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11 dog-friendly walks in the Lake District

As any dog-owner will know, holidays don’t mean a break from walkies. In fact, walking your dog can be the best way to explore your new surroundings and escape the crowds. The Lake District has some of the most dramatic scenery in England so read on for our pick of the best walks for you and your four-legged friend.

1. Derwentwater Circuit

Address: Derwentwater, Keswick, CA12 5DJ

Difficulty: Easy

Walk length: 10 miles

Terrain: Flat, lakeside paths and ancient woodland trails

The Derwentwater Circuit is an easy, pet-friendly, loop, starting from the iconic town of Keswick. The lake of Derwentwater dominates the landscape, being visible from any of the surrounding fells. Walking trails take you right the way around it, with ample opportunities for your pooch to go for a splash!

Dog-friendly pit stop: Stop for afternoon tea at the Lingholm Kitchen near the end of the walk.

Dog-friendly place to stay: Swinside is a spacious, Lakeland-style apartment in the pretty village of Portinscale.

2. Scout Scar

Address: Underbarrow Road, Kendal, LA8 8HB

Difficulty: Easy

Walk length: 1.5 miles

Terrain: Predominantly flat, well-maintained trails

The hike up to Scout Scar is a short but sweet walk that gives outstanding panoramic views from the top of this limestone escarpment. Starting near the town of Kendal, the hike could easily be made longer by walking directly from the centre of town or taking an extended walk along the Scar itself.

Dog-friendly pit stop: Try the local Lake District brew at The Factory Tap.

Dog-friendly place to stay: Greyhound Cottage is right in the centre of Kendal.

3. Castle Crag

Address: Seatoller, Keswick, CA12 5XN

Difficulty: Medium

Walk length: Five miles

Terrain: Rolling farmland and sheep tracks. Note for dog walkers: There are a couple of stiles en route.

The excellent hike to Castle Crag begins with an uphill climb from Seatoller, near Borrowdale, but quickly evens out into an undulating rhythm. Skirting alongside the River Derwent at points, past woodland and through rolling fields, the hike offers varied Lakeland scenery throughout.

Dog-friendly pit stop: Jump slightly off the route for cake at the Flock-in Tea Room.

Dog-friendly place to stay: Cosy Castle Lodge has a log fire for those autumn nights.

4. Grizedale Tarn

Address: Grizedale, Ambleside, LA22 0QJ

Difficulty: Medium

Walk length: Four miles

Terrain: Forest paths with some hills

Grizedale Tarn is an out-and-back walk, taking you through some of the most atmospheric areas of the enormous forest of Grizedale. You’ll find it part forest walk, part sculpture trail, as you pass several large artworks en route. End at Grizedale Tarn Lake before returning. There are also many other walking routes in Grizedale Forest to enjoy.

Dog-friendly pit stop: Devour a tasty slice of cake or pie at the Sun Cottage Cafe.

Dog-friendly place to stay: How Beck is a modern cottage on the banks of Esthwaite Water.

5. Elterwater Waterfalls Walk

Address: Elterwater, Ambleside, L22 9HU

Difficulty: Easy

Walk length: 4.8 miles

Terrain: Farmland and riverside paths

The easy Elterwater Waterfalls Walk doesn’t gain much height, so it’s a good choice when the weather isn’t looking too good. Nevertheless, you’ll still get plenty of spectacle at the roaring falls of Skelwith Force and Colwith Force. You’ll be close to the waters of the Lake District throughout, following scenic riverside paths. 

Dog-friendly pit stop: Chesters by the River is a perfect lunchtime spot close to Skelwith Falls. 

Dog-friendly place to stay: Nearby Grasmere is home to the quirky Dovecot Cottage.

