Tour of the Lake District

The best of the area in a circular trek

By Jim Reid

A guidebook to walking a scenic, seven-day circular 93 mile route from Windermere around England's Lake District. The tour gives a flavour of the main Lakeland valleys, visiting Ambleside, Elterwater, Coniston, Eskdale, Wasdale, Black Sail, Buttermere, Keswick, Rosthwaite, Grasmere and Patterdale. With high-level alternatives.



April to end of October recommended. The main centres are busy during school holidays, so avoid if possible.


Windermere, Ambleside, Elterwater, Coniston, Eskdale, Wasdale, Buttermere, Keswick, Rosthwaite, Grasmere, Patterdale


Seven-day, 93 mile walk. Visits valleys rather than peaks. Well within the capabilities of the averagely fit walker.
Must See

Must See

The landscape, escaping the crowds, traditional events (sheep dog trials, local shows), peak-bagging, local speciality foods, literary heritage walks
15 Mar 2007
11 Jan 2019
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.3cm
  • Overview
    Designed as a scenic tour of the Lake District, this seven day circular route (93 miles) is primarily one of valleys and passes, rather than a tick list of peaks attained. The route starts at the railway terminus at Windermere village. Quickly leaving the crowds behind, it passes through Ambleside, the Langdale valley, Coniston, Dunnerdale, Eskdale, Wasdale, Ennerdale, Buttermere, Newlands Valley, Keswick, Borrowdale, Grasmere then Ullswater, before returning back to Windermere via the Troutbeck valley.

    With a flavour of each of the main Lakeland valleys, and time to stop and wonder at their charms, the walk described in this book leads quickly away from the busy tourist centres to the quiet pleasures of the fell country. The shepherds and drovers chose their paths well, logical links from one valley to the next, and many of these ancient ways have been chosen for this walk. All footpaths and bridleways used are on established rights of way.

    • Full route description with OS maps
    • High level alternatives given, including options for Coniston Old Man, Scafell Pike and Helvellyn.
    • Nine short walks from the overnight stops
    • Information on accommodation, facilities and transport for each day stage

  • Contents

    The Lake District landscape
    About the Tour
    When to go
    Food and supplies
    Money and costs
    What to take
    Navigation and outdoor safety
    Habitats and wildlife in the Lake District
    How to use this guide
    Glossary and abbreviations
    Part 1 – The Tour
    Stage 1 Windermere to Ambleside
    Stage 2 Ambleside to Elterwater
    Stage 3 Elterwater to Coniston
    Stage 4 Coniston to Eskdale
    Stage 5 Eskdale to Wasdale
    Stage 6 Wasdale to Black Sail
    Stage 7 Black Sail to Buttermere
    Stage 8 Buttermere to Keswick
    Stage 9 Keswick to Rosthwaite
    Stage 10 Rosthwaite to Grasmere
    Stage 11 Grasmere to Patterdale
    Stage 12 Patterdale to Windermere
    Part 2 – High-level alternative routes
    1 Coniston to Eskdale via the Old Man and Hardknott
    2 Eskdale to Wasdale Head via Scafell Pike
    3 Wasdale Head to Black Sail or Buttermere via Great Gable
    4 Grasmere to Patterdale via Helvellyn
    5 Patterdale to Windermere via High Street
    Part 3 – Short walks
    1 Beatrix Potter's Hill Top and Claife Heights from the Windermere ferry
    2 Stock Ghyll, Scandale and High Sweden Bridge from Ambleside
    3 Elterwater – A riverside walk between two pubs
    4 Lake Coniston and Brantwood
    5 Muncaster Fell and Ravenglass from the Eskdale railway
    6 Scale force and Crummock from Buttermere village
    7 The Borrowdale Yews from Rosthwaite
    8 Wordsworth's Grasmere and Rydal via Loughrigg Terrace
    9 Howtown and Ullswater from Glenridding

    Appendix 1 Useful contacts
    Appendix 2 Tourist Information Centres
    Appendix 3 Transport information
    Appendix 4 Selected bibliography

  • Maps
    The Ordnance Survey extracts in this guidebook show the route of the Tour, but inevitably cannot cover much more than 100m or so either side – not much use if by intention or accident you go off exploring the surroundings! To put the walk in context, it is recommended you carry also the four 1:25,000 OS Outdoor Leisure sheets that cover the Lake District, in a waterproof map case, along with a Silva or similar compass. The four OS maps you need are:

    • OL4
    • OL5
    • OL6
    • OL7.

