Camping gives you a chance to get outdoors and immerse in Mother Nature. Perhaps one of the most stunning places in the United Kingdom to pitch a tent is the Lakes District. It’s a region known for its fantastic hiking, moss-swathed mountains, and pristine lakes.
There is no shortage of exploration awaiting campers in the Lake District. Home to England’s tallest peak, Scafell Pike, and Wastwater, its deepest lake, it’s easy to see that the Lake District is synonymous with outdoor recreation.
Getting out amongst the elements is one thing, but eating and sleeping amongst them is something else altogether. Camping brings your self-powered adventures to the next level. By camping in the Lake District, you get to partake in all the outdoor recreation that exists day after day while contributing to the region’s primary source of income (tourism).
The thought of preparing for a camping trip, especially if it’s your first, might be a little daunting, especially when you consider all the gear you need, knowing where to pitch your tent and all the details in between.
But don’t worry! This guide will walk you through it all so that you head out ready and prepared to enjoy the Lake District in all its glory, where you can bask in unforgettable nights under the stars.
When to go camping in the Lake District
It’s best to go camping in the Lake District in July when the temperatures are warm, and there is less chance of heavy rainfall. There are fewer crowds come early autumn. But, sadly, with fewer people comes moodier weather.
Types of camping
There are two main kinds of camping: backpacking and car camping. Car camping is when you load up your vehicle and drive to a campsite, unload, and enjoy. Backpacking involves carrying everything you need for camping in a backpack and hiking to a camping spot, unpacking, and enjoying. Both are incredible experiences!
Why is this important? Knowing what kind of camping you’ll be doing will significantly impact your packing! The gear you might bring with you car camping won’t necessarily work for backpacking. It might be too heavy or too bulky for your backpack. All the items on this list are functional for both kinds of camping unless marked otherwise.
Within these two kinds of camping are other “categories”. For instance, wild camping is a term that refers to heading out and pitching your tent in the thick of nowhere without a designated campsite. For campers in the United Kingdom, this is technically illegal anywhere outside of Scotland and Dartmoor National Park in the south of England, meaning you can’t wild camp legally in the Lakes District.
The opposite of wild camping is “campsite camping”. Campsite camping typically comes with the perks of indoor plumbing, i.e. communal toilets and showers. There is also, usually, onsite electricity which comes in handy if you need to charge anything. There are approximately 70 campgrounds in the Lake District that hire campsites with varying amenities.
Where to camp in the Lake District
The campground you choose will depend entirely on where you wish to base yourself within the region. Many enthusiastic hikers base themselves near Scafell Pike, as it is considered a bucket list climb in the United Kingdom. However, there are plenty of impressive hikes and water activities to do no matter where you end up. Here are a few campsites that make great bases for hikers.
Central/West Lake District
Church Stile Farm & Holiday Park: Church Stile is an excellent option for families, as the campgrounds have a playground for children to enjoy. The campground is also an option for those travelling with animals since it’s pet-friendly. There are communal showers and toilets, which are cleaned twice daily. Church Stile is a short, 15-minute drive from the Wasdale Trailhead for Scafell Pike and from Wastwater Lake. At the Wasdale Trailhead, you can also opt to hike to Igill Head, Great End, and Kirk Fell. Other nearby trails include Seatallan, Scoat Fell, Red Pike, and Pillar.
If you aren’t keen to cook your meals while camping, Church Stile is close to several local pubs and restaurants, including The Wind Olive Italian restaurant, The White Mare pub, and Ritson’s Bar.
Small tent pitches cost £16 per night. Large tent pitches cost £20, £24 with electrical hookup.
Wasdale National Trust Campground: This is the most recommended campsite in the area due to it being steps away from the Wasdale trailhead for Scafell Pike. From the campgrounds, you can also hit trails for Illgill Head, Great End, and Kirk Fell. It’s also close to Great Gable, a well-known hike with a commemorative plaque at its summit to memorialize the fallen of the First World War. Wastwater Lake is just around the corner from the campground, meaning campers can reach it by walking or a quick drive up the road.
Like Church Stile, it’s got clean, regularly serviced toilets and showers for campers to use. Pets and families are all welcome at Wasdale. A minimum stay of 2 nights is required for booking; 3 nights minimum if you are camping over a Bank Holiday.
Tent pitches cost between £10-26 depending on the season when you camp and the size of your tent. There is an additional £5 fee if you require an electrical hookup.
South Lake District
The Quiet Site: This campsite is only 15-minutes from the M6, but still encapsulates all the Lake District’s serene, enchanting atmosphere. Campers at The Quiet Site will enjoy beautiful views of Ullswater Lake. The Quiet Site also offers electric hookups, access to laundry facilities, and WiFi, so you can check your email or figure out where to go hiking.
Tent pitches cost roughly £40 per night.
