The Lake District Guide

Lake District Mountain and Fell Walks 9


High Spy and Maiden Moor

Sylvan Borrowdale is the start for this walk to High Spy, followed by a long, easy stroll over Maiden Moor, from where there are superb views in all directions. It is these views that make the stroll a long one - you just have to keep stopping to take a leisurely look all round.

Leave Borrowdale’s B5289 at Grange-in-Borrowdale and cross the fine bridge over the River Derwent. Continue through the cottages of Grange village and go past the two teashops. Beyond the second, turn left along the well signposted lane. Follow the reinforced way until the route turns, right, to Hollows farm.

Here walk left along the unmade track, keeping parallel with the river. Go on until you reach the 'beach' at Gowder Dub. If the lake is high cross Broadslack Gill by the footbridges and go on up the track, signposted Seatoller and Honister. In the past this track was severely eroded but now it has been robustly reinforced. As you climb you may wish to make a detour, left, up a narrow path leading off left, just beyond a huge cairn, to Castle Crag.

To continue this walk, go on climbing until the track levels and becomes much easier underfoot. Ignore a path setting off right and keep on the wide track to a gate. Beyond, the path leads to the side of the beck, which you cross by the footbridge. Once on the far side, turn right to begin your climb up Tongue Gill, with the tumbling beck to your right. It is a formidable cleft, in summer brightened by large clumps of stonecrop and, higher up, alpine lady’s mantle. About the boulders flit wheatears and meadow pipits and from above comes the screech of a peregrine.

The way has been pitched almost to the top, easier to ascend than descend. Pause often to get your breath back and to look back down on Rosthwaite, filling the bottom of the ‘V’ formed by the steep sides of the gill. Notice the remnants of the quarries and contemplate the difficult journeys made to work by the quarrymen. Don’t be tempted to go into any open levels. Near the top a steep row of steps takes you up past caverns, tunnels and adits to a level area between spoil heaps. Here look right to see two cairns and walk towards them. Follow the continuing narrow path, which is wet in places, to cross more gentle slopes to come to a fence. There are two stiles here, quite a distance apart, and you need to take the one to the right.

Beyond, the way is not so clear but there are a few cairns. Stay with these as they lead you, half left, up the slopes. Wind round several wet areas and round a large boulder, then join the wider way coming up from Dalehead Tarn. Go on up the easy slopes to arrive at the large cairn on High Spy, 660m/2143ft, from where the view is stunning.

Go on along the continuing path over a wide plateau. A brief diversion, right, will bring you to Blea Crags and some good views. Then go on, imperceptibly descending Narrow Moor, to come to a Y-junction of paths. The right branch goes easily across the flat ground, with few exciting views. The left branch continues nearer the edge of the drop into Newlands and to Bull Crag, where at 580m/1887ft you are probably on the highest part of Maiden Moor. Just beyond this part of the fell is the best view point. Both paths come together at Trap Knotts and here you begin your descent to Hause Gate.

At this cross of tracks, the continuing path goes onto Catbells; to the left a path takes you down to Newlands. This walk descends right for your return to Grange. The pitched path zigzags sharply as it slants across the heather and then bracken-clad slopes. As you near the bottom, take the right branch at the T-junction and continue on, more easily, to join the road. Turn right and follow the narrow, quiet road into Grange.


Start/finish: If approaching from Keswick, along the B5289, use one of the two parking areas just before Grange Bridge.
Distance: 12km/ 7.5 miles
Time: 4-5 hours
Height gain: 700m/2400ft
Terrain: Both the ascent from above Rosthwaite and the descent to Grange have been pitched and, though steep, present few problems. The long walk along the ridge is a joy.
Refreshments: Two pleasing cafes at Grange.
Toilets: Grange
Public transport: Good bus service from Keswick, Stagecoach 77 and 79 from which you alight at Grange Bridge. Details phone Traveline: 0870 608 2 608
Park: See above, grid ref 256177
Map: OS Explorer OL 4

Copyright Mary Welsh, © 2008. All rights reserved. No reproduction without permission.