Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

View after ascending Red Gill on the way to Grasmoor
View after ascending Red Gill on the way to Grasmoor

“I love the mountains of Lakeland. They have been good friends to me over a long life, always there when wanted, always reliable, always welcoming. I have often sung their praises in an attempt to repay the debt I feel I owe them.”

So said Alfred Wainwright in the introduction to his book “Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains” an illustrated book with photos by Derry Brabbs. In the book he describes his favourite 20 (at least at the time) lakeland peaks. It’s not a guidebook, rather it provides some evocative text and photos for each of the mountains along with suggestions for various ascent routes.

The twenty peaks are as follows:

1. Blencathra

2. Bowfell

3. Coniston Old Man

4. Crinkle Crags

5. Dale Head

6. Eel Crag

7. Fairfield

8. Glaramara

9. Grasmoor

10. Great Gable

11. Haystacks

12. Helvellyn

13. High Stile

14. High Street

15. Hopegill Head

16. Langdale Pikes

17. Pillar

18. Scafell

19. Scafell Pike

20. Skiddaw

Walks to all of these can be highly recommended for any keen walker; do all 20 and you will a gain a great overview of, as well as probably a great love for, the Lake District, certainly one of my favourite corners of the world.

Fellwalking: Skiddaw

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“Skiddaw is the fourth highest peak in Lakeland and geographically the most important. Completely isolated by the Vale of Keswick and surrounded by lesser supporters which form a close-knit family group, it rises proudly in their midst like an old hen with a brood of chicks.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Yet another walk from the archives – and this is the last of my brief descriptions of ascents of Wainwight’s favourite 20 lakeland peaks. An appealing walk close to Keswick, for this walk I used the Pathfinder “More Lake District Walks” guidebook (note: the Pathfinder Lake District walk guides have been completely re-written since this post was first published and this route is now in the new guide The High Fells of Lakeland (Pathfinder Guides)).

The walk commences at a car park at the end of the Gale Road from Applethwaite. It follows a well worn path north-westwards that in contrast to most ascents, starts steeply and then eases off.

The summit of Skiddaw is labelled Skiddaw Man on the OL map and is marked with an ordnance survey marker and a view indicator. After visiting the summit you can return via the same route or alternatively descend the screes towards Carl Side and then follow the path to Millbeck (the Allerdale Ramble). The latter route requires a 2 mile walk along the road back to the car park.

My rating: A
Map: OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Northern Fells (Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells): Book 5

Fellwalking: Coniston Old Man

View from summit of Coniston Old Man

“I once wrote, in a spasm of exuberance, that the Old Man is to Coniston as the Matterhorn is to Zermatt, a gross exaggeration of course. Yet there is the same affinity between mountain and village: one without the other is unthinkable, and both are integral to the public’s image.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Haven’t been able to get out recently, so yet another walk from the archives – this one I did several years ago. It’s an enjoyable day walk that takes in the summit of Coniston Old Man and finishes with a pleasant stroll on the western shores of Coniston Water.

For this walk I used the Pathfinder “Lake District Walks” guidebook. Commencing in the village of Coniston, the path soon starts climbing the eastern flank of The Old Man getting steadily steeper as it approaches the summit and passing considerable evidence of the mountain’s industrial history – particularly slate mining. While somewhat aesthetically unappealing, the old quarries are to me an important part of the history of the area and do add some interest to the walk.

After the summit, the path drops down and passes Goat’s Water before descending steadily towards Torver.  From here the way proceeds through some woods to Coniston Water, and thence back to Consiton.

My rating: A
Map: OL6 – The English Lakes: South Western Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Wainwright Anniversary: The Southern Fells (50th Anniversary Edition): BOOK FOUR (A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells)

Fellwalking: High Stile

Red Pike from High Stile

“High Stile is the pivot, the central point and the loftiest of a closely knit trinity of peaks on an elevated ridge between Buttermere and Ennerdale … The rewards of a visit to High Stile more than compensate for the effort in getting there.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Another walk from the archives … and a magnificent walk it is – a highly recommended Lake District ridge walk centred on the lovely village and lake of Buttermere.

Parking near the church just above Buttermere village we took the bridleway that proceeds south towards Burtness Wood, continuing uphill as we entered the woods on the path that soon starts to climb steeply westwards by the south side of Sourmilk Gill toward Red Pike. After passing Bleaberry Tarn, the path gets steeper and the final pull up to the summit of Red Pike is quite an effort, but worth it for the magnificent views from the ridge, which may extend out to the coast if the weather is kind.

From Red Pike we followed the path south-east to High Stile and then on to High Crag, this section is not particularly difficult and in fine weather it is worth taking your time and savouring the views. North of the ridge are excellent views of Crummock Water, Buttermere and the north-western fells including Grasmoor and Eel Crag. To the east, Fleetwith Pike and the old slate mine tramway. South-eastwards you’ll see Haystacks and beyond Great Gable, and to the south, Pillar.

