The Lake District is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous for its lakes, forests and mountains (or fells), and its associations with William Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter, and John Ruskin. The National Park was established in 1951 and covers an area of 2,362 square kilometres. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.
The Lake District is located entirely within the county of Cumnbria. All the land in England higher than 3,000 feet (914 m) above sea level lies within the National Park, including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. It also contains the deepest and largest natural lakes in England, Wast Water and Windermere respectively.
I stayed at the Damson Dene Hotel in Kendal, which is closely located to Windermere Lake. I chose this hotel because it is dog-friendly, has a restaurant and spa, and provides a free breakfast. The hotel was very nice, but I would have liked to be within walking distance to a town or lake. However, those hotels came at a much steeper price. I was still happy overall with the location. If I were to go back, I would probably stay in Keswick or Windermere.
My first day consisted of visiting a castle on top of Windermere Lake, taking a hike up to Loughrigg Fell that had a great view of a few lakes, and seeing a waterfall.
Wray Castle is a Victorian neo-gothic building in Cumbria. The grounds, which include part of the shoreline of Windermere Lake, are open for free all year round. Between March and October, Windermere Lake Cruises operate a passenger boat service from Ambleside and the Brockhole National Park Visitor Center to Wray Castle. Parking at the castle is 7.50GBP for the day and entrance to the castle is 10GBP. Dogs are allowed on the castle grounds and also in the cafe, but not inside the castle.
Loughrigg Fell, just on the outskirts of the popular town of Ambleside, is a beautiful vantage point of the surrounding mountains. I downloaded the hiking path from Walk Lakes, which takes you over the top of Loughrigg Fell, along the airy Loughrigg Terrace overlooking Rydal Lake, and a path to Rydal Cave and Grasmere Lake.
Rydal Cave is a man-made quarry, which produced high quality roofing slates in the 19th century.
My dog loved swimming in the water here to cool off from our hike.
The total length of the hike is 6.43 miles and took me 4 hours, with a few stops for snacks and pictures. You can also do this hike from Rydal, which I think would have been much quicker.
Stock Ghyll Force Waterfall
A short walk from the center of Ambleside is Stock Ghyll Force Waterfall. You can get to this 70 foot waterfall from Stockghyll Lane. After passing the public bathrooms, turn left and pass the sign that says “To the Waterfalls”. You will head uphill with Stockghyll on the left before seeing the red signs for the waterfall path. It is a circular path where you can view the falls from a railed viewpoint. I was unfortunately disappointed by the waterfall, although it was still a nice walk for my dog.
On my second day, I saw a waterfall in the morning, spent the afternoon hopping around from castle to castle, and finished the evening at Windermere Lake.
Aira Force Waterfall
A network of trails weaves its way from Ullswater lakeshore to Gowbarrow summit. Probably the most famous of the Lake District waterfalls, Aira Force falls 70 feet from below a stone footbridge and is on land owned by the National Trust. At the main Aira Force car park there is a tea room and an information kiosk and shop which sells snacks and gifts.
Be sure to look at the map on the wall to see all the different possibilities of trails. I ended up taking the High Force Trail, which took about 1 hour to walk the 1.4 mile trail.
Penrith is a nice market town in Cumbria 3 miles outside the boundaries of the Lake District National park. I ate at the Narrowbar Cafe, which is a cute dog-friendly place. I then headed to Penrith Castle, which is a now-ruined medieval castle that was build between 1399 and 1470 as a defense against Scottish raids.
In a picturesque setting beside the crossing of the River Eamont in Cumbria, Brougham Castle was founded in the early 13th century. The top of the keep provides panoramic views over the Eden Valley. The castle costs 5.70GBP.
Built at the turn of the 19th century, on the site of two previous houses, Lowther Castle was a grand affair boasting a room for every day of the year. Its gardens were the envy of the north. But in 1957 the castle was demolished. Just the facade and outer walls remained.
The castle ruins, exhibition, gardens, adventure playground, cafe, and shop are open every day from 10am to 4pm in winter and 10am to 5pm in summer. The parking and grounds are free. The castle entrance is 11GBP. If you only have time to see one of the castles mentioned on this day, this is the one to see.
Appleby Castle is situated just 15 miles from the English Lake District and deep in the heart of the Eden Valley. You may climb to the roof, from where there are impressive views in all directions. The best way to experience the castle is to stay overnight. The next best way is a guided tour of the castle and grounds. Tours are 12.50GBP and should be pre-booked. I played dumb and walked in the gates when no one was there to snag some quick pictures, before being asked to leave.
Brough Castle stands on a ridge by Stainmore Pass, on the site of a Roman fort. Frequently the target of Scots raids, its towering keep dates from about 1200. More comfortable living quarters were later added by the Clifford family, only to be accidentally burnt following a Christmas party in 1521. Brough was partially restored in the 17th century. The castle is open daily from 10am to 5pm. There is limited space for parking. There is a ice cream parlor and tearoom adjacent to the site.
Windermere lake, at 10.5 miles long, one mile wide and 220 feet deep, is the largest natural lake in both the Lake District and in England, and is fed by numerous rivers. If I could choose any area to stay in, it would be here or Keswick. There are several accommodations, activities, and attractions and things to do in and around Windermere.
I took an hour drive West toward the coast to visit Muncaster Castle and hike around the grounds in the morning. Afterwards, I took the crazy drive on the Honister Pass to get to the town of Keswick. This was about an hour drive on a road that was wide enough for one car. Every few minutes there was a built-in passing part in order to get around on-coming cars. Thankfully, I was able to see cars coming in advance for the most part so didn’t have to reverse, although some cars did for me. Keswick was a lovely area to spend my evening.
The historic haunted castle, still a lived-in family home after nine centuries, is located in Ravenglass. It is set in 77 acres of woodland and gardens against the backdrop of the Western Lake District fells.
The grounds offer a Hawk & Owl Center with exhilarating flying displays and bird of prey experiences. There is an Enchanted Trail, Meadowvole Maze, and adventure playgrounds. It also has cafes, gift shops, and even accommodations.
Honister Pass is a mountain pass in the English Lake District. It is located on the B5289 road, linking Seatoller, in the valley of Borrowdale, to Gatesgarth at the southern end of Buttermere. The pass reaches an altitude of 1,167 feet, making it one of the highest in the region, and also one of the steepest, with gradients of up to 1-in-4. Honister Pass is one of three passes that link the tourist area around Keswick, including Derwent Water and Borrowdale, with the valley of the River Cocker, including the lakes of Buttermere, Crummock Water, and Loweswater. The road is 6’6” in width, where if two vehicles have to pass each other, one might have to reverse for some kilometers of winding narrow road to get to a place wide enough to pass. It shouldn’t be attempted by those who don’t know how to reverse. Thankfully I lucked out.
Keswick has become the major center for tourism in the northern Lake District. This pretty market town offers a wide range of attractions for visitors, from shops and restaurants to museums and boating trips around Lake Derwentwater.
The Lake District was an excellent weekend getaway that was extremely dog friendly. I had a lovely time exploring the area and enjoying time with my dog. I definitely recommend exploring this part of England if you enjoy nature and the outdoors.