The Best Views in the Lake District
Exploring England, Scotland, and Wales
If you ask 10 people for their favourite views in the Lake District you'll probably get 10 different answers. Our family have visited the Lakes more times than we can remember, and these are some of the best views we've enjoyed over the years.
Some offer wide, sweeping vistas, others are simply beautiful locations that offer a chance to enjoy the spectacular scenery that draws so many visitors to the Lake District every year. I'm not sure one is better than any other - they're all beautiful and all worth seeking out!
One of the Lake District's most popular walks takes in the low rise of Catbells, a ridge running roughly parallel to the western shore of Derwentwater. The ascent is relatively easy, and your reward for a few minutes exertion is not one, but two wonderful views. eastward over he lake towards Keswick and westward over the Newlands Valley.
You can start your walk from several places but one of the most popular is from the parking area at Hawesend (alternatively known as Hawes End). And that brings us to ...
A classic Lake District view and one that requires no exertion whatsoever. Hawesend is a regular stop for the Derwent Water ferry. If you arrive by car there is a parking area that makes a good starting point for the ascent of Catbells. I was lucky enough to spend a week at a holiday cottage just a few miles away at Grange-in-Borrowdale so I was able to walk to Hawesend to photograph the sunrise over Derwentwater several times. It was so incredibly peaceful!
There are several places to enjoy the views down Buttermere, but perhaps my favourite is from Dalegarth, halfway between Buttermere village at the western end of the lake and Gatesgarth Farm at the eastern end. There is a layby on the B5289 at Dalegarth and a path leads down to the shore. I once watched the sun come up over Buttermere lake on my birthday - it was a gift to myself, and one I will always remember.
If you prefer to see Buttermere from above rather than from the shore, I highly recommend the view from Fleetwith Pike, which gives a fantastic panoramic view looking west over the lake. To reach Fleetwith Pike use the car park at the Honister youth hostel.
Follow the well-trodden footpath west past the old Honister slate quarries in the direction of Haystacks. The trail for Fleetwith Pike forks right from the Haystacks trail after 500m. Alternatively, stay on the Haystacks trail and you will get a lovely view down the lake taking in the ravine of Warnscale Bottom. Like many of the views on this list, a good Ordnance Survey map will prove invaluable.
And speaking of views over popular lakes, one of the most incredible views in the Lake District National Park has to be the stunning view over Wast Water from the path up Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. This view probably requires more exertion than any other on the list, but it is well worth it! Take the most popular route up Scafell Pike from the car park at Wasdale Head.
Whilst you can certainly stop halfway up and simply turn around to enjoy the view, why not continue up to the summit for a fabulous view over the peaks of the western Lake District. Then you will have the entire vista of Wast Water spread out below you for your entire descent. I recommend taking this walk in the early morning, so the sun will be behind you on your way down.
When I climbed Scafell Pike I arrived at the car park at 6 am. I was pretty pleased with myself, thinking that I was the only person on the mountain as I huffed and puffed my way towards the top, only to meet someone on his way down who had already reached the summit.
There are several other places to enjoy the views down Wast Water. There is a popular parking area near Bowderdale about 2/3 the way down the road that runs along the northern shore of the lake. The view from the shore in the late evening is simply stunning, with the three peaks of Scafell, Lingmell and Great Gable standing tall against the skyline. In fact, the view of the three peaks was chosen as the symbol for the Lake District National Park.
The eastern shore of Ullswater is a peaceful oasis compared to the sometimes-busy western shore. And that's a pity, because those people who make the effort to explore the eastern shore are rewarded with one of the best - and most unspoilt - views in the Lake District from the top of Hallin Fell.
This is perhaps the finest panoramic view in the National Park, with a sweeping view north to Pooley Bridge, south to Kirkstone Pass, and west to Glenridding and the peak of Helvellyn.