After High Crag, the path descends rather steeply to meet Scarth Gap Pass. At this path, you can turn north and follow the bridleway downhill to the shore of Buttermere, finishing with a pleasant stroll along a permissive path back through Burtness Wood. Alternatively, if you are feeling energetic, you can continue east up towards Haystacks and then keep following the path as it curls around past Innominate Tarn and Bleaberry Tarn to eventually pick up the path that descends by Warnscale back down towards Buttermere. This way requires a short road bash along the B5289, picking up another bridleway at Gatesgarth Farm that proceeds south-west to join the aforementioned bridleway and then permissive path back to the village of Buttermere.

All-in-all a great walk and one of my personal Lake District top 5 day walks.

My rating: A+
Map: OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: Book 7: The Western Fells – Second Edition (Pictorial Guides)

Fellwalking: High Street

View of High Street from near Kidsty Pike

“High Street is in stature the most massive of the fells on the far east of Lakeland, in altitude exceeding all others in that company … yet despite these credentials, High Street is unassuming and unpretentious and so accommodating to travellers that the Roman surveyors and engineers, during their early invasions of this country, laid a road across its broad top for the movement of troops and supplies in preference to their usual practice of seeking routes through the mountain passes. This ancient highway, still to be seen, gave High Street its unusual name.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Another great day out in Lakeland, this time at its far eastern edge. We started at Mardale, leaving our car in the small carpark there. From the carpark a path curves around north-east to join the Rigg. From here it is almost due west straight up the ridge, over Rough Crag to eventually attain the summit ridge along which the Roman’s built their road. There are splendid views in all directions in good weather and a cairn marks the summit at 2718 ft.

The path soon leaves the old Roman Road to turn south-east to Mardale Ill Bell. Not long after it crosses a bridleway which could be  used to return to Mardale Head, but we continued on past Harter Fell to eventually join Gatesgarth Pass and then a moderate descent back to the start of the walk. The Haweswater Hotel, on the road out, provided a good spot to relax and have a beer.

My rating: A
Map: OL5 – The English Lakes: North Eastern Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Far Eastern Fells (50th Anniversary Edition):Book Two (A Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells)

Fellwalking: Eel Crag (Crag Hill)

Summit of Eel Crag (Crag Hill)

“The great feature of the mountain is the north-east flank, steeply descending in a wild confusion of crags and outcrops and runs of scree that repel exploration; the south face, too, is defended by a line of cliffs and only westwards is there a slope of easy gradient”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Another day in the Lakes marred by rather poor weather – not much rain, but not much of a view either due to a very low cloud base, although the sun came out for long enough to give me a bit of sunburn! Notwithstanding this, an enjoyable walk that would be even better on a clear day.

We parked by the south of the narrow road that leads south from Braithwaite, just after a junction with Stoneycroft and took the path westwards along sleet Hause and over Causey Pike, climbing steadily to reach Sail and then across The Scar to Eel Head (Crag Hill on the OS maps).

From the summit you could return the same way, but we decided to drop down to the west and then loop around north-east towards Force Crag mine before taking the faint footpath south by Birkthwaite Beck to the footpath that passes High Moss and Outerside. Alas, the weather had closed in completely at this point and we ended up curving too far to the south-west, climbing the screes to meet the path close to Sail.

After this short detour, we picked up the correct path and headed eastwards past Outerside and then by Stonycroft Gill back to the start. The Swinside Inn is not far down the road and provides a good place to relax afterwards.

My rating: B+
Map: OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The North Western Fells (50th Anniversary Edition): Book Six (A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells)

Fellwalking: The Langdale Pikes

“Once seen, never forgotten. Other places may slip from the memory but the distinctive profile of the Langdale Pikes, once seen, leaves an indelible imprint on the mind.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

This is another classic Lake District walk, the Pikes proving irresistible to huge numbers of walkers. Located in the same area as the previously described walk, Bowfell, the weather I experienced could not have been more different – a glorious summer’s day.

We parked by the side of the B 5343 near the Old Hotel – it was very busy as is usual on a fine weekend day. The walk commences on the Cumbria Way  as it passes the Old Hotel and then proceeds westwards into Mickleden. After a longish flat section, the track turns north uphill by the side of Stake Gill. The track gets steadily steeper before levelling out at Langdale Combe and then dropping down to Pile of Stones.

From here the track proceeds southwards across Martcrag moor eventually reaching Pile of Stickle, one of the five peaks in the Pikes. We then dropped down eastwards and then climbed Harrison Stickle before dropping back down again and then traversing Loft Crag and following the path to the south of Dungeon Ghyll downhill back to Langdale, curving off south-west from the public footpath just after Raven Crag to take the path that passes the Old Hotel and most importantly, its Hikers Bar, before arriving back at the start of the walk. 

My rating: A
Map: OL 6 – The English Lakes: South Western Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Wainwright Anniversary: The Southern Fells (50th Anniversary Edition): Book 4