Last year, according to Cumbria Tourism, the Lake District and Cumbria received over 47 million visitors, which is more than the population of Spain. The peak tourist season is now upon us, and 2018 is already looking to be another record breaking year for tourist numbers to the area.

Most visitors flock to the well-known towns and lakes with Windermere, Keswick and Derwent Water, Grasmere, and Buttermere all being very popular. However, there are still plenty of places where you can go to escape the crowds and enjoy a bit of peace, providing you are willing to drive and walk a bit more.

Ennerdale

Ennerdale Water

Ennerdale Water

Ennerdale Valley is located in the western Lake District. Despite its size, it’s one of the quietest areas of the Lake District. The lake itself is a reservoir, so boats, etc. are not permitted. It’s also difficult to get to by car if you are staying in the central Lake District, as access is only possible from the A5086 that runs between Cockermouth and Cleator Moor in West Cumbria. Furthermore, there are no facilities at the lake. The nearby village, Ennerdale Bridge, is around 2km from the lake shore and has just a couple of pubs and a café. As a result, it’s far less popular with tourists, and tends to be where the locals head to when seeking a quiet walk during the school holidays.

The valley is so secluded that it is a designated Dark Sky Discovery Site  and the valley is also subject to a re-wilding project that has enabled nature to take its course with minimal human intervention. Native trees have replaced the rigid planting of conifers that dominate so many of the Lake District’s hills, the river has been allowed to find its own way through the valley, forestry tracks have been left to become overgrown once more, and the area has become a haven for deer, red squirrels, and other species.

What to Do

A track leads along the northern edge of the lake from Bowness Knott to the youth hostels at Gillerthwaite and Black Hut Sail. A cycle ride along here is the best way to explore the valley. A walk around the lake is fairly pleasant, whilst the Smithy Beck trail is ideal for children, with plenty of picnic spots along the way. For an epic challenge, you could walk from Bowness Knott car park to Pillar fell, east of the lake. A short wheelchair / pushchair friendly route is available from the car park at Bleach Green down to the lake shore.

Where to Stay

There is a hotel and a B&B in Ennerdale Bridge both within walking distance of the lake. Alternatively, consider basing yourself in Cockermouth. It’s a quiet town on the edge of the Lake District, within a twenty-minute drive of Ennerdale, with a great choice of accommodation.

The Northernmost Fells (Caldbeck)

The Howk Bobbin Mill Ruins at Caldbeck

The Howk Bobbin Mill Ruins at Caldbeck

Head north east of lake Bassenthwaite and you leave the multitudes of lakes, meres, and tarns behind to find yourself in a rugged upland landscape dominated by the peak of Skiddaw – the sixth highest mountain in England. Whilst many visitors attempt to climb Skiddaw and its sister fells from the southern side, few tourists venture north, to the back of Skiddaw and the Caldbeck fells.

There are no lakes for boating here, and no major tourist attractions, just acres of open landscape that rises steeply up, often giving rewarding views across the Solway and into Scotland. Again, getting here can be an issue for some, with access via the narrow, winding roads that climb up and down the fells between the A66 and the A595. Parking can be tricky, as there are very few car parks, with laybys being the usual choice. Do be wary then of attracting the ire of a local farmer and avoid parking in front of any gates or farm access points.

What to Do

There are numerous fell walks in the area, including the amusingly named Great Cockup. You could follow the Cumbria Way as it leads from Caldbeck down to Keswick, or go hunting for crystals at Fell Side Mine. If you are feeling brave, take a wild swim in the cool and refreshing waters of Bowscale Tarn. Alternatively, explore the delights of the pretty and well-to-do villages of Caldbeck with its ruined mill, and Hesket New Market with its brewery.

Where to Stay

Accommodation is sparse amongst the northern fells, though you will find the odd B&B, such as Wallace Lane Farm, as well as various holiday cottages and campsites. Alternatively, consider basing yourself over in Penrith, where there is a fabulous choice of accommodation, as well as shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs, and visitor attractions. From here, it is just a short drive to the Caldbeck area, giving you the chance to combine visiting a lively area with escaping from the crowds.

Wasdale & Eskdale

Wastwater

Wastwater

The wild west of Cumbria is largely avoided by the tourists. To get to it from the rest of the country, you have to drive around the north or the around the south of the fells or brave the ancient, twisting Hardknott Pass from Langdale, one of the two steepest roads in the country with a gradient of one in three. Wasdale and Eskdale are two valleys that lie adjacent to one another but are strikingly different.