6. Skiddaw Dodd

Address: Keswick, CA12 4PZ

Difficulty: Easy

Walk length: 4.3 miles

Terrain: Well-maintained tracks and paths

In good weather, the top of Skiddaw Dodd has some tremendous panoramic views of not only the northern Lakes, but also across the Solway Firth to Scotland. Down the road from the starting point is the Mirehouse Stately Home, which also welcomes dogs into their beautiful gardens.

Dog-friendly pit stop: Start your walk from The Old Sawmill Tea Room and perhaps get a sandwich to eat en route.

Dog-friendly place to stay: Cottage in Cumbria is just a stone’s throw from Skiddaw.

7. Windermere West Shore

Address: Ambleside, LA22 OLR

Difficulty: Medium

Walk length: Eight miles

Terrain: Undulating paths through woodland and parkland

Lake Windermere needs no introduction, being the largest lake in England and the most well-known in Cumbria. This walk along the Windermere West Shore takes you out to the Gothic Wray Castle, a National Trust site. The picnic areas are a useful midpoint before returning back the way you came.

Dog-friendly pit stop: Visit the Queens Head for some Cumbrian specialties.

Dog-friendly place to stay: Stay at the Barn in Cumbria, just one mile from Hawkshead, home of Beatrix Potter.

8. Thirlmere & Fisherplace Gill

Address: Start from the United Utilities Car Park, Legburthwaite, CA12 4TQ

Difficulty: Medium

Walk length: Five miles

Terrain: Rocky, with some steep sections

Thirlmere Lake is often overlooked by visitors heading to the honey-pots of Keswick or Ambleside. But the Thirlmere & Fisherplace Gill walk will introduce you to this lesser-known, but no less delightful, part of the Lake District. Spot rickety wooden bridges, bluebell-strewn woodland and the waterfall of Fisherplace Gill en route.

Dog-friendly pit stop: In the middle of Hope Park, Hope Cafe serves up tasty lunchtime meals and delicious slabs of cake.

Dog-friendly place to stay: Whiteside Studio gives you open-plan living with rural views.

9. Tarn Hows Circular

Address: Ambleside, LA22 0PP

Difficulty: Easy

Walk length: Two miles

Terrain: Flat, wide paths

If you’re taking the kids away with you and the dogs, Tarn Hows Circular walk is a good option that the whole family can enjoy. With flat, wide paths and a shorter option available for very young ones, you can still get all the outstanding views that the Lake District offers, but without having to hike up a mountain. 

Dog-friendly pit stop: Check out the views of Coniston from the Ship Inn’s large beer garden.

Dog-friendly place to stay: Holme Ground Cottage sleeps six and is ideal for families. 

10. Rydal Water and Grasmere Water

Address: Ambleside, LA22 9LR

Difficulty: Medium

Walk length: 5.5 miles

Terrain: Undulating tracks, some quiet roads and lakeside paths

Peer into caves and stop by William Wordsworth’s old home, Rydal Mount, on this diverse walk around Rydal Water and Grasmere Water. There are some uphill sections along the way, but you’ll be able to stop at the town of Grasmere for a well-deserved break at one of the many tea rooms. 

Dog-friendly pit stop: Peruse the extensive tea selection at Baldry’s Tearoom, a dog-friendly cafe.

Dog-friendly place to stay: Walk into picturesque Grasmere from this Cottage in Cumbria.

11. Walla Crag

Address: Keswick, CA12 4AN

Difficulty: Medium-Hard

Walk length: Six miles

Terrain: Short but steep hills, rocky paths

Walla Crag is a hop up a steep hill, starting right in Keswick’s town centre. The location is perfect, giving you the chance for a hearty pre-walk breakfast and returning in time for a well-deserved beer. This six-mile walk is circular, with outstanding views of Keswick and Derwentwater, but can easily be done as an up-and-down, making it shorter but just as satisfying.

Dog-friendly pit stop: The Wainwright Pub is a traditional locale serving up good food with friendly people.

Dog-friendly place to stay: Little Chamonix is a home-away-from-home in Keswick.