The sun had been shining in London for months, our flat was dry, creaky and sun bleached. Parks were bursting at the seams and my tan was reaching it’s Mediterranean limit. So, we jested, why not swap the once-in-a-decade heatwave for a destination in which August is the wettest month of the year? That’s right, we ditched the sun for some of England’s tallest mountains, largest lakes and most glorious countryside. Welcome to the Lake District, a place whose precipitous weather predictions were correct, but it takes nothing away from the incredible nature on offer, especially if you choose to go wild like we did.
We were drawn to the lakes after a short trip in May offered by Ali’s family. The Lake District provides many activities and it does so across a relatively small area of land. We saw potential for a walking adventure, so we arranged a trip back a few months later, oblivious to how wet it might be. Our plan was to take our camping equipment and wild camp our way between as many of the northern lakes (the quieter ones) as possible. We didn’t plan the route and did most of our mapping via Maps.me, deciding as we went where we’d go next. We also opted to keep this trip budget, aiming to spend £25 a day, we’ll let you know how we got on.
We travelled to Penrith from London via National Express on a night bus, acquiring £10 tickets pp per way. We slept on the bus and set alarms for 5am when we arrived at Penrith. Luckily there’s a 24hr McDonald’s next to the bus stop were we could wait until 7am when the first bus (X5) to Keswick arrives. The bus takes about 45 minutes and costs £7.40 pp. For the rest of our visit we would be walking, so pack your boots!
There aren’t many places to restock your food provisions once you leave Keswick. So if you’re planning on walking the route, make sure you’ve thought about your supplies for the amount of days you'll be camping for. The following supplies lasted us for 4 days. We carried cheese, which could pose a few health risks if it gets hot, luckily for us the environment was cool and the cheese lasted well in the depths of our bags. Our food cost £22 for 4 days.
- Instant Coffee
- Milk powder
Sandwich made from:
- Spicy Chipotle Paste
- Spicy paste
- Salt & Pepper (brought from home)
- Olive oil (brought from home)
- Tomato purée and water
This was the trickiest part because people we chatted too were iffy on if we chould drink from the streams as there’s so much livestock. We didn't take any risks and filled up at pubs, cafes, campsites and even knocked on someone’s door. Everyone was happy to help us. We left London with 2 x 1 litre bottles and scavenged 2 x 500ml plastic water bottles, which we cleaned and reused. This was enough for half a day, with water for drinking and water for cooking with. We brought water purification tabs with us too but didn’t use them.
We didn’t buy anything new for this trip, opting to use our beaten old equipment that wasn’t very expensive in the first place. Point being, you don’t need fancy equipment to get your camp on...you will find a link to our living in a tent post at the bottom of this article.
- 2 person lightweight Berghaus tent - 2kg
- sleeping bag (1 per person)
- pots, pans and lids
- small wooden spoon
- 1 litre water bottle (1 per person)
- cup (1 per person)
- spork (1 per person)
- waterproof jacket
- decent hiking boots
- gaffa tape
- first aid kit
- quick dry towel
- waterproof trousers
- warm clothes, hat, gloves
- phone charger / battery charger for emergencies
- entertainment - ebook, cards, music etc
- suncream and hat
- roll mat
- blow up pillow
- dry bag
Day 1 / 10 hours walking
This was longest walk of the loop as we wanted to wake up somewhere new for day 2. Arriving in Keswick at 8am we started by stocking up on food at the Co-op and set off clockwise around lake Derwent aiming for the Chinese bridge. You’ll pass the Lodore Falls Hotel where you can restock your water. From the Chinese bridge we skirted south around the fell towards Manesty and then Castle Crag, these are clearly signposted. If you’re feeling tired you could camp at Rosthwaite or Borrowdale, which lie at the bottom of the Honister pass. If you’ve still got the beans head up to the Honister pass along the roadside path where you’ll soon see a YHA hostel and slate mine with cafe. We were tired so it would have been rude not enjoy a cake, or two (£4.50) and a free hot water!
With our sugars replenished we set off down the western side of the pass towards Gatesgarth aiming for Buttermere lake. Unfortunately, the only route available, short of tackling the Great Gable, is along the road or an easily missed mountain pass (which we did miss). The surroundings are stunning and this particular road is often cited as one of the most beautiful in the country, so walking it ain’t so bad. After 2 hours the lake becomes visible and we trace around the right of lake to find a secluded spot under large trees just below the huge rough ramblers house. Camp setup, we continue along Buttermere for another 30 mins into the village to restock our water and enjoy a swift half at the The Fish Inn. The sun shines at 5pm and we smile contently in the beer garden before heading back to the tent for supper with aching legs.
