Long weekend camping in the Lake District

lake district hiking weekend

A bank holiday in the UK is always a good excuse to get out of the city, I’m not British but I always say that the UK has some incredibly beautiful places and that not all the time we need to escape to exotic locations, to go camping in the Lake District is a perfect active weekend break option in the UK.

This was a weekend that felt as being in two different continents…

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For this long weekend break from London, I packed up my rucksack and drove with a friend right after work on a Friday evening.

There are some free parking spots in the Lake District (find them here) so at the end of the day, it may be (it was for us) cheaper to drive than going by train or bus.

We choose to leave the car in the Cow Bridge parking spot, which is a short walk from Patterdale.

MY CAMPING ESSENTIALS

As we arrived at around 1am we stayed sleeping in the car, not the comfiest thing to do when you rent the cheapest/smallest car on offer, but hey! this is not about comfort but a little adventure!

The idea for this trip was to do some wild camping in the Lake District, please note that wild camping is not allowed in England and Wales and I do not condone it 😉 but if you happen to do it, just try to pitch your tent somewhere remote, at the end of the day and packing your tent again early in the morning.

Needless to say, do not leave any traces of your stay, do not even think of lighting a fire or leaving any rubbish behind and when you go to the “toilet” do it far from water sources.

Familiarise yourself with the Leave No Trace principles.

Day 1: Cow Bridge – Patterdale – Helvellyn

Waking up on the Saturday morning couldn’t be any better, the sun was gloriously shining and the conditions were terrific for a good hike. Our hiking and camping in the Lake District adventure was starting just perfect!

The plan was to go towards one of the most famous spots in the park, Helvellyn.

We started from the parking lot walking about 30min to Patterdale, a quick coffee and then follow the road that goes left after you pass the church.

Keep straight and after a few minutes you will find a fork in the road with one of the few signals pointing right towards Helvellyn. In no time you will finally leave the roads behind and start on a path surrounded by lush green fields.

From that point it will be pretty much a constant climb, not technical nor too steep so you can enjoy yourself, take a rest every now and then and absorb the landscape.

After about 90min since the start, you arrive to the Hole-in-the-Wall and get the first wonderful glimpse of Helvellyn and soon after the Red Tarn. This is a great spot to sit, relax and see some stunning 360 views of the area.

From here you start the most technical bit of the hike as well as the most scenic, we took the Striding Edge, it’s not really dangerous as someone pointed out down in Patterdale, but it’s important just to go with care.

Surely it must be a lot more dangerous if you happen to have a super windy day. It’s worth noticing that even that the day was stunning, from the start of the ridge to the top of Helvellyn it got chilly so do not leave your layers behind!

After a relaxing lunch stop at the top, we followed the path north instead of taking the Swirral Edge as we wanted to walk more and camp back by the Red Tarn.

After about a couple of hours, late in the day, the place was pretty much for ourselves and we pitched my tent. We still had a couple of hours of daylight, enough to take a dip (I cannot really call that a swim) in the freezing cold Red Tarn, then a super relaxing read under the sun by the lakeside.

What an incredible spot to stay camping in the Lake District!

As soon as the sun set behind Helvellyn the temperature quickly dropped and we headed inside the tent for dinner, cards and some good Scotch!

It was a fantastic hiking day, little did we know on what the weather had prepared for us.

Day 2: Helvellyn – Glenridding – Angle Tarn

Day 2 started at around 3am, with heavy rains and even stronger winds waking us up. I managed to sleep and wake up several times until morning came, when we were literally holding the tent with our arms as the winds were pushing it down against us.

Definitely the strongest winds I have faced on a tent (including my camping days in Torres del Paine).

After a couple of hours we realised the storm was not going to stop so we planned a strategy to un-pitch the tent from the inside out, to avoid it getting wet as we still had another night ahead wild camping in the Lake District, it kind of worked!

From that point we started hiking up towards Hole-in-the-Wall and then towards Glenridding.

This was a slightly cold walk with some parts of heavy rain that were actually painful on our faces. Even so, it was awesome, the landscape atmosphere was completely different to the previous day but not any less beautiful, with the mist adding a dramatic effect so characteristic of the stereotyped British countryside. 

After about 90min we arrived to Glenridding, stopped for lunch by the river and headed towards a pub for a drink aiming for the rain to stop.

About an hour later we saw that this was definitely not going to happen and we decided to continue our hike under the rain to Angle Tarn.

This hike is relatively easy, starting from Patterdale, you find the school and turn left to a less transited path that heads towards the side farm campsite, there’s little shop there in case you need to buy anything.

From this point it’s constantly up for about an hour. Once you reach the first “summit” it’s important to keep right following a small stream which has a tiny waterfall.

There are no signs there indicating the way to Angle Tarn and there are a few possible paths to take, the Angle Tarn one is pretty much the smallest and almost hidden.

misty angle tarn lake district

After about an 45 min or so of gentle climbs and a few flat areas going on the right edge of the mountain, there will be a 90 degree turn and in 5 more minutes you will arrive to this little place of heaven!

We arrived at around 5pm so it was pretty deserted. I came here a month before and saw quite a few tents, but tonight it was only us and 2 more tents.

It’s a shame that the rain didn’t stop at all until the following day as this place it’s absolutely beautiful and we didn’t have much out-of-tent time without rain. By now we were thoroughly soaked even that we had our waterproofs and were not really feeling the need to stay outside getting wetter.

This day felt as if we were in a complete different continent to the previous one.

angle tarn

Pro tip: no matter the time of the year in the UK, always prepare for the worst weather conditions and only hope for the best!

Day 3: Angle Tarn – Cow Bridge

The third day of our long weekend camping in the Lake District maintained the same story weather-wise, I was lucky enough to go out of the tent early in the morning for 5 min and it was the only brief period of sunshine, afterwards, the rain and fog quickly returned.

This was a very short day, with about 90 min in total of walking towards the parking lot.

We didn’t want to leave too late fearing the traffic going back to London and it was a good decision as we made it back in just under 8 hours (yes, we still got a little bit of traffic)

wild camping lake district

All in all, including the weather, it was a terrific trip and I highly recommend you to visit this stunning part of the UK and stay camping in the Lake District.

These were just a couple of routes, but the area is full of paths and I’m sure that if you have several days to visit you can keep walking without having to repeat any path.

Take a look at my other posts about camping around the world for more ideas on your next trip! and feel free to drop any commnets or questions below! 🙂

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