Top 8 Lake District Photography Locations

A Guide To Some Of The Best Photographic Locations
In The Lake District

Listing the best locations to photograph in the Lake District is fraught with the kind of subjectivity that could render the entire exercise redundant. Who's to say what’s best for a start?

 

But what ultimately makes such a compilation worthwhile is, despite the impossibility of reaching anything definitive, there are good reasons why the following selection of Lake District locations remain long term favourites for so many. These particular locations provide much in the way of stunning views, ample composition choices, and are generally easily accessible.

 

It’s nothing more than a good start to get you on your way, after which there are endless possibilities to choose from! 

Tranquility

'Tranquility', Wastwater, by Shaun Barr

1. Wastwater

Once voted Britain’s favourite view, it’s easy to see why Wastwater has become one of the Lake District’s most iconic scenes. By the time you reach its shingle shores you feel as though you've entered another world entirely. Even by Lake District standards it’s impressive.

 

From the screes on Illgill Head, which drop sheer into the water, to the mountains that guard all around the lake, the views are as dramatic as you could imagine. The place has both beauty and grandeur in measures that are hard to compete with. There is sometimes a brooding air to this great valley and the water can be foreboding; it’s not surprising to learn that this is the deepest of the lakes.

 

If you look up the western shore (along which the road to Wasdale runs) you will see the classic view of the towering forms of Yewbarrow, Great Gable and Lingmell -  a perfect backdrop to the water. And as you move along, in various places you will also capture Kirk Fell, Red Pike, and  England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike. 

 

Best Time of Year?

Listen to no one who tells you there’s a right time of year for landscape photography. Or for that matter, a right time of day. Forget meaningless terms like the golden hour. The ‘right time’ to take a photograph is when you feel able to capture the essence of a scene in the way it feels to you – and frankly, that could be just about any time! 

 

This particular image was taken in the height of a summer, with barely a cloud in the sky (some photographers might tell you that’s another thing to avoid in your landscapes – clear sky!).

 

Although there are endless possibilities here, I tend to favour the southern end of the lake – there are numerous laybys to park in and you can wander along the shore from here and simply experiment. You’ll find the shoreline dotted with rocky outcrops as well as boulders within the water, all of which can make useful foreground interest. But my choice is merely a personal one and I’d encourage you to explore and experiment. A bit like an English essay, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, although of course that’s slightly tempered by the thought that there is good and bad! It’s perhaps worth saying that just because a certain composition doesn’t work on one occasion, doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t work ton he next. Photography can be full of surprises, that’s part of its joy. 

 

About half way along the lake if you continue towards Wasdale you’ll come across a delightful packhorse bridge that  is very photogenic and it’s easy enough to compose a shot with Scafell in the background. 

 

Best Time of Day?

 

Shall we talk about best time of day? The chances are you’ll read elsewhere that sunset is an ideal time for photography here. The shot above was taken in the morning, which brings me right back to my earlier point: just forget the time go day and shoot when you feel it’s right. You’ll find sometimes it will work and sometimes it won’t. But by not taking the shot you’re guaranteeing that it won’t! Trusting your own instincts is a better way to enjoy photography.

Camera Equipment and Settings

 

The above image was taken on a jacket-pocket sized, fixed lens Fujifilm X100F. It's a go anywhere camera that comes pretty much everywhere with me. ISO 200, focal length 23mm, 1/160s, f/8.

OS Grid Reference NY 151 053

 

There is an ‘honesty box’ car park at Overbeck on the shore of Wastwater, and a pay and display car park at Wasdale Lake Head, which is often used by those walking up Great Gable Scafell Pike. 

 

As already mentioned there are various spots to park along the lake edge but please do not park in passing places or obstruct traffic.

Blea Tarn. Top Ten Lake District Photography Locations

'Reflections on Blea Tarn', by Shaun Barr

2. Blea Tarn

Instantly recognisable as the quintessential Lake District image, Blea Tarn is a perfect balance of water and mountains in just the right measures to make an interesting and rewarding photography location. It’s a popular place for photographers and non-photographers alike, aided by a National Trust car park right on its doorstep. Within a few yards you are standing on the southern edge of what must be one of the most photographed mountain lakes in the world. 

 

Blea Tarn nestles in the Little Langdale valley, adjacent to its larger cousin, just over the other side of Lingmoor Fell, Great Langdale. This entire area is festooned with breath-taking locations and a walk anywhere from either of these two valleys will be rewarding. 

The options for compositions at Blea Tarn is varied but from the car park, and after crossing the road and walking through the gate, the obvious choice is to walk right from the footpath and down to the water’s edge. (This area can be particularly boggy in wet weather so take care.)

 

The view takes in the length of the water and on to a wonderful backdrop of the Langdale Pikes – and it’s these mountains that for me really add the dramatic beauty to this Blea Tarn scene. There are a number of boulders which can be used to add a little foreground interest. If you’re lucky enough to get there on a calm day you’ll find the tarn’s still surface captures the profile of the Langdale Pikes perfectly, and this can often make for a spectacular image.

