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Walks near Windermere

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The viewpoints over Windermere

A walk of three to four hours including Post Knott, School Knott and Biskey Howe.

From the piers at Bowness make your way into the village and go past the roundabout to the top of the hill (Crag Brow). Opposite the entrance to the Beatrix Potter Centre look for Langrigg Drive. Walk along Langrigg Drive (it's only about 400 metres) and when you reach the end turn left up a steep hill. This road comes to an end in about 150 metres where you pass through a small iron gate and proceed up past the "Dalesway" sign to join a well defined path where you turn right. (Towards the end of the walk you will return to this point and take the path in the opposite direction.)

The path right is marked "Footpath Post Knott" and you follow this until you reach a wooden gate. Go through and ascend 100 metres to the viewpoint immediately in front. This is Post Knott, and from here you will see the lake spread below. Looking directly down to Bowness, pick out the Round House on Belle Isle and directly above and beyond Claife Heights you should also be able to see the mountain known as Coniston Old Man. Away to the left is the best view of the southern reaches of Windermere to Lakeside at the far end.

When you are ready to carry on turn around and, with your back to the lake, you will see a stone wall with a copse on the other side. Make your way to the left hand corner of this wall and cross the first stile. Ignoring the second stile, turn right and walk up between the wall and the copse to the top, crossing the wall to the left by another stone stile. The path marked by a yellow arrow leads down to a lane at the bottom.

Pass through the gate on the right, cross the farm drive, and go through the wooden gate into the field. Keep close to the wall on the right until you reach an iron gate. Go through and take the left fork in the path, continuing in the same general direction as before. You are on the Dalesway path and yellow arrows point the way. You will come to a road but as you approach you should see the path to the left on the other side. When you come to a farm lane you will need to cross by wooden gates and proceed upward through the field alongside the fence on the right. Cross the road and carry on over a small beck, straight on over a rise and along the lane until you reach the main road. You are going to turn left, but do not walk on the road as it is very dangerous. Just by the entrance you will find a stone stile and 300 metres of newly constructed safe pathway alongside the road. When you reach the end of this section to rejoin the road, you are immediately onto a surfaced lane going left. The Dalesway sign is now marked with a red arrow. Walk on past High Cleabarrow and after 200 metres the surfaced lane becomes a track. Go through the gate and a further three wooden gates, you will probably find it quite muddy. After crossing a small stream walk a further 200 metres and you will see the Dalesway sign (now yellow again) going right. The path is clearly marked and, although upwards, it is not steep and it is only half a mile to School Knott Tarn; a small stream is crossed on the way.

This is an ideal picnic spot, usually sheltered and peaceful and if time permits why not rest up? You should be two and a half hours into the walk with a further one and a half to go.

The path continues to the left of the tarn and half way along takes a sharp turn to the left. Go through the gate in the wall and straight on to the highest point. This is School Knott and from here look down on Windermere Village. The mountains dominate the view but it is the northern half of the lake, up to Waterhead, which takes the eye. To the right of the village you should be just able to see the traffic on the A591, Windermere - Kendal road and just beyond the mountains over the Troutbeck Valley, High Street and further right Kentmere.

The way is not clear from here, but head down towards the nearest group of houses. Just beyond a wooden gate the path forks. Take the left hand fork continuing towards the houses, just visible through the trees. When you come to the track turn left through another wooden gate past "Old Droomer" cottage on the left. Thirty metres further on turn right down some stone steps, cross the river and carry straight on for Lickbarrow. After crossing fields make for the corner of the wall and straight on over to join the road. The path continues straight across the road and through an iron gate, clearly marked "Public Footpath". Carry on past some houses, through a wooden gate, descend to reach the "Public Footpath Bowness" and turn left. You will come to 2 stiles, ignore the one straight ahead and take the one on the left again marked "public footpath". After about 300 metres go through a wooden gate with a farm just ahead. Pass the farm and follow the yellow arrows through two further gates. Look for the yellow arrow on the wall corner 50 metres ahead, and follow this across to another gate. Turn left onto the road and follow the markers through two more gates until you come to a track. Carry on through the gate and cross the farm lane again. You are now back at the junction where you joined earlier at paragraph 2.

Carry on for about 100 metres and you reach the path that leads up from the village, but this time turn right to follow the footpath marked "Bowness". In a short distance you come to the end of the path from Post Knott. Here turn left along the driveway and at the road junction go straight ahead for the viewpoint. After 100 metres follow the wheelchair accessible path which will take you to Biskey Howe. As you approach the large rock, bear right and you will find some stone steps under a large beech tree. Climb the steps, taking care as the rock can be very slippery. The view across Windermere is now dominated by the Langdale Pikes and just in front of the rock you will find a stone pedestal carrying a relief map to help you identify the various peaks.