    Do make sure you can use the compass at least for basic navigational tasks – orientating the map and taking compass bearings. You may not need to use this knowledge on the Tour, but it may give you some reassurance should the cloud descend on a more exposed section.

    The 1:25,000 scale ‘Superwalker’ series by Harvey Maps includes five maps covering the Lake District, and offers an alternative to the Ordnance Survey sheets. You will need all five maps for the Tour:

    • South East
    • Central
    • South West
    • West
    • East.

    These durable, water-resistant maps are less than half the bulk of the laminated OS equivalents; some walkers also prefer Harvey maps for their clear colour shading, making relief features more obvious – the choice is yours. Recently, Harvey and the BMC have brought out a 1:40,000 Mountain Map of the Lakes – the best map currently available to cover the entire national park in a single sheet. The Mountain Map is a viable alternative to carrying the four separate OS sheets (or five Superwalker maps) and includes useful 1:20,000 enlargements of some mountain summits such as Scafell and Great Gable.

    More accessible information on mountain navigation is available in Map and Compass by Pete Hawkins (Cicerone Press),
  • Updates
    Receive updates by email
    Be notified by email when this book receives an update or correction


    June 2018

    High Level Walk 1. In the initial grid reference (Coniston), the grid letters should be SD, not SO.

    July 2007

    The photo on p206 is incorrectly captioned as Rosthwaite bridge. It should be Grange in Borrowdale bridge.

  • Reviews

    'This scenic Tour takes the walker away from the crowds and into some of the best of the Lakeland landscape. I particularly liked the graphs which are with every walk and show you clearly the height and distance you will walk. There is also invaluable information advising you about what to take, when to go, where to go, accommodation etc etc etc.

    Jim Reid has written a lovely guidebook which is designed to take the sting out of the lengthy and often tedious preparations necessary for walking in the Lakes. His is an inspirational guidebook born of his own love and deep understanding of this beautiful district.'

    (Keswick Reminder / April 07)

    'This book describes a circular multi-day tour of the English Lake District. Using mainly low-level routes, it brings the walker through a selection of the busy "classic" areas and many of the quieter corners. There are also high-level options for those seeking a more challenging experience.

    All stages and day walks are well described and are accompanied by a detailed OS map of the walk. There is very useful information at the start of the guide for planning a trip and lots of colour photos to inspire.'

    (Irish Mountain Log / Summer 2007)

    'This new 93 mile tour takes the idea of a typical European mountain trek and adapts it to the Lake District. The author has sub-divided his route into 12 stages, there are 5 high-level alternatives that take the walker over the main peaks and also 9 half-day walks that can be undertaken from points along the route.

    The author spent two years researching and writing the book whilst he was a warden at one of the Lake District youth hostels.'

    (Strider / August 2007)

    'For years I've had every intention of working out a 7-10 day backpacking route in the Lake District, visiting my favourite tops and valleys and staying away from towns and villages as much as possible.
     Being rather slothful by nature I've often dreamed the route but never put it down on paper. Now, Jim Reid has beat me to it, and I'm grateful to him for that for what he's produced, as someone probably much more familiar with the Lakes than I am, is a wonderfully scenic tour that takes the backpacker away from the crowds and into some of the best of the Lake District hills.

    The route itself is 93-miles in length and Jim has divided it into 12 sections. That's not a bad walk at all, and I reckon I could fit into a week. Now, when can I go?'

    (TGO / October 2007)

    Check out the review on the following website:

    Cumberland News
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Jim Reid

Jim Reid

A lifelong outdoors enthusiast, Jim will avoid any office tasks given the slightest opportunity to head for the hills. After an education at Newcastle and Lancaster universities, he made a home in the Lake District for ten years whilst earning a living variously and precariously as an ecologist, school teacher, youth hostel warden, restaurateur, landscape gardener and writer. Tour of the Lake District was written and researched when running a Lakeland youth hostel. All the routes have been carefully chosen and walked, the author muttering into a Dictaphone to ensure descriptions remained accurate when written up in the evening. The photographs were taken using an old Leica 35mm camera with Summicron lenses, generally on Velvia film.
Jim is now settled with a family in the Isle of Man where he has a thriving garden design practice… but still finds time for the odd bit of fell running.

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