20081021_Elterwater – Little Langdale – Colwith Force – Skelwith Force Circular Walk – Post-1

20081021_Elterwater – Little Langdale – Colwith Force – Skelwith Force Circular Walk – Post-1
When :
21st October 2008
Who : Me and my sister Janet
Where : Lake District, Cumbria, England
Maps : 1:25000 Outdoor Leisure Map no.7, The English Lakes – South East
Start + End Point : 329,050
Approx Distance : 6 miles, 9.5 km
Heights : 875 ft (about 270m) up and down
Parking : Free at Waithwaite Bottom on B5343 a little way outside Elterwater Village [Other parking in Elterwater Village].
Public Transport : Yes, Elterwater is serviced by Bus, possibly a limited service

Summary : Waithwaite Bottom Car Park ; Elterwater (The Village) ; Little Langdale ; Slater Bridge ; Colwith Force ; Skelwith Bridge ; Skelwith Force ; River Brathay ; Elter Water (The Lake) ; Return to Elterwater (Village) and Waithwaite Bottom.

As we drove down to the car park at Waithwaite Bottom, all of a sudden the weather brightened up, with the claggy rain being pushed rapidly away with cold bright mostly sunny conditions coming in. It’s almost as if the Gods had decided to smile down on us, just for a change … and it made the time spent in the rain around Grasmere (hoping for it to clear up) all the more worthwhile.

Having said that, I couldn’t bring myself to trust the remaining clouds and I donned waterproof over-trousers and coat. It had certainly dropped several degrees in temperature, but I’ve always enjoyed walking in cold, crisp, clear air and I was really looking forward to doing this walk again. I’ve done this walk several times now, in various guises and really like the area. This is a low level walk with loads of interest throughout.

We set off with a little road walking, having immediately crossed the B5343 as we left the car park, and soon reached the charming village of Elterwater. This is a lovely place with traditional houses scattered almost haphazardly.

There’s a super pub (The Britannia Inn) positioned behind the little village green very close to a public car park. The village also has its own Youth Hostel, intuitively named Elterwater Youth Hostel within easy staggering distance of the pub! I’ve stayed in both the Pub and Hostel in the past and would certainly do so again. Maybe not as picturesque but very useful to know, there’s a public loo block in the village too.




Our route took us past the Pub, the loo’s, and after crossing the bridge over the river (Great Langdale Beck) we also passed the Youth Hostel and headed south on the road as it climbed away from the village.

After a few hundred yards (or meters if you prefer) we branched right onto a walled rough lane which climbs quite steadily up into some woods. Although not difficult walking the gradient certainly made us work a bit more and started to raise a sweat.

This is a super track with views off to the left, woods to the right. A tantalising glimpse of Elter Water (The lake) can just about be made out away in the valley left behind, teasing us with a promise of what wouldn’t be seen again until later in the afternoon.

I especially like the moss and lichens on the walls on both sides of us, almost a landscape in their own right.

As we climbed, a robin kept flitting just ahead of us, perching on the wall top, tree twigs, some barbed wire, etc., but he wouldn’t stay still long enough for his image to be captured on camera … it was almost like he was toying with us. Still robins always seem such happy little beings, and this seemed to match our mood also.

It had stayed dry since we’d left the car (almost half-an-hour since), and with only blue skies above, I decided to remove my waterproofs, aided by the fact I was getting quite warm after the rise up the lane. Janet decided to match my actions and we neatly packed our outer layers in our sacks. Within minutes of restarting up to the crest of the lane, a wintry squall promptly blew in, apparently from no-where. It wasn’t quite hail, but the rain was stingingly cold, so the waterproofs went straight back on again …. What a pain!!!

The lane now emerged from the wooded area as it leveled out (underneath Howe Banks, part of the lower slopes of Lingmoor Fell) to give a much more open aspect ahead. I liked the change in feel from being slightly enclosed by the overhanging trees, to the airiness ahead. The route leaves the Elterwater/Great Langdale valley behind here as the lane crests over into Little Langdale with super views to the south opening up to Wetherlam and Tilberthwaite Fells. There’s some super walking in those areas, but today we were content just to view from a distance. It was nice seeing the tops of the mountains which had been clouded-in for the previous two days.

As we left the wooded area, we stayed on the lane, ignoring the footpath branching off on the left, and continued ahead having to avoid some pretty large puddles as we dropped steadily past Dale End to reach the minor road running through Little Langdale. The views eastwards here are superb, looking at a large sweep of fells on both sides rising up to the Wrynose Pass and perfectly framing Little Langdale Tarn nearer to us.

