Autumn in the Lake District

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Hiking the Fells, Gorgeous Colours, Quiet Villages, and Cosy Pubs and cafes

Why visit the Lake District in Autumn? Nights draw in, the temperature is noticeably cooler, there’s a crisp nip in the air, and the landscape is beginning to put on a colourful show (camera at the ready).

The kids are back in school, and the large crowds (and the traffic) have mostly gone, so it’s easier to get around – that can all only mean one thing: Autumn in the Lake District is upon us, and we’re loving it.

We don’t think there’s a better time to pack a chunky jumper, book yourself into one of our cosy cottages, and explore everything Autumn in the Lakes has to offer.

From hiking the fells, admiring the gorgeous autumn colour and crunching through red and golden leaves in the woods, messing about on (or in) the water, or strolling through quaint villages and getting cosy in the many welcoming pubs, cafes and restaurants.

Lake District Halloween Events

Spooksome events for your little ghosts and ghouls around the Lake District!

Upcoming Halloween Events
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Lake District BonFire and Fireworks shows

Upcoming Bon Fire Night Events
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Autumn walks in the Lake District

The beauty of visiting the Lake District in autumn is although the fells, lakes and forests aren’t as crowded, they are at their most spectacular. 

As long as you keep an eye on the weather forecast, and make sure you go out prepared (you can read our guide on what to pack here), you can tackle everything from a gentle stroll around Tarn Hows – a great walk to take in the glorious autumn palette, to an adventurous trek up Scafell Pike for a real sense of satisfaction and magnificent views to boot. 

And don’t forget, there are 214 Wainwrights to bag as well – you may have to come back next autumn too.

Where to see autumn leaves in the Lake District

A riot of reds and yellows, shades of gold and purple, tints of orange and brown, autumn colour in the Lake District really is a treat for the eyes – and who doesn’t enjoy the rustle and crunch of walking through fallen leaves?

Everywhere you look, the landscape is transformed but, here are a few of our favourite places to see nature’s magic up close.

Whinlatter Forest

England’s only true mountain forest, Whinlatter is a must-do trip to see autumn colour, along with the magnificent views you get across Bassenthwaite Lake, Derwentwater and Keswick. There are plenty of different walking trails to choose from in this woodland wonderland, and the chance to spot some rare wildlife, including deer, red squirrels and ospreys too.

Sizergh Castle

Just outside Kendal (the gateway to the Lakes), you can find National Trust-managed Sizergh Castle. Worth visiting at any time of the year, its gorgeous grounds are particularly eye-catching in autumn – look out for the impressive limestone rock garden, which glows fiery red and orange in the sunlight when the acers that surround it change colour.

Ashness Bridge

It might be one of the most photographed sights in the Lake District, and it can get hellishly busy in the summer months, but head to Ashness Bridge early in the morning (just after sunrise is ideal) during autumn and see the seasonal reds and golds at their vibrant best.


Book yourself on the Ullswater Steamer (it runs all year round) and take in the russet-coloured landscape and the reflections in the water as you enjoy a relaxing circular sail from Pooley Bridge to Glenridding and back. You can also hop on or off at various points on the route.

Ready for its close-up

Autumn Photography in The Lake District

Of course, almost everywhere in the Lake District is a photograph waiting to happen, especially in autumn when the colours are putting on their best show. But we’ve chosen a few places where your camera will get a proper workout.

And of course, as the nights draw in, the stars come out, giving fantastic opportunities for astral photography and star gazing.

Dodd Wood

From the woods that run along the east side of the A591 to the paths that run through the ancient woodland, and up to the summit of Dodd for spectacular views over Bassenthwaite lake, scenic photo opportunities abound.

For a bit of extra drama for your shots, go early in the morning and you may catch the atmospheric autumn mist rising too.

Penny Rock Woods

You can find Penny Rock Woods close to the A591 at the southern end of Grasmere. Head into the woods and take photos through the trees towards the lake, with Helm Crag (also known as the Lion and Lamb) making a stunning backdrop.

