Cicerone's Natalie Simpson suggests some of her favourite hot spots of the Lake District - guaranteed to be as beautiful but less busy than the main trails.
When I want to escape the crowds, I usually head to the perimeter of the Lake District.— Natalie Simpson
The major peaks will always draw the crowds, and thanks to the popularity of the Wainwrights, even the less iconic summits are guaranteed regular footfall. However, there are still a few quieter upland areas on the edge of the national park. Being such a compact region, there is no real ‘wilderness walking’ in the Lakes, but the fells north of Skiddaw and Blencathra are about as close as it gets: Knott, Great Calva and the Mosedale Valley certainly feel remote and there is a bleak quality to the hills that adds to their splendid sense of isolation.
The north-eastern fells around Howtown and Martindale (Steel Knotts, Wether Hill and Beda Fell) are also good options – although one of the reasons they see fewer visitors is that they are quite awkward to get to, accessed either via a long narrow road down the east side of the lake or by the Ullswater Steamer. Longsleddale is similarly remote: although the main quarry road up the valley is popular with walkers and mountain bikers, the high moors to the east are blissfully quiet. In the west, Birker Fell is similarly overlooked: the terrain may be a little uninspiring (and wet!), but the outlook to the western fells is outstanding.
You don’t have to go high to enjoy great views, though. Since I was raised in Furness, I have a slight bias towards the South Lakes and West Coast. This is definitely the quieter side of the Lakes, but when it comes to walking, it has a lot to offer. The West Coasts boasts some magnificent places – wild, lovely Ennerdale, the supremely picturesque Eskdale – and the opportunity to get away from it all. For woodland walking, Grizedale Forest presents some wonderful routes (many dotted with unusual sculptures) and makes a great option for a wet day. The beech woods of the Rusland Valley and around Penny Bridge and Bouth are carpeted with bluebells in the spring and resplendent in their autumn glory. I’ve also enjoyed some very pleasant walks on the lower hills of the South Lakes: Bethecar Moor, Top o’ Selside, Black Fell, the Blawith Fells and the Dunnerdale Fells. We took a walk from The Hawk (near Broughton Mills) on a sunny bank holiday Monday and scarcely saw a soul.
However, my particular favourite is the Duddon Valley. Nestled beneath Seathwaite Tarn and Walna Scar on one side and Harter Fell on the other, and flanked by the dancing waters of the Duddon, Seathwaite in Dunnerdale is a paradise of beauty and tranquillity. It’s a great area for wildlife spotting – there are dragonflies, butterflies, red squirrels and birds of prey – and the river has some fantastic locations for wild swimming. And when it comes to unspoilt countryside, Hall Dunnerdale is unsurpassed. With great scenery and great walking, this is one of Lakeland’s best kept secrets.
Fancy exploring the Lake District?
There are Cicerone guidebooks to all areas of the Lake District. Try one of the Walking the Lake District fells guides to really get to know a mountain region, or dip in and out of a Low Level and Lakes Walks guide. For an overview of some excellent walking try Great Mountain Days in the Lake District.