Hawkshead Hall Campsite: (Currently unable to accept tents due to COVID-19.) This sizeable grassy campground doesn’t only have fantastic views of Windermere Lake; it has equally excellent amenities. There are laundry services, a TV room with internet for those who need to unwind after a big hike, and showers with hair dryers. Hawkshead has a designated area for dishwashing, is pet-friendly, and offers electrical hookup (for an additional fee).
Tent pitches cost £20 per night (£25 with electrical hookup) in the low season and £22 per night (£27.50 with electrical hookup) in the high season.
You can book your campsite through Campsites.co.uk or the individual campgrounds’ website.
Gear For Camping in the Lake District
How to get your gear
Getting quality gear for camping trips is essential. You’ll want to stay dry, warm, and bug-free. But just because you want good gear doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune. Buy previously-loved and gently-used items from Facebook Marketplace or consignment shops. And take your time searching for discounts on gear. Investing in quality gear will make a difference in your camping experience—the more comfortable you are on your camping trip, the more you will want to get out and do it again.
Must have gear for camping in the Lake District
Basic gear you need to have for any camping trip include:
- Sleeping bag
- Tent – Unfortunately, most tent sizes are based solely on the number of people sleeping and don’t account for things like your backpacks, food storage, etc. Consider how much gear you have, the number of people with you, and the size of your campsite.
- Cooking set
- Mini propane stove – This is especially important if you are camping in an area that has fire restrictions or if you’re new to camping and don’t feel confident cooking over/starting a fire
- First aid kit – This is the item you might think you need, until that moment when you need it. Bring a little kit in case of cuts or bites, and you’ll feel better for being prepared.
- Bug spray – Getting eaten to bits by bugs on a camping trip is possibly the easiest way to ruin your time. All-natural bug sprays do exist and are both better for your body and the environment, so we suggest this option.
- Sunscreen – Another easy way to ruin a camping trip is getting a painful sunburn. Even when you are camping with heavy cloud coverage, you should always wear sun protection.
- Toilet paper and hand sanitizer – Needs no explanation, does it?
- Trash/rubbish bag – Pack out whatever you pack in. But you can even do more than that—if you see trash lying on a trail, pick it up and pack it out.
- Flashlight/torch/headlamp – No one likes to wake up in the middle of the night for a wilder wee without being able to see where they are going. Anytime you’re out in the wilderness after the sun has set, it’s a good idea to have a flashlight with you to prevent yourself from rolling an ankle or running into unexpected wildlife.
- A good backpack – When we say “good”, we mean one that is the right size and fit for you.
- Sleeping pad – Elevate your camping experience with a sleeping pad! They add comfort, back and hip support, and an extra layer between your thin tent material and the ground. You won’t regret packing a sleeping pad along.
Camp clothing must-haves for the Lake District
Ever heard the saying “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”? Yeah, well it rings extra true for campers in the Lakes District, where it’s known for its unexpected rain showers even on what appears to be the clearest of days. You really do get what you pay for when it comes to camping clothing.
You don’t want to get caught out and about without these items:
- Hiking boots – Ideally with ankle support and durable soles
- Puffer jacket or a sweater to wear under your raincoat, depending on the weather
- Rain gear – Think rain pants and a rain jacket
- Wool socks – Because cotton and water are a deadly combination
- Slip-on shoes – For late-night runs to the toilet or for walking around your campsite
Food and outdoor cooking
Food cooked outdoors tastes terrific. There’s something about the effort it takes to prepare a meal over a fire or propane stove that makes the food taste that much better. When you’re considering food and ingredients to bring along, only look into simple recipes that require minimal preparation. A shortlist of food ingredients will also help cut down on your packing.
Groceries are much more expensive if you buy them from the corner shops dotting the Lake District. So, we recommend doing your supermarket shop in larger towns like Kendal or Windermere.
There are two primary safety tips you should know before you start ironing your apron: 1) avoid cooking inside a tent and 2) don’t use your stove to heat your tent, no matter how cold it gets.
Before you head out
As you’re loading up your vehicle or packing things away, check all your gear and supplies. Make sure your tent doesn’t have any tears and that you have all the poles. Double-check the rules of your campsite, or make sure you’ve done your due diligence if you’re wild camping. Does your flashlight have batteries? Is your camera charged? These are all items worth noting to ensure you have the best time!
What to do while camping in the Lake District
You’ve got all your gear and have made it to the Lake District, now what?
Consider hiking these routes:
Consider these adventure tours in the Lake District:
- Hadrian’s Wall & the Lake District
- Hadrian’s Wall Walking Tour
- National Parks of the UK Walking Tour
- Northumberland and the Lake District Walking Tour
Consider these water adventures:
- Gorge scrambling with Path to Adventure, in Holmbrook
- Aqua Sailing and canoeing with Mere Mountains, in Kendal
- Kayaking with Activities in Lakeland, in Windermere
We hope you enjoy your camping adventure in the Lake District!
Written by Tara Tadlock from Sillylittlekiwi.com.