The Lake District Guide

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Mountain Walks

Valley & Lakeside Walks
Ullswater walks
Langdale walks
Grasmere/Rydal walks
More Grasmere walks
Ambleside walks
Coniston walks
Windermere walks
Gummer's How
Gummer's How (2)
Hawkshead walks
Buttermere walks
Ennerdale walks
Wasdale walks
Derwentwater walks
Borrowdale walks
Keswick walks
Ullswater walks
More Ullswater Walks (1)
More Ullswater Walks (2)
Tarn Hows
Holme Fell
Staveley walks; Loweswater
Castlerigg Stone Circle

Things To Do, Places To Go

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Lake District Valley and Low-level Walks

Keswick Walks (Click here for part 2)

Castlerigg Stone Circle to St John's Church - 4 miles

Keswick Stone Circle, usually known as Castlerigg, is reached by taking the Penrith road out of Keswick, and taking the first branch road, a narrow one, to the right. At about one mile along this road there is a branch road right, and just beyond this the entrance to the site.

The Stone Circle is about three thousand years old. Such circles are sometimes called Druid circles but in fact they were in use long before the arrival of the Celts and their Druids. Maybe they were places of worship of some sort; there is some evidence to suggest that they were also "calendars" so that the earliest settlers here could know when to sow and when to reap.

Unlike many circles there are no burials within the enclosure which is slightly pear-shaped. There are now 48 stones, there were probably more than this at one time. The setting, among the ring of hills, is impressive. This walk is from here to St John's, a walk across fields surrounded by hills. It is marred by a few yards of bog, which can be avoided with patience and care; and a few yards of main road grass verge.

The tallest stone in the circle is the one on the south-east. Leave the circle from here and walk ahead to the nearby wall. Go left and downwards with it. At the end of the wall is the gate, go through this and forward on the footpath, past a hawthorn tree and going parallel with the wall. Go through the gate in the corner. Go forward again and right again to an elbow in the wall. Follow the wall round the elbow to a stone stile. Go through this and bear right towards a gate. Go through the gate and turn left. Follow the fence towards the pine wood, and walk alongside the wood, and at the end of it turn right to follow the hedge and then a wall. Follow the wall round and go through the gate. Close gate and go through the farmyard. Go along the road to the right of the house, then instead of going over the cattle grid go through the large gate to its left. Go forward keeping the old hedge on your right, then bend left towards the farm road. Go over cattle grid or through the gate alongside it and join main road with care. Go left on the grass verge for a few yards and then a stile in the roadside wall on the left is seen, with a signpost ("Footpath to Church of St John's in the Vale 1 mile"). Go through the stile and across the field bearing slightly right, then go through the stile and down the stone ladder at the other side. The path is clear then alongside a wall. There is good view of Blencathra to the left. The Helvellyn range is in front of you. The summit ahead on this range is Great Dodd. The summit of Helvellyn is at the right-hand end of the range, hidden from view at this point.

Go through the gate at the bottom, then through the gate and over the bridge. Immediately afterwards bear left and go towards the corner of the field. This is a faint path leaving the more substantial track. Avoid wandering from it, or walking two or more abreast across this valuable grass crop. A white wicket-gate will be seen. Go through it and across the bridge, then forward to a wooden ladder-stile. Go over this and follow the fences round to the right. Cross over the wooden ladder stile on the left and follow the track. Then instead of following it when it bends left towards the farmyard, go over the stone stile on the right. Leave the little sheep-pen which may be beyond the stile and go forward over the rock outcrops. A faint path will be seen, and over the rock it is worn smooth. Make towards the right-hand side of the wall in front. A stone stile can be seen beside an iron footpath sign. Cross the stile onto a hard-surfaced track. Go across to the signpost (St. John's in the vale church), turn left up the track, and go along the zig-zags.

The track brings you to a gate and a kissing-gate. There is a plantation on the right. Go through the kissing-gate and past the youth centre. The tiny church of St. John's is just after this. It is only just over a hundred years old, but it was built on the site of an earlier church. Its setting is very pretty.

Opposite the church is stone step-stile. Go over this. Go over the little stream by bearing right, then go forward. The path is faint at first. Some way ahead a wall can be seen. The path goes to where the wall dips through a hollow, and if you look at the objective and walk towards it the path will then be seen. Blencathra is prominent on the right. Skiddaw ahead. Then there is the very wet ground. Go well over to the left and making a very wide detour. If you can keep an eye on the objective of the dip in the wall you should not get lost. Keep to the right of the big crag. Bog can be distinguished from dry ground by the moss growing on it, and the lush green grass.

On reaching the wall you will find a stone step-stile. Go over it and through the hollow ahead. Below to the right is a tarn: Tewet tarn. Make towards this. The way through the fence is just to the right of the wall. The large pike on the skyline is Grisedale Pike. Eel Crag is to its left and before it is the rounded pike of Causey. Go along to the right of the tarn towards the gate in the wall. Go over the stile alongside it. Go on, bearing right. The walls to the left and to the right converge ahead. Head for this and you will find a gate. Go through it and down the field. (Close this gate.)

