The Lake District Guide

Lake District Valley and Low-level Walks

Loweswater and Crummock Water

Loweswater - 4 miles

Loweswater is a gem. The view across its still water to the towering hump of Mellbreak epitomises all that is best in the Lake District landscape. It cannot be bettered, if the conditions are just right. There is a most pleasant walk all round the lake, spoiled only by having to walk on a public road for about half a mile.

The approach by road is normally by Lorton Vale, turning westwards as signposted, instead of going on to Crummock and Buttermere. An alternative approach from Cockermouth is off the A5086, turning eastwards after five miles, through Mockerkin. Just by the side of the road at the northern end of the lake there is a grassy terrace.

Leaving this grassy terrace, walk towards the head of the lake (that is south-east towards Mellbreak) along the road. After a short while it is possible to scramble down the bank through the trees to a path alongside the lake. Whether you can walk the shore comfortably or not depends on the height of the water. The wood here is a mixture of hardwoods and larches. Along the shore the predominant tree is alder, which is fast-growing and its wood light and easily worked.

There are some quite pretty Scots pines further on, before the steepness of the bank, and wet ground, may force you back onto the road. Continue on the verge. There are some fine Scots pines on the left of the road, mixed with other softwoods. There are some fine silver firs between the road and the lake further on. Just after a larch plantation on the left you can return to the lake shore again by the National Trust sign. This time you will eventually turn back onto the road by a wall and fence.

Continue along the road in the same direction. You pass an old barn and a cottage. You pass a farm yard on the left (Thrushbank). Mellbreak is prominent right. Presently a macadam lane joins from the right. Go right down this lane.

Presently the lane bends left, then right, and there is a gated lane on the right. A sign here indicates that this lane is the way to Watergate farm, that cars cannot proceed, but that it is a public bridleway. Go through this gate and on towards Watergate over a bridge and on through the fields. Please keep to the bridleway. Soon you have a pleasant view over the fields to the lake, then you reach Watergate. Go forwards, turn right through the gate, past the sheepwash, and through another gate. A dirt lane goes pleasantly again by the shore. Another gate brings you into National Trust property - Holme Wood.

The lane begins to leave the lake slightly, but a narrow footpath leaves off right, towards the lake, by a little building. Take this. A beck has to be crossed. At the time of writing there is no footbridge, though most people will have no difficulty in striding across. All about you is National Trust property and you can sit by this pleasant shore as long as you wish.

As you go on the shore you reach the edge of the wood, at a wall and fence. Although a path can be seen going over the fence and across the field this is not a right of way. You should return to the bridleway, unless by the time you read this a new path has been made. The bridleway is through the trees on your left, and if in doubt find it by following the wall up. Having joined the bridleway turn right, go through a gate and right on. The bridleway continues up between walls and under oaks and you reach another farm, Hudson Place.

Turn right, right through a gate and down a lane between banks and hedges. This curves left, then right near the foot of the hill, but just as it turns left there is a gate on the right. You now have a choice. You may take a short-cut through this gate on a public footpath across dampish fields and a little footbridge; or you can continue on down the bridleway to the road and turn right. The latter is straightforward. The former is described: go through the gate, forward over a slate culvert and on the same line towards the hedge. A stile and a little bridge can be seen: go over the bridge. Continue forward to the gate ahead alongside the road. Join the road and turn right to your starting point.

Crummock Water - 8.5 miles

Crummock Water is Buttermere's larger sister. It has the same beauty that Buttermere is famed for; but it's wilder, less intimate; and moody. Scenically it has almost everything - trees, moorland and rugged backgrounds; and water that can be calm at one moment, and whipped white the next. It is magnificent. If photographers do this walk they will collect views that are not usually seen, for they will visit some much less well known viewpoints.

There are of course snags. The quiet beaches on the west shore offering the fine view of the water backed by the massive-looking hump of Grasmoor need some effort to reach, and wet feet are absolutely guaranteed.

You should consider this walk a full-day walk. Best to have a morning start with a packed lunch. Much of the land en route, like the lake, is in the care of the National Trust, or is open fell land with free access and you can stroll and loaf to your heart's content. An optional diversion is described which takes in Scale Force, a waterfall of over a hundred feet. But the diversion is over rough ground; and the fall is shut in a deep ravine and can only be nearly approached by a slimy scramble up wet rock. The descent out of the ravine is more dangerous than the ascent. Nevertheless even without the scramble to the near view, the fall can be impressive.