Bowness village is just below you, with the whole 10 miles of the lake spread out from Lakeside to Waterhead. To drag yourself away from this beautiful vantage point simply walk forward toward the seats and you will find a path on the left which meanders down through the rhododendrons and trees to join the road leading back to Crag Brow and the main road left back to the piers.


Wray Castle, Long Height, Belle Grange and Lake Shore

4.5 miles [7 km]

This is a woodland walk on clearly seen tracks, half of the distance being done on the lake shore. This is a walk for all seasons. In winter, quiet folk without boisterous dogs have a good chance of seeing wild deer.

The walk starts at Wray Castle, a monument to Victorian romantic nonsense on the shores of Windermere, and in the care of the National Trust. It is reached from Ambleside by taking the Coniston/ Langdales road; turning left for Hawkshead and left again for Wray. In fact, after leaving on the Coniston road it is a series of left turns for two miles, and when the road climbs and turns right, the castle gates are seen on the left. From Coniston it is via Hawkshead. From Hawkshead take the Windermere Ferry road and take the first turn left signposted Wray, 2.5 miles. Drive through the gates and down the drive to the castle. The car park is just beyond the building. The story has it that the man who had the castle built, together with some mock ruins which have been demolished in the interests of public safety, presented it as a surprise home for his wife. She took one look at it, shuddered, and said that if it was all the same to him she would like to return to her less extravagant quarters, and she would rather like to go at once as she had just remembered that her library books were overdue! There are some handsome trees in the 64 acres of grounds, including a mulberry planted by William Wordsworth himself, alongside an unusual fern-leafed beech.

After parking the car, walk back down the drive and leave by the gateway into the road and turn left. Cut the corner of the second bend on, by following the path on the grass to the right, alongside the fence. As we climb on up to the small hamlet of High Wray there is a view of a stretch of Windermere left. Go right through the hamlet. Ignore the branch road left. just after this branch road there is a cottage, and a few yards beyond that a cattle-grid in a gateway to the left. Go over this. (Signposted 'Ferry'.) Go up this track, and as you gain height look back at the good view of the lake ahead and Ambleside. The buildings of Base Camp can soon be seen on the left.

Base Camp is a camp site owned by the National Trust, offered inexpensively to organised youth groups on the understanding that they will give a certain amount of work to the Trust or to a local project. Go over the stile at the gateway and wind up the hill. We soon enter the Forestry Commission's plantations. Presently the forest road forks. Take the left-hand road. As you descend here there is a good view up the Troutbeck valley across the lake with the High Street walling it in behind. Trees may be seen that have been 'frayed' by roe deer. Roe-bucks mark their territory by rubbing their antlers on young trees which damages the trees by scraping off the bark. You presently reach a crossroads a meeting of five paths and tracks. Take the first turning left, which doubles sharply back. This track is wet in places and diversions may be necessary on surrounding banks. A beck has to be crossed - easy except after heavy rain. The Forestry Commission land is left through a gate and you are at a National Trust wood. Descend track through more mature woods. This track was once an important route to Hawkshead and was paved and well kept, but time, neglect and the extraction of timber have been its ruin.

As you near the lower levels of this track the woodland is more native - oaks, birches and yew. The walls of Belle Grange can soon be seen below. On reaching, follow the wall down to its bottom where a track T junction will be found. (Note distinctive Scots Pine over the wall.) Turn left and you are soon walking along a lake shore track. Stand on a promontory of shingle a little way along, by an old gateway and where a beck enters the lake, for there is a view across the lake to Adelaide Hill on the right, the green one; a well-known view north of Bowness and west of Windermere. Straight ahead is Calgarth, an old mansion. Troutbeck is behind. From the same point, but on the other side of the beck, is a good view up the lake; Ambleside scattered about the head. Across the lake, right, the large building is Brockhole, the National Park Centre.

After a second old gateway the track forks. The left-hand one is macadam. We take the right-hand one which continues along the lake shore. There is now coppiced woodland on the left. Hardwoods were once continually 'coppiced' to produce a regular supply of timber. That is, the trees were felled, new stems grew up from the stump or 'stool', and after twelve years or so these stems had grown sufficiently to harvest. In another twelve years or more another crop would have grown; and so the process continued. Now the price of coppice wood is so depressed that it is hardly worth the labour costs of felling. Some single stems of oak have been allowed to develop into maturity on the lake side of the track. The thickest growth along the track side is of hazel, which thrives in these lower areas. Red squirrels thrive on the nuts. A lot of the hazel is intertwined with honeysuckle.

