“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.”
As a solo female traveller, I’ve wandered and walked in some truly amazing places. From the stunning pathways that meander around Lake Como, Italy, to the breathtaking views from the summit of the Montserrat mountains, Catalunya, Europe has a lot to offer. I never thought I would find beauty to match mainland Europe in the UK, until I reached the Lake District.
Growing up in Newcastle upon Tyne, I was always relatively close to this countryside utopia, but it took 28 years for me to reach it! It’s the ideal place for a solo female traveller, no matter what age you are, which country you’re from or how much experience you have in walking and hiking. There are friendly faces waiting in each of its towns who are happy to help. Speaking of which…
First Stop, Windermere!
The easiest way to get to Windermere is through the local line that runs from Oxenholme train station, which is accessible from most of the UK. If you’re travelling from abroad, the nearest airport is located in Manchester.
Windermere is England’s largest lake and should be the first stop on your journey. Head to Bowness-on-Windermere and be greeted by true northern hospitality. There’s a Tourist Information Centre which is a great first port of call when you’re travelling solo. A friendly Scouser helped me prepare for my chosen walk. I asked him what equipment I would need and he told me he used to run up Scafell Pike (the highest mountain in England) in his trainers when he was a kid, but he advised against this! He recommended proper hiking shoes, outdoor clothing and a trekking pole. I didn’t invest in these but, in hindsight, I should have. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Head down to the lake and you will be met with awe-inspiring views. The lake itself is majestic, swans lie peacefully on the lakeside and green hills roll up on each side of its shores, making for one of the most picturesque images I’ve ever witnessed. If you have time to take a stroll through the town, there are plenty of cafes and bars to relax with a book or have a chat with the locals. I met some true characters. And dogs. There are so many dogs.
I chose my walk from Lake District: Low Level and Lake Walks by Vivienne Crow. I would recommend using a guidebook if you’re travelling solo as there were times I found myself wandering alone for a long time. I took a few wrong turns along the way and Vivienne’s book became my bible.
Orrest Head was my first stop-off after a relatively easy climb. There are benches here for you to sit and admire the view over the lake and its surrounding fells. Alfred Wainwright, a famous British fell-walker and author, is known for his writings about Orrest Head. He wrote,
“Quite suddenly, we emerged from the trees and were on a bare headland, and, as though a curtain had dramatically been torn aside, beheld a truly magnificent view.”
In my opinion, it’s a really inspiring panorama and one of the most intimate of the Lakes. As you head higher, the views are spectacular but can be a little bit daunting at times. There’s a high chance you’ll be met with other walkers at Orrest Head. Photo opportunity time!
Before you reach Troutbeck, you’ll pass by Dubbs reservoir and through the Limefitt Holiday Park. As you ascend towards Wansfell Pike, you start to become aware of the height. I did this walk in May and the winds were high which was a new experience for me. Also, at this point, I lost my way with the guide, so I headed to Troutbeck for a quick stop-off. I found a cosy local cafe owned by a Londoner – it appears that everyone in the Lakes is running away from city life! He helped me back onto the route. There’s also a pub in Troutbeck called the Mortal Man. I didn’t stop as it sounded like a dangerous move for a Geordie, but I’ve heard they do great food and (obviously) drink.
Okay, now the book says that this is a low level walk, but I found Wansfell Pike to be quite a challenging one. The winds were really strong by this point and, when you reach the summit, the paths are not as clear as you would like. It really is quite a steep and arduous ascent so, like I said earlier, bring equipment. Saying that, I seen an elderly couple and even a man with a baby attached to him attempting the climb, so you should be fine!
Oh, and the views are phenomenal. Really phenomenal.
The path back down towards Ambleside is long and winding, but there are a few fantastic features to keep you motivated. As you head into the woodland, you’ll come across the Stockghyll Force waterfalls. Surrounded by ravines in the heart of the forest, they are a dramatic ending to the walk and the perfect finale.
Should you stay or should you go?
Once you get down to Ambleside, there are plenty of options. You can take the 555 Lakeslink bus back to Windermere or, if you want to stay over in Ambleside, there are some hostels that cater perfectly to solo female travellers. Try the YHA Ambleside or Ambleside Backpackers Hostel. Of course, there are also hotels and, if you want to splash the cash, plenty of lodges to stay in close to the lakes.
The end is near…
When it was time to leave the Lake District, I felt very inspired by what I’d seen. It’s such an incredible spot for walkers, hikers and climbers, and I never felt unsafe or uncomfortable as a woman travelling solo. There is an abundance of books available for you to plan your walk, and the amiable locals will make sure you enjoy your adventure every step of the way. Happy hiking!