Beautiful Things To Do in Buttermere | Where To Eat & Stay

by Vanessa Wanders Miles
Beautiful reflections on Buttermere Lake, Lake District

Reflections on Buttermere

Buttermere is quite simply one of the most beautiful pristine bodies of water overlooked by majestic fells in the Lake District National Park, and beyond. Buttermere is a small hamlet consisting of one church, two pubs, two cafes, two lakes and countless glorious vistas. With such a compact place to visit, let’s explore the best things to do in Buttermere including where to eat.


Where is Buttermere?

Buttermere Valley is set among the northern fells in Britain’s Lake District National Park formed by glacial erosion. Over time, the ice melted bringing rocky debris, which fills with rainwater a ribbon lake which includes three lakes, Buttermere, Crummock Water and Loweswater. The village of Buttermere is located between the lakes of Buttermere and Crummock Water.


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Is Buttermere worth visiting?

Buttermere might be small at a mere 2km in length but it is rich in nature and serenity. Lake District National Park won the accolade of UNESCO World Heritage status in the cultural landscape category.

Buttermere means ‘the lake by the dairy pastures’ deriving from the Old English “butere mere”. Sheep farming is the main occupation of Buttermere Valley, mainly the hardy Herdwick breed which is endemic to the Lake District. Some farms rear cattle, which graze on the south side of Buttermere Lake.

If you want to connect with nature, then Buttermere is the place for you!


Amazing Things To Do in Buttermere


Visit Moss Force Waterfall

Walkers don’t need to work very hard to see Moss Force Waterfall on Newlands Hause. It is easily accessible from the small roadside car park around 200 metres away from the cascade which tumbles 330 feet down the black crag.

Take a longer hike alongside Moss Force Waterfall to Robinson (737m) and High Snockrigg (526 m) in the Wainwrights North Western Fells and part of a series of fells that flank the southwestern side of the Newlands Valley.


Visit St James Church in Buttermere

As you drop into Buttermere from the Newlands Pass, the first vision sitting on a rock outcrop is the compact and charming St James Church. William Wordsworth quite rightly said: “A man must be very unsensible who would not be touched at the sight of the chapel of Buttermere”.

The present Parish chapel dates from 1840, and was restored in 1930. Inside the chapel, on the first window after the antique 1820’s organ, a stone memorial plaque dedicated to Alfred Wainwright can be found. His ashes were scattered on Haystacks which can be seen as you look through the window of the chapel.

St. James Church is often overlooked as one of the things to do in Buttermere, maybe this is on account of its size. It only holds approximately 40 people but it is worth popping your head in to take a peek.


Walk around Buttermere Lake


What can you see on a walk around Buttermere Lake? 

It’s possible to walk around Buttermere Lake either clockwise or anti-clockwise – I did the latter. Walking down from the village past the Buttermere Court Inn, you reach the north shore where Herdwick sheep graze.

Walk to Sourmilk Ghyll, across the bridge to see the 400m high waterfall in all its glory. You can take a steep path to hike Pike and see the beauty of Bleaberry Tarn.

Continuing along the loop, stroll along through the majestic pines of Burtness Wood, to the next waterfall, Comb Beck, shadowed by High Stile fell. There is no camping allowed in this area and there are signs requesting you stick to the path to avoid the spread of plant disease on the larch.

Towards the south corner of Buttermere Lake, you can take a path up to Scarth Gap and Haystacks, or continue past Fleetwith Pike towards Gatesgarth Farm, where you may be able to buy a refreshment from the food truck if its open. If you’re lucky, the cattle will be bathing in the still waters of Buttermere Lake.

You will reach Crag Wood, Dalegarth and a cave tunnel which was carved out in the 19th century by a Manchester Mill owner. Continue to the north and admire the views of Fleetwith down Buttermere Valley.

Can you walk right around Buttermere? 

There is a clear, flat path to walk around the lake that is suitable for all levels and ages. However, by Gatesgarth Farm on the east side of the lake, there is a small roadside section that joins the loop again. There is parking at Gatesgarth so many walkers will see this as their starting point.

How long is the walk around Buttermere Lake?

The walk around Buttermere Lake is 7km and will take approximately 1-1.5 hours without photo stops or time-out to enjoy the enchanting views.

Temporary path closure on Buttermere Lake

From April to the end of June, there is a temporary closure on the north side of Buttermere lake to allow the ground-nesting sandpipers to lay their eggs on the beach without disturbance from people and dogs. Download the map of three temporary waymarked trails you could try during this closure period which avoid the affected area.


