(Lake District Circuit) A boat house on Rydal Water

The Lake District Circuit: A guide to the trek

Walking guides - see all our background pages


Bare facts

Our Lake District Circuit is a 150km (94 mile) circular route through the main mountains of the English Lake District. It allows several excursions to be made to summits of peaks, while being a solid trek in its own right.

We break the main route into 4 sections, simply North, East, South and West. Each of these routes is 4 stages long and makes a shorter introduction to its respective area. In fact, each of these shorter routes is a circular one, and the main Lake District Circuit links the outsides of each circle.



Loweswater and Buttermere
Loweswater and Buttermere



Best bits

Highlights of the Lakes? Too difficult! Many walkers would suggest the central, highest, clump of peaks around Scafell Pike. Reached from Wasdale in the West, on our circuit, this is among the rockiest and grandest mountain scenery in the Lakes. We then drop off the Scafell massif into Langdale.

The valleys are a highlight in a different way; perhaps this is the Lake District of popular imagination, tidy dry stone walls lined up in parallel, containing green grassy fields, the hillsides above rising in bracken and crags. A farmhouse of Cumbrian slate, painted white, is terraced next to its barn.

Photos from trips: Lake District Circuit


The Lake District Circuit relative to other walks

The Lakeland stages of the popular Coast to Coast (CTC) trail are similar to our Lake District Circuit; indeed some paths are common to the two walks. Over the course of the whole walk, the Lake District Circuit has a similar feel to these early CTC stages but stays higher overall, crossing more passes and spending less time in the valley.

Similarly when compared to the Pennine Way, the Lake District Circuit is more rocky and 'sharp' due to the topography of the Lakes. It's an up-and-down route!


Is it for me?

Long distance paths
Exploring the Lakes is a treat for the walker who likes a new scene each night, a new valley with its own pubs. Each valley flows to a different point in Cumbria. There is contrast in the bold hills of the North and East, the rockiness of the West, and the lower, rolling, enchanting, farming land in the South. Each afternoon, walk into your new home for the night and get to know the Lake District more fully.

Can I manage it?
Our full Lake District Circuit is suitable for experienced walkers who like to walk from 5 to 8 hours a day across rough and sometimes rocky, pathless, ground.. a substantial walk each day, for 10 days. (We love to add rest days in Keswick and elsewhere - please ask us.)

Our South route is the easiest of the four, in terms both of distance and terrain. It's a lovely introduction to the Lakes, without the concerns of crossing the higher passes. The East, North and West each adds a challenge: the East has long days and some remote settings around Haweswater. The North crosses passes in steep ascents. The West, while some stages are short in distance, deals with the rocky mountain paths of the Scafell area.




Haystacks over Derwent Water
Haystacks over Derwent Water



Hillwalking excursions
There is so much to do in the Lakes! The Wainwright books are a fine starting point. Other lists and guides to the hills are plentiful and a glance at the map reveals the ridges that extend to each side of our route. As one example, Scafell Pike (978m) is the highest peak in England and is feasible in your stage between Wasdale Head and Great Langdale.




Above Grasmere in the Winter
Above Grasmere in the Winter



What's it like underfoot?
The full mix of Lakeland trails are experienced on the Lake District Circuit. Rocky steps are at one end, easy grassy footpaths at the other. If walking just the South Lakes Circuit, trails are easier and the challenges are restricted to some uneven stony footpaths and areas of unclear paths.

Is the route obvious?
Over the majority of the distance, the trail is clear on the ground. All of the route goes on known paths, marked on the map - however, the path is not always visible on the ground! In clear weather the route is obvious, but if the cloud is low then navigation will be needed to head in the right direction. These sections are generally short and soon link to the clear path on the far side of the col. It is for these sections that we ask each party to have a person happy to navigate using map and compass, in low visibility.

Is it technically difficult?
There are no difficulties other than those of walking - no via ferrata or anything approaching climbing, even scrambling. There can be drops to one side, perhaps to both if you take some optional walks off the trail. On the South route, the walking is more straightforward still.


When to go?
Alpine Exploratory's Lake District season runs from the start of May to the end of September.

We set this period to avoid the worst of the winter weather. Of course, it's possible to enjoy brilliant walking days in the Lakes the heart of winter, whatever the weather is doing! The difficulty of predicting the winter season in advance means that we have to err on the side of caution.

From Easter to the Autumn you have a good chance of decent walking weather. Rain is likely to happen at some point during your trip! For the warmest temperatures choose the high summer months of June, July and August, but be prepared for heavy rain at times too. Earlier in the year, in the Spring, there can be spells of wonderfully warm and dry weather (no guarantees!)


Where to stay

The Lake District is supplied, perhaps more than any rural part of the UK, with plentiful accommodation at a high standard. Our route takes in two of the biggest walking centres in the Lakes, Ambleside and Keswick, each with several interesting small hotels and many more good B&Bs. The other villages are considerably smaller, from one inn by itself to small villages with a handful of places. Always a pub!


Trek the Lake District with Alpine Exploratory

Self-guided holidays
Alpine Exploratory offers a self-guided walking holiday along the full Lake District Circuit as well as each of the four shorter treks: North, South, East and West.

Our self-guided holidays set you up for a successful trek under your own steam. We book and pay for your accommodation along the whole route; and we send you our well-received info packs including routecards for all the walking, the maps, emergency cards with essential info for accidents, and detailed notes about the local transport. We specialise in tailor-made arrangements, so if you fancy doing the routes in combination of say North and West, or just the South but with added nights in the Lakes, please just ask us. Thank you.


Guided and self-guided holidays - see our full range


Research 2017

Keith Miller at Alpine Exploratory Keith Miller
Keith will lead Alpine Exploratory's 2017 Lakes research, in May



Trips 2017

Alpine Exploratory offers the following holidays based on our Lake District research:

Lake District Circuit
North Lakes Circuit
East Lakes Circuit
South Lakes Circuit
West Lakes Circuit





Map showing the route of UK Exploratory's Lake District Circuit Self-Guided walking holiday




Map showing the route of UK Exploratory's North Lakes Circuit Self-Guided walking holiday




Map showing the route of UK Exploratory's East Lakes Circuit Self-Guided walking holiday




Map showing the route of UK Exploratory's South Lakes Circuit Self-Guided walking holiday




Map showing the route of UK Exploratory's West Lakes Circuit Self-Guided walking holiday





Alpine Exploratory
Alpine Exploratory is a system of knowledge on the best mountain trekking in our areas, giving clients superb holidays based on this exploration.
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