For decades the Lake District was a rugged realm for ramblers. But in recent years, a wave of activities have added diversity to this area of impressive beauty. Here are our top 9 adventurous things to do in the Lake District.

Years ago, if you asked about things to do in the Lake District, the short sharp answer would be walk.

For decades the craggy mountains and sheep strewn fields of The Lakes have been carefully preserved with one demographic in mind, hikers as old as the trails beneath their feet.

But something is afoot in this most scenic of places. Activities which have been enjoyed in the Alps for years, are slowly being given permission to expand and develop. As a result, there are more adventurous things to do in the Lake District than ever before.

Groups kitted out in matching wetsuits plunge into icy waterfalls; paragliders float above sharp ridges; climbers scale lofty pinnacles and Via Ferrata enthusiasts cling to the iron road. Purpose built mountain bike trails preserve the hiking paths while providing an alternate way up an iconic summit.

A new cohort of adventure seekers are being drawn to the Lakes where paddles, wetsuits and chains are as essential as boots, maps and a good raincoat.

With so many new adventurous things to do in the Lake District, it’s a great time to visit.


1 / GHYLL SCRAMBLING OR CANYONING IN GORGEOUS GORGES

The ravines (otherwise known as ghylls in The Lakes) that provide a scenic interlude on some of the best walks in the Lake District are an exhilarating destination in their own right. The water that has shaped the gorges over the years, set the stage for 2 of the most fun things to do in the Lake District.

Ghyll scrambling is the energetic art of climbing up the ghyll; canyoning is the immensely satisfying activity of sliding and jumping down it.  

It’s an activity to undertake on an organised tour where they’ll kit you out in all the right gear and, most importantly, provide heavy duty wetsuits to lessen the shock of that chilly Lake District water. Once sufficiently submerged and acclimatised, you’ll traverse boulders, leap into narrow pools, slide down waterfalls and climb canyon walls attached to ropes. It’s a great day out in the Lake District.

There are several spots perfect for canyoning or ghyll scrambling including Church Beck in Coniston, Stickle Ghyll in Langdale or the River Esk in Eskdale. A number of companies have sprung up over recent years offering tours. We recommend Crag Adventures.


2 / TRAVERSE SHARP EDGE ON THE WAY UP BLENCATHRA

There are few more exciting ridges in the Lake District than Sharp Edge on the way to the summit of Blencathra. It’s the most exposed grade 1 scramble in the Lake District and requires nerves of steel, a head for heights and steady hands and feet. It is not to be undertaken lightly, but once completed, it’s one of the most satisfying things to do in the Lake District.

About two thirds of the way along the ridge there is a ‘bad step’ where you have to shuffle off a slab of rock onto a narrow ledge. Prior scrambling experience is recommended, and you should not attempt it in wet or windy conditions. But on a sunny day it’s a great adventure that gets the heart beating faster, and the adrenaline pumping.

Read our post to learn more about what the ridge is like. If it sounds like the sort of Lake District activity you would like to do, but fancy having an expert with you to calm the nerves, then you can join a guided walk.


3 / CANOE OR PADDLEBOARD ON THE BEAUTIFUL WATERS OF ULLSWATER

Ease the adrenaline back a notch with one of the more sedate things to do in the Lake District; a relaxing day out on beautiful Ullswater. Described by its own visitor centre as the most beautiful lake in England, Ullswater wends its way between rolling hills and craggy outcrops. It’s a great spot to take to the water with a set of oars.

There’s a seemingly limitless list of vessels available to take out on the lake for a relaxing sojourn. If the limbs have been exhausted from the more energetic things to do in the Lake District, try hiring a motorboat. Otherwise, a Canadian Canoe is a great workout while a stand-up paddleboard is good for those with balance.

Along the banks of the lake, there are several small beaches to stop for a picnic and a swim. If you get as far as Kailpot Crag, climb up ten meters or so and plunge back into the Lake.

