Category Archives: Day Walks

Hartsop Fells a Favorite Lakeland Walk

One of the first things I decided when I started this blog was that I would not attempt to post every day walk I did. Being retired and living in Cumbria there are just too many of them. A day walk in The Lakes need to have that something extra to justify a post. So what was special about this walk? It certainly was not the wall to wall sunshine that was forecast but failed to materialise, and certainly not the high winds that were forecast that did materialise adding an icy backdrop to proceedings. However having snow covered fells contrasting with the green valleys and dark menacing clouds above the  tops punctuated with the occasional patch of blue sky letting in rays of sunshine to illuminate part of the landscape combined with it being a favorite walk was special.

So why is this a “Favorite walk”? Well look what you get for only nine and a half miles walking with 2,600ft of ascent. Six “Wainwrights”, The Knott, Rampsgill Head, Kidsty Pike, High Street, Thornthwaite Crag and Gray Grag. Views of two lakes, Ullswater and Windermere, one reservoir, Hawswater, one recently decommissioned reservoir, Hayswater plus Brothers Water. Views of The Pennines and Howgills to the east and the Helvellyn range to the west and valleys ranging from Kentmere to Patterdale. And then there’s the wildlife, red deer and even  the possibility of seeing England’s only golden eagle. If you fancy a bit of a longer outing you can, as we sometimes do, add on High and Low Raise or take a detour via Mardale Ill Bell.

The route is below, click on the map to be taken to the social hiking page. The start is at the small car park at the end of the road that goes through Hartsop, only twenty minutes from our house, another reason its a favorite walk. 🙂

Map of the route
Map of the route

From the car park the route is fairly straight forward following the path up alongside Hayswater Gill. Hayswater used to be a reservoir. It had been unused for many years and so in 2014 United Utilities decided to return it to its former existence, rather than pay for maintenance, as a tarn and removed the dam. In doing so they moved the bridge a couple of hundred yards down steam so that it now crosses the gill where the right of way does.

The path then climbs steeply up grassy slopes until you reach the path from Boredale Hause that winds its way up to High Street. In spring and summer you are guaranteed to spot some Coast to Coasters on the Patterdale to Shap leg. Look out for the Harvey C2C maps! Following this path, you soon come to the point were a small detour takes you up to The Knott. An excellent spot with particularly good views to the Helvellyn range and also down passed The Nab to Hallin Fell and Ullswater beyond.

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View from The Knott , the Nab covered in snow on the left, Hallin Fell with no snow in the distance and then Ullswater
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Looking west from The Knott to Helvellyn
Sian, on The Knott, admiring the view with a raven keeping its eye on her
Sian, on The Knott, admiring the view with a raven keeping its eye on her

We didn’t hang around too long on The Knott as the wind was quite fierce. Its only a short stroll up to Rampsgill Head, according to Social Hiking there were sixteen minutes from us arriving at The Knott, taking the above photos and getting to Rampsgill Head. The “Wainwrights” come thick and fast now.

A few yards north of the summit of Rampsgill Head, the ground drops away and usually this is a nice sheltered spot to have a coffee break, get out the binoculars and spot the red deer down below in the valley. Sightings are pretty much guaranteed. In autumn during the rut, the haunting calls of the male deer can easily be heard from hear. Unfortunately because of the wind direction it was not in the slightest bit sheltered so off we went to Kidsty Pike, coincidentally also taking sixteen minutes.

Kidsty Pike is the highest point on Wainwrights Coast to Coast path…except for those “coasters” who missed the turn and end up on High Street by mistake, and we have met a few! It stands above the valley of Riggindale where red deer also roam. However Riggindale is also the home to England’s only resident golden eagle.Twice whilst walking this route we have seen him. Once from Kidsty Pike, he was well below us and we saw him swoop down and land on a rock. He was in amongst some red deer which gave a good indication of his size.

High Street from Kidsty Pike
High Street from Kidsty Pike
Hawswater from Kidsty Pike
Hawswater from Kidsty Pike

The going was not so easy from here up on to High Street, with some deep snow and some ice. On a nice day a good lunch spot is Short Stile, a small prominence above Riggindale off the path up to High Street, you can’t miss it in good visibility it has a cairn. This is where a few years ago we had our best view of the golden eagle. We were taking our eldest son Adrian, round this route and stopped on Short Stile for a bite to eat. We noticed the eagle below us, circling and gradually gaining height. As he did so he also gradually moved down Riggindale towards Hawswater. We must have followed him for a good five minutes. On both occasions we have spotted the golden eagle he has been below us. So that’s our tip for spotting him, look down and not just up.

Short Stile, our golden eagle spotting site, with Kidsty Pike in the distance.
Short Stile, our golden eagle spotting site, with Kidsty Pike in the distance.
Sian off up High Street, it's too cold to wait for the photographer
Sian off up High Street, it’s too cold to wait for the photographer
Hawswater
Hawswater

Now at 2,717ft High Street is the highest point on the route, but apart from the trig point there is not a lot to see, as the top is a bit of a plateau. Today it was also very windy and icy as the wind had scoured the terrain. So we set off for Thornthwaite Crag, soon picking up fine views again. Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke with Windermere in the distance and in the other direction Hayswater surrounded by fells.

Ill Bell flanked by Froswick and Yoke
Ill Bell flanked by Froswick and Yoke
Hayswater surrounded by fells
Hayswater surrounded by fells

Thornthwaite Fell is one of those classic Lakeland locations, like Esk Hause or Helvellyn summit shelter, where you can always find someone taking a well earned break. So this was to be our lunch spot today. We could not shelter directly behind the wall as normal as great mounds of snow had beaten us to it :-(.

The massive cairn on Thornthwaite Crag. Sian doing battle with her Torres coat
The massive cairn on Thornthwaite Crag. Sian doing battle with her Torres coat
View from Thornthwaite Crag
View from Thornthwaite Crag
View from Thornthwaite Crag. Windermere in the distance
View from Thornthwaite Crag. Windermere in the distance
View from Thornthwaite Crag
View from Thornthwaite Crag

Now probably the most popular way back to Hartsop from here is via Threshwaite Cove, however I think descending via Gray Grag is far superior. There are excellent views all the way along the ridge especially west over Hartsop Dodd and on towards Helvellyn, later there are fine aerial views of Hartsop itself and Brothers Water and a small detour east and you have good views down to Hayswater.

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Hartsop Dodd on the left, Hartsop in the middle amongst the green, mountains as far as the eye can see.
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Helvellyn over Hartsop Dodd
Hayswater
Hayswater
Cornice on Gray Crag
Cornice on Gray Crag
Hartsop...and hopefully my car
Hartsop…and hopefully my car

Once the steep nose of Gray Crag has been negotiated, a bit tricky with snow today, there is just a short walk back to the car with a quick glance over “Pasture Bottom” up to Threshwaite Cove.

 The view up Pasture Bottom...the kids used to love that!
The view up Pasture Bottom…the kids used to love that!

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