TRAVEL NORTH - 43: High Spy With My Little Eye - Strike Out For The Northern Lake District

Rosthwaite in the northern Lake District

Rosthwaite surroundings provides strenuous exercise for the adventurous, with the reward of fine Lakeland scenery at your destination
Rosthwaite surroundings provides strenuous exercise for the adventurous, with the reward of fine Lakeland scenery at your destination | Source
Yew Tree Farm with'Flock-in' tearooms provides economically priced B&B accommodation
Yew Tree Farm with'Flock-in' tearooms provides economically priced B&B accommodation | Source
Or at the other end of the market is the Royal Oak Rosthwaite, on the B5289 road to Keswick - see contacts in 'Getting There' below
Or at the other end of the market is the Royal Oak Rosthwaite, on the B5289 road to Keswick - see contacts in 'Getting There' below | Source

Assess the Lie of the Land

There is a long, sometimes steep climb by way of Tongue Gill and the disused Rigg Head* slate quarries to achieve some boggy ground at Rigg Head and Dale Head Tarn*.

These upland areas are exposed and walking is recommended in more clement weather, possibly where the ground higher up around the tarn might have dried a bit. The weather in the Lake District is changeable, and that's an understatement. Get a weather forecast beforehand and do not try it in wintry conditions. There are steep and rocky sections, and ice or snow will endanger you or your friends. Dale Head is 753 metres high, not to be underestimated. Countless potential climbers or walkers come to grief in this region, don't add to the rescuers' work-load if you can possibly avoid it.

Warning: Take plenty of liquid refreshment, and try some Kendal Mint cake. It might sound silly, the idea of taking 'cake' with you, but it's not really cake as such, it's concentrated sugar to keep you going. You may need it if you don't take it. There is plain and there is chocolate-coated mint cake, and it might taste funny to you (pretty sweet!) but it's a life-saver. This walk is a challenge, even at only about five and a half miles, so don't over-tax yourself. You could suffer a sprain being over-confident, and if the weather closes in on you up there it could be awkward for those with you. .

Walk wear: Hill-walking gear, good stout walking boots (not trainers), weather-proofs, good waterproof leg-wear, possibly oilskin leggings for in case the weather turns rough (not jeans, they'll take in water/damp and you'll end up with something you wouldn't want in the way of 'plumbing' problems). Something to put on your head aside from a hood on your weatherproof to keep your head warm. You can't think properly if you've got a bunged-up nose or constant sniffles.

Take: a back-pack with food, water, energy juice/drink, chocolate (for energy) or Kendal Mint Cake, map (inside a plastic map case, folded so you can read your route without having to pull it our and watch your map fly away in a brisk wind), compass.

Got that? Then it's time to get going!.

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*A rigg is a ridge (Norse origin) and a tarn is a mountain top lake with no outlet to drain away the water (word has Brythonic origins, along with 'col', a saddle between two higher points)

New Bridge across the Derwent, north out of Rosthwaite
New Bridge across the Derwent, north out of Rosthwaite | Source

Places to watch out for

Sited mid-dale to the south of where Stonethwaite Beck meets the Derwent, Rosthwaite amounts to a single street on the B5289 and a back lane that comes off the road to the west side, bends round and meets the road again at the top end of the village. A dead end lies opposite the lane on the east side of the beck. The road heads north to Keswick over the beck where it bends to the north-west. Farms and cottages cluster around the marginally higher ground of The How, the low rise around which the community has been established since the Norsemen settled the region around the 10th Century AD. The name of the village stems from 'Ros', a cluster of rocks - boulders brought down in the winter by the swollen mountain waterways - and 'thwait', a clearing in the woods.

The walk leaves the village by a track that skirts Yew Tree Farm, a typical Lakeland farm built - what you see now - in the vernacular style, with a popular cafe that abuts on a stony lane. The lane crosses crosses the Derwent by the stepping stones and ford, the principal route to Grange. Together with the old packhorse track that winds over the fells (high moors) to Watendlath these were the only links to Rosthwaite before a road was cut through Borrowdale's 'jaws' in 1842. Stop and take in the great mountain-scape before you pass on to the harder part of your walk uphill to Dale Head.

You can see up to the summit on a good day, the sizeable cairn next to the tarn visible, just two of the unforgettable features of Lakeland. There is the view north along the 'U'-shaped Newlands dale to look forward to, Skiddaw standing proud some way off. A short stroll to the west from your vantage point up on Dale Head gives a good view of the dale that Buttermere occupies before the return down into Borrowdale.

Central Lake District, Cumbria

Walking in the Lake District

The only things you have to do are 1. Get some good waterproofs, 2. Get some good boots, 3. Get a good guide. Look to your right here and you've achieved the third part. Do some armchair hiking and find your way around the dales, fells and lakes.






Location of Rosthwaite in Borrowdale in relation to Cumbria, the Lakes and the north-west
Location of Rosthwaite in Borrowdale in relation to Cumbria, the Lakes and the north-west | Source

Way ahead... From the car park beside the village hall

Starting with your back to the car park next to the village hall, go right to Yew Tree Farm. Pass through the cobbled yard, past the 'Flock-in' cafe and on along a walled track to the River Derwent. You come across a humped stone bridge after following this track as it leads along the riverbank. This is New Bridge, where the walk leads sharp left and on to a small footbridge across Tongue Gill, a smaller tributary of the Derwent.

Over the footbridge take a right turn and pass through a small gate. From here you follow the gill upstream. There is another gate, beyond which you follow the gill at it bends to the right and cross another small bridge that takes you over Scaleclose Gill and on to a stile that straddles a fence. With Tongue Gill on your right cross the stile and walk leftward on the broad green path over the centre of a field and then meanders steeply up a bracken-covered hillside, keeping Tongue Gill to the right. Now follow a little to your left where there is a wall to your left. Pass the ladder stile over the wall and take the small ford to follow the grassy footpath again beyond, up the hillside. There is a wall on your left along here, where you progress to a gate inset in the wall ahead at the head of the field. Tongue Gill should still be there on your right.

