Breath-taking low-level Lake District walking at its finest.

The Cumbria Way is one for anyone looking for a low-level thru-hike or hikers new to long-distance hiking pining for an adventure at the foot of the fells. It’s certainly on my list!

Starting in the historic town of Ulverston near Morecombe Bay, the 74-mile point to point Cumbria Way is considered a medium difficulty trail that winds its way through the beautiful valleys of the Lake District National Park, taking you all the way to the historic city of Carlisle. Although it can be walked in both directions, so for those looking to leave the city for a gentle more rural finish, start in Carlisle and head to Ulverston instead.

Most of the Cumbria Way is inside The Lake District National Park, boasting some of its most breath-taking scenery, from mountains and lakes to woodlands and valleys with an abundance of wildlife, flora and fauna to enjoy at every turn.

Recommended by hikers for hikers

The Cumbria Way has proven to be a particularly great introduction trail to long-distance hiking.

A beautifully gentle long-distance hike that hikers new to multi-day trails have confidently enjoyed, with accommodation options on the route and plenty of pubs to stop, rest and refuel in along the way.

Long-distance or multi-day hikes can be intimidating if it’s your first time; taking into account your stamina to hike over several days, planning resupply or food stops, carrying enough provisions, and knowing where you’re going to be able to find water and accommodation along the way are all things that need to be considered.

Choosing a ‘shorter’ trail like this can be important for your enjoyment; breaking down your daily miles into manageable sections, planning your food stops and booking accommodation, whether that’s camping or hostels, as well as researching the towns you’re passing through can help to remove any initial fears, leaving you to simply enjoy the hiking and the views.

The Route

Despite this low-level walk offering a mostly gentle ride, there are inclines and descents with some challenging sections but they don’t last too long. This trail certainly doesn’t lack in views, however, if fell-bagging is specifically what you’re looking for, this isn’t the trail for you.

There are only a few climbs along this route, the biggest being to the peak of High Pike, a Wainwright Fell and the only one on the Cumbria Way but there is a low-level route that avoids this summit on bad weather days or for those wanting to save their energy for the rest of the journey.

Most hikers break up the route into 5 days but it’s possible to complete it in more or less depending on your experience and fitness:

  • Ulverston to Coniston
  • Coniston to Old Dungeon Ghyll
  • Old Dungeon Ghyll to Keswick
  • Keswick to Caldbeck
  • Caldbeck to Carlisle

Navigation for the trail’s entirety is important as hikers have reported areas of poor waymarking.

Generally, the Cumbria Way can be looked at in three sections. The first takes in fields and pastureland, which means negotiating cattle in the summer months. For this reason, walking the trail in the summer with a dog may not be recommended.

Then it’s time to walk the fells on the classic Lakeland trails you’d expect from this beautiful Cumbrian trail; passing Coniston Water, Tarn Hows and Old Dungeon Ghyll. Crossing Stake Pass to Borrowdale, Derwent Water and Keswick, then over to Back o’Skiddaw and High Pike to Caldbeck. The third section follows the Caldew valley to Carlisle. You may have hiked in the Lake District before but the Cumbria Way promises to treat you to areas of the Lake District you’ve not seen before.

The terrain

Mostly flat low-level tracks and paths through the valleys of The Lake District, with some sections of an exposed ridgeline, as well as pasture and field sections.

As this is a low-level route it is possible to walk it year-round although it’s best hiked between April and October for the best chance of good weather.

Know before you go

  • Choose your direction – The last section takes you to the outskirts of Carlisle along a tarmacked cycle path so if you’d prefer to get the big city vibes over and done at the start then plan to start here and hike to Ulverston.
  • Accommodation – The route takes you through several Cumbrian towns and villages with accommodation options, which may at times be a little limited, especially around Old Dungeon Ghyll, but there are options nonetheless.
  • There are several YHA hostels on route, as well as self-catering, hotel and camping options, but it should be noted that camping options are limited between Keswick and Carlisle. Reportedly near Caldbeck there is the Throstle Hall caravan site which has allowed overnight stays for Cumbria Way walkers – plan ahead and enquire before you set off.
  • Transport – most towns are served by buses, whilst the larger towns offer train and coach services.