 

If you’ve read my description of the best time to photograph Wastwater you’ll already know I highly recommend not being restricted to time of year, or time of day. I would apply this recommendation to all the locations I suggest. Work with what you have at the time – there are numerous possibilities to create some magic here at any time of year, any time of day. Better to focus on compositional opportunities than to worry about if there’s a better time. With camera in hand, right now, there is no better time!

 

Side Pike is a fell with a distinctive slope on the right and it’s one I often like to include. While on the left there are some beautiful Scots pine right on the water’s edge which frame the tarn wonderfully on that side. 

Camera Equipment and Settings

Fujifilm XT-2, Lens Fujifilm XF18-55mm, ISO 200, focal length 18mm, 1/180s, f/11.

 

 

OS Grid Reference NY 295 043

National Trust Car Park 

Along the Buttermere shoreline, with Fleetwith Pike dominating the skyline_

'Buttermere Shoreline', By Shaun Barr

3. Buttermere

Buttermere is located in a spectacular part of the Lake District and is full of photographic opportunities. There’s a pleasant, low-level walk around the lake that will provide you with lots of interesting potential. 

 

You will often see classic Buttermere photographs which have been taken at the head of the lake, with Dale Head, Fleetwith Pike or Haystacks in the background in front of which stand some striking Scots pines. It makes for a great image. But the truth is that you can find appealing compositions all around the lake. 

 

A short stroll from the village allows you to walk the circuit of the lake starting at the foot, where composition potential arises immediately. Your only decision is whether to walk clockwise or anti-clockwise around the lake! It takes a couple of hours to walk so I’d allow at least 3 hours to include photography time. 

Rails, fencing, rocks and interesting old tree roots along the shoreline can all help provide some foreground interest. There’s also plenty of opportunities to walk off the path, giving you point of interest such as little streams, footbridges, grassy banks and the odd woody copse to walk through. For little effort, the walk around Buttermere has a lot to offer, and I would highly recommend it. 

Camera Equipment and Settings

Fujifilm XT-2, Lens 18-135mm, ISO 200, focal length 18mm, 15s, f/11. Lee Big Stopper.

 

OS Grid Reference OS NY 174 164

 

Village, Main Car Park

Morningwalk1501.jpg

'Winter Morning Walk', by Shaun Barr

4. River Brathay, Elterwater

An easy walk from Skelwith Bridge to Elterwater takes you along the River Brathay with small copses of trees accenting the scenes beautifully. It’s easily accessible for walking, making it a popular location all year round.

 

With the right conditions, it’s possible to capture some fine looking reflections in some of the slower running water, particularly of the trees. The view also takes in the Langdale Pikes in the background which can be seen across the river.  

 

Although the river is the most obvious focal point, my Image above shows it doesn’t necessarily have to be. It’s always worth looking all around for potential compositions. I’s sometimes surprising to find that your most successful images are not always the once you originally intended to take!

 

Camera Equipment and Settings

 

Fujifilm X100T, fixed lens, 23mm, ISO 400, 1/1250s, f/8.

 

OS Grid Reference NY 343 034

Skelwith Bridge roadside parking

Alternatively, you can use the National Trust car park in Elterwater, from where you can walk along the edge of the water and back to the River Brathay in the direction of Skelwith Bridge. 

Side Pike With Drystone Wall Photographic Landscape Print

'Above Side Pike', by Shaun Barr

5. Side Pike

What Side Pike lacks in stature it more than makes up for in beauty, and it also happens to be situated in one of the prettiest valleys in the Lake District, Little Langdale. 

 

In the above image I wanted to use the drystone wall as a leading line so I was actually looking above the crag and standing on Lingmoor Fell to get this image,  but there are many options for compositions on Side Pike itself. 

 

It’s a short if a little steep climb to the top of the crag, and there are various viewpoints on the way up that give you breath-taking views of both Little Langdale, and as you climb further up, Great Langdale. 

 

If you turn to look south you’ll soon begin to see Blea Tarn as you gain a little height, with the grand Blake Rigg rising behind it. In front of the often lush green valleys of Mickledon and Oxendale appear, the starting point for the fells which dominate the valley here: Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and Pike o’ Blisco. It’s one of the best places from which to admire the Langdale Pikes from; you can often find their flanks lit up by sunlight from here. 

 

I’ve shot from this pike at many different times of year, and there is no month that wouldn’t this very photogenic landscape. But when the purple hwhich eather blooms among the limestone outcrops in summer it really does make for a very pleasing, colourful foreground. 

 

Although there is the odd parking space at the bottom where the signposted walk for Side Pike begins, you are more likely to find a space in the National Trust car park for Blea Tarn, from where it will take about 10 minutes to walk.

 

If time allows, I‘d recommend a walk along Lingmoor Fell from Side Pike. As you climb higher the fells,  which are so beautifully wrapped all around the Little Langdale and Great Langdale valleys,  become ever greater in number. You’ll find 360 degree views that really are quite staggering.