Day 2 / 7 hours walking
It’s very wet the next morning so rather than tackle the Hay Stacks, a high fell overlooking Buttermere, we decide to walk the opposite way around the lake into Buttermere villlage. A whole circuit of Buttermere will take 2hrs. We arrive completely soaked and hit up the Skye Farm Tea Room for cream tea, which costs £4.50 per person and fills us up like Popeye and spinach. A rest bite from the elements is welcomed as we plan the remainder of the day. Rather ignorantly, we failed to notice the huge lake nestled above Buttermere! So spend the rest of the day enjoying a circuit around lake Crummock, which is a far quieter and larger excursion than Buttermere. The walk is lovely and changes across the circuit, and the sun even comes out towards the end. Ali returns to camp to find she has a burnt nose, that sneaky afternoon sun can catch you off guard so pack your suncream!
A circuit around Crummock takes 4 hours at a leisurely pace. Wild camping makes washing difficult so we decide to dunk ourselves in the ice cold lake in our underwear. The French tourists laughed furiously as we flapped about in the water, it was worth it to hit the sleeping bag so fresh and so clean (yeah, think Outkast!).
Alternatively, if the weather is dry and mountains clear you could enjoy a day walk up Hay Stacks /Scarth Gap/ High Crag peaks.
Day 3 / 10 hours walking
The day started sunny with clear mountain peaks so we set off early and restocked our water with some kind rough ramblers staying in the house above our camp spot. Destination.... Hay Stacks. On a sunny day this is a relatively accessible climb to 600 meters. But on our trek the rain clouds return, the wind picks up and we get drenched. The peak includes a scramble and the high winds put us off, so we found another route to the top around the back of the peak. This secondary route gave us a pretty sweet view of lake Ennerdale further east. The rain clouds were so misty that we couldn’t see any of the lakes to the north, so we go for a quick dash down. From the top of Hay Stacks it’s a clearly routed, if rather slippery, path that returns you to the farmhouse near Buttermere. We heard this walk should take 3 hours but it took us nearer 4.
Praying for some sun, we packed down camp and trekked to Buttermere village again and enjoyed another round of cream tea, at £4.50 each. We just can't get enough of those warm scones! Plus we need the calories with this much walking. We had heard there was a shop at Lorton so we set off north along the road running parallel to lake Crummock. What Google suggested was a two hour walk was, in reality, a 4 hour one. Especially as we took a scenic path on a national cycle route via Thackthwaite. Although preferable to the road, it took far longer. If you’re tired then just stay on the main road. We checked out a few of the campsites nearby but they were pretty grotty and overpriced. So we headed to the hills behind the Wheatsheaf Inn for a wild camp spot, finding a secluded pitch about 10-15 mins from the pub. We enjoyed a rather lavish supper at the Wheatsheaf and slept like stones (or maybe scones) after the 10 hours of walking!
Day 4 / 5 hours walking
We awoke early to a spritely farmer rounding his sheep in the next field, so decided to do a runner before he told us off for camping there! At 8am we stomped into High Lorton and onto a country lane that would later join onto the B5292 via Whinlatter forest, heading east to Keswick. Finally the sun that the rest of country and had been enjoying, hits the Lake District and we wonder through pine forests for 3 hours in beautiful sunshine. Although a lightly busy road, the fine views more than make up for the cars. We stop for some more cream scones (£5 for 2) in Braithwaite and arrive back in Keswick for lunch, cheap homemade Mali sandwiches of course!
We doze in the Lower Fitz park all afternoon and set off around the Derwent for our final camping spot in the sun overlooking the lake. We find an absolute beauty about 40 mins in and watch an incredible sundown in surely the most stunning camping spot we’ve ever christened! A weather app makes us very aware that the forecast is awful for the whole next day. Enjoy it while it lasts, as they say.
For our final day we had planned a hike up Skiddaw, north east of Keswick, but the weather was awful again. Think torrential rain until 12pm. Plans dashed, we moved to Weatherspoons to enjoy unlimited refills on hot drinks that fuelled the writing of this post. Later we jump on a bus (£7.40pp) back to Penrith before our night bus back to London (£10pp), with a few pints to inebriate the evening, ready for solid if awkward sleep on the bus. Last stop, the big smoke.
Well our target for this trip was £25 a day, borrowed from the type of spending normally associated with Asia! We just about did it, averaging £22 (for two people) including travel and food. By wild camping we saved £75 and also gained the satisfaction of sleeping in some really interesting places, away from the often noisy hubbub of a campsite. We have omitted some of the luxuries like pints and cream teas because they’re not essential for the trip. If you were to add them in it will take our total up to £38 a day (for two people) which still ain’t bad for a trip in pricey old Blighty.
With a bit of planning, the right equipment and the will to go against the grain a little, you can have a wild low cost adventure in one of the most beautiful spots in the country. We hope you feel Inspired to get out there and start your own exploration! It’s so much easier than you think...
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