Fellwalking: Bowfell

Summit of Bow Fell (I think...)

“…the majestic peak at the head of the valley, the dominant height on a lofty, encircling skyline, its rocky summit pyramid set on a plinth of grassy slopes. This is Bowfell, unassuming and rather withdrawn from public attention yet a commanding presence.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

It rains a lot in the Lakes – something you have to get used to if you are to enjoy walking in the area. This was (another) one of those days with the rain not letting up for the whole walk, preventing any decent views (or photographs).

Parking in the parking area at the end of the B 5343, we walked towards Stool End and then took the steady climb up The Band, passing White Stones and eventually joining the ridge at Three Tarns to the south-east of Bowfell (Bow Fell on the OLS map). From here its a shortish but steep scramble to the summit.

After a rather miserable lunch break we dropped back to Three Tarns but this time took the path that drops by the side of Hell Gill and then into Oxendale before arriving back at Stool End.

Not the greatest day out due to the weather, but that’s how it goes…

My rating: B (probably weather affected)
Map: OL6 – The English Lakes: South Western Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Wainwright Anniversary: The Southern Fells (50th Anniversary Edition):(A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells): Book 4


I did this walk again in 2011 and had much better weather.

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Fellwalking – Newlands Horseshoe again

Newlands Horseshoe Panorama, Lake District, England

I was fortunate enough recently to do this walk again. Weather started out somewhat unpromising, but it ended up being a beautiful afternoon. The walk confirmed my view that this is one of the most enjoyable day walks in the Lakes.

More detailed notes from a previous visit can be found here. For a gallery of photos for the walk, see here (note this link requires up-to-date browser software and a broadband connection).

More updates to this site will be made soon, including a full trip report for Wainwright’s “A Coast-to-Coast” walk in England, which I recently completed, and some gear reviews.

Fellwalking – Scafell Pike

View from Summit of Scafell Pike (Lake District, England)

Been too busy to do any walking, so another walk from the ‘archives’.

“Scafell Pike is massive, shapeless and without a touch of elegance … but superior altitude counts for much and the Pike is the magnet that attracts all active visitors to the district, giving them a sense of achievement: there is a unique satisfaction in standing on the very highest point in the country…”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

My first proper walk in the Lake District was an ascent of Scafell Pike, back in November 1998. There are numerous routes, following are a couple that I have done.

From Wasdale Head – the most direct way to get there, but this means it’s relentlessly uphill pretty much from the start. We followed the bridleway that heads almost due east from Wasdale Head, past Bursting Knott and Toad How to Sty Head, after which we turned south and followed the “corridor route” to the summit. For the descent we followed the path that goes west via Brown Tongue (Wainwright refers to this as the “tourist route” up Scafell Pike – it is the most direct but possibly the least interesting) and then turns north to return to Wasdale Head.

Looking towards Scafell Pike with Broad Crag in the foreground Scafell Pike summit marker

From Borrowdale – a rather longer route, but an interesting variation. We commenced at Seathwaite, and took the bridleway south to Stockley Bridge. From here we followed the footpath that ascends steeply by the side of Grains Gill. This path joins another footpath just south of Sprinkling Tarn and below the northern face of Great End. We followed this path south-west to a junction and then followed the footpath that travels south and then south-west via Esk Hause and Ill Crag, before a short but steep climb to the summit. We descended initially the same way but then headed north to join the corridor route back to Sty Head, and then descended via the bridleway that passes Styhead Tarn, eventually returning to Stockley Bridge and then back to Seathwaite.

Leaving Seathwaite bound for Scafell Pike Descending via the path by Styhead Gill
My rating: A, A+
Map: Via Wasdale Head: OL5 – The English Lakes: South Western area (1:25,000); the route via Borrowdale also requires OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: Book four, The Southern Fells

Fellwalking – Fairfield

Summit of Fairfield (Lake District, England)

“It is the north flank that gives Fairfield distinction. In complete contrast to its bland appearance in other directions, a series of rocky buttresses and screeshoots plunge suddenly from the edge of the summit plateau into the head of Deepdale with startling ferocity: it is a dramatic scene that escapes attention on the southern and western approaches.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Commencing at Patterdale, I walked southwards along the A592 until I reached a permitted footpath to the west of the road, following this path until it reached the lovely Brothers Water. The track becomes a public footpath here, skirting the western shore of Brothers Water and continuing southwards before curling to the south-west and crossing Dovedale Beck, thence continuing westish to pass Dove Crag and thereafter to join a footpath traversing the ridge. From here the walk continues north-west over Hart Crag and then turns west briefly before attaining the summit of Fairfield, from which there are great views in all directions.

After a lunch stop I continued on north and then north east along the ridge line that traverses St Sunday Crag and then drops down into Patterdale. The first section is very steep and a little tricky in places, before levelling out somewhat. As Wainwright points out, the view of Fairfield from this direction is very different from the southern and western approaches, looking most impressive with its series of rocky buttresses. The views down to Ullswater are also fantastic.

All in all, a great day’s outing – but a fairly demanding walk that took me over 6 hours.

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

Dovedale Beck View from summit of Fairfield Looking south-west towards St Sunday Crag and Fairfield Looking down to Ullswater

UPDATE: I did this walk again in 2012; this time I had a car and so parked at the National Trust car park at Cow Bridge. I’ve indicated this as the start position on the map of starting locations.