To get to Hallin Fell take the minor road leading south from Pooley Bridge to Martindale. You will pass a hotel at Howtown just before you reach Hause Farm. There is an obvious place to pull over at the bottom of the fell and a very clear trail leads up to the summit. I have watched the sun come up from the top of Halin Fell and it is an experience I will never forget.
Of course, you don't have to take the 'road less travelled' down the eastern side of Ullswater to enjoy fabulous views; simply take the A592 from Pooley Bridge, past Watermillock and Aira Force to Glenridding at the southern tip of the lake.
There are several places along the lake to pull over and walk along the shore. Then there is Glenridding itself, where the Ullswater Ferry terminates. Boats bob at anchor and prove a wonderfully picturesque sight against the backdrop of the fells on the far side of the lake. One classic viewpoint is by the pier that reaches out into the lake. I've spent several early morning's there photographing the sunrise.
One of the most popular walks in the Lake District is the ascent of Orrest Head from Windermere village. The well-signposted route leads up through Elleray Wood, part of an extensive 19th-century estate but now managed y Windermere Town Council. After 20 minutes climb through very pleasant woodland you emerge onto a rocky outcrop offering fabulous views over Lake Windermere and across the lake to the distant fells.
And speaking of fells, one of my favourite Lake District views is from the top of Birker Fell, between Eskdale and Ulpha. The minor road from Ulpha climbs up the lower slopes of Ulpha Fell, following Crosby Gill until it emerges onto the broad top of Birker Fell.
This is one of the least visited areas of the National Park, and most of the time you will only have a few wandering sheep for company as you enjoy one of the most spectacular views in the Lake District.
I highly recommend Birker Fell late on a summer evening, when the light casts a golden glow over the peaks to the east. The result is simply stunning.
From the northern end of the road over Birker Fell you get wonderful glimpses down into Eskdale, but for an even better view take the road that runs through Eskdale to the ruins of a Roman Fort on the slopes of Hardknot Pass at the eastern end of the valley. On a summer morning, the views from Hardknott Fort are simply stunning.
There is a parking area at the base of the Pass but if you arrive early enough in the morning you will find space to park right in front of the Fort.
Speaking of places to park, one of the easiest places to take in a wonderful view is from the parking area halfway up Whinlatter Pass, on the B5292 near Braithwaite village. From the village take the road to Lorton and just before you reach Whinlatter Forest Park you will see a viewpoint on your right, facing north over Bassenthwaite Lake.
There are picnic tables and signposted footpaths through the forest park, but the main reason to stop here is simply to enjoy the wonderful view - at its best in the morning.
Another wonderful view at its best in the early morning is Brothers Water, known for the abundance of lily pads that thrive in the lake's shallow water. To reach Brothers Water take the A592 south from Glenridding. You will pass the attractive village of Hartsop on your left and then the lake will come into view on your right.
There is no official parking area but there are several laybys where you can usually find space to park. Alternatively, there is a car park just before you reach Hartsop, and a trail leads down the western shore of the lake. I prefer the view from the eastern shore, however, which is at its best in the morning.
And speaking of morning, that's when I recommend visiting Blea Tarn, a quiet little lake between Great Langdale and Little Langdale. To reach Blea Tarn take the B5343 from Skelwith Bridge. The road turns into a minor lane after Great Langdale. There is a parking area within a few hundred yards of the tarn, with footpaths along the south and west shores. in the morning you get wonderful views over the tarn to Side Pike, or south along Bleamons Beck to Blea Moss.
I'll finish up with the view from the top of the Old Man of Coniston. The ascent from Coniston village is reasonably strenuous, but our 6-year-old daughter made it, so you can too (we reminded her that the Old Man was the 'real' Katchenjunga of the Swallows and Amazons stories by Arthur Ransome).
There you have it, my picks for the best views in the Lake District. If you ask me tomorrow I might pick a different collection of scenic spots, but you can't go wrong with any of these wonderful locations.
And if you're exploring the region, you'll need a wonderful place to stay from our collection of Lake District self-catering cottages!