If you’re feeling energetic, you can climb Helm Crag and capture some autumn memories looking over the lake and village. Or just take a walk around the lake and your shutter finger will be busy from start to finish.

Clappersgate Bridge

Crossing the densely woodland-surrounded River Brathay, Clappersgate Bridge (just outside Ambleside) is a lovely old stone packhorse bridge that makes a great focal point for your autumn colour shots from any angle.

It looks particularly fetching if you shoot from low down on the riverbank with the water in the foreground and the bridge framed by the orange-leaved trees.

Friars Crag

If you want to capture one of those classic reflection shots, Friars Crag, jutting out into Derwentwater should be your subject. Go on a still, early morning or evening when there’s no one else around and capture the crag, the colourful trees and the spectacular fells reflected in the lake.

One for the living room wall, we think. You can also get some superb shots from a viewpoint (look out for the bench) on the crag looking down the lake towards Catbells and the Jaws of Borrowdale.

Can I still do a boat tour or cruise during autumn?

Absolutely. And it’s also one of the best ways to take in the beauty of the magically transformed landscape.

There are several companies that operate on the lakes all year round, including Ullswater Steamers, Windermere Lake Cruises, and Coniston Launch.

Can I manage without a car to get around?

It depends on where you want to go and where you base yourself, but with a little planning, you can usually get where you need to go.

  • There’s a pretty comprehensive bus network around the Lakes, with connections to all the major hubs. And the good news is, single fares are capped at £2 until the end of September 2023. Hop onto the trusty 555 and you can even travel from the north of the county to the south.
  • You could also book a private minibus tour – Mountain Goat runs a variety of routes.
  • Or hire e-bikes to get around.

Check out the National Park or Visit Lake District websites for lots more information on how to go car-free while you’re here.

Are there any opportunities for bird watching or wildlife spotting in autumn? 

From red deer to grey seals, and curlews to oystercatchers, Autumn is a fantastic time to go wildlife spotting in the Lake District.

This guide from the Wildlife Trust will tell you the best spots to visit.

Or, if you want to know where to go to have a chance at seeing the elusive red squirrel, our blog will point you in the right direction.

What events take place during autumn?

With Halloween on the horizon, you can expect lots of spooky goings-on around the Lake District. The Brockhole Halloween Experience is one not to be missed. 

And for adults only, the Watchtee Halloween Horror Trail is a terrifying trip into the deep, dark woods if you’re brave enough.

With everything from county shows and beer festivals, foraging workshops and the Lakes International Comic Art Festival to keep you entertained too, make sure you keep an eye on our What’s on page so you don’t miss a thing.

What clothes and footwear should I pack for an autumn visit to the Lake District?

It depends on what you’re planning to do. If you want to keep your feet on the ground and just visit the towns and villages, with nothing more taxing than deciding which pub or restaurant to eat in, then comfy trainers or walking shoes and a raincoat and fleece over one or two warming layers will suffice for most situations.

But, if you’re going to go on longer hikes or tackle some of the higher, more remote fells, it will pay to be properly prepared.

Remember, the higher you go, the colder it gets – and the weather can change in an instant.

Our guide to what to pack will tell you everything you need to know to stay safe.

Are there any hidden gems I shouldn’t miss?

You might think there’s nowhere new to discover in the Lakes but we beg to differ. Have a read of our guides to some of our favourite hidden gems – from dramatic caves and beautiful gardens, to breathtaking waterfalls and charming villages.

Enjoy your stay, and don’t forget to drop us a line if we can help you with anything to do with your visit to the Lake District this autumn.

Where Can I Stay when Visiting the Lake District in Autumn? 

Mighty mountains, ancient forests, charming villages, fascinating history, the Lake District has it all, and here at Lakeland Retreats, we have cottages that make the perfect base to take it all in. 

Whether you want to kick back in Keswick, amble through Ambleside, gad about in Grasmere, conquer the Old Man of Coniston, head to Hawkshead, or hit the heights of Helvellyn, we’ll help you find the right base for your stay.

And, being autumn, when it’s traditionally less busy, there’s often a last-minute bargain to be snapped up.

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