No sane person goes camping in the Lake District without heading out on a hike or two, whether it be tackling mighty Helvellyn or taking a more leisurely stroll around Lake Windermere. Whatever the time of year, the outdoor playground that is the Lake District National Park is a place to be explore on foot, by bike or by boat, taking in the great peaks and sparkling lakes that make the place such a popular camping destination. When the weather turns a bit too British, however, the region is also home to a wealth of cosy pubs and independent cafés, many of which have become known as the start and end point of popular walking routes. Whether it's a place for a hearty breakfast, a pit stop for lunch, or a welcoming finish line after a long day's walk, these are our our favourite Cumbrian cafés to visit during any Lake District hiking holiday...
Helvellyn Country Kitchen
On the edge of Ullswater, at the foot of mighty 950-metre-high Helvellyn – the third highest mountain in the Lake District – sits Helvellyn Country Kitchen, an enticing café dishing up tasty home cooked dishes using locally sourced ingredients. Glenridding hikers can enjoy a hearty breakfast before climbing to the summit via renowned Striding Edge and admiring the vistas. For those feeling peckish and in need of a breather after tramping back down, owners Jason and Michelle also serve up a daytime menu that includes soups, salads, sarnies, and jacket potatoes topped with the likes of tuna mayo, beef chilli or good old beans and coleslaw.
The Hazelmere Café
Nestled on the southern tip of the Lake District in Grange-over-Sands sits the independent, family-run Hazelmere Café, whose strong ethos focuses on the surrounding community and the environment. How? By championing local suppliers, lighting the site using energy-efficient LEDs, and donating surplus bread to Manna House, a homeless charity in Kendal. The nearby 14-mile-long Grange-over-Sands and Cartmel circular route boasts views towards Arnside, Silverdale and the Lakeland fells. Start or end the day at award-winning Hazelmere and devour delights ranging from luxury muesli, sandwiches using loaves baked in-house, afternoon tea, or potted Morecambe Bay shrimps.
The Bluebird Café
Standing tall at over 800 metres, the Old Man of Coniston looks down over the Coniston village to the lake of the same name and is a hiker’s dream. Tramp over Buck Pike and Dow Crag before revelling in the panoramic views at the summit, then zig-zag back down to the Bluebird Café for a touch of R&R. Positioned on the shores of the lake, this is a scenic spot indeed, with lake views wherever walkers choose to take a seat. Dig into a toastie, buttie or burger, and round things off with a slice of homemade cake – options include ginger, lemon drizzle, and spiced apple. Worth noting, too, is their sister site at Bowness on Windermere.
The Café in the Courtyard
A hidden jewel on the western shore of Windermere, the Café in the Courtyard is an inviting pit stop for Lake District ramblers on their way up to Claife Viewing station or following the Windermere Way around the lake. Run in partnership with the Lakes Catering Co, produce is locally-sourced and high quality, with meat from Altham, cheese from the dairy in Appleby, and coffee supplied by Cumbrian-based Carvetii, who roast their beans in Cockermouth. Must-order is the Ferryman’s lunch; similar to a Ploughman’s it includes a pork pie or vegetarian quiche, a chunk of local cheese, bread, chutney, tomato, and crisps.
Broughton Village Bakery
After a day exploring the fells or strolling along Broughton’s disused railway line to Woodland Valley, why not stop in at cosy Broughton Village Bakery to rest weary bones and re-energise? Complete with a wood-burning stove, they offer an array of goodies such as homemade pies and casseroles, tray bakes, and fruit smoothies. A finalist on ITV 1’s 'Britain's Best Bakery', part of The Guardian’s top 10 Lake District budget eateries, and recommended by Gourmet Britain, the café has been serving hungry customers and hikers since the 1930’s. Ingredients are sourced from local suppliers: Fairground in Staveley for organic coffee beans, Procters Cheeses in Chipping, and free range eggs from Mark in Ulverston.
The Rattle Gyhll
Smack bang in the middle of the Lake District National Park at the head of Lake Windermere lies the town of Ambleside; overlooked by Loughrigg Fell, it’s a haven for hikers and cyclists. Routes include heading northwest along the trail to the summit, along scenic Loughrigg Terrace to Rydal Cave or taking the Fairfield Horseshoe, a classic, circular ridge walk. Back in the town, The Rattle Gyhll plates up a selection of nourishing fare, ranging from buddha bowls with lemon and herb couscous and spuds loaded with chilli to cheese scones and flapjacks. The enterprising café is also keen to help out the Cumbrian community, by showcasing the work of local artists on their walls.
Low Sizergh Barn
This foodie find on the outskirts of Kendal is the ideal family-friendly spot to take a break during a day discovering the Lake District. Nearby, the Sizergh Castle wildlife trail takes around two hours – colourful butterflies can be spied fluttering through the woodland glades in summertime. And Low Sizergh Barn itself sits within is a 341-acre farm; visitors can take the almost-two-mile trail through the site before settling back at the café for the likes of a full English brekkie with local back bacon and Cumberland sausages, afternoon tea, or quiche. If timings work out, grab a seat for 3:30pm when the farm’s cows are milked – the gallery windows provide a bird’s eye view.
Heidi’s Grasmere Lodge & Café
Helm Crag: a short, steep, and exhilarating four-mile hike known for its challenging, craggy appearance. Also called the ‘Lion and Lamb’, hikers making the moderate ascent will be wowed by glorious Lakeland views. Spend some time admiring the landscape before heading back to Grasmere for a bite to eat Heidi’s. The light and airy dog-friendly space serves up breakfast, lunch and a selection of homemade sweet treats. Food is cooked to order, the menu regularly changes, and they offer seasonal specials. Sated and satisfied, walk off your meal with a stroll around Lake Grasmere, a body of water Wordsworth famously described as ‘‘the most loveliest spot than man hath found’.
By Laura Evans