3 days in the Lake District might not seem like a lot of time. But if you plan that time wisely, you can still achieve a lot during your trip. In this guide, I share our own tried & tested Lake District itinerary, including things to do, where to eat, and the best places to stay!
Our recent trip to the Lake District was our first time visiting. It was somewhere that had always been on our radar, but we’d never made it a priority. To be honest, we didn’t realise quite how magnificent it is.
The lakes have everything that we love about a place. Idyllic lakes, quaint countryside villages, and adventurous hikes up into the mountains.
This 3 day Lake District itinerary combines a bit of all those things. It’s ideal for couples, solo travellers, first-time visitors, and anybody else who wants to spend a long weekend in the Lake District.
So let’s get to it and jump into our tried and tested Lake District itinerary.
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Is 3 Days in the Lake District Enough?
It’s easy to underestimate the size of the Lake District National Park. At 2,362 km², it’s pretty damn big.
It boasts over 200 fells (mountains), 20+ lakes & bodies of water, and around 28,500 hectares of woodland.
It’s impossible to see everything in just 3 days. You’ll want to be smart when planning your Lake District itinerary and prioritise what you want from your trip.
My best advice if you only plan on spending 3 days in the Lake District is to focus your time in one area.
This will save travel time and allow you to get to know one place really well without feeling rushed.
That is precisely what we did. We stayed in Buttermere with our self-converted campervan and focused on exploring the surrounding area.
With that in mind, this guide focuses on our adventures in Buttermere, Keswick, and Derwentwater.
Tips & Advice for this Lake District Itinerary
Before I show you how to spend an unforgettable 3 days in the Lake District, here are some of my top tips for visiting.
Best Time to Visit the Lake District
The best time of year to visit the Lake District is during the summer, when you have the greatest chance of warm & dry weather.
Having said that, this is the UK, so there are no guarantees. The Lake District climate, in particular, is unreliable and generally much wetter and cooler than other parts of the UK *sad face*.
The Lake District is beautiful regardless of the weather. But if you’re hoping to do a lot of hiking on your trip, it’s favourable that you have clear and dry conditions.
We struck the Jackpot during our recent trip in June. Temperatures soared to 25 degrees, with very little rain or wind.
It all comes down to the luck of the draw. But if you visit between June and September, I’d say you’re in for a good chance of decent weather.
Getting Around the Lake District
Unsurprisingly, the best and easiest way of getting around the Lake District is by car.
While sketchy at times, the narrow mountain roads are the epitome of #roadtripgoals. Magnificent vistas, verdant valleys, and lush countryside await at every turn.
I’m not joking when I say they are sketchy though, so do be careful. You might find them easier to navigate in a car, but we certainly had some squeaky bum moments in our camper.
Not only are they narrow, but their steep in places too. Some inclines are as dramatic as 33%. Every time Ventura (our van) struggled up those roads, we prayed that no car would come the other way!
If you don’t have a car, don’t panic! Actually, this Lake District itinerary is doable without a car. You can get to most places on foot, and where you can’t, there’s a local bus.
Yes, buses operate in the Lake District, so it shows that the roads can’t be THAT bad. I think our jaws hit the floor when we first saw one speeding along the mountain pass.
Where to Stay
Since this Lake District itinerary takes place first in Keswick and then in Buttermere, it makes sense to stay 1 or 2 nights in both of these areas.
There is no shortage of places to stay around Keswick. Buttermere, on the other hand, is a bit more limited, therefore, booking in advance is recommended.
We camped in Buttermere in our campervan for the entirety of our trip, so I can’t personally recommend anywhere to stay.
Internet in the Lake District
Before heading to the Lake District, you should know that the phone signal is almost non-existent. In fact, we only got signal on our phones when we were high up in the hills.
Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing! It’s the perfect excuse to disconnect and be present. But if you haven’t done much pre-planning, it can be a bit of a pain.
So my advice is to pre-plan everything! But I guess that’s why you’re here. Which reminds me, don’t forget to save this article so you can revisit it whenever you need it.
