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Things to do in Buttermere Valley

Two young girls play along the pebbly Buttermere shore with their bright red wellies
Enjoying a sunny day by the shore at Buttermere | © National Trust / Paul Harris

Explore a range of walks and rugged landscapes in the Lake District's Buttermere Valley. From panoramic views at Lanthwaite Wood to the thundering beauty of the waterfall crashing down at Moss Force, there’s an adventure to be discovered no matter what season it is. Find tranquillity in the woods or stand in awe at the forces of nature that surround you.


With its lonely pines and cloud-capped pikes, Buttermere is a place for reflection.

Buttermere lakeshore walk

Buttermere offers one of the best round-the-lake walks in the Lake District. The lakeshore path circles the lake for 4.5 miles (7km) with one very short stretch on the road and one 'rock step' (short scramble) where you may have to use your hands. We recommend that you allow 3 hours to stop and drink in the views along the way. The walk is relatively easy and level with a great 'reward for effort' ratio.

Walking with children? We recommend going anticlockwise around the lake. Start your journey through the woods where you'll be a bit more sheltered from any wind. Then on the way back towards the village you have the added excitement of a tunnel which was carved out in the 19th century by a Manchester mill owner.

Please bear in mind that each year we close a short stretch of permissive footpath along the north edge of Buttermere Lake from the beginning of April through to the end of June to provide a sanctuary for nesting sandpipers. Take a look at these alternative waymarked routes during this period.

On your bike

The footpath through Burtness Woods along the side of Buttermere has been upgraded to a bridleway so you can enjoy a car-free ride.

Ridge with a view

The most popular view is looking down the lake towards Fleetwith Pike, which drops in a near vertical cliff down from the summit towards the infamous Honister Pass.

The lush green fields beside the lake nestle beneath a lowering natural amphitheatre of black rock where Fleetwith meets Haystacks, described by Alfred Wainwright as 'the best fell top of all'.

Though usually climbed from Buttermere, you can also access Haystacks from Honister via the old quarry tramway.

A family walk along the path by the shores of Buttermere on a sunny day with views out to the fells beyond
Visitors enjoying a walk by the edge of Buttermere | © National Trust / Paul Harris

Sourmilk Gill

Sourmilk Gill is impossible to miss. It thunders down nearly 400m (1,300ft) of steep fellside from Bleaberry Tarn to Buttermere in one headlong cascade through the trees. When it’s in spate, you can appreciate its full power. During the 2009 floods it brought pink granite boulders the size of microwaves crashing down from Red Pike until it filled the channel beneath the footbridge.

There is a pitched footpath up beside Sourmilk Gill to Bleaberry Tarn, but it’s very steep and the stones can be extremely slippery in wet conditions.

Moss Force

Take the narrow winding Newlands Pass to the layby right at the top at Newlands Hause (except during icy conditions). From the layby you get a great view of Moss Force crashing down a dramatic black crag from High Snockrigg. There’s also a short path that will lead you closer to the falls but bear in mind that it will be very slippery in wet conditions.

Crummock Water

Discover one of the most jaw-dropping beach-side views in the Lakes.

Lanthwaite Wood

A half-mile level walk from Lanthwaite Wood car park is one of the best beach-side views in the Lakes. The woodland suddenly opens up with a view right down Crummock Water. The panorama includes Grassmoor, Rannerdale Knotts, Red Pike and Mellbreak.

If you're feeling really adventurous, you can continue for the 9-mile walk round the lake which includes bog-hopping and scrambling.

Or go on a 4.5-mile walk to Rannerdale Common and take in the views from Brackenthwaite Hows on your return.

Rannerdale Knotts

Situated between Buttermere and Crummock Water lies Rannerdale Knotts, offering far-reaching views and peace and quiet.

From the top of Rannerdale Knotts, you can see three lakes and many higher and more famous peaks – notably Haystacks – plus a picturesque ‘Secret Valley’.

Rannerdale ‘Secret Valley’

Just behind Rannerdale Knotts is the 'Secret Valley' of Rannerdale. It is said that local settlers and Norsemen resisted invasion from the Normans: they lured them into the valley and slaughtered them all. Between April and May, the valley is covered in bluebells and local legend has it that this is because of the blood spilt here. Please help us protect the Rannerdale bluebells by keeping to the footpaths.

Hause Point

Hause Point, the lakeside crag near Rannerdale, was where Victorian tourists embarked on boats across Crummock Water to the narrow gorge of Scale Beck where it enters the lake.

Scale Force

On the west side of Crummock is Scale Force, the tallest single-drop waterfall in the Lake District with a height of 170ft (51.8m) set back in a narrow rock gorge above Crummock Water. William Wordsworth described it as 'a fine chasm with a lofty but slender fall'.

There are several paths that lead up to the waterfall but be aware that this involves scrambling up a large boulder which is often slimy with moss. A safer experience is to stand on the footbridge and listen to the roar of the water echoing in the gorge.

There and back, it takes two hours to visit Scale Force From Buttermere car park, but the waterfall can be included into a longer walk around Crummock Water or even up to the summit of Red Pike.

View from the Corpse Road down to Loweswater, Cumbria
View from the Corpse Road down to Loweswater, Cumbria | © National Trust / Jonathon McMeekin


Loweswater is a peaceful little lake with a specially upgraded accessible footpath thanks to the Miles Without Stiles project. It is the only lake in the Lake District where the water flows back into the park and away from the sea.

Holme Wood

There is a circular walk around the lake which follows the lake shore and makes its way through Holme Wood, a small mixed woodland which runs down the south-west side of Loweswater. The woodland paths around Loweswater are accessible for all – perfect for a family stroll or a low-level walk on a day when the cloud is low.

Holme Force

A gentle walk into the wood leads to Holme Force, a waterfall which is rarely visited as it isn’t noticeable from the lakeside path. Its local name is the Grey Mare's Tail.

Holme Force is the least known of the waterfalls in the valley, but worth a visit for the forest track leading to the base of a series of falls. These falls spout from the moss-covered rock arches, forming a series of pools.

Stay for the weekend

Right on the lakeshore in Holme Wood is a little stone bothy heated by an open fire. This is a National Trust camping barn which you can rent out for a short break in the wild. Wake up with a coffee on the beach as the sun comes up or sip a glass of wine while doing some stargazing. It's simple, but beautiful.

Views over Buttermere Lake, Cumbria.

Discover more at Buttermere Valley

Find out how to get to Buttermere Valley, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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