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Winter Time in The Lakes

January 28, 2023

Following beautiful cold but clear days in December, the first couple of weeks of January in the Lake District were absolutely terrible – near constant heavy rain coupled with low cloud and very poor visibility.

Rutter Falls

We pretty much hunkered down with only a couple of damp hikes on the best of the days to break the monotony and some binge watching of series on Netflix. Of course this is the risk you take in the Lakes in Winter.

Castlerigg Stone Circle in the Snow

And then the temperature dropped again and the snow and ice came. This was coupled with much better weather with blue skies and low temperatures. It was nowhere near as cold as before Christmas.

A snowy Buttermere

A fantastic hike in deep snow where I was the only person on the mountain up to Red Pike was the reward for my patience. I didn’t quite make it to the top as the snow kept getting deeper and over knee deep snow on a 45 degree slope was proving heavy going. However, the views back over Buttermere and of Ullswater were worth the effort.


Returning to Buttermere the wind had dropped and the lake was completely still, reflecting the surroundings perfectly. This is my favourite place in the Lakes so far.

Famous Lone Tree at Buttermere

The hike to Red Pike was actually a last minute decision as I wasn’t able to get to the walk I wanted to do at the other end of Buttermere. After so much rain and flooding, the mountain road was completely covered in ice and after several hair-raising attempts at getting up it, I eventually abandoned that idea.

Sour Milk Ghyll, Grasmere

I took the opportunity in the good weather to visit some of the iconic views in the Lake district; hiking up to Rydal Caves, the Sweden Bridge above Ambleside, some waterfalls around Grasmere and the stone circle at Castlerigg near Keswick.

Rydal Cave Selfie

The ice certainly made the roads interesting with the high passes pretty much impassable without chains and while the A roads had been gritted, a lot of the B roads were really sketchy.

Sweden Packbridge in Ambleside

After the snow and ice came the thaw and some pretty dense fog. This led to a very atmospheric hike around the Ingleton Waterfall trail in the Yorkshire Dales. But anywhere with grand landscapes was definitely due to the visibility, which was down to 50m or so.

The Ingleton Waterfall trail is around 8km long and is loop going up one river in a gorge and down another in a gorge. Both flow through the same small town of Ingleton. It is a curated trail and therefore there is a charge for doing the hike but no charge for parking so it actually works out around the same price as most of the parking in the Lakes.

Our time in the Lakes was drawing to a close so there was time for one last hike. A great day, in the now almost completely thawed landscape, climbing Glaramara. I didn’t see a single person on the entire hike and it felt like I had the mountains to myself – one of the benefits of hiking at this time of year.

Glaramara in the background and Bessyboot in the foreground

So 2 months in the UK Lakes District in winter was an equally mixed bag of appalling weather and glorious winter days. When it isn’t raining it feels like the perfect time to be up here. The hills are deserted, there is no problem parking anywhere and winter conditions can make the hills more beautiful than ever. You do have to be careful driving on the B roads when it’s icy and sometimes have to make longer journeys to avoid the high passes but with such an amazing landscape there are still plenty of hikes to choose from. The cold conditions are not so bad if you dress right and hiking keeps you warm anyway.

Icy waterfall in Tebay

When the rain falls (all day), the wind blows and the visibility reduces, it is definitely a less pleasant place to be and outdoor activities are off the agenda unless you are much hardier than me. It is also less easy to do the more touristy things on the rainy days like visiting castles and gardens etc., as many of them are only open from March to October. We did however visit Lowther Castle (open all year) and Brougham Castle (open only at weekends in Winter) and on a particularly bad day when we just had to be indoors, the infamous Keswick Pencil Museum!

Brougham Castle

Lowther Castle (below) was occupied from the middle ages by the Earls of Lonsdale and their families but the family fell on hard times and the castle was closed in 1937. It was used in WW2 by an army tank regiment but the roof was removed in 1957 in order to avoid taxes and it fell into ruin. It is still in the same family however, and a lot of work has been done, and is still on going with the help of the National Trust to restore some of the building and the gardens to their former glory. Definitely worth a visit.

Lowther Castle in the snow

The pencil museum is better than it sounds. Although the only part that really captured (excuse the pun) our attention was the use of the pencil in WW2 to smuggle maps and compasses across enemy lines to aid escape if captured. Charles Fraser Smith, the inspiration for Q in James Bond, asked the pencil company to produce a pencil containing a map and compass for Lancaster Bomber Crews to help them if shot down and it tells the story of how this was secretly created.

Replica of the secret map pencil. Note the map and compass in the front of the case

Overall though, I would recommend spending time up here in the winter if you have time to enjoy the fair weather days when they come. Some days it even looks like summer!

Grasmere Lake
One Comment leave one →
  1. Susan Hann permalink
    February 6, 2023 4:54 pm

    Ah back on home turf. Once again some beautiful photos. I seem to recall Sarah’s last visit to the lake district was rather wet.
    All your hiking is beginning to make me feel very lazy.

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