The road can be quite busy as it winds its way up to Wrynose Pass and beyond to the Duddon Valley and the even more incredible Hardknott pass. The drive over both of these passes is quite fantastic, an exhilarating, stunning, even daunting road (1:3 gradient in places) and is justifiably famous, one I love, although I haven’t been over that way for some years now. If you don’t fancy the full climb over Wrynose; not far past Little Langdale Tarn is another road (Side Gates) that climbs up to pass Blea Tarn and then drops down into Great Langdale… a super little road.

Anyway, I’ve digressed a bit, as our route took us straight over the road to pick up a footpath alongside a wall where the grassy fields dropped gently towards the tarn. My OS. map shows no footpath down to the tarn, which is a pity because I’m sure the surrounding fells would make for some fantastic reflections in the waters. Instead the path continues in a generally southerly direction to drop down to meet the River Brathay soon after it flows out of the tarn. The tarn itself is not actually visible here due to a sweep in the river around a little area of slightly raised land with a stand of trees atop of it, blocking the view to the east. However, this doesn’t really matter as the focus is naturally drawn to a small but perfectly charming footbridge over the river … Slater Bridge.


The first span is a classic clapper bridge construction, a number of large flat stone slabs crossing to a rocky island in the river.

The onward span to the opposite bank is a shallow arch of stones, wedged together with bits of vegetation growing between the cracks.

The arch is so shallow it’s a wonder it can support itself let alone anybody crossing it. A lovely spot.

I think this is where cag’s were again taken off and packed away and after a good number of photo’s taken we headed off again, the path soon reaching another lane where we turned left to follow it eastwards, more or less running parallel to the river a little distance away. It’s really straightforward easy walking on the tarmac’d roadway. I don’t normally like walking on metalled roads, but this is so quiet and the views around are so good it really doesn’t matter here.

After a short while the road bends right into the corner of Moss Rigg Wood and then bends again to the left leaving the woods to pass Stang End.

Another couple of short sharp squalls and cag’s going on/off again during the morning led me to a decision … they were to stay on for the rest of the day … so ensuring no more rain was seen for the rest of the day … Typical ! 

As we progressed along the lane, the views northwards were lovely, the closer hill sides dotted with farms and homes such as Wilson Place, Greenbank, Iving Howe and Low Hacket, etc., giving a quite homely and settled feel to the valley, a complete contrast to the wilds of Far Easedale the day before. In the distance the high fells showed a dusting of white, where the wintry showers had left a sprinkling of snow over the tops, in particular up to Fairfield in the far distance.

After not too long, with the track skirting around the base of a craggy hill (Great How) we reached High Park, where we branched off the lane, picking up a bridle track on the left. Soon after entering some woods we took the permissive path option to the left, allowing the bridle track to go on ahead, whilst we dropped on a narrow path through the wooded hillside.

We soon rejoined the River Brathay, not seen at close quarters for some time now, at a bend in the stream … and soon after reached the next major highlight of the walk … Colwith Force Waterfall.



Colwith Force is where the Brathay drops impressively down a step in the terrain, and was a thundering torrent after the recent heavy rain. In fact the rain of this morning around Grasmere seemed an age ago, such had been the improvement during the day.

Because of the way the river bends and drops quickly within the surrounding trees, it wasn’t easy to get a close view; especially with the pathways strewn with wet leaves and exposed and extremely slippery tree roots. However, this didn’t stop us carefully doing a little exploring and we were rewarded with some brightness penetrating the branches to light up the roaring cascades.

Continued on Post-2


20081021_Elterwater – Little Langdale – Colwith Force – Skelwith Force Circular Walk – Post-2

20081021_Elterwater – Little Langdale – Colwith Force – Skelwith Force Circular Walk – Post-2
When :
21st October 2008
Who : Me and my sister Janet
Where : Lake District, Cumbria, England
Maps : 1:25000 Outdoor Leisure Map no.7, The English Lakes – South East
Start + End Point : 329,050
Approx Distance : 6 miles, 9.5 km
Heights : 875 ft (about 270m) up and down
Parking : Free at Waithwaite Bottom on B5343 a little way outside Elterwater Village.
                         [Other parking in Elterwater Village]
Public Transport : Yes, Elterwater is serviced by Bus, possibly a limited service

Summary : Waithwaite Bottom Car Park ; Elterwater (The Village) ; Little Langdale ; Slater Bridge ; Colwith Force ; Skelwith Bridge ; Skelwith Force ; River Brathay ; Elter Water (The Lake) ; Return to Elterwater (Village) and Waithwaite Bottom.

