The Lake District Guide
Lake District Mountain and Fell Walks
It's every walker's ambition to bag the highest peaks in the Lakes, among which Scafell and Scafell Pike feature prominently.
This is one of the easier and simpler routes, as well as being one of the most interesting ways to ascend Scafell. there's nothing approaching the semi-rock-climbing you get on some of the approaches, and it's easier underfoot. The route starts and finishes in Eskdale. It's around 10 miles, and will take around 6 hours. You need the OL 6 map for this walk.
Start at Wha House farm, which you can find on the road from Eskdale over towards Hardknott Pass. The Grid reference is GR201009. Go over the stile on the opposite side of the road to Wha House Farm and follow the path. It's very clear to start with but becomes more indistinct as it continues up the fellside. Indeed, after you leave the relative greenery of the lower slopes, the track becomes a fascinating journey through the typical Lakeland fellside - rough scree, heather, rocks, rough grass, a few hardy mountain ash trees and sheep. I think it's a beautiful walk, as it sums up so much of the typical Lakeland scenery, with views of the mountains in the distance. For a while the route is easy, passing as it does along the contour lie rather than across it.
But some distance past Catcove beck, which is clearly marked on the map, the path begins to steepen, and you begin to feel the ascent as you progress towards the summit. By the time you reach the shoulder of Long Green you can see your objective looming ahead. Take the opportunity for a breather and look around you - you can see right out to sea on a clear day, as far as Scotland and the Isle of Man. Scafell Pike dominates the horizon in front of you.
Once you've reached the summit, enjoyed the view, perhaps taken advantage of the summit shelter, celebrated and maybe feasted, it's time to begin your descent. Take care on your descent, as a wrong choice of path can have you heading off in the wrong direction, over towards Wasdale rather than back down to Eskdale.
What's more, if it's misty, you need to be very sure you are on the path, as the crags of Scafell Crag are dangerous and misleading.
Leave the summit cairn and walk roughly northwards for about 100 yds / 100 m, to a stony depression. Turn right to pick up the line of a path running downhill. This path quickly steepens and has been completely reconstructed to avoid further erosion to the bowl of scree surrounding Foxes Tarn. The tarn is a mere puddle, but spotting it confirms that the walker is still on course. Continuing downhill from Foxes Tarn, pick a way gingerly down a dark and damp rocky gully. Conditions underfoot are uneven, but there are enough good footholds for it to be treated like a staircase. The gully debouches on to scree with boulders between Scafell and Scafell Pike.
Continue downhill on the scree, where the hollow it occupies is later used by a stream, that breaks into lovely waterfalls at Cam Spout. The stream later runs out on to the broad and boggy floor of Great Moss, where few walkers venture to tread. Watch for a path bearing right, hugging the fellside to stay clear of Great Moss, and passing beneath scree below Cam Spout Crag.
When the path runs closer to the infant River Esk as it leaves Great Moss, look out for a point where the river can be crossed easily, and continue downstream using a path on the opposite bank. After turning a boggy corner, the River Esk drops more steeply at Esk Falls, and the delightful Lingcove Bridge later throws its stone span across Lingcove Beck, a river blessed with fine waterfalls, worthy of exploration.
Follow the wide, obvious path downstream after crossing Lingcove Bridge. This path runs close to Brotherkeld Farm, where the farm access road leads to the road at the foot of Hardknott Pass. Turn right and follow the road across Whahouse Bridge to return to Wha House Farm.
6 Hard Knott
Hardknott Pass is well known both to motorists and walkers, but the fell of Hard Knott, from which it takes its name, is not so well known. This rugged little fell provides a short but quite interesting walk. The most obvious attraction on its flanks is Hardknott Roman Fort - situated in a most unlikely position but with a commanding view along Eskdale. The ascent of Hard Knott from the fort is soon accomplished, and the walk can be extended along its hummocky crest, ending with a delightful series of waterfalls in Lingcove Beck.
Distance: 6 miles (10km)
There is only limited parking near Hardknott Roman Fort, halfway up the steep and twisting road crossing Hardknott Pass on the Eskdale side. A clear track runs a short way up from the road, and the ruins of Hardknott Fort are initially hidden. This walk is relatively short, so there should be plenty of time to explore the layout of the fort thoroughly. The square fort has rounded corners and it has been partially restored. A course of thin Lakeland slate marks the original height of the walls before restoration, on top of which collapsed masonry was added until there was no more left to build with. There are four gateways - one in each of the four walls and the provision of a gateway on the north-western side is odd, as anyone leaving that way in a hurry would fall down a rugged slope! No doubt the fort was built to a set plan and the doorway was constructed regardless of the terrain. The gateway on the north-eastern side features a discernible track which leads to a square, levelled area overlooked by an earthen mound. This was the original parade ground, and officers would have conducted drills from the top of the mound.
Having reached this point, the walk has in effect already started and might as well continue. Simply aim for the motor road and follow it to the top of Hardknott Pass. It's surprising how many cars cross over the top of Hardknott Pass with their engines still racing in low gear, as if not quite convinced that the climb is over! For walkers, the climb is only just beginning, and they need to engage low gear themselves. There is a path leaving the highest part of the road which outflanks nearby crags and rocky gullies. The climbing is over too soon and all that remains is to wander along the broad and hummocky crest of the fell looking for the highest point. There seem to be many contenders, but there is a cairn on the true summit at 1,803ft / 552m.
Despite the modest altitude of the fell, the view is very good. Higher fells are grouped all around, and the Scafell range displayed in all its glory. The back side of Crinkle Crags has little to commend it, while more distant views take in the peak of Harter Fell and the Coniston Fells. There is also a fine view along the length of Eskdale. If only a short walk is required, take great care to retrace steps carefully to Hardknott Pass, as it is easy to become stranded on some of the crags frowning over the road.
To continue with the walk, however, simply continue onwards from the summit cairn, following the hummocky, boggy crest of the fell roughly northwards. In clear weather there are no difficulties, but in mist it is easy to become disorientated. In these conditions it would be inadvisable to descend into Eskdale. The broad northern slopes run towards Lingcove Beck and once the river is reached all that is needed is a left turn to start following it downstream.
Lingcove Beck is fairly unremarkable at first, but later it descends with more vigour, and it is worth leaving the path to peer into the rocky gorge through which the river runs. There are some splendid waterfalls and deep, green plunge-pools, overhung by exotic ferns and hardy rowans. It is an enchanting, secret world, and many walkers on the nearby path are quite unaware of it. The lovely stone span of Lingcove Bridge is found at the confluence of Lingcove Beck and the River Esk.
Continue downstream alongside the Esk, following a clear path roughly parallel to the river. This path passes close to Brotherilkeld Farm, whose access road quickly leads to the road at the foot of the Hardknott Pass. There are notices flanking the road which warn of the sharp bends and severe gradients on one of the worst public roads in England. Walkers can follow the road, but might prefer a path branching left above a patch of woodland. This leads back to Hardknott Fort, which can be explored a second time before leaving.