The lake district has some of the best trails in the country, but to get the goods you’ll need to go to some pretty remote locations which sometimes means an overnight stay. We’ve checked out some of the best campsites in the lakes and mapped out a few nearby bike trails to take the stress out of planning, so you can spend more time enjoying those views and sizzling sausages by your cosy campsite fire.
You can’t talk about mountain biking in the lakes without talking about Grizedale. The possibilities for trails in this area of Cumbria are endless, but this campsite adjoins directly to them leaving you more time for sightseeing and giving you easy access to your home away from home. For some serious adrenalin, we’d recommend the Black MTB trail, or for a longer and more scenic experience give Hawkeshead Moor Trail a go. Grizedale Campsite allows fires onsite and there’s a pub nearby which gets a thumbs up from us. You can also upgrade from a plot to a pod if you don’t fancy putting up your own tent.
Mains Farm offers tonnes of different accommodation types and facilities, including caravan pitches, camping plots with electricity, and the option to hire out your own family bathroom if you’re bringing any mini cyclists with you. There are even picturesque yurts for those who like to put a little glam in their camping. And while you’re visiting the nearby pubs, there’s crucial cycle secure storage available as well as amenities such as toasters and kettles available to use for a convenient and comfortable stay. Most importantly, the site is less than a mile from the legendary C2C cycle route which runs 137 miles from Cumbria to Tyneside. Don’t forget to dip your back wheel in the Irish sea and your front wheel in the North Sea if you choose to complete this epic trail!
For a longer trip, you may want a little bit more luxury which is exactly what the Pod ‘n’ Pedal trail offers. You’ll stay in three different luxury wooden pods across the lakes, starting in Penrith and ending in Oxenholme, with train stations on either end for maximum convenience. You’ll find your first pod an easy 12 mile pedal from Penrith Station at The Quiet Site, an award winning ecosite which has been welcoming guests for 50 years. From there, you’ll pass through Ullswater with a chance to see the stunning waterfalls at Aira Force for 19 miles before coming to your second stop at Castlerigg Hall. The third day is the longest but the most rewarding, offering fast descents, breath taking views of the lakes and a few castles for good measure, ending at the brilliant Park Cliffe holiday park. Finally, it’s a relaxing pedal from Park Cliffe to Oxenholme train station where you’ll finish your tour. With tonnes of extra things to do along the way, this impressive trail gets 5 stars from us.
Thrill seekers and experienced mountain bikers will definitely want to check out this trail, which takes in the third highest peak in the lakes. The Sticks Pass and Helvellyn trail takes you up a technical climb 3100 feet into the sky before thrusting you down a single, swooping track alongside the streams and rock gardens that cover this area. You’ll want to make sure you’re prepared before this trip and have somewhere comfortable to come home to, and Gillside Camping and Caravan Park is perfectly placed for just that. A family run campsite, Gillside is situated at the foot of the impressive Helvellyn mountain on a working farm which can provide you with fresh milk and eggs for the morning and the chance of spotting a prize winning sheep. Top marks from us!
Not too far from Lake Windermere you’ll find the quiet, picturesque town of Witherslack where our next trail is situated. This trail is beginner level - so suitable for children or poor weather – and takes in the gentle peaks and troughs of atmospheric woodlands, soaring fields and chocolate box villages. Another great thing about this trail is that you can stop off halfway at Hiker’s Rest, a charming self-service honesty café where you can make a cup of tea or use the washroom. After a day of exploring and a pint in the Derby Arms, settle down at Moss Howe Farm in your own hot tub yurt. Or for the more traditionalist camper, they do offer pitches and mini lodges too.
Whinlatter Forest is known as England’s only true mountain forest, which really is as fun as it sounds. Situated between Bassenthwaite Lake, Derwent water and Keswick, Lanefoot Farm has panoramic views of the fells and all the usual amenities you would expect, with a few added luxuries such as underfloor heating in the showers and a drying room. Although there are three cycling trails in the forest, you can’t stop by without trying the Altura trail – the longest purpose-built mountain bike trail in the lakes. You’ll need some off-road skills and a good level of fitness, in return you’ll get to take in some stunning views over Keswick as well as tonnes of super fun berms, jumps and table tops.
Last but certainly not least, if you truly want to conquer the Lakes you’ll have to take on the longest and fastest big mountain descent in the UK. The notorious Back o’ Skiddaw trail usually starts in Keswick, and high quality, no fuss Derwentwater Camping and Caravan Park is only a 10 minute ride from the starting line. Book a campsite for as little as a tenner, bring your own motorhome or stay in a ready to go safari tent, then prepare for the mother of all mountain bike trails. Starting at the Lattrigg car park, this 20 mile trail takes between 3 and 5 hours and will see you taking on mixed terrain before hurtling down a 7 mile stretch into Mosedale.
Let us know if you end up taking any of these trails and share your top tips for a perfect camping and mountain bike experience.