Wasdale is rugged and isolated surrounded by some of the highest fells in the country, including Scafell Pike, and is home to the stunning Wastwater. Eskdale is the gentle sibling, with lower fells, pretty farmhouses and lively pubs, picturesque woodland, and is home to the famous La’al Ratty, a narrow gauge railway. Both have their charms, and both offer places of solitude in a frequently hectic world.

What to Do

Take on England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, and reward yourself with a pint and a hearty meal at the Wasdale Head Inn when finished. Alternatively, try a low level walk around Wastwater and Low Wood or combine a walk to Stanley Force with a ride on La’al Ratty. Explore the beautiful grounds and the Hawk and Owl Centre at Muncaster Castle, before enjoying an ice cream on the beach at the pretty seaside town of Ravenglass.

Where to Stay

There are several hotels around the Holmrook / Ravenglass area close to the start of both valleys, as well as a number of inns with rooms in the Eskdale Valley. There are some delightful campsites dotted in the valleys, many offering superb facilities, as well as a great choice of holiday cottages. Travelling to this part of the Lake District can take up a lot of your holiday time, so it’s worth considering booking one or two nights in some accommodation as part of your itinerary to make the most of the area.

The Eastern Fells (Haweswater & Kentmere)

Haweswater

Haweswater

It’s easy to forget about Haweswater. Far out on the eastern edge of the Lake District, this stunning reservoir is difficult to reach with just one narrow road leading to the water from Askham. The reservoir sits in an area of the Lake District that is frequently ignored by visiting tourists. It’s thought that most people who come to the Lake District stay within a mile or two of their cars, but over in the east, roads are scarce and many of the best views are only reached on foot.

As a result, if you are willing to put in a bit of effort, you can enjoy an untamed landscape in almost complete seclusion. Haweswater itself is one of the largest lakes in the national park, with a controversial past. It was created in 1929 by the creation of a damn that led to the flooding of villages in Mardale and the relocation of its residents. Nearby, the smaller reservoir of Kentmere is surrounded by number of high level fells that make up the Kentmere Horseshoe, a gruelling 12-mile walk that covers 9 Wainwright fells.

What to Do

Take on the Kentmere Horseshoe or opt for something slightly less strenuous, such as a hike up to Blea Water tarn from the south-western end of Haweswater. For a gentle stroll, head over to Wet Sleddale reservoir. Step back in time with a visit to the ruins of Shap Abbey, or take a plunge into the heated waters of the Shap outdoor swimming pool, the highest outdoor swimming pool in the country.

Where to Stay

The Haweswater Hotel  is located on the only road that leads alongside Haweswater, and is the only building in the area for several kilometres. Alternatively, basing yourself in Penrith is an excellent choice. The start of the eastern fells is just a short drive, and you would have the added benefits that come from staying in a major town with all the restaurants, pubs, and attractions it has to offer.

Lyth & Winster Valleys

Lyth Valley

Lyth Valley

Down in the south-eastern corner of Cumbria, the Lake District transforms from a mountainous and rugged landscape to a land of rich, rolling pastures filled with luscious farm fields, pretty woodland, and trickling streams and rivers. This low level landscape is largely ignored by adventure seekers preferring the challenges of the uplands, but for those seeking something a little more peaceful, the Lyth and Winster valleys have much to offer.

The Lyth valley is listed in the Lonely Planet’s list of “the most beautiful places on earth” thanks to the picturesque landscape dotted with whitewashed farm buildings. Furthermore, the area is known for its damsons, with a damson festival taking place each year. It’s fairly easy to access, given its proximity to the M6, but most tourists tend to drive straight through on their way to Windermere, which is why it is a great choice for those wishing to escape the crowds.

What to Do

If you love gastro-pub dining, then the Lyth and Winster Valleys should be your first port of call on your Lake District village. The villages of Winster, Crook, Bowland Bridge, and Underbarrow are all home to award winning pubs recognised for their fabulous cuisine. Low level walks with superb views include Scout Scar and Whitbarrow Scar.

Head south of the valleys to explore the delights of Cartmel with its splendid cheeses and extraordinary Abbey. Just across from Cartmel you can experience a traditional Victorian seaside holiday at Grange Over Sands. Closer to Kendal, children will love the trails at Sizergh Castle.

Where to Stay

Both Grange-Over-Sands and Kendal offer easy access to the area with a good choice of hotels in both. You will also find a number of pubs with rooms, and B&Bs in the various villages around the two valleys, along with the usual camping and holiday cottage options.