You might also want to take note of my Lake District essentials below, as there are a few handy recommendations in there as well.
Lake District Essentials
There’s no one-size-fits-all regarding the perfect Lake District itinerary, but the chances are most of you will have similar activities in mind.
This list covers the basic essentials for most people visiting the lakes. But depending on your plans, some of you might need more, and others might need less.
Lake District Tours
Sometimes, the best way to experience a new place is to take a guided tour.
Not only does it take all the stress out of planning, but you usually learn a lot more about the area than you would when exploring alone.
When we book tours, we always use Get Your Guide. They have a diverse and unique selection of tours in locations all over the world, including the Lake District. Check them out!
Save Time and Book a Tour
For a more local experience, we recommend checking out the guided tours on Get Your Guide:
Suggested 3-Day Lake District Itinerary
The best things to do in the Lake District involve walking amongst the hills, relaxing by the lakeside, and meandering the historic villages.
This suggested itinerary combines all of those things and, while mainly geared toward the more active visitor, can easily be adapted to suit your preferences.
Day 1: Keswick Town, Derwentwater & Catbells Hike
Day 2: Buttermere Lake, Waterfalls, & Swimming
Day 3: Hiking & Crummock Water
Day 1 of 3 in the Lake District
Catbells Hike, Derwentwater & Keswick Town
Assuming you spent the night locally, your day will start bright and early with a substantial and nutritious breakfast.
If you haven’t eaten at your hotel, the Filling Station Cafe and Merienda come highly recommended.
Today is a busy exploration day so pack a day pack with all the hiking essentials. Don’t forget water, snacks, a first aid kit, a camera, and raincoats.
From Keswick town centre, you can either walk to the foot of Catbells or drive and park at Hawes End. It’s advised to arrive early, though, as parking is very limited.
Another option is to hop on the Keswick Launch – A 10-minute boat journey that transports walkers across the water.
While there are plenty of exciting hikes in this area, Catbells is probably the most popular.
It’s not without reason since it’s a fairly accessible hike and offers some of the best views in all of the Lake District.
If you’re a new or inexperienced hiker, Catbells is a great starting point. At 451 metres, it’s by no means a walk in the park. But the trail is easy to navigate and requires little technical ability.
Old, young, two legs or four, Catbells is a hike that all the family can enjoy. But check this guide to Catbells first to ensure you’re fully prepared.
More experienced hikers might find Catbells a little tame, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Regardless of your abilities, you’re sure to be charmed by the landscape scenery it has to offer.
To make the hike more difficult, you can always combine it with more of the surrounding fells, such as Maiden Moor or High Spy.
Derwentwater is the lake that runs along the eastern edge of Catbells and is the perfect spot to cool off post-hike.
You can actually complete a circular walk that ascends Catbells via Skelgil Bank and then descends south via the south trail and into Manesty Park.
Eventually, you’ll wind up on the shoreline trail, where you’ll find plenty of remote areas suitable for a dip. Be wary of motorboats on the water, and don’t stray too far from shore.
Keswick Town Centre
Conclude the day meandering Keswick Town Centre.
Keswick is a charming market town with historic landmarks and quaint independent shops. There are also plenty of bars, pubs, and restaurants to keep you entertained of an evening.
Market day is on Saturday, but we were there mid-week, and the town still had a great vibe.
We enjoyed a fabulous pub grub dinner at the Pack Horse Inn, just what we needed after a strenuous hike!
Day 2 of 3 in the Lake District
Buttermere Lake, Waterfalls, & Swimming
You might be a little tired after yesterday’s hike, so today’s itinerary is a little more relaxed.
After breakfast, take a scenic drive along the Newlands Pass into Buttermere. I suggest Newlands Pass as this will allow you to stop by Moss Force Waterfall.
If you’re not bothered about seeing the waterfall, you can take the Honister Pass instead. Both are equally beautiful drives, so you could always take one road in and the other on the way out.