This walk should not be attempted after heavy and prolonged rain when the becks are in spate.

The walk starts at Buttermere village. If the car parks are full there, drive westwards towards Cockermouth and there is a quarry car park on the right, and other odd places farther on. Leave the village and walk along the roadside in the direction of Cockermouth. The village is very small and you pass the only shop (and post office) which is on the right. There are pleasant green fields then on the left, and an oak wood. You soon reach Wood House, which is also set in a wood among oak and beech. You then descend towards the lake. There is a good view across with, at the far side, the fell of Mellbreak. Walk on the verge on the lake side of the road. Some way on there is a good view over your left shoulder with the craggy fells beyond Buttermere as the backcloth. Fleetwith Pike is on the left with Hay Stacks to the right The nearer fell directly on the left has the odd name of Robinson. Further on you have a good view over the lake to Mellbreak. The little crag opposite is High Ling Crag.

Take care when the road reaches a point where it is fenced on the lake side. You must now continue along the road, leaving the lake shore for a time. Grasmoor towers above on the right. Walk on the grass verge on the right. The crag immediately on your right which you are now leaving is Rannerdale Knott. All the land in view is composed of Skiddaw slate. This usually breaks down into a kind of shale, producing softer outlines to the fells. But some of it, like the material of Rannerdale Knott, is quite hard. As you move forward there is another fell visible on the right. This is Whiteless Pike (2,159 feet). The ridge from it is Wandope, reaching the highest point at Crag Hill (2,749 feet). The verge finishes at a barn and house, right. Best keep to the right under three ash trees and on to a cottage. There is a pine plantation and a beck comes under the road. After this go over to the left to keep on the outside of the next bend. Your road walk soon finishes. There will be no more for the rest of the walk from the point where the wall on the right bends back, and there is a wide expanse of common grazing land. Walk up onto this. This is Cinerdale Common.

From the common there are good views of the lake. Over the wall on the other side of the road you should see a wooden ladder-stile. Cross and climb over this. This brings you into Fletcher Fields, the property of the National Trust. Go down to the lake shore and walk right, along the shore path. Cross a little beck and walk along the shingle, or on grass at a higher level. The rocky terrain forces you back soon a short distance from the lake. Cross the beck.

Shortly the path narrows and continues just above the lake. It then goes close to the lake shore again among oak, birch and alder. Cross two walls and head round the margin of the lake. You pass some hazel shrubs and continue on a green footpath, Grasmoor towering, forward on the right. Go on under a large oak tree, across a little beck and you enter a plantation, through a little stile. Going on through the wood you come to another stile and into another wood planted with Scots pine. There is a beck just before the stile with stepping stones. There are other trees among the pines. Below is a boat house and boat landing. You join a substantial track flanked with heather.

The ground falls steeply between the track and the lake. This area has a natural growth of hardwoods. Up on the right European larch have been planted above the hardwoods. Farther on pines grow between the track and the lake end. There is a path junction on the left, take this. You soon see a very fine view up the lake. Stroll right round the foot of the lake over the two footbridges. There are fine views all the way. Rannerdale Knott is the prominent point opposite, on the left of it of course is Grasmoor. Cross a beck by another footbridge and continue on with the fence parallel to the lake shore. This comes onto a shingle beach which is also a good viewpoint. Go over two stiles, over a fence and a wall. There is still a delightful beach. You go through another stile, then you must move inland to avoid wet ground. A green path can be picked up. This is fairly wet and then it goes back to the lake shore. You are now really in some wild moorland. Cross the remnants of a stile in a broken wall. As you go on some of the wildness is tamed. This is because Mellbreak, the great fell on the right, offers some shelter from strong winds. Even the grass grows differently.

The beach continues. You cross what appears to be waste from an old mine working. Go on, eventually you get to some gorse bushes - a wet section after this can probably be best avoided by taking to the gravel of the lake shore. A plain path can then be seen at a higher level. Beware of the slippery wet rock. A rocky spur is reached. The path over it is a bit of a scramble and it is easier to by-pass it by the lake shore below. Path crosses a broken fence. The path heads right a little but does not, as might appear from here, go to the right of the big crag in front. It crosses above a bog, then it goes forward below this crag, High Ling Crag. You see a peninsula: the depth on either side of the peninsula is over 120 feet and you can see how steeply the rock dips down on the lake side.