Follow the right-hand wall down to the awkward gate. Join the secondary road and turn left. If you do the walk in early summer you will enjoy the blue flowers of the native geranium - Cranesbill, with foxgloves and the blue climbing flower, vetch, all along the grass verge. This road joins a main road. Turn left and go along the grass verge. At the bend in the road take the minor road left signposted "Stone Circle". After this road crosses a bridge, go through the gate on the left. Go on to the next gate in the wall. Bear left and head for the next gate. Go through this. The objective - the prominent farm-house of Goosewell - can be seen ahead. The right of way probably cannot be seen easily. Head for the farm and you will reach a small gate. Go through this on to the road and turn left. You are soon back at the stone circle.

Round Souther Fell - 5 miles

If you dislike crowds this is probably as good a way as any to get away from them. It is a circular route from the village of Mungrisdale, going through a pass on the Blencathra (otherwise known as Saddleback) range. For a good way it follows the course of the River Glenderamackin, a Celtic name. Probably Blencathra is another one. Helvellyn is almost certainly another. There could be various theories about the origin of Glenderamackin. It sounds very Celtic; but others who favour Norse would suggest that the Glen part comes from old Norse - Glenna - a clearing in a forest. In Celtic a similar word means a narrow valley. But this is a long river eventually running into Derwentwater.

The walk is not for a misty day. Good footwear is essential and there are wet sections. The beginning of the route is like wandering into a miniature Scottish highland glen. It follows an apparently ancient track. So well was the route of this path chosen that a climb is achieved with the minimum of effort. On emerging from the summit of the pass those with no heads for heights will worry for a short time perhaps, but the path is a safe one all the way. The last half of the walk goes gently along a quiet lane which would be a good example of how the Lake District roads must have looked at one time before the advent of the internal combustion engine. Flower spotters should carry their reference books for the last half of the walk too.

What better starting and ending place than the Mill Inn at Mungrisdale? Take the Penrith road, the A66, out of Keswick. The Mungrisdale road is on the left after seven miles, and the village is two miles up this minor road. Park somewhere safe. The Mill Inn was once a mill. The river falls below it under an arched bridge making a green and cool scene. Walk on from the bridge as if you are leaving the inn and the village. Almost immediately on the left is a lane, with a telephone box at the end of it. Walk up this lane past the farmyard and through the gates and onto the old track beyond. Ford a small stream. You are in a green valley surrounded by softly-shaped fells of Skiddaw slate. Ford another beck - if necessary go to the right to cross it at a narrower point.

Now don't follow the track to the right, but pick up a track which follows the river side. The first part of this is very difficult to see as it crosses wet ground. This can be passed with care and a reasonably clear path is picked up beyond which gets clearer as you progress. The main vegetation here is bracken, but in June and July there are foxgloves, and a white carpet of bedstraw. Cotton grass blows in the wet areas. Muddy sections can be avoided by going higher to the right when necessary. Another beck is approached by steppingstones. To cross it turn up right and there is a. little plank bridge. A grassy path now rises gently. The next beck crosses the path and tumbles down a waterfall. A place to rest awhile if you need one for it is a pleasant little scene. If it is not possible to stride over this beck, take it below to avoid the wetness.

There is soon a bad wet section. If you must avoid it go below it for the water soaks through the stony ground. Another wet section beyond this can be avoided in a like manner. You have now reached some height, and if it was not for the water you can hear tumbling below you could hear a pin drop. Another wet section (all these wet sections would not be here if the path had been properly maintained over the years) is best avoided by going above it, fording a little beck which feeds the bog. Below by the river side there are now trees, mainly mountain ash, which have grown here because the river sides are steep and the young trees could not be eaten by sheep. The river is neared again, and you will presently see a plank bridge below you. Your way lies across this, but you need not make a desperate descent to it. Follow the path right past it and you will see that the correct way zig-zags more gently towards it.

Cross the bridge and follow the path which climbs upwards to the left. On reaching the path summit look back at the way you have come and be proud of yourself. Directly behind you is the sharp outline of the Blencathra summit ridge. You should make out a spur coming off towards you which is aptly named Sharp Edge. This is one of the routes up the mountain not for complete novices. You are now, in fact, standing on the side of Blencathra.

Over the summit you can look down into the green vales of Threlkeld Common. The fells behind on the skyline are those of Helvellyn. You are looking at the ridge end on, and the summit is obscured. Over to, the right if there is clear visibility you might see the pointed summit of Bowfell, and to the right of this a gap then Scafell Pike. These are well over fifteen miles away as the crow flies. After going over the summit go over to the right. The path is at first indistinct over wettish ground but as you go on it becomes quite clear as it takes the right hand side of the valley below. Take care over rough sections.

The path descends onto a grassy section. If you look back you will see again how well the old track makers chose their line for economy and ease of effort. Go through the gate, close it, and follow the indistinct path which goes parallel with the fence which is on the left. Go out through the gate onto the lane. Close gate. Turn left. Go through another gate. After the first house (Souther Fell) the road has a cobbly surface almost all the way back to the inn. Geologists will note the characteristics of the Skiddaw slate in the quarry holes.

More walks: Part 2 page 14 Part 2 page 13 Page 2 page 2 Page 2 part 3

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