Our tour of the Lake District

With Europe off limits because of Covid, avid walkers Austin Mills and his wife Ginny decided to see what great routes the UK has to offer, and ended up in the Lake District

The Tour of the Lake District was our second UK-based long-distance trek in a year. We did the Two Moors Way at the end of April because lockdown prevented us from heading over to Europe to do another GR. Over the last 3 years we have completed the Tour du Mont Blanc, GR20 and the Walkers Haute Route.

Our prologue started from Pooley Bridge on 5 September, having got the bus there from Penrith. We then followed the bridleway down the eastern side of Ullswater for 14km and camped at Side Farm Campsite at the southern end of Ullswater, this put us in a position to pick up the route at Stage 9.

This section took us 3½ hours with around 300m of ascent and offered some good views of Helvellyn.

Stage 9

Our first stage was from Patterdale to Ambleside via Scandale Pass and Raven Crag. This was an area of the Lakes we had not really explored before.

The steady climb alongside Brothers Water was a good warm up for the legs and we had a bite to eat near Little Hart Crag. We did find the way marking a little ambiguous around the quarry below Snarker Pike.

Brothers Water
The lakeside path next to Brothers Water has good views towards Kirkstone Pass and Red Screes (Photo: Walking the Tour of the Lake District)

On reaching Ambleside we stocked up on supplies and opted to get a taxi to Low Wray campsite, as we thought this was our best camping option that night.

Stage 1

Starting out the following day from Low Wray Campsite we followed the bridleway past Randy Pike and through Pull Woods then up to Skelwith Fold and picked up the route at Skelwith Bridge, where we bought some refreshments.

As to be expected the Cumbria Way was quite busy along Elter Water with tourists. For us this was a particularly hot day (around 26C) so we did suffer with the heat towards the end of the route around Tarn Hows as there is not a lot of shade.

We finished the stage at Coniston Hall Campsite and a very nice refreshing dip in Coniston Water.

Descending towards the village of Coniston, with Coniston lake beyond (Photo: Walking the Tour of the Lake District)

Stage 2

We started from the campsite and headed to Spoon Hall and picked up a bridleway that took us to Torver Bridge, from where we picked up the route on Walna Scar. This was another hot and sunny day, where we found ourselves getting slightly overheated alongside Grassguards Gill.

The path around Kepple Crag was elusive on the ground at times and as it was late in the year the bracken was quite overgrown, perhaps because of lockdown it just hadn't had a great deal of use.

Our day ended at the National Trust Eskdale Campsite. As the heat from the previous few days had been quite draining, we decided to reward ourselves with a rest day, although this did involve a trip to Eskdale Green to top up on food.

Stage 3

The first half alongside the river was lovely and we enjoyed experiencing a part of Eskdale we were unfamiliar with as on previous visits we have been more focused on the Sca Fell area.

The climb up to Irton Fell was a little unpleasant as it was humid and drizzling with low cloud. We have to agree that the descent off Irton Fell is boggy, perhaps it would have been better to turn right at the top and head towards Whin Crag and the descend on the eastern side of Greathall Gill?

This could open up the option for the adventurous to do the Screes on the southern side of Wast Water, rather than the road route. We opted to stay at the National Trust campsite, which has good facilities. However, it looked like some of the pitches could get a little wet and during the main season I would think demand could be high and pre booking would probably be advisable.

Stage 4

This stage was straightforward, the weather was threatening but luckily failed to deliver. The scenery was spectacular, the climb from Black Sail is well maintained and the height is easily gained.

Ginny climbing up from Blacksail
Ginny climbing up from Blacksail

The descent from Scarth Gap Pass offers spectacular views but needs to be treated with caution if you have a heavy pack.

We camped at Syke Farm – this has good facilities and a little bothy should you need to spend some time out of your tent. We decided to treat ourselves to dinner in the hotel that night.

Stage 5

This stage is initially remote and on very open moorland. After a few kilometres the overgrown bracken made route finding difficult and we found ourselves slightly off course and too low down, perhaps we picked up a sheep trod.

We traversed across to the path and got back on track there were a few boggy sections before the descent alongside Rigg Beck. After the descent there is a stark contrast with the wooded Fawe Park.

Our aim was to reach Keswick before the supermarkets closed on Sunday afternoon to buy dinner and food for the following days. We stayed at the Caravan and Camping Club site; they endeavour to find a pitch for anyone who walks onto the site and the National Trust will likewise try to find room for hikers.

Stage 6

Castlerigg Stone Circle
The exceptionally beautiful setting of Castlerigg Stone Circle (Photo: Walking the Tour of the Lake District)

This offered up another inclement day of threatening rain that never materialised. We had a minor navigation problem near to Keswick Leisure Pool; we should have read the guide before heading out rather than using the GPS.

This stage takes in some of the Lakes' more renowned beauty spots – Caslerigg and Ashness Bridge – so expect to see a lot more people than on the previous stage. We had some great views across Derwent Water from Lodore Wood.

The path alongside Watendlath Beck offers some good opportunities for a picnic and the final push up over Puddingstone Bank isn't overly demanding. We finished up at the basic Chapel House farm Campsite. The tea rooms in Rosthwaite sold a few basic supplies as well as offering hot drinks and cake.

Stage 7

The sunny weather was back with us and the route was busier with hikers doing the Coast to Coast. We found our way easily to Lining Crag, which is steep and a bit wet underfoot as the path criss-crosses a Gill. We found the next section quite wet and boggy but it soon passed.

We paused at the top of Far Easdale to enjoy lunch and dry out the tent in the sunshine. On the descent down to Stythwaite steps we spotted a Golden Eagle and paused to watch it. On reaching Grasmere we did a quick shop before taking the Coffin route to camp that night at Rydal Hall.

Far Easedale
The path picks its way down beautiful Far Easedale, with Helm Crag seen in the middle distance (Photo: Walking the Tour of the Lake District)

Stage 8

Being at Rydal we decided to alter the day and headed up Nab Scar and across Lord Crag. On tired legs with heavy packs and with the sun beating down on us it made for a challenge.

However, once the initial climb was over the undulating terrain was more forgiving and we continued on to Fairfield and then dropped down to Grisedale Tarn on a loose scree path where caution is needed.

The idea was to head up Dollywagon Pike and to Helvellyn. We stopped at Grisedale Tarn for lunch and then decided to be sensible and opted instead to head down Grisedale Forest, which is quite a good low level option in my opinion.

We followed the footpath on the north side of Grisdale Beck past Lanty's Tarn and on to Gillside Campsite for our last night.

In my opinion the Tour of the Lake District would be ideal for those new to long-distance trekking as none of the days are too long or strenuous and the navigation is not too challenging.

Our itinerary was slightly different from the guide. We stuck mainly to the low-level options as we had a tent and camping gear and wanted to avoid too much elevation gain where possible.

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