Going back to your path you reach a flattish area between fells. You go on through some wetness to a large beck with a broken wall on its far side. Now at this point you should decide whether you are diverting to look at Scale Force. You are now about a mile and a half from home. The diversion is over half a mile and the ground is rough. The diversion is described first. If you wish to continue shorewards pick up the directions after the next two paragraphs.

To Scale Force you have to go up right with the beck without crossing it yet. This means progress over a very wet portion just before the beck. Whatever you do do not try to avoid this by going up right. You could go in very deep on seemingly easy ground. It is marginally better to go down a little to the left. Having reached the beck side go right, with it, and right, round a sheepfold. Continue on past what looks like an old ruined sheepfold, possibly a building on the left. Another view back at Crummock here, offering yet another mood. A fence corner is reached. Do not go through the gate but go on to the left of the fence. Further up the path gets narrow, eroded, and wet. Eventually you must cross the beck at a suitably narrow point.

Continue following the beck, this time on the other side. Scale Force now creeps into sound and view. A better green path is picked up which leads you on up, and then down to cross a plank bridge. The falls can then be approached on the left and you have a view of them up the narrow gully. Above on the left of the falls' foot is another old mine waste heap. This ore is in the middle of the beck which marks the boundary of the Skiddaw slate, and the harder granophyre - a later volcanic rock. Having seen the falls descend on this side of the beck, there is a fine view ahead. Path gets plainer lower down and you pass an old sheep pen. Up above on the right is Red Pike. There is a wet section and the path turns right, and there is another wet section crossed by stepping stones. The next paragraph describes the walk along the lake shore from the point where you diverted.

To continue along the lake shore from the point where you reached the beck, go left over very wet ground until you can cross the beck. Here you will notice that the beach gravel is quite different. It is granophyre of which Red Pike, up above on the right, and the fells beyond are composed. It was formed from volcanic action after the Skiddaw slate was laid down. The shingle has in fact changed dramatically in a few feet. You come to a beck. If you cannot cross it here go further up to a point where it divides into two. You should be able to cross it by the two narrower channels. Go back and continue by the lake shore. There are some hardwoods growing and there is another beck to cross, followed by another with slippery stepping stones. There are several more little becks. You come to a little rock face. Struggle up the right here and go up between the holly and the rowan. Continue on the top of the crag, to the right of a boulder, cross a boggy section up on the right - well up where a sheeptrod can be seen crossing it. Go towards the trees ahead. There is a little island off shore here - Scale Island. There are rowans and hollies and you go forward to strike a green footpath, which is the one from Scale Force.

You go on through the mixed hardwoods, cross a little beck. There are two more islands ahead in the lake. There is a wet section and the path goes left. You cross a beck and another boggy section and then go right to cross another boggy section. You come in left again to pick up a slightly better path. You cross another beck to the right of an old sheepfold. This crossing is a bit nasty. Beyond you join a better path. The path is stony and there is another beck to cross. Below now the lake has ended and the river joining it to Buttermere makes a snakelike coil. After another beck look for the oaken sculpture on the left. Birch and ash have colonised the rough rocks above on the right. The path rises slightly and curves right under oaks, and there are some large rocks which have broken away from the fell; probably after the fell-sides were undermined by the cutting glacier.

You now come across a pretty arch-bridge, Scale Bridge. Cross the bridge and continue on the track beyond. The track swings left and heads for Buttermere village. The fields are always lush and green here. Go through two gates to a T junction with a hard track. Turn left and this brings you past the Fish Hotel and back to your car.

Rannerdale - 3.5 miles

Rannerdale is a hidden dale concealed by the Rannerdale Knotts and Low Bank; a hump of land of hard Skiddaw slate thrusting into the head of Crummock Water. It is rarely visited yet is a delightful and quite typical Lakeland dale.

This walk should be done in clear weather for the views are excellent. Smooth-soled footwear could be dangerous as the walk ends in a fairly steep descent on grass. There are one or two wet patches which can be avoided with care.

The start is at Buttermere village. If the car parks are full try driving towards Crummock and Cockermouth. There is a little quarry car park just outside the village, and one or two other small places. Walk on towards Crummock. (That is north-west.) About half a mile from the village centre, the road takes a turn and Crummock Water comes into view. There is a lane off between iron fences on the right which is in fact the line of the old road. Take this. There is a mixed wood with larch and spruce between you and the road left. The path rises, and then descends to rejoin the road. You turn a corner and Crummock Water is before you. Before the road descends to the side of the lake, there is a green track going off along the fell side to the right. Take this.

