Lake District Geography

Surprisingly, the Lake District is one of the most densely populated national parks. Its area is nearly 885 square miles (or 2,292 km²), and the Lake District was named as a National Park back in 1951.


The Lake District is around 35 miles or 55 km across. It’s characteristics result from periods of massive glaciation, the latest of which finished about 15000 years ago. The most obvious feature being large U shaped valleys carved up by ice, several of which are filled with lakes which give the area it’s name. The northern areas contain many glacial hollows, which are often filled with tarns. The northern fells are rocky, while the southern fells are open moor land, noteworthy for its abundant bracken and heather. Under the tree line native English oak woods sit beside 19th century pine forests. Due to the heavy rainfall the land is mostly boggy underfoot.

Creative Commons License photo credit: siddlysid

North West Lake District

The north-western area is situated inbetween the valleys of Buttermere and Borrowdale, Honister Pass joins both the dales. This area includes the 3 Newlands Fells (Dale Head, Robinson & Catbells) and the adjoining ridge. Directly to the north stand Grasmoor, Grisedale Pike and the fells near the Coledale valley, and in the very north-western corner is Thornthwaite Forest and the scenic Lord’s Seat. The hills in this region were created from Skiddaw slate, with few open rock faces and not a single tarn.


Western Lake District

The western area is between Buttermere and Wasdale, Sty Head forms the middle of a great triangle. Ennerdale cuts through the area, which is made up of the High Stile range above Ennerdale, the Loweswater Fells in the extreme north and west, the Pillar group to the south west, and Great Gable (2949 feet or 899 metres high) close to Sty Head. Other tops include Haystacks, Seatallan, and Kirk Fell. This rugged area is rocky and steep, with the amazing high point of Pillar Rock its showpiece. The deepest lake in England, Wastwater, is situated in this part of the National Park.


Central Lake District

The central part of the Lake District is the lowest in terms of height. A long boot shaped apex running from Loughrigg Fell north of Ambleside – a popular base for tourists – to Keswick, which includes Derwent Water to the west and Thirlmere reservoir to the east. The Langdale Pikes, and High Raise behind them, are another magnet for fell walkers. The middle ridge towards the north over High Seat is extremely boggy.


Eastern Lake District

The eastern area is made up of a long ridge which runs north to south- the peak of Helvellyn and the surrounding fells , from Clough Head to Seat Sandal with the 3118-foot (950 m) high Helvellyn at its uppermost point. The western sides of these peaks are more grassy, with rocky crags on the eastern sides. The Fairfield fells lie to the south of the range, and form a pattern with soaring cliff faces and hidden valleys flowing into the Patterdale valley. It finishes in the peak of Red Screes above the formidable Kirkstone Pass.


Far-Eastern Lake District

The far eastern fells are situated on the far side of Patterdale and are made unique by steep inclines leading up to a flat moorland plain on a north to south axis. High Street is the highest peak on the ridge, looking over to and Haweswater and the valley of Mardale, hidden from most day trippers. To the south of the region are the hills around Kentmere, and in the east lies Shap Fell, a massive area that has more in common with the nearby Pennines than the Lakeland Hills, consisting of high altitude moorland and bog.


Mid-West Lake District

The mid-western hills form a triangular shape, with corners pointing towards the Irish Sea in the west, Borrowdale to the north and Langdale in the east. They make up the Wastwater Screes at Wasdale, the Glaramara crest above Borrowdale, the three peaks of Crinkle Crags, the famous Bowfell, Esk Pike overlooking Langdale and the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike at the centre, standing at 3,209 feet or 978 m. One mile to the south west lies the slightly lower Scafell but this has an 700 foot (210 m) cliff on the north face called Scafell Crag. Eskdale valley cuts through these upland wilds. These fells are the most jagged and rocky of all, and subsequently going is much slower amid the granite scree.


The south-western hills have the Hardknott and Wrynose Passes as natural boundaries. These are predominantly narrow and precipitous, with sharp hairpin bends. The Furness Fells lie between Coniston Water and the western Duddon Valley, running North East-South West through the middle of the region. On the opposite side of the valley lies Harter Fell with a large ridge over Whitfell all the way to Black Combe and the sea. The south of the area is made up of lower woods and small hills; Kirkby Moor lies at the southern edge. The Lake District proper ends at the Furness peninsulas, which lead to the county’s second largest town – Barrow-in-Furness).



The south-eastern region is the area in-between Coniston Water and Lake Windermere and the east of Windermere. There are few high summits here; it is mostly small hills, and knolls like Gummer’s How overlooking Lake Windermere, and Whitbarrow Scar. Grizedale Forest lies between the famous lakes of Coniston & Windermere. The market town of Kendal and the vast sands of Morecambe Bay mark the edge of the National Park.