Buttermere is the best located of an unusual cluster of lakes (with Crummock Water and Loweswater) and is the busiest of the western lakes.
Buttermere and Crummock Water were once a single lake. They are now separated by a narrow band of land formed from debris washed into the lake by Mill Beck (a similar process is still going on at Glenridding on Ullswater).
Buttermere's small size means that a complete circuit of the lake is a pleasant medium length low level walk, with dramatic and surprisingly changeable views, particularly as the crags on Haystacks come into site. An unusual feature of this walk is a short section of tunnel on the northern side of the lake which carried the path through a small crag that overlooks the lake.
The fells around Buttermere are unusually varied in nature. To the south Dodd, High Stile and High Crag present a series of buttresses to the lake, separated by hidden combs, at the eastern end the dramatic ridge of Fleetwith Edge dominates, climbing up to Fleetwith Pike and to the north-east open slopes climb up to the summit of Robinson, while Whiteless Pike dominates behind Buttermere village.
The most dramatic approach to Buttermere is over Honister Pass from Borrowable, although the road over Newlands Hause isn't far behind. Even the single low-level approach, past Crummock Water, has a moment of drama where the narrow road curves around the base of Rannerdale Knotts, an area where special care is required. During the nineteenth century plans to build a branch line from the Cockermouth-Keswick-Penrith railway to Buttermere was defeated.
There are three car parks around Buttermere. The National Trust car park is to be found just to the west of the village. Best known is the National Park car park, which is approached through the centre of the village. The third car park is found at Gatesgarth Farm, at the eastern end of the lake, where in 2008 refreshments were available.