Hike the mighty fells of Buttermere

Buttermere Valley has an incredible choice of fells to hike, you will be spoiled for choice.

On the south side of Buttermere, you can access Fleetwith Pike (648m) and Haystacks (597m) from Gatesgarth. There is a path you can follow to Fleetwith Pike along the meandering Warnscale Beck which develops into varying levels and cascades forming natural water pools, bring your swimming gear for a dip.

My climb for this visit to Buttermere was Haystacks. We walked to the right of Warnscale Beck which led up the quarry scree, and a final near-vertical scramble before we reached the carpet of heather at the top. From there, we passed Blackbeck Tarn then Innominate Tarn where Wainwrights’ ashes were scattered by his wife in memory of Haystacks being his final and favourite fell.

After Haystacks, you could follow the fells along the west side of the lake which divides the valleys of Ennerdale and Buttermere. This high-level ridge walk takes you to High Crag (744m), High Stile (807m) and Red Pike (755m) with idyllic views over Crummock Water, and descend via Dodd (631m). I’ll be saving this challenging hike for another time!


Enjoy water activities in Buttermere

One of the most appealing things about Buttermere is that motorised boats are banned keeping the serene atmosphere that is so often spoiled. The absence of unwanted noise was noticeable. This brings SUP-lovers to Buttermere pumping up their blow-up paddleboards to glide along the water without the annoyance of other boats speeding by.

The water of Buttermere is unusually clear, you will be struck by how easily you can see the pebbles from above. This is due to low nutrient pollution, and low temperatures meaning fewer algae so it comes as no surprise, that wild swimmers will see Buttermere as a real bucolic haven.

If you are looking for a calm fishing spot, Buttermere comes with restrictions. Fishing and boating are only allowed with permits from the National Trust. Anglers are required to hold an Environmental Agency Rod Licence, and all lead weights for fishing are banned. You can find brown trout, pike, perch and char which come with a bag limit.


Get creative in Buttermere

On the north shores of Buttermere near Sourmilk Gill, the glass-like reflections of the surrounding fells and ever-changing clouds on the water are mind-blowing making this a perfect location for artists and photographers to feed their love for nature.  Whilst this was an incredible highlight, this isn’t the only spot around the lake shrouded with beauty.


Places to eat in Buttermere


Eat homemade ice cream at Skye Tea Rooms

A trip to Buttermere is not complete without a visit to the dog-friendly Skye Tea Rooms, their ice cream claims local notoriety with delicious flavours from Salted Caramel, Cherry, Marmalade and Biscotti made from their own Buttermere Ayrshire Cows.

That’s not their only drawcard, their unique flavours of pies, and cakes cater for meat-eater, vegetarians, vegans and gluten allergies. On a sunny day, take a pew on the picnic benches and watch the world go by.


Enjoy tasty cakes at Croft House Farm

Croft House Farm Café is a popular place with walkers and tourists alike, and you can find yourself waiting for a table at peak times. The fresh baguettes, fluffy scones and handmade traybakes cakes made for a wonderful feed before a walk around the waters of Buttermere.


Eat local in The Bridge Inn

The Bridge Hotel was established in 1734 when a liquor licence was obtained by Reverend Robert Walter. In honour of its history, the name car is named The Walkers Bar and still sells traditional Cumbrian cask beer.

The décor inside retains the traditional vibe, and there is a small outdoor seating area with a view of the fells. It’s a wonderful place for dinner, the food is locally sourced, with bags of flavour.


Drink local ales in Buttermere Court Inn

This hotel has been famous for centuries in the Lakes as the Fish Inn, until 2020 when it was bought and rebranded as Buttermere Court Inn. It has been modernised with a restaurant aptly named High Stile after the fell that can be seen as you sit in the large beer garden at the back, a great spot to sip on the selection of cask ales from local breweries.

Historically, The Fish Inn was the home of Mary Robinson, the landlord’s daughter in the 18th century. She became a local legend as the beautiful ‘Maid of Buttermere’ after author Captain Joseph Budworth mentioned her in his book ‘A Fortnight’s Ramble to The Lakes in Westmorland, Lancashire, and Cumbria’.

Mary Robinson had a whirlwind romance and married Colonel Hope, who turned out to be a conman and bigamist for which he was arrested, tried, and hanged in 1803. Wordsworth wrote an ode to Mary in The Prelude, and Coleridge wrote in a local newspaper that she more deserved the name Grace of Buttermere.