Fellwalking – Pillar (Lake District, England)

Descending from Pillar into Mosedale

“…Pillar, a fine bold mountain overtopping all else around and forming a high barrier between the valleys of Ennerdale and Mosedale”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

My first attempt at climbing Pillar ended without attaining the summit. The weather on that day was particularly bad – I ascended initially via the Dorehead screes (not a good idea). The wind was blowing over the ridge that leads north-west from Dore Head to Red Pike with brute strength, at one point a strong gust from the west blew my legs under me to the east, and I hit the deck. It was also raining – the wind driving the rain into my jacket and through the neck and arm holes so by the time I had reached Little Scoat Fell and started the final ascent to the east, I was cold and wet. At this point, with visibility down to less than 10 metres, I decided discretion was the better part of valour – leaving the summit to another day I descended down the rough footpath that cuts between Green and Elliptical crags, back into Mosedale and a very welcome late lunch at the Wasdale Head Inn.

I eventually climbed Pillar a few years later. As it happens, the weather was still fairly ordinary on the day (hence the lack of decent photos), but nowhere near as bad as the first time. The route we followed starts at Wasdale Head, following the bridleway that pushes north into Mosedale to the east of Mosedale Beck. After a junction with a path that continues northwards and forms the return of this route (the Wind Gap route – fairly indistinct last time I was there), the bridleway slowly curves to the north east crossing Gatherstone Beck and becoming the Black Sail Pass, eventually attaining the east ridge and a track junction. From here the path proceeds westwards, climbing for most of the way before finally reaching the summit.

The descent proceeds steeply south-west into Wind Gap before turning south east onto the screes and then a rough footpath that drops down into Mosedale and ultimately joins the bridleway from the start of the walk that leads back to Wasdale Head.

My rating: A
Maps: OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western area (1:25,000), the very start of the walk also requires OL6 – The English Lakes: South Western area
Wainwright’s guides: Book seven, The Western Fells

Fellwalking – Newlands Horseshoe (Lake District, England)

Looking into Newlands Valley from Dale Head

“The traverse of the fells on either side of Newlands is a joyful exercise of sustained exhilaration with views both beautiful and dramatic every step of the way. Nowhere is the walking difficult; there are no hazards and a steady pace can be maintained along the tops. I rank the Newlands Horseshoe among the best”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

And for what it’s worth, I rank this amongst the best walks in Lakeland as well. The walk starts at the accurately named Little Town, there’s a small carpark just south of the village at Chapel Bridge. From the car park walk back up to the village and then west on to the bridleway that climbs uphill to join a path between Cat Bells to the north (left) and Maiden Moor to the south (right). Take the path south to Maiden Moor and continue along the ridge almost due south to High Spy, enjoying the great views into the Newlands Valley and Derwent Water and Borrowdale.

From High Spy the track continues southwards, descending to Dalehead tarn; when I was last there the actual path passed to the right of the tarn (the map shows the right of way to the left of the tarn) before a steep uphill pull westwards to the summit of Dale Head. From Dale Head continue westwards along Hindscarth Edge before turning north for the final climb up to Hindscarth. From here, the track descends along an attractive spur to Scope End before executing a u-turn and proceeding south to Goldscope Lead Mine and then turning back north along a footpath back to the start point at Chapel Bridge. The Swinside Inn, up the road to the north, provides an excellent spot for a post-walk beer.

A longer alternative, recommended by Wainwright in his Favourite Lakeland Mountains book, is to start at Hawes End, on the west bank of Derwent Water. From here you need to head due south up the spur to Cat Bells. Descending from Cat Bells into the col, you can pick up the track described above. On the return, you would need to continue through Little Town and pick up the footpath that continues on to Skelgill and then the road back to Hawes End.

My rating: A+
Maps: 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)

Maiden Moor on the way to High Spy Summit cairn - Dale Head Spur from Hindscarth to Scope End Newlands Valley - looking towards Dale Head

Fellwalking – Haystacks

Summit of Haystacks

“If mountains had fan clubs, Haystacks would have a legion of members. And I would be the first to enrol.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

We started this walk from Buttermere on a lovely, sunny summer’s day, following the bridleway that passes through Burtness Wood on the south side of Buttermere. After passing the end of Buttermere the path turns eastwards towards Gatesgarth and then south to Warnscale Bottom. We took the footpath that diverges south from the bridleway and then decided in our wisdom to scramble up by Black Beck which allows entrance to the higher ground through a small breach in the crags, but is not really recommended (better to keep following the footpath that rises to the east of Green Crag).

From here it was an easy walk westwards along the tops, past the beautiful Innominate Tarn, to the summit of Haystacks (Hay Stacks on the OS map). Continuing on we reached Scarth Gap Pass, which we followed northwards back to Buttermere and a beer.

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

Warnscale Bottom and Buttermere Innominate Tarn Burtness Wood Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks

Haystacks was Wainwright’s favourite mountain and his ashes were scattered by Innominate Tarn.

“…a last long resting place by the side of Innominate Tarn, on Haystacks, where the water gently laps the gravelly shore and the heather blooms and Pillar and Gable keep unfailing watch. A quiet place, a lonely place. I shall go to it, for the last time, and be carried: someone who knew me in life will take me and empty me out of a little box and leave me there alone.”

Wainwright, “Fellwanderer”