The last post was mainly about the public transport: How do you adventure into the heart of the Lake District without a car? This post is about the actual walk we did. I always feel a bit sorry for tourists visiting main towns only. They are only a few steps away from the real beauty of the Lakes. Keswick and Windermere are nice enough, but they are not that special from other places. The true beauty is in the rolling mountains in the blue haze and the gleaming sapphire waters, seen from the ridges and the summit cairns. Hope this post can help you to get there.
I will show you what we did first and suggest a second option which I think would be easier.
A quick overview for option one. I would say what we did was a medium level walk in terms of difficulty. It covers three over 700m summits, listed as 7, 8 and 9 (in height order) in Wainwright’s North Western Fells. They were Dale Head, Robinson and Hindscarth. It’s a linear route of about 6 miles and it took us just under five hours to complete. Here’s a map.
IMPORTANT: Before you go anywhere, make sure you have the orange OS Explorer map, a compass and common sense with you.
Photo: (Left) The path next to Buttermere Lake. (Right) My unwilling model.
This is what we did. We got on Bus 77 at 9.50am from Stonethwaite to Buttermere (about £5). It was so hot (summer 2018 is destined to leave a deep memory in British people’s minds – the weeks-long dry and hot weather and the World Cup #nearlycominghome!) that the bus overheated and we had to stop and wait for it to cool down at Honiston. After arriving Buttermere, we walked back to the lake, found a spot to swim on the north bank and didn’t see the lake monster.
We left the lake at 12.30 and head up from Hassness with Hassnesshow Beck on our left. The brackens were dense but the path was clear most of the way. However we did got lost for a small section before we reached the stile. So my suggestion is: Look uphill every now and then and you should be able to spot a white stile sticking up in the sky. Aim for that and you should be fine.
It’s very steep all the way. After all, you are ascending over 700 metres within two miles or so! You will breathe like a horse and sweat like a pig (especially when it’s 23ºC!). But trust me, this is the hardest section and your reward is great after this. Just look back at Buttermere every now and then to get a sense of how fast you are ascending. A wire fence is on the left along the whole way to the top. Just keep going and you won’t get lost!
When the fence starts to turn right and you suddenly hear ping ping ping from your phone, that means the summit is in sight (and you can finally call your loved one or post on Instagram for the first time since you left Keswick). There is a stile to cross to the north side of the fence. You can go to Robinson summit for a small detour or follow the path east. You are now on the Littledale Edge. Littledale is down on your left and the road that the bus drove on earlier is on your right like a shiny ribbon.
Photos: Standing on the same spot for these two photos. (Left) Turn left for Robinson. (Right) Follow the path to Dale Head.
Compared to the painful ascent earlier, the ridge walk is entirely effortless and pleasant. And you’ll be at Dale Head in no time providing you don’t stop every ten seconds to take photos of the marvellous scenery (I don’t blame you).
Dale Head is easy to recognise even from a long way away on Hindscarth Edge – because of the special-shaped cairn! There is a little story about it in Wainwright’s book. “Long may it reign Dale Head!”
Well done you got there! The view is truly amazing all the way round.
Here’s how we completed the walk: After running around taking photos and celebrating with some clementines, we headed straight down south to Honister Slate Mine. (The Slate Mine was in view the whole time from the ridge actually, which ruined the view slightly.) The descent only took us about 30 minutes. We were skipping and trotting down pretty fast because we needed to catch the last bus from the Slate Mine to Stonethwaite! And we did it! It was the same driver as in the morning. The poor bus was still beeping like an alarm clock because of the heat!
Option two. If your priority is not swimming, then I recommend doing the whole walk in reverse direction. See map here:
Advantage 1: The bus will take you to Honiston Slate Mine, which is 356 metre above sea level. Dale Head summit is 753 metres. You only need to ascend about 400 metres! Wainwright thinks you are cheating but I think it’s OK.
Advantage 2: The ridge walk will have Buttermere in view most of the time. The scenery is better.
BUT do not go down to Hassness if you value your knees at all.
Let me know if you have done it in the future and let me know how it went!