What you need to know about visiting Buttermere


Stay at YHA Buttermere

YHA Buttermere (King George VI Memorial Hostel) is located near St James Church and is blessed with breathtaking views of High Stile and Red Pike. I stayed in a private room but they also offer dorms, landpods and tent pitches – you can even hire out the whole place if you are organising a group trip.

The camping and glamping are set in the charming and peaceful woodland area. If you get the chance, try the eco-friendly solar-powered landpods. I stayed in the glamping landpods in YHA Grasmere Butharlyp Howe and it was a wonderful experience.

All guests have access to all the facilities in the main house which includes a self-catering kitchen, bar, café, drying room+ laundry, and a shared lounge. The full breakfast (including vegetarian options) is totally recommended, it definitely set me up for a day hiking up Haystacks.

Phone reception was non-existent in Buttermere Valley for me and WiFi was a little slow at YHA Buttermere. This was music to my ears, and the chance to switch off and immerse myself in these epic surroundings.

>> BOOK YOUR STAY AT YHA BUTTERMERE <<

TOP TIPS BEFORE YOU BOOK:
  • Get the YHA England & Wales membership to give you 10% off food and accommodation. It’s only £15 and you contribute to this social enterprise that helps transform the lives of young people with vital life skills, and physical and mental health.
  • Check the HOT DEALS at YHA England & Wales to see if your chosen hostel with a 20% off promo code. Members get an extra 5% off.
  • Bring your reusable water bottle. There is a water bottle refill station in the drying room to top up before a full day of activities and exploring Buttermere.

How to get to Buttermere


How to reach Buttermere by car

DRIVING TO BUTTERMERE:
  • From Cockermouth, it takes 30 minutes along the B5292 and B5289
  • From Penrith (off M6), it takes 45 minutes along the Keswick bypass (A66) and drive through the Newlands Valley
  • From Windermere, it takes 1 hour 20 minutes via the A591 to the Keswick bypass
HIRE A CAR:

If you are travelling to more remote parts of the Lake District or you have lots of gear, you may want to consider hiring a car. Check the best prices with Discover Cars.

GO ELECTRIC:

For tips on how to hire an electric car at railway stations, local villages and other locations across South and Central Lakes, or find the nearest charging points, check the Lake District NP website.

PARKING AT BUTTERMERE:
  • The pay-and-display car park is located beside the Buttermere Court Inn (old Fish Inn), or Lanthwaite Wood near Crummock Water. Prices start at £3.50 for 2 hours and are payable every day from 9 am to 6 pm.
  • Gatesgarth Farm offers parking for 24 hours for £4.
  • National Trust car park located between Buttermere and Crummock Water is free for NT members, and you can get your boating or fishing permits at the machine.
  • Staying at the YHA Buttermere, I was able to use the car park as a hostel guest making the parking issue stress-free.

How to reach Buttermere by public transport

BUTTERMERE BY TRAIN:

The nearest train station to Buttermere is Penrith which is on the west coast mainline that travels from London to Glasgow. It takes 1 hr 37mins to reach Penrith from Glasgow, and 3 hours from London. Trains also travel directly to Penrith from Carlisle (19mins). There are limited direct trains from Manchester (1.5hr), but most journeys will require a change in Preston. Plan your journey with the latest train times.

BUTTERMERE BY BUS FROM KESWICK + PENRITH:

If you’ve travelled to Penrith by train, you need to get a bus to Keswick, and change to Buttermere. The full journey from Penrith takes approx 2 hours. Download the Keswick Bus Timetable.

BUTTERMERE BY BUS FROM  COCKERMOUTH (ALL YEAR):

The main bus travels from Cockermouth to Buttermere with 1 change all year round taking approx 1hr 45 mins. Download the Cockermouth Bus Timetable.

BUTTERMERE BY BUS FROM  COCKERMOUTH (PEAK SEASON):

There is a free shuttle bus (funding permitted) during the school holiday period and a direct shuttle bus. Find out more about the peak-season bus service.

Useful links for your Buttermere trip

Ready to get planning your trip to Buttermere Valley in the Lake District? Here are some useful links to get you started with amazing things to do in Buttermere.

🚌 TOURS, TRANSPORT & TOURIST INFORMATION
👕 RECOMMENDED GEAR & INSURANCE

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