Continued from Post-1.


Reluctantly, we pulled ourselves away from the spectacle of Colwith Force waterfalls to follow the river downstream through the woods to meet a minor road. (Turning left here and then right at a fork in the road would give a short route back to Elterwater Village, but that wasn’t for us). We turned right for a short distance, before crossing the road to enter a small field and then into some more trees where it leaves the river to climb to Low Park and Park Farms.

Even more views opened up again, as the path dropped steadily before entering some more woods as we approached the A593 road.

There was a parting of paths in the woods … left or right branches, which to take? … Just as I started to peruse my map a passing walker queried where we were heading. Upon mentioning Skelwith Bridge, he kindly pointed to the left hand route (where he’d just come from) … We promptly took his directions, as he headed off up the path we’d come from. I should have trusted my own skills! As within a hundred yards or so, I realised we were swinging round in the wrong direction and had to double back to the dividing of the paths again to pick the right hand option which soon brought us out onto the A593.

A short bit of road walking brought us to the main road bridge over the river and soon after into the village of Skelwith Bridge and headed straight for the Chesters café attached to the slate-works gift shop.

We were now well over half way round the walk and a posh cup of coffee on the café terrace above the river was a welcome touch of civilisation, alfresco style despite the slight chill in the air.



After a brief look around the gift shop (didn’t buy anything) we set off again to find the path which takes you through the slate works itself. It’s not often a country walk takes you through an industrial landscape, and this adds another bit of interest for a very short while. 


The path continues westwards now effectively sandwiched between the river and the B5343 road. Within minutes of heading upstream we reached the next highlight … Skelwith Force … another plunging cascade.


As waterfalls go, the drop isn’t very far, but the water is channeled between large stone outcrops on both banks and the volume of water pushed through the gap makes an impressive sight.


A couple of little metal bridges and some steps in amongst the craggy rocks allows you to get quite close up, albeit a little wet and slippery from the ‘falls spray.

Leaving the noisy torrent behind, we soon reached a very modern footbridge crossing the river to a path heading off downstream on the opposite bank …. In hindsight I think this may have been the bridge we were directed to by the gentleman at the parting paths in the woods … maybe he’d assumed we wanted “The Bridge by Skelwith Force”, Not “Skelwith Bridge” village itself.

We ignored the crossing, to continue onwards on the northern bank-side, soon emerging from the lightly wooded area into an open field.


The view ahead dominated by the brilliantly shapely and instantly recognisable Langdale Pikes in the distance. I’ve heard these are the single most photographed place in the Lake District, and you can see why :-

They’re perfectly photogenic and probably aided by their central location and that they can been seen from many different places and angles around the national park. Today they looked absolutely stunning, highlighted by the afternoon sun.

I felt I could almost reach out and touch them even though they were some miles away.

A glimpse of Stickle Ghyll waterfalls descending from the pikes, reminded me of the first “proper” lake-land walk I did with my Dad in the late 1970’s during a family holiday; the “tourist route” climb to Stickle Tarn from Great Langdale and back again; little more than a couple of miles, but a good climb on a hot summer’s day. Little did I know where that first walk would lead … not really to a single view point or a cool tarn to paddle in (though both superb here), but rather to a life-long love of walking, high fells and mountains (especially The Lakes), moors and dales and more views and experiences than you could shake a stick at (a walking stick that is!!!).

I’ve digressed again, the walk continued on a made up path through the meadow ahead, staying quite close to the river, now almost serene and benign in total contrast to the waterfall left behind.

A closer look showed just how fast flowing it really was, swelled almost to the point of breaking its banks.



The route was now a pleasant stroll to where the Brathay flows out of Elter Water (the lake not the village) and a swan decided to glide over to join us as we stopped for the latest photo’ opportunity. It was obviously looking to share some of our lunch, but it shouldn’t have banked on cajoling some tit-bits from a Hadden … It had no chance! My lunch is for ME! … (you can call me mean if you want, but I don’t care!).

From what I’ve read in various places “Elter Water” actually means “Swan Lake” in old Norse language … The swan joining us sort of added a touch of romance to this useless but fascinating little play on words.

It’s surprising, but for such a large body of water, you don’t actually get to see much of the lake at-all, as it is split into almost three separate sections, divided and hidden from view by reed beds, thickets of trees, etc. The path only touches the shore line briefly where spindly trees had their feet flooded forming a kind of mini mangrove preventing full view across the waters. They did give some super little reflections though.


