Mini mileage for little walkers
Visitors to the Lakes who want to get out walking in the great outdoors are spoiled for choice when it comes to finding routes to follow.
If you have little ones in tow, however, how far and how high you can go will depend on their age, capability...and enthusiasm.
There’s nothing better than an OS map to guide you – it's a chance to teach them some orienteering skills along the way too (and you should always take one in any case) – but there are also plenty of walks books in local shops.
Many are written with families in mind, often highlighting points of interest to both inspire and distract en route. If you don't have mini walkers with you, the books below offer easy adult rambles with a few more challenging hikes.
Here’s the LakesLux pick:
Curious Cumbrian Walks by Graham Dugdale (Palatine Books)
This is a good all-rounder for family walks – classic routes provide a good opener to the Lakes and they’re generally 3.5-6 miles in length so should be OK for most little legs. Often fairly flat, Dunmail Raise and Latterbarrow provide short climbs, to which, in my experience, young ones respond well. If interest is waning, there are snippets of history and legend to draw on, from the dragon of Hawes Water to the ghost of Cunswick Fell.
Walking with Beatrix Potter by Norman and June Buckley (Frances Lincoln Ltd)
This books takes you into some of the prettiest areas of the Lakes, focusing on areas where Beatrix Potter stayed, lived and based her little books. You'll visit farms and walk over land the writer owned, now mostly in the hands of the National Trust, at Sawrey, Hawkshead, Coniston and Troutbeck, but also at Newlands and Derwentwater, which provided the inspiration for Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and Squirrel Nutkin. The book is packed with photographs and of course illustrations from the books for fans young and old.
Walking with Wordsworth by Norman and June Buckley (Frances Lincoln Ltd)
After Wainwright, Wordsworth is probably the most famous Lakeland walker, covering miles to visit friends including fellow poets Coleridge and Southey in Keswick. The walks in this book do not trace his epic tours, instead focusing on short rambles at locations associated with his life, so there is his birthplace in Cockermouth, Hawkshead, where he went to school, several around his homes in Grasmere and Rydal, and Pooley Bridge, where other friends lived. One of the most fun rambles for children is the easy 4-miler along the eastern shore of Derwentwater to Lodore, where you can visit the falls, have cake at the hotel then catch the launch back on the lake to Keswick.
In the Footsteps of Swallows and Amazons by Claire Kendall-Price (Wildcat Publishing)
Continuing the literary theme, this offers the tantalising opportunity to try and find locations in Arthur Ransome's adventure series. Ransome himself never revealed the exact settings of Wild Cat Island, Swallowdale, the Knickerbockerbreaker and so on, leaving readers and walkers to turn detective in true Swallows spirit. Each walk gets a flag rating for its difficulty level, 1 flag being for "accompanying Great Aunts (or for those recently released from quarantine)", though not all are circular. It's packed with information, photographs and illustrations, and includes a route to Ransome's last resting place at Rusland.
South Lakeland Walks with Children by Nick Lambert
This is a great guide for families with younger children - the walks are short (many just 2 or 3 miles) and each one comes with signposts of things to look out for (marked by smiley faces), hints on how to identify different plants and trees, and checklists of things to find or spot en route - walking as education! The instructions are very clear and detailed so there's no chance of getting lost and there are even escape routes if those little legs just can't go the distance.
Good Walk, Good Pub: South Lakes by Meg Brady (Footstep Publishing)
Although aimed at adults, most pubs are child-friendly these days, so this is an opportunity to get older children trying more challenging, longer walks. They're categorised into easy, moderate and strenuous and, of course, each one has a pub recommendation generally half way round the route where you can refresh and revive before the return leg. The routes are shown in prints from OS maps and illustrated with colour photographs. My gripe is that my copy fell apart fairly early on - they may have fixed that with later versions but the last thing you want is the instructions blowing away on the wind when you're far from home...
Short Walks in The Lake District (Collins)
A pocket-size book that uses OS maps to show the routes, its 20 walks are spread across the Lakes as far as Loweswater into north west across to Aira Force near Ullswater and south as far as Coniston. Distances are short but you'll have to decide if your young ones will still be up for them after a long car journey to some of the start points. Attractive photographs throughout.
Teashop Walks in the Lake District by Ron Freethy (Countryside Books)
The promise of cake at the end of the walk is often incentive enough to get children walking and these routes all end with the promise of goodies to restore them. Typically 3 or 4 miles long, there are some pleasant strolls from child-friendly start points including the National Park centre at Brockhole and the working watermill at Little Salkeld.
Walks Around… Ambleside by Tom Bowker, Windermere by Robert Gambles, Coniston by Mary Welsh (Dalesman)
With just 10 walks each, the beauty of these little books is their lightness to carry when, no doubt, you're already weighed down with plenty of other paraphernalia. All under 6 miles and some as short as just 1.5 miles, the instructions are mercifully comprehensive as the maps are hopeless.
Pub Walks and Cycle Rides: The Lake District & Cumbria (AA)
This is a well laid out guide for people with energetic kids who want to both walk and cycle on holiday. Focused on the Western and South Lakes, there are 15 cycle routes and 25 walks each with a 1, 2 or 3 difficulty rating. Every one comes with a hotel or pub recommendation with extra information about facilities for families and tips on other places to visit in the vicinity.