Family Friendly Hill Walks in the Lake District

As you will see on my recent walks page most of my days out in the hills last year, and for several years have been solo adventures or walks with adult groups. I’m really pleased though that as my sons have got that little bit older, and their legs a little bit stronger, my partner Carly and I have been able to get out on some family adventures with our boys Joshua (6) & Toby (3). Sometimes it takes some encouragement and it always requires plenty of Haribo & Jaffa Cakes to keep them going up-hill (other mountain food is available!) but it’s certainly worth it and its very rewarding and enjoyable to spend quality family time together on the hill.

We spent the 2019/20 New Year period in the Lake District which really does have something for everyone when it comes to walking – including those with little legs! I thought I’d share with you some of the family-friendly hill walks we did that week. Our boys had a fab time!

We did all of these walks as “Out and Backs” i.e. retracing our steps from the summit, although they can all be made into circular routes if your children are older and you want a longer day provided you have the skills to plan a route. The distances quoted are the total there and back.

1) Castle Crag

Summit height 290m. Walk distance 4km, ascent 190m

The smallest of all the Wainwrights but certainly a walk for the more adventurous family. Borrowdale (or ‘Borudale’ as it was known to the Norsemen) is an old Nordic name meaning ‘Valley of the Fortress’ and this no doubt refers to Castle Crag standing at the entrance to the valley. The walk starts with a pleasant stroll out from Rosthwaite which has a small National Trust car park, tearoom and toilets. Follow the River Derwent roughly North along the Cumbria Way until you reach High Hows Woods, at which point the climb begins. The path through the woods is stone pitched in places but steep and rocky and boggy in others. You eventually reach a ladder stile which is a good (and fairly sheltered) place to rest. The final top section is in & around a disused quarry and makes for an exciting walk across rough slate scree paths which zig zag up to the summit. The plateau is grassy and flat and has superb views down the valley.

2) Binsey.

Summit height 447m. Walk distance 2.2km, ascent 175m

Found to the north of Bassenthwaite Lake you will find Binsey. This is a superb and easy family walk to the summit at 447m. The path is wide, with a steady gradient and its grassy underfoot most of way. There is a small lay-by car parking area at the bottom near Binsey Cottage. An ancient tumulus sits upon the interesting summit and a number of wind shelters have built from the stones. On a clear day you’ll have views of many of the Northern and North Western Fells, Southern Scotland and even the Isle of Man. The kids will love the descent and it will only take around 20 minutes to walk, run, trip and tumble your way back down to the car!

3) Latrigg, Keswick

Summit height 368m. Walk distance 2.2km, ascent 90m

A family favourite! Great views after a short and relatively easy walk. Get their early to get a parking space at the head of Gale Road. Sometimes there is a tea van at the car park with delicious flapjacks, freshly made coffee and other snacks – Don’t rely on it though, and there are no toilets. A wide track leads from the car park roughly West and then turns South to climb up gently to a fantastic lookout point and shortly after up to the broad summit. There are outstanding views over Keswick and Derwentwater and on a nice day it’s a great spot to spend an hour admiring the views and enjoying your picnic.

4) Raven Crag (Thirlmere)

Summit height 461m. Walk distance 2km, ascent 270m

Raven Crag is a short but steep walk and the climb begins right from the car. There is free road side parking near the start but it’s very limited and at the present time the road that leads across the dam at the northern end of Thirlmere is currently closed to vehicles, so use other approach road off the A591 approx. 1km further North of the dam to get to the start of the walk. On a clear day at the top you will have stunning views over Thirlmere and the Eastern Fells. Follow the footpath up through the forest which sets off a short distance from the parking area. Go straight over the first forestry track that you come to, and again at the next. When you reach the gate at the top, turn left to make the final ascent up wooden steps to the viewpoint at the top. Most of the route is on an obvious path although it is rocky, quite narrow, steep and boggy in places.

5) Cat Bells

Summit height 447m. Walk distance 3.6km, ascent 340m

No trip with the family to the Lake District would be complete without a walk up Catbells. It’s a beautiful hill with super views across the northern Lake District. Beware however that this is a challenging walk and is some respects harder than those above. It’s quite rocky in places and involves mild scrambling and use of your hands for support in places. Our kids loved the scrambling parts and you shouldn’t be put off by this, but be prepared to keep a close eye on them! The well-worn path sets off from Hawse End (although you can walk from Keswick or Portinscale) and twists & winds its way uphill, steeply at first, before heading over the mini summit of Skelgill Bank. Continue on and climb up the summit. It’s a small one by Lake District standards but the walk up has a real mountainous feel about it and it will certainly be a day to remember.

I hope you find the above suggestions useful. Please feel free to contact me if you would like any information on the above routes or would like to learn more about the skills required to walk safely in the mountains. Please note the above guidance does not constitute a detailed route plan or make the walk safe for you and your family! If you plan to walk any of the routes mentioned above please ensure you have the map and compass skills, research the route and have the right equipment before heading up the hill. Don’t rely on your phone for navigation and always check the mountain weather forecast (see my separate blog post) before you head out. You should also have the knowledge of how to deal with emergencies too. Clothing wise make sure you wear appropriate footwear, carry a waterproof coat and waterproof trousers and take spare layers, even on shorter walks with a dry forecast. Plus of course plenty of food (sweets!) and fluids. Feel free to contact me for further information.