The final stretch alongside Great Langdale Beck felt almost anti-climatic, as the path is a wide shingled track, only remarkable by the repair works going on with JCB’s and the like where the surface had been washed into the adjoining field, obviously from where the stream had burst it’s banks to flood the area. We soon arrived back in Elterwater (The village) and then back to Waithwaite Bottom and the waiting car.

Yet another cracking Lake District walk … spoilt by only one thing … it had ended! and we had to come home. Still, a good short break.

Now that Christmas and The New Year are well and truly behind us, it’s probably time to get planning the next one, which 2nd sister wants to join us on … 3 siblings, all now middle aged (sorry Julie but it’s true!) and all able to get on together, in our bustling busy worlds … I like that … very much!

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….


Next walk = **************

20081019-21_Lake District break – Some vids

20081019-21 : Lake District – 3 Day break
When : 19th to 21st October 2008
Who : Me and Janet
Where : The Lake District – England

I’m working on the diary entries of the three walks my sister and I did last month …

Just in the iterim I’ve “published” 4x short videos on You Tube showing some of the waterfalls we walked past (3 from the 2nd walk and the 1 from the 3rd day)

They’re not the greatest quality, but do illustrate the amount of surface water around [in classic English understatement, it was a bit damp] …. If you want a look-see, please use the links below.





Links to my walks diaries :-






Just to finish off this short post, a few days after we’d been there, the 2008 OMM event (Original Mountain Marathon) was held just a little further north in the Borrowdale/Buttermere area and the story became national headline stuff. I’ve made a little comment post which you can access via my Lake District Category, or direct using the following link : https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/11/05/20081019-21_lake-district-omm-comment/ .

Also you can read my intro’ post per https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/11/05/20081019-21_lake-district-3-day-break/

I hope you enjoy my scribblings.

20080620_Great Gable Walk

20080620 : Honister Hause to Great Gable Walk and return
When : 20 June 2008
Who : Just me
Where : Lake District – England
Approx distance : 8 km 5 miles
Significant height : 1400 m
Parking : Car Parks top of Honister Pass – National Trust/Quarry’s own.
Public Transport : Yes but limited times… from both Buttermere or Borrowdale

Route Summary : Honister Hause – Grey Knotts – Brandreth – Gillercomb Head – Green Gable – Windy Gap – Great Gable … reversed for return.

This was the third of my walks of my short break in the lakes. My post “20080618-21 Lake District – 4 Day break” gives some back-ground and includes a bit about enforced accommodation changes etc. You can go and read that first if you really want to, but it’s not essential for the following diary post to make sense. In summary though, I’d been due to stay at Black Sail Youth Hostel but it’d been temporarily closed, at very short notice, and my nights stay had been switched to Honister Hause Youth Hostel. See the links below if you want to know more about the hostels …



( http://www.yha.org.uk/find-accommodation/the-lake-district/hostels/Honister-Hause/index.aspx ). ( http://www.yha.org.uk/find-accommodation/the-lake-district/hostels/Black-Sail/index.aspx ).

Because of this enforced change to my accommodation, the walks I had planned had been rendered obsolete (at least for this trip). The problem was, I now had to decide what walk to do and I’d poured over my map the night before in the common room of Honister Hause Youth Hostel where I’d ended up.


Not that being at Honister Hause Y.H. was a problem, in fact I really like the hostel with it’s superb setting, good food and friendly staff & fellow guests (oh and no stairs to climb to the dorm’!). All in all, it felt homely and to my mind just like a traditional youth hostel should …. No, the problem was deciding what kind of walk suited me, especially as I hadn’t moved particularly quickly on the previous two days. My preference would be to:-




  1. Not move the car,
  2. Stay on high ground for as long as possible during the day,
  3. Do a circular route,
  4. Get a decent day of weather (out of my control unfortunately).

Leaving the car where it was, was easy, the warden at the hostel had said I could leave my car where it was, for free, just outside the building and off the road in the very small YHA parking area … what a nice chap! … However, a circular route from here would have meant dropping quite significant heights before rising back up to Honister Pass in the afternoon. I decided against this, as, doubting my fitness levels, I didn’t fancy a stiff climb at the end of the day. Also, I really didn’t want to start the day in the car, because any driving (down towards Buttermere or down towards Borrowdale) would loose all the height I had, already being at the top of Honister pass.

