Five best parkruns in the Lake District

WE are used to having tourists visit us in the Lake District. But now we’re getting a new kind of visitor: the parkrun tourist. So just for you, here’s our choice of the five best parkruns here in the Lakes.

But we don’t want to be controversial and say which is our favourite! Instead, we’re going to use an alphabetical list, because we know that YOU will have your own favourite.

Fell Foot parkrun. Spectacular location at this National Trust park right on the shore of Windermere, at the southern end of the lake near Newby Bridge. The summer route is two laps of a big meadow, with one loop in between them, which features the notorious Cafe Hill. The winter route is a fun and slightly crazy four lapper with lots of out and back sociability, but alas, four ascents of Cafe Hill. Winter route isn’t suitable for dogs or pushchairs; you’ll see why. Plenty of parking – it’s just £1 for parkrunners, though free if you’re a member of the National Trust. Not easy to reach by public transport. There’s a cafe in the boathouse right by the lake. Very strong tradition of going for a swim after your run – or even before your run! Always lots of tourists here. Course record is 15.26.

Ford parkrun. This is a delightful community event in the bottom left hand corner of the Lakes, in the pretty town of Ulverston. It’s 3.5 laps around the park, on paths and grass, with not much in the way of hills. The cafe here is super, and on site in the park itself. There’s plenty of nearby parking (see their website regarding special arrangements) and it has a nice homely feel, with seldom more than 100 runners. Course record is 17.11, but as with all parkruns, you’re just as welcome if you are walking round the route.

Keswick parkrun. A really interesting out and back route on the line of an old railway, including a long (and stunningly constructed) tunnel, in which men and boys can’t help hooting and whistling. Feel free! It’s relatively flat, with just a bit of a rise in the middle. The volunteer team is led by a comedy genius who said once, on a very wet day: “Do you really want to run? Or shall we just wait here (under a shelter) and I’ll tell you funny stories for half an hour?” Very nice cafe across the road in Fitz Park (where the junior parkrun is staged on Sundays). Limited parking on the approach road but lots of car parks in the town centre. Portaloo on site. Course record: 15.07.

Rothay parkrun. This is our local parkrun in Ambleside, just a ten minute jog from our front door and yes, we will arrange an early or late breakfast for you! It’s a real community event with a host of friendly and encouraging volunteers. The route is three laps of the park and the adjoining Miller Field, on a mixture of grass and tarmac (so one road shoe and one trail shoe will be ideal 😉). It’s surprisingly flat, for the Lake District, but not all that fast because of a few out and back sections. There’s no cafe in the park, but a super coffee van just outside, and umpteen cafes just a short walk away in the town centre. Plenty of nearby parking. Course record: 15.57.

Whinlatter Forest parkrun. Here’s the big daddy of them all, the wonderful and scary forest run which has (allegedly) more climbing than any other parkrun in the world. The start is lower than the finish. The first half mile is all steeply downhill. The last 400 metres are downhill. So you can imagine what the rest is like. (Actually, you can’t! But it is wonderful.) We love the forest paths, good running surface. We love the mountain views as you climb above the trees. We love the friendly volunteers, and the gorgeous cafe (where they do a parkrun special deal). The course record is an amazing 16.19; he must be a fellrunner – or a bird – in another life.

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