The Lake District Guide

Lake District Mountain and Fell Walks 17



Start/finish: Small pay-and-display car park opposite Gatesgarth Farm at east end of Buttermere and the foot of Honister Pass, grid ref 195149
Distance: 4.5 miles / 7.4km
Time: 3-4 hour
Height gained: 1600 ft / 450m
Terrain: Challenging paths pitched for most of Scarth Gap Pass and partly for the ascent of Haystacks. This is a walk suitable for seasoned walkers and well motivated youngsters.
Refreshments: The Fish, the Bridge Hotel, and a good walkers café, all at Buttermere village
Toilets: Behind The Fish, Buttermere
Map: OS Explorer OL4
Public transport: Stagecoach Cumberland - Keswick, Buttermere, Whinlatter. Phone Traveline for info 0871 200 2233

This is a lovely but challenging walk, taking you into the heart of the Lake District hills. After crossing Warnscale Bottom and ascending the old packhorse route between Buttermere and Wasdale, known as Scarth Gap, a partly pitched path takes you up to the two cairned, serrated, craggy summit of Haystacks. The route continues past two lovely tarns set in a rocky wilderness. The return descent is by path once used by miners to bring down slate to the valley bottom.

The Walk

1 From the parking area, cross the road and take the signposted path to the right of Gatesgarth farm to walk beside the beck. Continue parallel with the Buttermere, across the valley bottom to cross Peggy’s bridge. Beyond, go through a gate and turn right for a short way and then turn sharp left to climb the pitched path up Scarth Gap Pass.

2 At the large cairn on the brow of the Pass, look for the partly pitched path that climbs, left, up the western face of Haystacks. Near the top, scramble up some small crags to the two cairns and a small nameless tarn, where you will want to pause.

3 Then go over the delightful top, heather-clad and with outcrops, to reach Innominate Tarn, A Wainwright’s favourite and where his ashes are scattered. Another pause here might reveal reflections of Great Gable and Pillar Rock. Go on to pass the outflow from delightful Blackbeck Tarn. Follow the cairned path as it takes you right of Green Crag. Once beyond a path going off right, look for a path descending left.

4 Take the steepish cairned way. Go past old buildings of the disused Green Crag quarry. Here slate was ‘mined’ as it was deeply bedded and these were known as ‘closehead’ workings, where the slaters worked by candlelight and in difficult conditions. Then look left, for a breach in the skyline through which descends Black Beck, crossed earlier. Follow the old quarry path as it descends in a series of zig-zags below the forbidding north face of Haystacks.

5 Just after a waterfall the path takes a sharp turn, left, and goes down to a footbridge over the Warnscale Beck. Carry on along an often wet trod to join the main track descending, more sedately, from the slopes above and bear left along it for 1.4 km to return to the road and then left to car park.

Blake Fell


Start/finish Felldyke car park, grid ref 086198.. To access this leave Ennerdale Bridge for Kirkland and turn right in the village and then left at the next T-junction, Cross Rigg.
Distance: 6.5 miles / 10.5 km
Time: 3-4 hours
Height Gain: 1226 ft / 375 m
Terrain: Pleasing grassy paths to Blake Fell. Short steepish descent to forest track. Forest paths and tracks make for easy walking. Muddy beside the reservoir after rain.
Refreshments: Village of Ennerdale Bridge
Toilets: Ennerdale Bridge
Map: OS Explorer OL 4

Blake Fell is a Wainwright that towers above Cogra Moss reservoir, both just inside the National Park boundary. The fell shows an almost sheer face to the Moss, but there is a delightful path that takes you steadily up to the summit shelter. From here the views are spectacular. The ascent is rather slow as you pause, frequently, amazed by all the tops you can see.

1 From Felldyke car park, walk up the narrow path that leaves from the top right corner. Wind left on a good track and a few steps along take the signed kissing gate beside a locked gate. Go on along the rising reinforced track through a meadow with ahead an unbelievably dramatic horseshoe of fells. To the right is the great bulk of Knock Murton, quiet now but once full of activity as its extensive iron-ore mines were worked and served by a railway.