In the end, I decided to stay high and do a short walk, taking in four named tops (and NO, I’m not going to call them Wainwright’s!, they were named long before he’d mapped them in his guides, and I especially dislike the recent apparent Wainwright-isation of everything to do with walking in the Lake-District!). The main goal, weather permitting, was to be Great Gable via Grey Knotts, Brandreth and Green Gable. The forecast was mixed but a little more favourable than the previous two days and my hope was for the cloud base to be high and broken enough to give some decent views. Very unusually, I decided on the same route out and return, in fact pretty much a straight line there and back, with just a bit of a dogs leg in the general direction. I took a gamble – shorts were to be worn to give my legs an airing and I hoped any fellow walkers would have sun-glasses to protect themselves from the glare.

Walking out of the hostel, there was no pre-amble to loosen up the slightly stiff muscles from the previous couple of days exertions. The walk started straight-up from the corner of the National Trust car park, heading directly for Grey Knotts. It didn’t take long for the steep slope to slow me down. Mountain walking is really quite different to Warwickshire rambles and uses different muscles and techniques, and my legs were telling me so! My heart felt good though and I was in high spirits as I was joined on the climb by three gentlemen who’d been fellow guests at the hostel the night before (as it happens they too should have been at Black Sail at the same time as me). They were heading to Borrowdale Youth Hostel that evening, another coincidence as that was my destination as well. Their route was the same as mine as far as Great Gable, where upon they were to branch away and walk down into Borrowdale. They became informal walking colleagues at various times all the way to Great Gable. A short sharp shower didn’t have much effect really and with some good humoured chat, Grey Knotts was attained. It felt good, very good! views had opened up, the rain had blown over, only the higher tops were shrouded in cloud …. Absolutely wonderful!

With views viewed and photo’s snapped and after the exertions of the earlier climb, the route ahead to Brandreth was to be easy going and I looked forward to opening up my stride, although a boggy section ahead with some standing pools of water meant a decision had to be made: LH side of the fence stretching ahead or the RH side? I chose the left, my new friends the right and for now we parted company as I strode out ahead, my 6′-4″ height and long legs helping to do this. The non-descript top of Brandreth reached, I stopped and found a little hollow to sit in for some refreshment, taking in the views over Base Brown and beyond – Lovely. If you’ve never walked up high … do it! … It really is worth it; even a mile or so from the road can get you into the most fantastic places.




The drop, pretty much due south, over the stony broad slope of Brandreth was a little taxing on the ankles, but it didn’t last long as the wide saddle of Gillercomb Head was reached and the steady climb up to Green Gable began.

The wind had picked up quite considerably, blowing chillily across from the Kirk Fell area, so I reluctantly hid my legs away under my waterproof / windproof / breathable over-trousers (fellow walkers on the path might have been relieved that they no longer needed their sun-glasses, but they were far too polite to say so). Remarkably, the O/trousers were quite comfy directly against my skin – well done Berghaus!

By the top of Green Gable the wind was quite strong and I really began to wonder what Windy Gap and the top of Great Gable (some 100m higher) were going to be like. I had visions of crawling, caterpillar style, over the top of Great Gable, just to say I’d reached the summit.



Oddly, Windy Gap wasn’t! For once it wasn’t living up to its name at-all. The climb up Great Gable was very calm indeed, the route being sheltered by its own massive bulk.

As it happened, it was only mildly breezy on the summit. The Steep, rocky, bouldery, climb up Great Gable was slow (legs, fitness, mountain terrain, etc, again), but the Gods were obviously smiling on me, because, as the sun came out, expansive views could be seen in a fantastic 360-degree panorama.

I could list a whole host of tops etc. that could be seen, but I won’t, suffice to say the views were brill’; the highlight was watching the clouds lift off Skafell and Skafell Pike, revealing England’s very highest places.

Visibility was good enough to make out The Isle of man, out in The Irish Sea and Scotland in the far distance. Looking inland, all the tops were free of cloud. The vistas in all directions competed against each other for my attention … Wow; I’d certainly been away from these tops for too long … how had that happened!

