5 reasons to visit the Lake District with your dog
The Lake District is a great big dog-friendly playground, with miles of hiking and the eponymous waters to leap into. While many visit for the wilderness alone, there’s are plenty of reasons, from history to art and delicious food, that you and your dog will love a trip to England’s largest National Park.
1. The incredible hiking
Walking is by far the number one pursuit in the Lake District and it’s easy to see why. The scenery is stunning and the size of the place means you can usually find a quiet path, even in summer. The general rule is that the further west and north you go, the fewer people you’ll bump into, so head for Ennerdale or Buttermere if you fancy a bit more peace. One of the best things about the Lake District is that it offers almost as much gentle walking as it does dramatic hiking. For the shorter-legged breeds, most of the lakes have lovely loops around the banks on gently undulating trails – we’re big fans of the one round Derwentwater which has a couple of gorgeous scenic viewpoint stops. For the hardier dogs, there are challenging ridge crossings like the one up Helvellyn, and rocky ascents like the last section of the famous Scafell Pike, although last time we were there we were overtaken by a dachshund that was trotting up quite happily.
2. The Water, of course
As a boatman told us on a recent visit, “it rains a lot here, but if it didn’t it’d be the big hole in the ground district instead.” He’s right too. It does rain a fair bit, but the result is some great wild swimming for you and your dog as well as the sparkling vistas that make the landscape so beautiful. There are old wooden motor launches chugging up and down on most of the lakes, which are dog-friendly as long as you’re sure they’ll sit quietly, and you’ll find yourself navigating by the blue spots on the map, but the best way to experience the lakes is to jump right in. Your dog will probably lead the way. If the boating on the major lakes and the public setting of places like Rydal Water is a bit off-putting, then try Tongue Pot, a beautiful pool in the hills, accessed by a 40-minute walk from the phone booth at the base of Hardknott Pass. There are plenty of smaller pools along the way too, so you can jump in if it’s a warm day. The chilly water flowing out of the hills will definitely cool you off.
3. Dog-friendly pubs, shops and places to stay
When we spoke to Jeff Bowman, who’d moved to the Lake District to work for sustainable bag makers Millican, he told us how people moved here for the lifestyle. It’s an outdoorsy kind of place where a lot of people have dogs and local businesses reflect that by making more of an effort to welcome pets. You’ll find almost all pubs making some kind of provision for dogs; cafés and shops being more understanding than elsewhere and a huge variety of dog-friendly places to stay. This mean that you get to wander wherever the day takes you and be pretty sure of finding somewhere great to stop for lunch or a pint. There are numerous breweries where you can drop in for some sampling, including the one at Ulverston where you can take an informal tour most weekends, and The Lakes Distillery is now also producing some fine whiskies.
4. The sense of history
You might imagine this one being harder for you dog to appreciate, but the great thing about the history of The Lake District is that its written in the outdoors. There are five stone circles to visit, with the most impressive (in our opinion) being Castelrigg, just up the road from Keswick. The stones sit in a huge natural bowl of the hills and its instantly obvious why it was once considered a site worth marking. There are several Roman ruins including the Hardknott Fort and the original “high street”, a ridge road that once linked the forts at Brougham and Ambleside. You’ll also see the industrial heritage, not just in old mine buildings scattered here and there but in the shaping of the land in some areas. A dramatic example of this is Cathedral Cave, an old quarry near Little Langdale, where a pillar of rock supports a huge echoing cavern lit by a shaft of sun through a hole in the ceiling. It’s a short stroll from the main road and an enormously atmospheric stop. For something a bit more genteel, there’s the neo-gothic jumble of Wray Castle or Windermere Jetty, the fabulous and fascinating new boating museum where you can take a trip on a traditional steam driven launch and have tea made from water heated by the engine. (It’s nicer than it sounds).
5. Art and literature
If your dog prefers poetry and painting to long walks (as many Bichon Frises famously do), then you might think the Lakes are not for them, but there’s still plenty to draw you all in. Wordsworth’s house has been turned into a small and charming museum and the Ruskin Museum tells the story of Coniston from ancient history to jet boats on the water. Ulverston was the birthplace of Stan Laurel and his life is commemorated there in another small museum. The theatre by the lake at Keswick is a wonderfully scenic spot to soak up some culture and there are painting tours available that will take you to some of the most picturesque landscapes and give you tips on capturing their beauty. Beatrix Potter is celebrated in a museum at Hawkshead too, not just for her writing of course, but for the drive and generosity in supporting the National Trust. For a visit to the home of a slightly less well-known local character, make the walk from Rosthwaite to the base of Castle Crag. Here you’ll find the cave where self styled “professor of adventure” Millican Dalton lived truly wild for many years.
Chris is our copywriter, who spins enticing articles out of rough notes and travel tales. Having grown up in rural Wiltshire with only cats, he defected to Team Dog and now roams the countryside with Porth, a gorgeous spaniel named after a Welsh town in what he considers to be a joke. They love disappearing into the hills and coming back hungry for a good pub meal, although Porth has not been convinced to follow Chris into vegetarianism.
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