The 13 valleys of the Lake District World Heritage Site

The Lake District is home to 13 valleys. Although you may think they look quite similar, in fact, they're all very different. Here's their brief history, and how they make up the newly designated World Heritage Site (2017).

Thorneythwaite Farm

Borrowdale & Bassenthwaite 

The largest of the 13 Lakeland valleys, Borrowdale and Bassenthwaite extends from the high fells of Rossett Pike and Esk Hause in the south to the northern edge of the Caldbeck Fells and the wide, coastal plain of the Solway Firth.

Sunlight shining into Buttermere Valley

Buttermere Valley 

Nestling serenely in the north-west corner of the Lake District, Buttermere’s classic U-shaped glacial valley contains not one but three lakes - Buttermere, Crummock Water and Loweswater.

View of Coniston Water


Lying in the central southern part of the Lake District, the valley of Coniston and its linear, glacial lake, Coniston Water, is guarded by the high, rugged fells of Coniston Old Man and Wetherlam and overlooked by extensive woodlands and forest plantations.

A view of Duddon Valley with harter fell

Duddon Valley  

Also known as Dunnerdale, the more intimate and narrow valley of the River Duddon has no lake of its own and is enclosed at its head by the rugged high fells of Harter Fell, Ulpha Fell and Grey Friar, with two of England’s highest mountain passes meeting here at Cockley Beck.

Tawhouse Farm


Eskdale is a mixed and dramatic landscape, going from steep, craggy and volcanic uplands, through softer, broader land and down to its wide open, tidal estuary at Ravenglass.



Tucked into the central far west of the Lake District, Ennerdale runs east to west from the high central fells to the rolling hills and moorland of West Cumbria and the Irish Sea coastal plain. Perhaps key to the very special feel of the place is the fact that it’s the only major Lake District valley to have no public road along it.

The fells towering above Lake Windermere

Grasmere, Rydal and Ambleside Valley  

Running north to south from the pass of Dunmail Raise, the classic glacial U-shaped valley that contains the popular tourist spots of Grasmere and Ambleside lies at the heart of the English Lake District.

View into the Langdale Valley from the fellside


Langdale takes its name from the Old Norse term for ‘long valley’. Located right at the heart of the Lake District, this classic, stunning example of a U-shaped glacial valley was described by John Ruskin as '…the loveliest rock scenery, chased with silver waterfalls, that I ever set foot or heart upon'.



Although relatively small in size, the valley of Thirlmere, formerly known as Wythburn, is dominated by its large reservoir and its looming, steep-sided fells.

Wooded valley and lake in Cumbria


Ullswater carves a roughly north-eastward path from the high central fells of the Helvellyn and High Street massif to meet the gentle Eden Valley. The 9 mile (14.5km), dog-legged lake that shares the valley name is the second largest in the Lake District, after Windermere.

Hills reflected in the surface of a lake in Cumbria


Wasdale, in the far western Lake District, is a valley of extremes. England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, looks down on England’s deepest lake, Wastwater. But it’s also a place of contrasts. The high, jagged fells that belong to the Borrowdale Volcanic Group abruptly give way, as the valley runs southwest, to a gentle, wooded, pastoral landscape including large country houses, gardens and parkland. The scene opens out further as the valley runs into the estuary where the rivers Irt and Mite meet the sea.

View of Windermere


Reaching southwards from the central mountain core of the Lake District down to the sea, the Windermere valley is a vast and varied landscape, featuring, as its glorious centrepiece, England’s longest and largest natural lake.

Herdwick Hogg sheep at West Lakes, Duddon Vallley


Like Thirlmere, Haweswater is a reservoir valley, flooded in 1935 to create a long, curving body of water running south-west to north-east. It is a tranquil, less visited corner of the Lake District lying on the region’s north-east edge. Its lack of farms and inbye grazing along the reservoir’s entire length lends most of Haweswater a sense of wilderness.


An introduction to the Lake District World Heritage Site 

The Lake District was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in early July 2017. It is now part of a special family of iconic places across the planet, like the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, Easter Island, the Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon and many other world famous locations.