It was so good in fact, that I sat in a warm little hollow under the summit rocks and I phoned my Mum and Dad just to tease them a little, as they would have loved to have been there with me (that’s another story completely, not to be told right now!). Anyway my tease fell a little flat, as they weren’t in! … I had to suffice with leaving a message on their answer phone. I was in good company, loads of people were getting their mobiles out – it was the first place since arriving in The Lakes that I’d got a signal. One young lady close by was talking about uploading a photo to her face-book account or similar. Depending on your point of view (small pun there considering where I was) you can say how wonderful modern technology is …. or, maybe a little intrusive perhaps? I decided that this proud mountain and the surrounding fells were perhaps diminished somehow and I put the phone away, but only after a call to my lovely wife. She said I had to stay over an extra night if it was as good as my obviously enthused voice imparted. I returned to the views and lost myself in the expanse of crags, streams, lakes and sky. In fact I must have stayed a full 1-½ hours on the top of Great Gable. During this time my three “friends” moved off south-eastwards towards Sty Head, where their route was to take in Sprinkling Tarn, Grains Gill and Seathwaite before reaching Borrowdale Youth Hostel.


It was quite busy on the top of Great Gable, with parties, some quite sizeable, appearing from various directions, and there must have been over a score of people at times milling around before moving off on their own routes. My route back was a complete reversal of the outward trip and I reluctantly dragged myself back to walking mode. The descent off Great Gable was easier than anticipated, although concentration was needed to ensure good foot placement etc. The short climb up to Green Gable again brought me into a mini gale, but the breeze dropped once back towards Gillercomb Head and the over trousers came off (and sun glasses were required again should anyone suffer dazzle).

It’s worth noting an iron gate sat all alone on the broad saddle of Gillercomb Head. It’s quite surreal seeing this rusty but still working gate, with no fence to go with it. I think it’s the remains of an old boundary fence, as the boundary posts (BP on the OS map), can still be seen stretching away over the fells. Great navigation aids in mist! The climb up Brandreth was much easier than the earlier stony descent – I picked a better, less stony route.


Grey Knotts was quickly reached afterwards, and this time, I spent a little more time on its rocky outcrops before the really quite knee jarring descent back to the car at Honister Hause.

A short walk, little more than a half-dayer really, but I’d pretty much filled a whole day somehow. A super day and very much more satisfying than what I’d allowed myself to anticipate that morning.

The short drive down Little Gatesgarth left Honister pass behind and brought me through Seatoller. Then just after Strands Bridge, nearing Borrowdale Youth Hostel, I spotted my three “friends” last seen leaving Great Gable, and looking just a little weary. I offered them a lift, not really expecting them to accept … I was right, they didn’t. I‘d been settled in for a while when they arrived themselves and being a nice kind of chap, I brewed up four mugs of coffee for us all. This was later repaid by a glass of organic red wine at dinner, which went down very well with my trout. Youth hostels have changed, sometimes for the worse, but in this case for the better, great grub Borrowdale Youth Hostel, excellent! Anyways-up, it was a much civilised end to a good days walking in the Great Outdoors of the English Lake District.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….
Next walk = 20080621, Castle Crag circular in Borrowdale, link = https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/20080620_castle-crag-borrowdale/


20080619_Fleetwith Pike – Haystacks Walk

20080619 : Fleetwith Pike – Haystacks Walk
When : 19 June 2008
Who : Just me
Where : Lake District – England
Approx distance : 15 km 9-1/2 miles
Significant height : 875 m (mostly up, but some downs included)
Parking : Car Parks in village or side of road above chapel.
Public Transport : Yes but limited times

Route Summary : Buttermere Village ; Buttermere Lake south shore ; Gatesgarth ; Fleetwith Edge ; Fleetwith Pike ; Dubs Bottom ; Haystacks ; Scarth Gap ; Buttermere Lake north shore.

This is the second of four walks of my short break of 4-days in the North West area of the Lake District. My post “20080618-21 Lake District – 4 Day Beak” gives a bit of background, but it’s not essential to what follows here. This walk was by far the longest and most strenuous of the 4 days.

I parked by the side of the road, just above the chapel on the outskirts of Buttermere Village (there’s no charge here, but space is limited which wasn’t a problem for me as I was up and about quite early). A small area is set aside for visitors to the chapel, so please respect this if you use this area for parking. There is parking in the village as well but I’d image there’d be a charge here.

This walk has a superb variety of terrain and pretty much encapsulates almost everything you could want from a Lakeland walk, including :- Lakeside woods; tumbling becks; a steep climb on an airy ridge; working quarries; fell top tarns and craggy hummocks to explore. All the time there are superb views and there’s even a tunnel the footpath negotiates.

I started off in good dry conditions which was pretty amazing given the sweeping rain that had blasted up the valley the evening before. From the chapel I dropped into the village of Buttermere and crossed the flat meadows between Buttermere Lake and Crummock Water, taking the more easterly of the two bridle tracks down to the shoreline of Buttermere Lake.