This is on the line of the old road which existed before the present one was blasted out around the corner of Rannerdale Knott. This way begins to gain height and there are pleasant views over the lake at once. The fell at the other side on the left is Red Pike (2,479 feet) which sits behind a smaller peak. When the path levels out look back. The largest fell, on the left up valley, has the strange name of Robinson. Behind that you can see Fleetwith Pike above Honister. To the right of that the knobbly summits are called Hay Stacks, then right of that again is the ridge of High Pike and High Stile. Walk on and the path rises more gradually, and ahead are the steep crags of Mellbreak at the other side of Crummock Water. Ignore the turnings from the path which go up the fell, and when the path forks go left. The path continues to rise gently until you are on Rannerdale Knott.

Cross the shoulder of rock and descend a little. If you look at this rock you should see that this was once a cart road, for the wheel wear is still apparent. This would have been the only way up the valley before the rock below was blasted out for the new road. just after this you descend. Ignore the sheep trods going off right. Detour left up the rock knoll. From this point you can see almost all of Crummock Water. Go back to the track, and continue the descent. You should be able to make out the zig-zags of the old road. The old way however is wet now, and it is advisable to keep to the left of it. Go sharp left first past the first zig-zag then over a little knoll and continue down the path. Beware on the steep steps. Pick your own way down. The way gets better as you get lower. Rejoin the road.

You leave the road, right, almost at once, walking between Rannerdale Knott on your right, and a wall, left. The rock has been quarried on the right - mainly for the dry-stone walls. Go through the gate, and continue with the wall until the wall corner is reached, and the path goes forward, before curving right to go up the valley. The peak which you see ahead as you go up the valley is Whiteless Pike. Rannerdale Knott, from this side, also looks spectacular. A beck will be seen on the left and the path follows it. This is Rannerdale Beck.

The path comes closer to the beck, and the water is crystal clear. For a time the path is rocky. The path goes on between the beck, left, and a wall, right. Rannerdale Beck comes down from the fell opposite, and the beck you are now following is Squat Beck. A little way up this beck, cross it by the steppingstones, and follow it up on the opposite bank. Continue up on the higher land on the left, still following this smaller beck.

There is no clear path at this point. Cross the line of an old broken wall. The valley holds this surprisingly grassy plain. An ideal pasture as well as a battlefield. Keep the beck in view on the right. Cross an old slate bridge, over a little beck, go through a gateway with old stone gateposts, then to avoid the worst of some wetness go left of the rushy area, then move over towards the fence, and follow it. You come to a stile. Cross the beck, and incline left up the green path. You continue on the same course as you have come so far, going towards the pass in the fells above. ignore the sheep trods going up the fell. The slope of the correct path is gentle.

The path presently meanders and goes left of a boggy area. You are walking on what looks like a man-made causeway. In fact this is probably the remains of an ancient wall. You cross the beck again with the path, over a muddy area; best to go left of the worst patch. Proceed up the beck on the other bank. The path zig-zags and crosses another very old wall. This was a ditch-and-wall arrangement. This may have been a defensive wall; but in fact ancient cattle enclosures are sometimes found with a wall-and-ditch fence. Continue on with the beck which is now only a ribbon of water.

The path is rather harder now as it rises. Take your time if necessary with plenty of rests. There is a sheep pen on the right. Now beware of a wet section on the path. Go up to the left above it. The nastiest wetness is directly opposite the sheep fold, and can be distinguished by the brighter green of the grass and moss. You can go in here above your knees! The path narrows but is fairly clear on the ground. The way becomes smoother and drier as you go higher. The beck now vanishes and there is only a bog.

Now look back. You can see over Crummock and over to Loweswater. If there is great clarity you can see even beyond to the Solway.

Go through the pass and facing you is the huge side of Robinson. Over on the right there is a view over Buttermere with the long ribbon of Sourmilk Gill pouring down the hillside.

Now go right, descending to a knoll summit. From here you have a bird's eye view of the foot of Buttermere and the head of Crummock. Now from this point to Buttermere the fell side is 'Stepped' with a series of crags like the knoll you are standing on. It is not a good idea then to make a direct descent. You should go either to the left or the right of these steps for paths go down either side. Do not descend direct to the paths but walk back along the fell side, descending to them slowly. When either of the paths is reached you will find that for a time they are still fairly steep.

The paths both on the right and on the left join at the bottom of the rocky steps. The path then goes left to join another path alongside a wall. Follow this down behind the cottages and you join the road. Buttermere village is on the left.

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