The path eventually skirts a little bay called High Wray Bay. Go through the gate and continue on lake shore. At the next gate go through stile alongside it, and go up the lane away from the lake for about forty yards, then on the right there is a gap in the wall and a stile. Go over this, and join the lake shore again by the boat house. There is no path here now we are on an open field, but you are in Wray Castle grounds and can walk by the lake. Unless the lake is high, it is possible to walk along the shingle beach. Where the way is barred by a fence, go a little way up it and through the wicket gate Follow the lake shore again to the next fence then follow it upwards by the stepped zig-zag. The castle is now ahead. But between you and it is the boy-scout camping field. If there are tents there, it would be a discourtesy to walk through them. Go instead through the iron gate on your right, then follow the path on left, on the other side of the fence, which climbs a little knoll. Note the odd shape of the large Douglas Firs in the field. The castle is approached through the stone fence posts of an old wicket gate.


Town End, Skelghyll and Brockhole

4 miles [6.5 km]

The route lies mainly over very old tracks, and one could have the impression of stepping back into history. The main part of the walk is done before reaching Brockhole. The return walk is barely a mile, but as it is mainly uphill, plenty of time should be left to make it. Allow, say, forty-five minutes for the return. Actually the walk starts half a mile short of Townend, Troutbeck. Townend is a 17th century house in the care of the National Trust and open to the public.

To reach the starting point from Ambleside, take the Windermere road. Just after the Low Wood Hotel take the road off, up a steep hill, to the left, signposted 'Troutbeck'. Drive one mile, right to the top of the hill, taking the bends of this narrow road with care. When the road at last begins to fall there is a lane, unsurfaced, on the right, and just a little further on a green lay-by on the right. Pull in here without obstructing the gate. From Windermere, take the Ambleside road, and after the Sun Hotel in about a mile and a half, prepare to turn right. The turn is just over the bridge on a bend, signposted 'Troutbeck'. Ascend this road, and in a mile and a half you reach the first turning left, a sharp one signposted 'Low Wood & Ambleside'. Turn up here. When the road levels out look for the green lay-by on the left. Park here.

Leave the lay-by and walk up the lane which is almost opposite. This is a stony lane between walls. There are good views over Windermere, left, as you climb. The lane eventually reaches another track at a T junction. There is a seat here from which there is a good long view over Windermere. The lake appears to be cut in two by Belle Isle. Getting off the seat and facing the same way as when you arrived, turn left. The view, before long, is obscured after a track comes in from the left, as there is rising ground to the left, but the way remains pleasant. Now shortly after this you leave this track. This is at the point where the walls on either side open out, and the views of the lake appear again. just to the left of you is a gate. Go through this onto a green track, descending, with a wall on the left. To the right the nearest high point on the fell is Wansfell Pike.

Views of the fells, left, are of Wetherlam, Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and Langdale Pikes. Wray Castle can be seen in the wood by the lake shore, Blelham. Tarn above it.

Go through the gate, avoiding the wetness as best you may. The track curves to cross a beck, then goes through two old gateways and past a ruined barn. At this point the track becomes a green footpath across a field. Curve left with it and descend the hill. Soon it finishes at the foot of a wall on the bank of a ghyll. Go through the wicket gate, but do not cross the bridge. Turn immediately left and go through the gate and onto another hard track. Go through gate and down the zig-zag to Low SkeIghyll. Go through the gate and past the buildings. After this a barn is reached and the lane bends left to go through an iron gate. After a while a public road is approached.

When the road is joined go up to the left. A large barn, with another one behind it, will soon be seen, on the right. Take the track, right, which goes between these barns, and descends. This is again a walled track, on stony ground. After a ruined barn the track becomes green. There are views again left over Windermere, and a little tarn below left, which you will pass on the return journey. Go through a gate, by a large sycamore.

The path descends towards some buildings, between a large beech tree and another large sycamore. There are two gates ahead. Go through the left-hand one. Go onto a macadam lane for a few yards before turning right over a little beck and onto a green track, which changes to a stony track and rises. There is an old oak tree over wall to left. Eventually the track descends and curves off left with the wall. It falls to a hard surfaced lane among buildings. Continue on. The main road is joined. Cross it and Brockhole is on the far side of the road to the right.