Moss Force Waterfall
We accidentally stumbled across this waterfall after a beautifully scenic drive along the Newlands Pass.
Naturally, we had to check it out and were thrilled when we found a place to park right along the roadside.
Since this was an unexpected adventure, we weren’t at all kitted out for another hike. But that didn’t stop us from following the path where you can walk right up to the waterfall.
We were there in late June, and there’d not been much rain. I imagine during the wetter months, it would make for an even more impressive sight.
After spending some time at the waterfall, continue along the pass and into Buttermere.
They will likely have free parking if you’re staying somewhere in the village. Otherwise, there are a couple of pay & displays and even free lay-bys if you don’t mind hunting for one.
We parked by the neighbouring lake, Crummock. It’s a 10-15 minute walk from Buttermere Lake, but it’s less busy, so there’s more chance of finding a free parking spot.
Once you’re parked up, it’s time to enjoy your day. I suggest starting with a walk around Buttermere Lake and enjoying its surrounding landscapes.
Encompassed by famous peaks like Haystacks and High Stile, the views are utterly breathtaking! There’s also another waterfall – Scale Force waterfall – so it’s an exciting walk.
It’s a 4.5-mile circular walk around the lake, but there’s little elevation, so it doesn’t take too much effort. Of course, you could always hike up the hills if you feel like you have the energy.
Alternatively, you might want to chill out for the day around the lake if you get lucky with the weather.
Buttermere is quite remote compared to other lakes in the region, so there are plenty of opportunities to relax, take a dip, or enjoy a picnic without being disturbed.
When you are ready for refreshments, there are a couple of cafes and a pub serving food in the village. There isn’t any shop, so take any supplies you might need with you.
If you want to continue with our suggested Lake District itinerary, I recommend spending the night in Buttermere.
Day 3 of 3 in the Lake District
More Hiking & Crummock Water
It’s your 3rd and final day in the Lake District. First things first… breakfast!
If breakfast isn’t included where you are staying, I can recommend Sykes Farm Tea Room in Buttermere village. They open at 9 and have delicious breakfast options.
From there, I suggest conquering one of the local hikes or walks. You can take your pick as there are plenty to choose from.
Experienced and able hikers will undoubtedly want to conquer one or more of the surrounding fells: Fleetwith Pike, High Stile, or Haystacks, to name but a few.
After conquering the Catbells hike a couple of days earlier with no issues, we decided to try one of the more precarious hikes in the area.
At 648 metres high, Fleetwith Pike is a whopping 200 metres taller than Catbells. It also requires a bit more technical ability since there is a fair bit of scrambling involved.
Those keen on the challenge are in for a real treat. Not only is the trail intrepid and exciting, but the view from the top is out of this world.
We ascended the mountain via Fleetwith edge. This is the steeper route to the summit and involves using both your hands and legs at various sections.
For those who aren’t comfortable with this, there are alternative routes which I cover in this ultimate guide to Fleetwith Pike.
Again, you can always up the intensity of this hike by including one or more of the surrounding fells. Or, if you consider yourself an adrenaline junkie, you might want to try the Via Ferrata Xtreme.
After a strenuous day of hiking, I suggest rounding off your lake district itinerary with some final lakeside fun.
Crummock Water is the neighbouring lake to Buttermere. In fact, they were once a single body of water. Occasionally, during bouts of heavy rain, the two lakes merge again.
We spent a lot of time at Crummock during our trip. It’s even more isolated than Buttermere and boasts similar spectacular views.
If you own a SUP board or kayak, Crummock is the perfect place to enjoy these kinds of activities. Since there are no motor boats on these waters, it’s also ideal for swimming.
Enjoy your 3 Days in the Lake District!
So there you have it – our tips and recommendations for spending a fantastic 3 days in the Lake District. Have we covered everything? Do you have any questions?
Let us know! We love hearing from you. You can contact us in the comment section.
Check out our Lake District series for more travel tips and advice: