. It builds up an appetite, this fell walking lark. 

You’re unlikely to ever have The Old Man (another name) to yourself though – this popular fell attracts visitors all year round who come to take in the incredible views from the top.

Looking For Inspiration to Explore Further? Here’s a…

Map of Lake District fells

As recommended by the late great, Alfred Wainwright.

Start the collection! Follow along with 1000s before you and take the first step to becoming a Wainwright bagger!

A hill is classified as a Wainwright if it is one of the 214 Lake District fells described in Alfred Wainwright’s seven-volume A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells and a Wainwright Outlying Fell if it is one of the 116 described in his companion volume The Outlying Fells of Lakeland.

Base camp 

You’re going to need somewhere comfy to plan all these Lake District adventures. Luckily for you, we have plenty of holiday cottages in convenient locations for hitting the highs of the Cumbrian fells. Get in touch to book, check availability or if you need any help choosing where to stay. 

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