Canoes can be hired on the lake at Glenridding or Pooley Bridge, and paddleboard lessons and hire are also available.


4 / CLAMBER UP JACK’S RAKE TO THE SUMMIT OF PAVEY ARK

Nestled among the dramatic spikes of the Langdales, Pavey Ark is the largest cliff in the Lake District. Standing beneath it, at the thoroughly picturesque Stickle Tarn, it would appear scaling the craggy façade is an activity reserved for proper mountaineers. But, surprisingly, there is a way up for scramblers: Jack’s Rake.   

Jack’s Rake is less of a path and more a groove that cuts diagonally across the wall of rock forming Pavey Ark. The scramble up this groove to the top is one of the most adventurous things to do in the Lake District. You need to contort your body into some odd positions, but there’s plenty of handholds and for the most part, there’s rock on either side of you. Despite being a grade 1 scramble, the path is surprisingly unexposed.

The groove ends at a narrow unprotected ledge (nerve-wracking if you don’t like heights), before entering a series of blocks and grooves, linked by ledges and ascending to the summit of Pavey Ark. You’ll want to go on a dry clear day and have some scrambling experience behind you. But, the views from the top are worth every ounce of effort.


5 / EXPLORE MILES OF MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAILS

Mountain bikes used to be frowned on in the Lake District. Cutting deep tracks on grassy hills, the stewards of the land would tut and shake their heads whenever two-wheeled vehicles messed up their pristine environment. But over the last few years, purpose-built trails have been integrated into the walking paths and roads to create a network of excellent rides, without the associated frowns.

You can start with something relatively easy like this classic loop collecting a number of picturesque lakes and stunning views. If you’re feeling more energetic, tackle this climb up Helvellyn with over 4,000 foot of ascent over 25 miles.

Lake District Bike Hire charge around £30 per day, decreasing slightly the longer you hire their bikes. They’ll also deliver to you anywhere in the lakes. To remove all the effort and just enjoy the superb Lake District scenery, hire an e-bike and meander along winding lanes conserving all your energy for your stop at the next cosy country pub.  


6 / TAKE A DAWN DIP IN SERENE RYDAL WATER

For an exhilarating morning adventure, head to Rydal Water. Surrounded by hilly woodlands criss-crossed with jogging tracks, it is the perfect place to get active in nature. Take a walk, or a run around this peaceful lake, then launch yourself in for some breath-taking wild swimming in the Lake District. There’s a shelving beach for easy access, a couple of islands to swim to and some grassy banks to recover on.

While it’s unlikely the water is warm, Rydal Water is sheltered on all sides by mountains and sits at a relatively low altitude. This makes the water a little stiller and a little less freezing. Regardless of the temperature, it is a beautiful scenic location.

If you want to swim with a bit more company Swim the Lakes organises adventure swims, short wild swims and open water swims catering to all of levels experience. It’s a great way to introduce wild swimming to your list of things to do in the Lake District.


7 / DRIVE UP THE ENDLESS STEEP TURNS OF HARDKNOTT PASS

There are a number of roads that rise over the high passes of the Lake District. But none are more dramatic, or remote than Hardknott Pass. Open only to smaller vehicles, this thin strip of worn asphalt has 30% gradients which twist through a series of sharp hairpin turns.

Although few people stop at the top of the pass, it’s a wild barren place well worth exploring. The Hardknott Roman Fort was founded in the 2nd century to protect the strategic road. Additionally, a 15-minute hike up to the top of Border End rewards with magnificent views over the most imposing mountains in the Lake District.

If you make it up Hardknott easy enough, don’t relax too much on the way down. We saw one man sitting dejectedly on the side of the road, staring at his car balanced on a large boulder with all four wheels completely off the ground. Take those corners carefully and avoid icy conditions.


