The Lake District has been a magnet to tourists since the early nineteenth century when poet William Wordsworth waxed lyrical.
Located in the north-west of the country, in the county of Cumbria, The Lake District is England’s largest national park covering nearly a thousand square miles. The park is home to England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, at 978m, and to the deepest lake, Wastwater, which is 74m deep.
Interestingly, although there are 16 lakes, Bassenthwaite is the only one named lake — the other 15 are called meres or waters. Farming, and in particular sheep, dominate the landscape with over two million sheep in Cumbria. Herdwick, the native breed, have distinctive white legs and faces and are hardy enough to survive on the fells through the winter. Dog lover and keen walker Min Grant lives in Keswick with her mother and her eight dogs, which vary in age from 14 to 16 months. Min knows the best dog walks in the area for people of all ages.
“I would definitely recommend walking around Derwentwater,” she enthused. “It’s a lovely walk for a summer’s day. You start and finish in Keswick and you can get a map of the walk from tourist information in the Moot Hall. “It’s a level walk so suitable for everyone, with places where you can let the dog off the lead if you have a good recall.”
The eight-mile Derwentwater walk is waymarked with easy paths and offers a variety of scenery including woodland and along the shores of the lake. “It’s a three to four-hour walk and you can go either way around the lake,” Min explained. “If you can’t walk that far, or don’t have the time, you can hop on a dog-friendly launch across the lake to Brandlehow, or any of the landing stages, to make the walk as long or short as you want.”
There are several dog-friendly places around Derwentwater where you can stop for refreshments, including Lingholm Kitchen and Lodore Falls Hotel, at the head of the lake. A short detour behind Lodore Falls Hotel takes you to the Lodore Falls waterfall, with an impressive 30m drop. “If you want to take a picnic, there are some lovely spots by the lake where you can sit on the rocks, or there are picnic benches at Brandlehow,” said Min.
Walla Crag and Great Wood
A couple of miles outside Keswick on the eastern side of Derwentwater lies Walla Crag, which offers amazing views of Derwentwater and the fells beyond. “You can either start in Keswick and walk to the crag, or park in Great Wood car park,” Min suggested. “All the walks are waymarked, but you can’t really get lost on Walla Crag because you can see where you are at all times. It’s only 379m so you aren’t in the cloud up there but do be careful if it’s misty — make sure you take a map and compass.”
From the car park, you take the left-hand track, up through the wood; it’s about two miles uphill to the summit so a certain level of fitness is required.
“Walla Crag has a plateau on the summit offering amazing views, but be aware that on the other side of the dry stone wall there is quite a steep drop so keep dogs on leads.”
Instead of heading straight back down again, Min suggested a circular walk: “Head down from Walla Crag to Ashness Bridge, which is a beautiful, ancient packhorse bridge where you can stop for a rest and look at the views of Skiddaw in the background.
“For people who might find the hill too much, you can walk from the Great Wood car park to Ashness Bridge, which is a couple of miles, before heading back. Or, if you carry on for about another mile, you can take a detour to Surprise View, which is an iconic viewpoint in The Lakes. It’s uphill all the way but worth the effort!”
There are circular walks around Great Wood too, where there are red squirrels, kestrels, and sparrowhawks. “There are also pine martins,” revealed Min, “but these are very shy. There are deer in Great Wood, and Walla Crag always has sheep on it, so you should keep your dog on a lead. “Be prepared,” advised Min. “Things can change at the drop of a hat, even in the summer. “Keswick sits in a bowl and the weather can change with no warning. I always take a hat and gloves, food and a drink, and I take a little survival bag with me just incase of an accident.”
Matt Le Voi and wife Naomi both have jobs that require extensive walking in the national park. Matt owns a company specialising in guided walks and activities in The Lake District, while his wife runs a dog walking company. With their two children and two dogs, Bernedoodle Noodle and Goldendoodle Bindi, they are the perfect people to recommend dog walks.
“Also known as Wild Ennerdale, this is to the west of The Lake District and more remote so not as busy,” enthused Matt. “It’s a really stunning valley with a view towards the high fells and a lovely lake shore path, which circumnavigates the lake.”
