A simple guide to hiking with Whippets in the Lake District. [Disclaimer – there is actually only one Lake in the Lake District (Bassenthwaite), the rest are classed as Tarns or Waters – good pub quiz knowledge!]
Do you need any special kit if you plan some fell walking with your whippet?
I would highly recommend investing in a good harness, preferably with a handle. If your whippet hasn’t had to navigate things like stiles or a little bit of rock scrambling, this will make both of your lives much easier.
As well as the harness, a bungy lead which you can connect round your waist so that you can keep your hands free for any small scrambles but also, if you are out for a while, you don’t want to have to hand hold your dog lead the entire time.
My go to brand for both of these are Ruffwear, I’ve been using them for about 8 years and both the quality and longevity give me faith and peace of mind that my whippets will be safe on a fell walk. I’ve recently changed Bertie’s to a Flagline as he prefers this, but you can read about why I think Ruffwear are brilliant on my blog The Best Harnesses for Whippets.
I’d take water and a collapsible bowl – I’ve found whippets can be fussy when drinking ‘outdoor’ water and although there are usually plenty of streams to choose from, mine very rarely drink from them unless they are really desperate!
One thing to remember about the Cumbrian weather is that it can change in an instant! Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you are setting off on a mild spring morning that it will be like that if you head up a fell. You could experience all seasons during your walk so particularly with whippets, take something that covers most basis – my go to is the Redhound for Dogs Chester as it’s not too warm, shower proof & packs away easily.
For humans, a good pair of broken in hiking shoes, and lightweight waterproof in spring/summer and layers the rest of the year.
Are there good paths/tracks? You advise for planning a route
This really depends on what you want to do. Catbells is considered one of the ‘easiest’ fells but it’s not because it isn’t steep going, it’s a good 40-50 minute up hill hike but easy in the respect that there’s only a couple of very small scrambles which most people with a good level of fitness can do.
If you don’t fancy that, a lot of the Waters you are able to walk round quite easily and can take 3+ hours depending on which one you do. Bear in mind that some don’t have a ‘path’ so to speak but more of a track. One of the more popular Waters is Buttermere which is a lovely fairly flat stroll.
How long would you be out
However long you want to be! There what feels like an infinite network of routes which link all the Waters. With some good planning (something I lack), you do an all day loop if you wanted, or a short there and back stroll.
Are there places to stop/rest get refreshments on your favourite fell walks
Generally there aren’t any on the actual walks but a few of my favourite routes are:
Parking at the left side of Loweswater and walking to the amazing Kirkstyle Inn – this is a bit of a hidden gem nestled in between Loweswater and Crummock Water. Super dog friendly with a beer garden with the most majestic of views!
If you fancy attempting Cat Bells then The Lingholm Kitchen is very close and has the most amazing gardens and a fabulous café.
If you fancy something all day but not too challenging then you can park at the west of Crummock Water and take a hike to the Lakes largest waterfall, Scale Force, then pop into The Buttermere Court where I’ve always been made to feel super welcome before doing a loop of Buttermere, and then stopping in again on the way back! You can actually go round the other side of Crummock on the way back but it requires a little bit of road walking along the incredibly beautiful Honister Pass but it’s well used by walkers and has gorgeous views.
There are also some lovely walks direct from Keswick, which I have to say is probably one of the most dog friendly towns I have come across in the Lake District so far, you’d be hard pressed to find somewhere that isn’t dog friendly! You can check out my ongoing blog Dog Friendly Lake District for more!
Tips for grabbing a great selfie when you reach the top
Self timer & treats are your friend! You will more than likely to find stacked stone ‘cairns’ which are used as way points on a hike, I usually prop my phone or camera up against one of these and set a self timer. It can get windy so you may need another stone to pop in front, but they you can add your contribution to the pile!
Be aware of the Woolly Magicians
One thing I really didn’t consider, or know about much, was sheep. Lots and lots of sheep. Everywhere. When you least expect them. I’ve walked one way, have seen no sheep – and on the way back, they have magically appeared from nowhere (or so it seems). I’ve had a couple of close calls where there’s been nothing in eyesight, but Shadow has air scented and gone off, so now, unless I really know the area, or I’m at the highest point and can have a 360 view, I keep mine on lead. During the warmer months it’s even harder to spot them as they nestle down in the ferns and long undergrowth. It’s just not worth the risk as dogs can be shot for harassing livestock.
Please don’t let this put you off, the hikes absolutely incredible regardless, and there are plenty of places to let your whippets off lead if they need a run around first.
One last thing
This may sound strange, but get your whippet used to different surfaces and also clambering or jumping up before you visit. There’s a lot of scree in the Lake District, which is stones/slate which line some of the fells – it moves around quite a lot when you walk on it, which can be quite disconcerting for a whippet – Bertie flat out refused to walk on some of our first scree hikes. If you have a pebbly beach nearby, or even somewhere with a lot of gravel, it might be worth just walking with them over it. There might be instances where you need to scramble up rock – getting your whippet used to jumping up eg logs or benches will help them with their confidence so you don’t have to try and lift them on everything.
Most of all – ENJOY! The Lake District is vast, dramatic, ever changing and I know you will absolutely love it. If you have any questions, please just drop me an email and if I don’t know the answer, I’m sure I’ll know someone who will!
Questions supplied by Redhound for Dogs – is there anything else you would like to see included on this blog post? Pop them in the comments and I’d love to know if you found this post useful.