8 / ASCEND SCAFELL PIKE, ENGLAND’S HIGHEST MOUNTAIN

It is always a thrill to climb the highest mountain in a region and Scafell Pike is the highest, not just in the Lake District but the whole of England. Most hikers start the ascent from Wasdale Head via Brown Tongue. It’s the shortest and most direct ascent. But there is a much more enjoyable route to the top that is often far less crowded.

The ‘corridor route’ traverses under the craggy flanks of imperious Great End as it winds its way up to Scafell Pike’s summit. The excellent trail crosses mountain streams, clambers over rock and skirts deep and cavernous ghylls. At all times (weather permitting) the views across to Great Gable and up to the imposing rocky faces of Lingmell Fell and the Scafell’s are exceptional. It really feels like you are in a world of rock and mountain.

Fortunately, the way down is fun too. After dropping to Esk Hause the path passes by Sprinkling Tarn, perfect for a quick dip. Next, the path collects Ruddy & Grains Gills where a little stream has cut a small canyon creating a series of attractive waterfalls. It’s a hardy 6 hours walking in the mountains but definitely one of the best semi-adventurous things to do in the Lake District.


9 / LEAP INTO THE CRYSTAL-CLEAR WATERS OF BLACK MOSS POT

On a warm day, young and old gather along the rocky edge of Langstrath Beck at the point where it cuts a small dramatic gorge pool into a rocky ledge. This pool, alluringly titled Black Moss Pot, is probably the finest wild swimming spot in the Lake District.

You can lower yourself in from the southern end and swim in the narrow water-filled canyon staring up at gorge walls. But, it’s much more fun to leap from the rocky ledges that sit about 5 metres above the water. The water is deep enough for the plunge and the pool wide enough not to cause injury.

Black Moss Pot is a 45-minute stroll up the valley from the village of Stonethwaite and can get a little busy in the summer holidays and on weekends. But it’s worth the visit. After enjoying a swim, stop off at the Langstrath Country Inn (one of our favourite places to stay in the Lake District) for a cold beer in their garden.


MORE OPTIONS FOR ADVENTUROUS THINGS TO DO IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

With all the Lake District hikes that has kept us occupied over the years, finding time to do all the other adventurous things in the area can be a challenge. Here are a some more options we have on the list for our next visit.

VIA FERRATA / Over the last 20 years, the abandoned slate mine at Honister has been undergoing a transformation. In 2007 it created the UK’s first Via Ferrata up a mountain and since then has continued to add further activities. The ‘Extreme’ version of the Via Ferrata is now twice as high as the shard and a new ‘Climb the Mine’ takes you up vertical climbs, across rope bridges and over steel ladders with the original mine structure.

PARAGLIDING / Paragliding is another relatively new Lake District activity. Unlike some of the places we’ve paraglided in the Alps, there are no cable cars in the lakes. So, it’s always a hike to get to the launching point, and you need the right conditions to be able to go up. But, if you time it right, we imagine it would be a great experience. More information is here.

CLIMBING / Finally while we enjoy a bit of scrambling, our head for heights does not extend to mountain climbing. But the Lake District, and especially the needles on Great Gable, are often considered the birthplace of UK rock climbing. You can book a beginner’s course or get a guide for a fun day out. More information is here.


WHERE TO STAY IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

If this list of things to do in the Lake District whets your appetite to come to this region, then you’re going to need somewhere to stay.

If adventure is your thing, consider either Keswick (the adventure capital of the Lake District) or the central towns of Grasmere, Coniston or Ambleside from where it is easy to explore the whole of the area.

All our accommodation recommendations are covered in the best places to stay in the Lake District.


WHERE NEXT?

First, if you found this useful, please follow us on Instagram to stay up to date with our travels.

If you are inspired to visit the Lake District, all our writing about the area is on our Britain page.

Here are some other great ideas for getting outdoors in the UK that you might enjoy:

BLENCATHRA VIA SHARP EDGE
WHERE TO STAY IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
BEST HIKES IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

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