We recently visited the Lake District for the first time ever on a 3 day trip with the dogs!
Words can’t explain how blown away I was by how beautiful the Lake District really is. People had told me and said I needed to go, but I hadn’t appreciated just how breathtaking it would be until we got there. There were plenty of times when I couldn’t quite believe it was England!
It took me hours to research and plan our trip because I was determined to make the most of our short time there (we were staying for 4 nights, with 3 full days to explore), and I had some questions on Instagram wanting me to share our Lake District tips and itinerary, so here it is!
How to get to the Lake District
While it is possible to visit the Lake District without a car, using public transport, for our trip we wanted to be able to visit lots of different places and bring the dogs with all their stuff too – so public transport wasn’t viable coming up from Cornwall!
The Lake District is in Cumbria, so the opposite end of England to where we’re based in the south of Cornwall! It took us around 7-8 hours to drive up, including several stops for the dogs to stretch their legs and for lunch.
Top tip: If you’re driving up from the South I’d highly recommend Stafford Services, which have a little lake dog walk area which is really pretty!
How many days do you need to visit the Lake District?
It really depends what you want to do and how much you want to fit in to your trip. I think the ideal time would be 5 full days to a week, which would enable you to cover both the south and north Lakes areas.
We visited for 3 full days (4 nights) and just about managed to cover the south Lakes but still missed out some bits and it was a lot of driving. The plan is to go and just visit the north Lakes next time and just focus on that area! However if you are able to get a full week away then I think that would be ideal, especially when making such a long journey from the South/South West England.
What to pack for the Lake District
Of course you’ll want to pack your hiking gear to the Lake District (including hiking boots ideally as some of the walks can get boggy and rocky), but don’t forget your swim stuff too! There are obviously plenty of lakes you can swim in, but also loads of other wild swimming spots like rivers and waterfalls that you won’t want to miss out on.
A microfibre towel (like these!*) are super useful in this situation as they fold down really small and are super lightweight for carrying in a backpack.
One thing we didn’t bring which I wish we had were some rock shoes for swimming and paddling around in rivers, lakes and waterfalls, as they all get pretty stoney and sharp underfoot!
I have a full 150+ item packing list in my Lake District Travel Planner, so check that out if you’re not sure what else to bring.
Where to stay in the Lake District
Below are the two places we stayed during our trip (we were mainly focused in the south Lake District areas) that I can highly recommend. Both are dog friendly as well:
Luxury Hotel: Rothay Manor (Ambleside)
This hotel is located in Ambleside which is a fantastic, central point for your Lake District trip, with easy access all around the south and links to the north Lakes areas. The hotel itself is super luxurious and you definitely feel spoilt when you visit (and so did the dogs!).
Quirky ‘Glamping’: Wilson Arms Shepherd’s Huts (Torver/Coniston)
The second place we stayed was something a bit different – these cute and quirky Shepherd’s Huts in Torver, just outside Coniston Water! The set up of this place is great – each Shepherd’s Hut has its own enclosed garden with fencing (perfect for dogs) with BBQ area, woodfired hot tub and seating, and inside the Huts themselves there’s a comfy double bed, kitchenette, and even a proper toilet and shower room!
I absolutely loved it and can’t recommend enough – check them out on the Wilson Arms’ website.
Our Lake District Trip (4 nights, 3 full days, South Lakes)
As I say, we only had 3 days to explore so I tried my best to pack it full of highlights, but we also had to adjust the itinerary due to the heat (it was a heatwave and we needed to stay near water for the dogs to cool off).
For detailed locations, car parks & co-ordinates for this itinerary, check out my Lake District Travel Planner!
Day 1: Rydal Water & Ullwater/Aira Force
Our first full day we had breakfast at Rothay Manor hotel and then headed over to Rydal Hall (a 5 minute drive). This is a private estate with beautiful gardens and a secret waterfall on site – you can take dogs and it was very beautiful, but you weren’t allowed to swim in the waterfall here and dogs had to be on leads, so we didn’t stay long.
Just next door is Rydal Water, where you can find the most amazing caves to explore! We spent a while here and looped back to the car parks with the dogs before driving through Ambleside to pick up some food for a picnic lunch.