I crossed the footbridge over Buttermere Dubs as it flows out of the lake (on its way to Crummock Water) and immediately took time out to have a look at the spectacular torrent of Sourmilk Gill, swollen from the previous day’s rain. After a short while, I headed off on the well made path through Burtness wood. I decided to ignore the path that closely follows the shoreline, instead choosing the wide well made path set back and a little higher in the woods. This is a great start to a walk, pretty much level on good paths allowing legs to be stretched out and it was just what I needed to walk off a bit of stiffness from the previous day’s exertions.

The views across the lake to the surrounding fells framed by the trees are super, especially with a little brightness occasionally glinting off the crags and slopes. I wasn’t moving as easily or as quickly as maybe I’d have liked, but this gave the opportunity to soak up the Lakeland atmosphere. Despite a covering of low cloud I could see the top of Fleetwith Pike, the highest point of the walk ahead.


After a while, the path leaves Burtness Wood onto open fell and soon after, crosses the tumbling Comb Beck cascading down from Burtness Comb under the imposing heights of the High Stile ridge. (From across the other side of the lake, Comb Beck and its sister Sourmilk Gill, mentioned earlier, appear as thin ribbons of white against the dark fell side. It’s quite surprising how much noise these cascades make especially after heavy rain).


At the southernmost corner of Buttermere Lake, I ignored the path angling up towards Scarth Gap. Instead, staying low, I soon turned left to cross Peggy’s Bridge and the flat meadowland to Gatesgarth Farm to emerge out onto the B5289 Honister Pass road. Turing right along the road, the route starts its first and by far the hardest climb of the day.

There is charged parking at Gatesgarth Farm, and as the route passes through the farm (twice the way I walked it) this would allow the walk to be shortened by approx. 3-1/2 to 4 miles, but this would entail missing out on the considerable charms of the lakeside paths.


Leaving the road after a very short while, the path branches right onto the fell side and soon begins its steep climb up Fleetwith Edge and soon after the path passes close to a memorial cross set just below one of the lower crags. You’ll need to make a small detour to get a close up view and read the inscription. I didn’t get close enough to be able to read it myself, but according to various other web-sites, the memorial commemorates Fanny Mercer who was accidentally killed here in 1887. I suppose there’s a lesson for us some 121 years later that care is needed on these rugged fells.

There followed a pretty much unrelenting steep climb up the imposing Fleetwith Edge for the best part of a mile and although the path was easy to follow, I certainly slowed considerably. However, because of its fantastic position at the head of the valley and the steepness of ascent, superb views quickly opened up all around and my frequent breather stops facilitated being able to turn around and take in the full spectacle as it unfurled.


My only concern was the strong blustery wind that kept gusting across the ridge. At times I felt quite vulnerable, my 6′-4″ frame actually being a disadvantage for a change and I had to crouch down low to the ground a couple of times whilst I waited for the worst of the buffeting to subside. Oddly the higher I went, the less windy it became and as I found my climbing legs, the final reaches of the ascent were nicely achieved.

The familiar feelings on reaching the summit flooded over me and I drank in the views all around. The most obvious pull on the eyes was the classic view down the Buttermere and Crummock Water valley, stretched out towards the coast. However, the mountains all about fought for my attention, the heavy moody clouds on the tops adding a drama to the scene.


In particular swirls of cloud drifted and spiralled up and out from the depths of Gatesgarth Dale immediately below (on its way to the Honister Hause Pass). It was very atmospheric with the steep flanks of Hindscarth and Dale Head behind, appearing to be little more than a stones throw away. It was a superb backdrop to the ever changing patterns in the ethereal mists.

[Please click on the link below to see a 360 degree panorama from the summit of Fleetwith Pike]


With the highest point of the walk accomplished, I set off again, staying as high as possible following the path to Black Star crags, above Honister Crag, and then dropped quite quickly towards the Honister Quarries. Before descending too far, I turned south, taking care as I crossed some of the quarry workings and roadways and I swung more westerly for the drop to Dubs Quarry. The slate workings are not what you’d call pretty but added a certain interest and variety to the walk, especially with the heavy mine vehicles trundling back and forth.


The clouds were becoming more ominous now and I increased my pace hoping to get to Dubs Quarry Mountaineering Hut before the impending squall hit me. Despite breaking into a bit of a jog (boots and rucksack don’t lend themselves to this really) I never-the-less failed in my quest by about 50 yards and I reached the hut’s porch-way half soaked.