2 Go through a gate, where conifers on either side have been clear-felled and descend steadily under a,row of lofty beeches to come to the edge of Cogra Moss, once just a marsh, drained by Rakegill Beck. On building a dam and an overflow, a reservoir was created supplying drinking water for Alecdon. Today it is no longer used for that purpose and has become a delightful trout fishing lake that appears entirely natural. Continue ahead along a wide track, with the water to your left and clear-fell to the right. A short way beyond the head of the lake, look on the right for a distinct, narrow path, climbing the steep slopes of Murton Fell. It passes through heather and bilberry that have started to colonise what was once conifer woodland. The way continues, slanting up, narrow and distinct, until it reaches a col and a bright red forest road. Cross this and take the grassy trod, leading towards a gate into moorland. Do NOT go through but turn left and walk uphill on a clearly trodden way beside the fence on your right, with young conifers to your left.

3 As height is gained you have a pleasing view over the trees down to silvery Cogra Moss far below, and of anglers in their waterproof gear out in the shallows casting their lines. Soon the trees are left behind and to your right you can see Anglers’ Crag on the far side of Ennerdale Water and also a patch of blue water. Then nearer to you are the grassy fells that line the north side of Ennerdale. Continue upwards to the small cairn on Low Penn. You will want to pause here and enjoy the breathtaking view. Carry on beside the fence, past clumps of lowly cowberry in flower, to cairnless High Penn, 30ft higher than its ‘cub’. Ahead is Mellbreak with the Coledale horseshoe beyond; but centre stage and appearing immense is huge Grasmoor.

4 Remain beside the fence as it begins to wind left and climb up the ridge towards Blake Fell – again your passage hindered by pausing to enjoy the magnificent view. Look for a tiny triangle of blue. This is Buttermere, shadowed by Fleetwith Pike and Honister Crag. Look also for the splendid High Stile range and beyond, in the far distance is Pillar and you might be able to glimpse Pillar Rock. Follow the wide grassy trod, which cuts off a corner of the fence, with Skiddaw and Ullock Pike away to the north. Then wind on to arrive at the summit,1878ft/573m, with its small stone shelter. This is the highest point of the Loweswater Fells and just the place to eat your lunch and enjoy all that lies around.

5 Leave the top by a wide grassy trod that heads north-west, with no comforting fence now to guide you, but with the forest below. Drop down, quite steeply, on the grassy way towards Shap Knott, the path keeping to the right side of the rotund fell. Then the way becomes stepped by walkers’ treads and this is much the steepest part of the walk - walking poles are a help down this short sharp section. Just when an even steeper slope descends to Wiseholme Beck, take a narrow reinforced path off left into conifers. Very soon this joins the end of wide level ride through the forest – a great relief after the last brief descent. Carry on along the way for nearly half-amile. The conifers stand well back, allowing light to the track, which eventually joins the wide forest road.

6 Wind right and follow the easy-to-walk way with a large open area supporting a planting of immature larch to your left. Curve round left with the track and continue left as it goes on along the other side of the young conifers, with mature larch woodland to your right. Eventually the trees end and the track winds right, with Cogra Moss away to your left. Carry on to the fence ahead and then walk left down beside it until you can go over a low section of the old iron fencing below a hawthorn tree. Wind right, picking you way carefully if it is muddy. The path bears a little left, nearer to the lake, and then it continues over some rather inadequate pieces of wood across the wetter areas.

7 At the path end, climb the ladderstile, or wind round through the gap on the right, and then head on along the dam at the foot of the lake. Cross the overflow and go on to a large ornate iron gate. Beyond, wind right and ascend below the beeches. Go through the gate, cross the meadow to go through the kissing gate. Turn left and then right to return to the car park.

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