We drove from Ambleside to Ullswater, which is technically in the north Lake District so it did take a while; around 45 minutes on some crazy windy roads, but the views were amazing! We stopped at the National Trust Aira Force car park and went on a short hike to find the waterfalls.
We carried on a little way to find a more private spot to have lunch. It was perfect for wild swimming here, although I only got half in as it was quite cold that afternoon!
After lunch with walked back to the car and took a long, scenic route back through Ambleside and out the other side to Coniston Water, where our next stay for the night was located. We stayed in these beautiful Shepherd’s Huts in Torver and loved it!
Day 2: Tarn Hows, Ambleside/Windermere & Coniston Water
The next day it was SUPER hot, so I adjusted our itinerary a little to make sure we weren’t doing any hikes that would be too much for the dogs.
We started out by visiting Tarn Hows; a National Trust woodland & lake with stunning views, just a 10 minute drive from where we were staying. This walk takes about an hour and is very relaxing and easy, with a man-made path around to help for accessibility (great for wheelchairs!).
After this, we drove down to Ambleside again and parked up at the Wateredge Inn for lunch. This pub is right next to the lake and looks out over the north of Windermere, and serves the BEST chips I’ve ever had! It was lovely to sit out here on a hot day.
We walked from the pub over to Ambleside pier where you can hire boats for an hour or two to explore the lake. We opted for an electric motor boat (no license needed, and yes – dogs allowed!), but you could also opt for a rowing boat too.
This was so much fun and definitely a great way to explore the lake!
After our afternoon on Windermere, it was still super hot, so we picked up some food from the shop and went back to the Shepherd’s Hut to chill for a bit. That evening, we packed up our camping stove and headed down to Coniston Water for an evening picnic by the lake, which was stunning! I wish I’d brought some rock shoes as I found it too stoney to swim, but it was still a lovely evening.
Day 3: River Eskdale hike
We both agreed that this day was our favourite day, as even though it was again super hot, it really felt like an adventure and we found the most incredible wild swimming places we’ve ever seen!
We set off from Torver and drove down through the mountains and across Austhwaite Brow road to the River Eskdale. This drive was about an hour long but so stunning; it felt like we were in New Zealand or something!
We stopped at the bottom of Hardknott Pass to start our ‘Tongue Pot’ hike (I found this on the AllTrails app!). It’s a 2.5hours hike along the river through the mountains we spent hours here because of the incredible wild swimming spots and waterfalls along the way. With the heat it was much needed but we just couldn’t get our heads around how stunning it was – how is this England??
It was so much fun but very tiring for us and the dogs, so we drove back and had a BBQ that evening at the Shepherd’s Hut for our last night.
The Ideal Lake District (South) 3 Day Itinerary
There were some parts of our trip that I would have done differently, mainly because it was a heatwave during our visit, so there were some hikes we couldn’t do with the dogs in that weather and they got tired out much quicker than usual!
I’ve put together the perfect itinerary (based on ours with some added extras and a few tweaks) in my Lake District Travel Planner, alongside a 150+ item packing list. This is a great way to stay organised in your trip, and of course you can customise the whole thing if you want to do other things instead :)
Lake District Travel Planner & Itinerary
Plan out your Lake District adventure with this customisable travel planner, with built-in 3 day itinerary with Google Maps locations + 150+ item packing list!
Store your trip info, inspiration, to do lists, add friends & family to collaborate, and plan your full Lake District itinerary.
Future Lake District Trip Bucket List (North Lakes)
Below are a few places I’m adding to my Lake District ‘bucket list’ for next time (whenever that may be!) where we plan to focus more on the north side. These are recommendations I’ve been sent and researched:
- Find the Thirlmere infinity pool
- Visit Derwentwater and do the Cat Bells hike
- See Galleny Force waterfalls and Black Moss Pit
- Walk around Buttermere
- Hike Crummock Water & Scale Force Waterfall
Have you ever been to the Lake District? What are your top highlights?
*Disclaimer: Links marked with ‘*’ are affiliate links. We were also offered a complimentary stay at Rothay Manor for review, but paid for our own dinner. All opinions are my own.