Our favourite Lake District walks with the children

The Easter holidays have already arrived, in the blink of an eye the half term of May will arrive and shortly after, the summer holidays. And if you have kids, that means finding them things to do.

Fortunately, if you’re visiting the Lake District, you’re spoiled for choice. Adventure, attractions, amazing restaurants, the Lake District has it all.

But since May was declared National Walking Month, we thought we’d focus on the great outdoors, and walking in particular. These are just a few of our favorite Lake District walks that we have enjoyed with our children. So why not outfit yours with some sturdy walking boots and take it exploring?

head of orrest

Orrest Head is the perfect ‘first summit’ to do in the Lake District. It’s not too long or steep for little legs and by the time you reach the top the views of Lake Windermere and the fells of the Lake District beyond are simply stunning.

This is the place where author and walker Alfred Wainwright first fell in love with the Lake District. In his autobiographical ‘Ex-Fellwanderer’, he wrote: “…suddenly we came out of the trees and found ourselves on a bare promontory and, as if a curtain had been dramatically torn apart, we beheld a magnificent sight…”.

In fact, he was so enchanted by the sight and sense of opportunity before him that he went on to write his Lakeland Fells pictorial guides.

Orrest Head is situated on the north end of Windermere, not far from the railway station and the Windermere Tourist Information Centre. The paved road to the summit means it is accessible to people with wheelchairs and strollers.

brant fell

Staying close to Windermere, our next drive is a relatively short walk to the top of Brant Fell. The two-mile hike to the top can be quite steep, but like Orrest Head, the reward of reaching the top is well worth it, with views across the lake to Grizedale Forest, the Langdale Pikes and the Coniston range.

The view from Brant Fell

The walk begins in the center of Bowness, where you can grab a bite to eat before heading down Brantfell Road, leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind. The first part of the walk follows the Dales Way, which begins about 81 miles away in Ilkley, before passing the Post Knott lookout on its way to the top of Brant Fell.

At the top is a rocky crag, only a few feet high, but a new adventure for the kids. You’ll also come across a couple of heavy stone posts. These were once part of a viewing platform, long gone, though the inspiring views remain.


At the southern end of Lake Windermere is Gummers Howe, a mini-mountain that has long been a family favorite. It feels like a mountain and there is even a struggle to get to the top if you decide to go off trail.

The summit of Gummers Howe

The start of the hike is a gentle ascent through fields and woods before getting a bit steeper on the way to the top.

Like Orrest Head and Brant Fell, the views from the top are impressive. In one direction, the loch stretches out before you, dotted with sailboats, and in the other, Morecambe Bay sparkles in the sunlight.

This is a ride that will make your little ones feel like mini-mountaineers.

tarn how

The most amazing fact about Tarn Hows is that it is man-made. It looks so natural, as if it has been part of the landscape for thousands of years. It is also one of the most popular places in the Lake District. And when you see it, you will understand why. It is beautiful, a postcard in the heart of the lakes.

Beautiful Tarn Hows

Also, it is a fabulous place for those with young families. The loop trail is just under two miles and is ideal for stroller and wheelchair users. Small beaches add to the excitement, the perfect place to have a picnic, or just stop at one of the many benches to enjoy the views.

Air Force

Just above the western shore of Ullswater is Aira Force, arguably the best-known waterfall in the Lake District, as well as one of the easiest to reach: there’s a National Trust car park just off the A592, halfway between Glenridding and Watermillock.

Air Force

The circular Aira Force is another great ride for youngsters. It could take a little under an hour, but by the time they’ve hidden behind the trees, marveled at the 65-foot waterfall, and spent time trying to spot red squirrels, it could be almost twice as long.

For those who want to take a slightly longer walk, why not take one of the trails that lead past the falls to Yew Crag, with great views east towards Ullswater. Or you can continue uphill from Aira Force until you reach High Force. Granted, it’s not as spectacular as Aira Force, but two waterfalls in one day, now is a day to remember.


At 451m, Catbells is not the highest mountain in the Lake District. In fact, it shows up at 189 when you list all 214 Wainwrights by height. But it’s a fantastic walk for children and, like most walks in the Lake District, the views from the top are spectacular.


Located on the western shore of Derwentwater, it will feel much more like a mountain than our previous suggestions. It will be challenging at times, with some steep switchbacks, but nothing too technical. And if you’re looking to bag all 214 Wainwrights, this isn’t a bad place to start.

Parking can be a bit tricky, especially in the height of summer, so why not take a Keswick Launch to Hawes End Pier and start your walk from there?

tarn stickle

If you want something a little more dramatic, Stickle Tarn will not disappoint. It lies below the steep east face of Harrison Stickle, with the massive bluff of Pavey Ark looming above.

tarn stickle

The path to the tarn is steep and runs alongside Stickle Ghyll, a welcome distraction if little ones’ legs get tired. Towards the top, the terrain becomes a bit more challenging, with a couple of rocky climbs, but nothing technical. Pack a picnic and picnic mat and relax on the shore of Stickle Tarn. If you’re brave, why don’t you go row a little?

For those feeling adventurous there are some Wainwrights once you have reached Stickle Tarn. Pavey Ark, Harrison Stickle, Pike’o’Sticle, Thunacarr Knott, and Loft Crag are accessible from the tarn. In fact, many will say that this Langdale Pikes loop should be high on any walker’s agenda.

rack pike

Imagine going on holiday to the Lake District and coming home to tell your friends that you’ve climbed the highest mountain in England. If you decide to take on Scafell Pike, that is exactly what you will do.

The way back from Scafell Pike

This is not a hike for very small legs. But taking the shortest, most direct route from Wasdale Head, the trickiest part of the hike will be crossing the river shortly after setting off, where large boulders act as large stepping stones.

The path to the top is pretty obvious, until you come within sight of the summit, where it turns into a rock scramble. This can be tricky to navigate, especially in cloudy conditions, so we recommend taking someone with experience of the Lakeland fells and Scafell Pike in particular with you.

At the top, the sense of accomplishment is immense. You are literally on top of the world, well England anyway! And as you can imagine, the views are incredible.

That’s it. Our favorite Lake District walks with the children. And we’ve barely scratched the surface. But we think there’s something for everyone on this list, from beginners to the more adventurous, from small legs to seasoned hikers.

Whatever your experience level, remember to pack the right clothing and gear. Hiking boots, raincoats, layers of warm clothing, backpack, first aid kit, snacks, mobile phone in case of emergencies and, of course, map and compass. And a camera – make sure you have souvenirs of your day in the hills.

For more information on what clothing and equipment to bring with you, click here.

Rachael Thomas is managing director of Matson Ground Estate Company Limited, which has a number of holiday cottages in the Lake District, including Birkdale House. Birkdale House is a luxury Victorian residence in the heart of private estate in the English Lake District.

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