On leaving Brockhole turn right and continue along pavement. Soon the road curves to the right. If you look at the opposite side of the road you will see two entrances. You take the one on the right, on a well-defined green lane. Cross the beck soon by slate footbridge. Only tall people can see the tarn over the wall on the left. However as you progress the wall finishes and the track bears left to give views over the tarn. There are usually ducks in residence. Now the track begins to climb. And climb. Rest when the walls open up to a green area and look back at the lake. Eventually the track levels off and the public road is joined. Turn right, and your car is a little way up the road.


Blelham Tarn and Wray Castle

5.5 miles [9 km]

This is largely a walk across fields. After wet weather the fields can be very muddy. There is also a ford to cross.

Wray Castle is about the half-way mark and is a good place for a picnic. The building is bogus - a Victorian folly, but the grounds down to Lake Windermere are open to the public as the whole property is owned by the National Trust. There are some fine trees in the grounds, and there is one with a label stating it was planted by William Wordsworth himself. So you can make this walk last as long as you like.

Park in the public car park in the village of Hawkshead. Walk down the narrow main street until, you come to the gable end of the Red Lion. Go down the alley right and see the type of 'yard' community-living that typifies old Lake District villages. The habit of building thus, according to one unlikely theory, sprang from the need to guard against raids from the Scots. (The alley entrances were gated.)

Cross the by-pass road and continue on by a high wall along a track and path to a foot-bridge. Turn left after the bridge to follow the bank of the stream for a short distance, then incline right to a wicket gate in a corner between a hedge and a fence. It will probably be muddy. Cross a slate bridge, then walk across the field, very slightly right, to a slate stile via a bridge over a ditch. Turn left and to another stile and straight ahead for another onto a lane. Turn left.

After fifty yards or so, go through the wicket gate on right alongside the oak tree. Follow the fence, through a gate then to a better defined track towards the farm. Go right of the buildings and yard and go through the gate onto a lane. Turn left. Just after the farmhouse on right go through gate, and along a lane. Gate and stile. Do not bend left with the track but continue on by a line of trees to gate-posts. Go on, on the same line, to stile, deviating slightly at the end to cross the ditch by the fence. In the next field bear left and make for the higher part of field. A corner can then be seen ahead where two lines of trees (once hedges) meet. Make for this, Blelham Tarn can now be seen. A barn will be noticed to left. From this there is a wall upwards. Ignore the first gate in it and make for the gate in the corner to the right of it, slightly hidden by a knoll. Through this gate there is an old lane right; its wetness can be avoided by taking to the ridge to its left - all that remains of the hedge. Over stile and right to macadam road.

Turn left through the farmyard and through the gate beyond. There is a good track past an unusually gnarled ash tree. You will have to be content with just looking at Blelham Tarn as there is no public access to it. Continue straight on to the small wood. Here the way seems barred; be not dismayed, there is a slate stile left. Through the stile the hedge should be followed to another stile, and further with hedge towards a wooded knoll. Skirt it to the left, then go through the trees to a kissing-gate and slate bridge. Go ahead, following the hedge on the right. Go through gate into macadam road, and turn left. Cut the corner by following the fence on the left, and soon there is the stone gateway to Wray Castle on the right.

Leaving Wray Castle by the same gateway, turn right and follow road round and over the bridge until, just short of a single large beech tree, there is a gate, left. Go through this, take track beyond and at its junction just inside bear left, and on to gate where track leads into silver birches. There is now a wet section. This is a pleasant wood and you are soon at a ford.

Go through gate and notice the hundreds of old ant hills. At head of tarn path does not turn left as it would appear, but follows wall to right and through a gate to a green track. There are good views to tarn and beyond to fells, as the path rises. There is another gate and the path passes between fir plantations, and eventually a gate leads out onto the Ambleside-Hawkshead road at Outgate (or in local parlance 'Ootyat'). Turn left. At the far gable end of Outgate Inn turn left and go through the gate immediately afterwards, and a kissing-gate immediately after that. Bear right to corner and climb over stile, and then across lane to climb the next stile. Go across the field towards gate but do not go through - there is a stile fifty yards to its right, leading into woodland. A meandering path among the trees crosses a small beck, goes round holly trees and left by slate gate post, then right to the gate at right of the farm buildings. A second gate leads onto a macadam lane. Turn left. If you can look at the front of the farmhouse here without embarrassing the inhabitants, it is a typical example of a fine old Lake District dwelling. Further on you should recognise the next farm -it is Loanthwaite again and we go through the gate after the farm buildings and along the path to the village by the route on which the walk started.


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