Trying the doorway, it opened and I stepped in taking refuge for about ½ an hour dripping and steaming as I dried out. I made this a convenient lunch stop watching as other walkers trudged by in the downpour, I assume them not knowing about the huts basic but dry charms. If you do need to use Dubs Hut, please treat it with respect, leave nothing behind and close the door securely as you leave.



As the rain eased, and now fully “cagged-up”, I set off again finding the path down to where Dubs Bottom drops off steeply into Warnscale Bottom. There were a couple of little streams to cross near to Little Round How, which I did quite easily despite some walkers ahead of me seemingly finding it problematic to find a convenient crossing place. New views opened up down towards Buttermere again, framed perfectly by the crags.

The rugged but obvious path (now rising) passed near to the northern tip of Blackbeck Tarn, but as the rain had started up again I chose not to make the detour to take a closer look. However, despite the current downpour, the clouds had lifted somewhat and the silhouettes of Green Gable and Great Gable looked superb across the tarn and beyond the nearby hummocky crags.


 Soon afterwards after a little more height gained and now heading generally westwards I reached Innominate Tarn. This is a lovely welcome to the charms of Haystacks. Made famous by a certain Alfred Wainwright where he wrote “All I ask for, at the end, is a last long resting place by the side of Innominate Tarn, on Haystacks….And if you should get a bit of grit in your boot as you are crossing Haystacks in the years to come, please treat it with respect. It might be me”: AW 1966 [ passage borrowed from : http://www.wainwright.org.uk/ ]

The main path skirts just to the north of the tarn, with its 3 little islands in a row, but as it’s such a lovely spot and the rain had eased almost to a stop, I decided to spend some time exploring the craggy hummocks and hollows as I made a small circuit around what is really little more than a large pool.

Rejoining the main path I quickly rose to the summits at the top of Haystacks. I say summits deliberately as there are several cairns and craggy tops all of which look higher than each other depending on where you happen to be standing. I’ve got to admit: I do like Haystacks, it’s got a certain magic about it, in its nooks and crannies, tarns and pools, crags and hollows the whole fell top is interesting to explore and the views all around are superb – Even if like today most of the higher tops were shrouded in cloud.

[Please click on the link below to see a 360 degree panorama from the summit area of Haystacks]


From the multiple summits, it was a steep rocky descent and quite hard work on the legs and concentration, but it didn’t last long before I reached the Scarth Gap Path and quite a major cross roads: to the left, the path drops into Ennerdale; straight on climbs to Seat and onwards to the High Crag / High Stile / Red Pike ridge; to the right, the path heads off towards Buttermere. This last option was my route for the day and I followed the rugged path, dropping quite quickly and it became gentler and easier as it lost its height. From the path I could see a good proportion of the route I’d completed, Fleetwith Edge’s profile in particular in fine view.

[Please click on the link below to see a 360 degree panorama from the Scarth Gap Path as it descends across Buttermere Fell]


Looking out over Buttermere Lake I could see the far bank where the last leg of the walk would bring the day to a very satisfying conclusion … Still that was to come, I pressed on and some blue sky started breaking through the cloud cover, welcoming me down and across Buttermere Fell … it’s amazing how a little brightness can bring a lift to your step. Upon reaching Peggy’s bridge for the second time in the day, I fairly bounced along the meadow track to Gatesgarth Farm as I reprised the morning’s outward route.

Upon reaching the B5289 instead of turning right as before, I headed left along the road until I reached the lakeside, where upon I picked up the permissive path along the north shore. The route all the way back to Buttermere village was quite straightforward and is a lovely stroll in its own right and although I thought tired legs would take the edge off the enjoyment, the views were stunning especially as the Sun finally decided to break through properly and the waters began to sparkle.



A highlight of this north shore permissive path is a short tunnel hewn through where Dalegarth’s grounds abruptly fall into the lake as a rocky crag.


From here onwards the feel is much more gentrified enhanced by the evening Sun warming me for the first time in the day, still better late than never!


Despite the at times very inclement weather I’d had a good days walking, although physically taxing in places it felt just like old times revisited … I’ll not leave it anyway near as long again, before I come back for more.

Quite a long diary entry this one, for which I’m not too sorry, the feelings of getting a good Lake District walk in again are too vivid to skip over quickly this time.

Oh and just to finish, I got a superb sunset from just across the road from the hostel, and it wasn’t the first time that had happened, what a simply wonderful place! 


Despite the length of prose, I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

Next walk = 20080620, Honister Hause to Great Gable and Return : link = https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/20080620_great-gable/