 

Camera Equipment and Settings

 

Fujifilm XT-2, Lens Fujifilm XF18-135mm, ISO 200, 1/240s, f/10.

 

OS Grid .NY 293 053 

Wallholm0300.jpg

'Island in the Mist', Ullswater, by Shaun Barr

6. Ullswater

As Ullswater is the Lake District’s second longest lake (after Windermere), it offers a large amount of potential full of character and interest. Both sides have good access opening up a wealth of possibilities when it comes to choosing places to choose from. This particular image was taken on the south west side of the water not far from Glenridding. 

I had been at nearby Brothers Water (an exceptionally beautiful tarn), but given the misty conditions I took the opportunity to photography on of Ullwater’s little islands, something I’d wanted to do for some time in conditions like this. This image was taken from the wall along the roadside. If you do shoot from here, do take every precaution as the road can be a busy one. Beyond the wall there is a bank from which lots of compositions can be made.

 

There are a number of little islands on Ullswater; this particular one is called Wall Holm, and I love for it Scots pines which can be beautifully silhouetted. 

You can walk along the south western shores of the lake and along the shingle you will find a good mixture of boulders, fences going into the water, gnarly old tree roots as well.

The eastern shoreline also offers some superb photographic opportunities and a walk to Silver Bay from Patterdale will provide you with some great access to this quieter side of Ullswater. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable walk that will reward you with many fine views. 

Camera Equipment and Settings

Fujifilm XT-2, Lens: Fujifilm XF100mm-400mm, 100mm, ISO200, 1/50s, f/10

OS Grid Reference NY 390 169 

Glenridding

'Winter Gold', Blencathra from Tewet Tarn Photographic Print

'Winter Gold', by Shaun Barr

7. Tewet Tarn

Just beyond Keswick and not far from the A66 there is a small, fairly insignificant  tarn, or it would be without its backdrop: the beautiful profile of Blencathra stands right above it, while to the left the mighty Skidaw and Lonsdale Fell dominate the skyline.

 

It’s a fabulous location that creates a real sense of scale and perspective. For this particular image I used the golden rushes as a bit of a leading line and the broken ice not only creates some contrasting texture, but also adds to the foreground interest. The broken ice combined with Blencathra's first dusting of snow that winter gave the image a real wintry feel and added to the overall power of the image.

 

I had originally shot this image in landscape format as I really wanted to get the breath of Blencathra and its wonderful shape into the scene. But in the end, I decided that this cropped version in portrait had greater impact – sometimes, and quite often in landscape photography, less is more. 

 

When the tarn isn’t frozen you can catch some interesting reflections. Take care around the water’s edge as the ground around the tarn is very wet and boggy. 

 

Camera Equipment and Settings

 

Fujifilm XT-2, Lens Fujifilm XF18-55mm, 44mm, ISO 200, 1/80s, f/10.

 

 

OS Grid Reference NY 305 235

 

Tewet Tarn

Windermere Dawn Photographic Print

'Dawn Over Windermere', by Shaun Barr

8. Windermere

Despite being the longest lake in England ( at 11 miles long), and therefore covering a large area, Windermere is often overlooked by photographers and seen as no more than a location to pass by on the way to something more interesting. 

 

And yes, sometimes, particularly stuck in a long line of queuing traffic backed up from Ambleside, it might seem to offer little in the way of landscape beauty. But in actual fact the lake can reap dividends in many different places. A walk up Gummer’s How for instance, at its southern tip, allows for a rather magnificent vista that stretches up the length of the lake. 

 

Between Windermere and Bowness there is the National Trust owned land of Miller Ground, which runs along part of the eastern shoreline and commands wonderful views of the Langdale Pikes across the water.

 

While from Waterhead in Ambleside, which is situated at the northern most end of the lake, there are some great photographic opportunities looking south down the lake, with boats often moored here for added interest. 

 

A short distance from Ambleside, a walk up Loughrigg Fell soon gives you enough height for a view down the lake, a stile is often used here for the foreground, but you can almost certainly find a point of interest yourself without too much difficulty. 

 

And I haven’t even mentioned the west side of the lake. Suffice to say I wouldn’t dismiss Windermere as a place for landscape photography. Despite being very busy for much of the year and not having any spectacular mountain scenery close by, it can nevertheless offer some really beautiful photographic moments – you just have to look for them. 

 

The above image was taken from Waterhead, Ambleside, on a particularly misty November morning. A 10 minute walk from here to Borrans Park (passed the piers and jetties and the Water Edge Inn) takes you further to the tip of the lake and offers up a different perspective – a worthwhile detour from here.

 

Camera Equipment and Settings

 

Fujifilm X100F, 23mm fixed lens, ISO 400, 1/1100s, f/8.

 

OS Grid Reference

 

NY 376 032

Useful Links

For places to go, things to do and where to stay, a good starting point for planning your visit to the Lake District is the Lake District National Park Authority website.

Also the Visit Cumbria website.