With the slow steady easing of lockdown restrictions in the UK many people are itching to get back into the hills - and whilst we totally understand and applaud that, here in Cumbria it's already leading to exceptionally busy honeypot areas and causing many people's day out to be spoiled.
So we thought we'd give you some top tips for how to make the most of your visit, some 'hidden' secrets and some (hopefully) new inspiration.
Have the skills to adventure....
The Lake District is covered in easy to follow paths that go somewhere beautiful - that of course means that those paths are in turn covered in people. If you've got the skills to head 'off piste' - to really make the most of all our fabulous open access countryside then suddenly a whole new world is opened up to you. Knowing you can head wherever happens to look good - being able to turn off a busy path - all make finding some solitude and adventure so much easier.
And of course most people only walk on paths - the steep ground can look very intimidating - so consider trying easy scrambling as a way to avoid the crowds - often this will need to be combined with some map reading skills to create a 'full' day but it can add a wonderful new element to a day out and leave you with that special buzz that mastering a new skill delivers.
Mountain Services run a range of navigation and scrambling skills courses.
We've worked in Langdale, Patterdale & Wasdale all in the last couple of weeks - by 09:00 parking has been difficult in each valley - I can only imagine the roads have been awful. Whilst each of these areas is admittedly spectacular the Lake District & the Dales have plenty of tucked away hidden gems that remain far far quieter. Our top tip for visitors for a while has been to explore the Eastern side of the Lakes - or the far Western side of the Dales. Here's our top 3:
- The Westmorland Dales - the newest bit of National Park in the UK. This is gentle remote country - the limestone of the Dales slowly transforming into the rugged volcanics of the Lakes. It's easily accessible from the M6 - lots of quiet free parking places - and usually you'll feel totally remote within minutes of leaving the car! It's an area abundant in history - ancient settlements and romantic castles. On most walks I usually expect to find fossils and at the moment the air is alive with the sound of skylarks and the calls of curlews. My personal favourite is to start in Orton Village (which lets you visit the Chocolate Factory) and make a loop out to Sunbiggin Tarn.
- Wild Boar Fell. The meeting point of the Yorkshire Dales and the old old rounded hills of the Howgills, I seldom see anybody else when I wander here. Sand Tarn on the Western flanks of the hill is as nice a lunch stop spot as I know of anywhere. This can make an excellent short sharp shock for a half day adventure (so excellent if you're arriving or leaving) or can be combined with a round of the Baugh Fells or Mallerstang (if you really want to test the legs) to make a longer outing.
- Ralfland Forest & Wet Sleddale. Again this is super easily accessed from j39 of the M6 - and the cement works chimneys always tell you which way the wind is blowing...
A complex area if you want to practice those map skills on a claggy day - a surprisingly remote feeling and beautiful area full of tiny ponds and nobbly outcrops when the sun shines. You can wander past Uncle Monty's house from Withnail & I or hike into remote Mosedale for views of Haweswater - but my favourite is a to make a loop into Swindale and then come back via path or scramble up Force Falls and back across the tops dropping down to the Wet Sleddale Reservoir from High Wether Howe. You'll hardly see a soul till you're back at the car.
Find the less travelled route....
If you really really need a fix of a classic then, again, having some basic skills will really help. As an example there are literally dozens of ways to climb Scafell Pike - and its a lot of 'one time' visitors main aim - so all the usual well known routes will be full of people and the summit will be chaos - but with a little planning you can still find quiet ways up - such as the longer approach from Eskdale.
But ask yourself why? Whilst the summit of Scafell Pike can see literally thousands of visitors on a busy summer day neighbouring Scafell will see only a handful. I've lost count of the times I've sat on Scafell looking at the crowded summit of the Pike - an a little know local fact - Scafell is actually a more interesting mountain with a whole host of wonderful ways to reach its summit.
Whatever & wherever you decide to go - stay safe and have fun, Kx