There are a couple of car parks, but be aware that there are no toilets or refreshments so take food and drinks with you. The seven-mile circular route takes about three hours to walk with a mix of lake shore and woodland paths and rugged trails with fells running down to the lake. The paths are obvious but Matt always advises walkers to carry a map. “Phone reception is very patchy so don’t plan to rely on that,” he said.
For less able walkers, the northern side of the lake has a more accessible path whereas the southern side is uneven, with rocks underfoot and a section that requires walkers to climb. It makes sense to consider how agile you are before planning your walk. You may also have to wade through streams after heavy rain.
“Take the lower path at Angler’s Crag. There is a very short section that is steep and rugged and involves a bit of a scramble,” advised Matt.
“Dogs need to be off -lead at this point but under control.” A section of the track along the lake shore is fenced off making it the ideal stretch to let dogs off the lead, but with sheep around, keep your dog on a lead in the unfenced areas.
“There are some nice places to stop and picnic,” said Matt, “and beaches where dogs can go in the water for a paddle.”
(Pictured above: Low Fell, in the Lake District)
Grasmere - Rydale Loop and Coffin Trail
“This is a five-and-a-half-mile circular route. It’s a stunning walk with a mixture of lakeside trails, suitable for every ability. Plus, there are lots of options to vary it so more ambitious people can take different paths off the main route,” explained Matt. The route is marked with public footpath arrows but Matt advised carrying a map.
It starts in Grasmere with a section of road walking, but dogs can be let off the lead along the shore path, which is a mixture of woodland and open ground. Matt warned: “It’s open fell and there’s no way of containing sheep, so keep a lookout even by the lake.”
The walk follows part of the beautiful coffin route, which runs from Ambleside to Grasmere, so-called because it was used to carry coffins to St Oswald’s graveyard in Grasmere, the only consecrated ground in the area. “There are resting stones for the coffin along the way, which gave the coffin bearers the chance to have a break,” Matt revealed. Grasmere has lots of parking, public toilets, and cafes, plus the chance to visit Dove Cottage, the home of Wordsworth.
Howtown to Glenridding
“This is a bit different because you can use a ferry across Ullswater to create a circular walk,” Matt explained. “And the walk is suitable for every ability.” Start the walk by boarding the dog-friendly steamer at Glenridding and enjoy the 40-minute ride across to Howtown.
“Once you’ve disembarked it’s a six-and-a-half-mile walk of undulating paths to get back to Glenridding,” said Matt. “It’s waymarked so follow signposts for the Ullswater Way. I would also recommend visiting Silver Crag, which is just off the trail. It’s not signposted, but is marked on maps. It’s worth the 15-minute climb for the view.
“There may be deer in this area,” Matt warned, “so keep dogs on a lead or under close control.”
Respecting the farming community
Sheep have the freedom to roam the fells and may appear where you least expect them. Dogs are naturally inquisitive so it’s wise to keep them on a lead. If your dog doesn’t have good recall, invest in a long line to give your dog freedom without the risk of chase.
Dog-friendly accommodation in the Lake District
The Mortal Man
After a refreshing refurbishment from the new owners, Sarah Chapman Hughes & Anthony Daly, the quirky traditional English Inn is definitely one of the best in the area. Set in the heart of the Lake District with good food, roaring open fires & the best beer garden for miles. Find out more by visiting The Mortal Man website.
Windermere Manor Hotel
Set in beautiful gardens, Windermere Manor hotel is home to unique bedrooms, a heated pool, bar and restaurant. Perfect for dog lovers, facilities include a gated dog-run, beds and dog bowls. The hotel is located under a mile from Windermere train station, 1.4 miles from bustling Bowness and offers views over the Lake.
Bring two dogs for free when you book directly* with us at windermeremanorhotel.com, saving you up to £20 per night! Visit the Windermere Manor Hotel website for further details.
*A £10 per dog per night charge applies for bookings not made directly with the hotel, either on their own website or by phone on 01539 445 801
The Inn Collection Group - The Swan, Grasmere
Enjoy a Lakes stay and some of the best dog walks available with The Inn Collection Group and The Swan at Grasmere. Newly refurbished, fully dog friendly and ready to welcome you to eat, drink, sleep and explore in Grasmere Vale and beyond. Book a break today! Visit The Swan Grasmere website for further details.