Alfred Wainwright was a local government officer, a shy man who liked to get away from it all. In his free time he'd take a sketchbook and notebook on a long walk, note down his route as he went, the going and - in his estimation - how difficult the walk was. Here and there a drawing might be called for, to show a route or a natural feature such as the 'cow and calf' on one of his routes. Then he'd take the bus home and write out his pages. The books that resulted were originally sold in cafes and shops around the Lakes. Now you can get hold of them online. How's that for progress?

Hill Walking

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Pass through the gate...

and take the path ahead to climb steeply alongside the gill - still on your right there, got that? - up through the Tongue Gill gully for around 650 yards/500 metres. Next is a stile over a fence at the foot of the now disused slate quarry at Rigg Head. Keep up the pace a little while longer past spoil heaps and along an inclined stone path with the gill burbling along beside you - to your left still - for a little over a hundred yards or a hundred metres.

Heading a little left now, uphill still past quarry workings that have stood still in time, along a slate-laid path between quarry levels. Ruined buildings here and there bear witness to industry abandoned a long time ago (not out of puff, are you?) And yes, you're at the top of the old workings!

At the top of these old workings take a breather and your bearings. Look around. Behind is the climbers' hut. It pays to remember these things in case the weather closes in.

The path veers to the right and climbs steadily up over the grassy hillside where a fence awaits at the head of the gully that Tongue Gill tumbles through. Where the path nears the fence there is a fork. follow the leftward one and you come to a stile across a fence. You are now at Rigg Head, a wide and soggy, level area where the ground falls away on either side. The large part of Dale Head is still before you, the rock wall of High Spy on your right.

There's some arduous climbing in store...

Part of the walk route higher up - still keen?
Part of the walk route higher up - still keen? | Source
The route west and back from Rosthwaite in Borrowdale
The route west and back from Rosthwaite in Borrowdale | Source

Cross the stile and keep to the left...

south-westward, bearing 244 degrees if it's turned misty and you can't see your target ahead. The path is normally fairly easy to follow, that skirts the lower and probably spongy ground on the way to Dale Head. Go along for around 400 yards or 350 metres to get to a gill. Cross this and and take the path along to the right to Dalehead Tarn. Just by here is a stone-built sheepfold set against the rocky outcrop. If the weather's fine and the scenery clear you could set up for an impromptu picnic before heading back for Rosthwaite..

Getting there

Walk distance 9 km (5.6 miles) with a height difference between dale bottom and Dale Head of around 65O feet; the route can be walked in five hours overall, but in good daylight and decent weather you could take your time to enjoy the views and make observations and/or take pictures.

Finding your way: Ordnance Survey (OS) Explorer sheet OL4;

Walk base: Pay & Display car park on the north side of Rosthwaite village;

Refreshments and accommodation:

Royal Oak Inn, ph 017687 77214, www.booking.com/Rosthwaite-Hotels;

Yew Tree Farm Flock-in cafe and B&B 017687 77208, www.borrowdaleherdwick.co.uk

Weather permitting, pass the sheepfold by the tarn...

The ground here is sometimes boggy along the path around the tarn. Follow the clearly delineated path that for much of the way is stone-strewn. Clamber up onto the north-eastern shoulder of Dale Head, where the path bends leftward up the shoulder to a large stone cairn at the Head's summit.

Go on, have a wander, look around and take in the broad views across three dales and two lakes - most are called meres up here - .Buttermere on the west side, Derwent Water to the north beyond Grange. Thirlmere to the east is largely hidden by a bulwark of land that leads up to High Seat (608 m). Below you to the south is Honister Pass with Seatoller to the south-east. Further to the east are Great Dodd (856 m) and - to the south of that - Stybarrow Dodd (840 m). To the south-east is the great bulk of Helvellyn at 950 metres. South of Buttermere to the west is High Stile (806 m). Southward from where you stand, right to left, are Pillar (892 m), Kirk Fell (802 m), Great Gable (899 m), Scafell Pike further away at 978 metres with Sca Fell to its south-westerly flank at 964 metres are England's highest peaks. A lot closer and in line with Great Gable and Kirk Fell is Glamara at 780 metres. South-westward is High White Stones at 762 metres. Beat that for scenery, if you can.

This is Alfred Wainwright country. The renowned walker, writer and illustrator of his books - now collector's items - combed the Lakeland peaks and tracks with his eagle eyes. You can almost feel him behind you - don't turn around.

High amongst the peaks...

Footbridge over Tongue Gill
Footbridge over Tongue Gill | Source
Looking up Tongue Gill towards Rigg Head Quarry
Looking up Tongue Gill towards Rigg Head Quarry | Source
Climbing hut below the walk route at Rigg Head disused quarry
Climbing hut below the walk route at Rigg Head disused quarry | Source

Back from the summit cairn on Dale Head...

Take the path back from the top of Dale Head, down along the south-eastern shoulder and the steep stone path to the tarn. Pass the sheepfold - oh well, take another look - and pass along the gill that's fed by the tarn to reach another gill. Go straight on over the soggy ground again north-eastward back to the fence stile and descend Tongue Gill. Take care downhill, it's not the same as climbing and it can be a lot faster if you don't watch your step!

Back through the quarry area, with the climbers' hut on your right below you, follow the gully with Tongue Gill.on your left. After reaching the Derwent (we've got four rivers by that name between the Midlands and the North) turn left and follow the riverside track to New Bridge, cross to the walled track back into Rosthwaite.

If you have booked rooms at Yew Tree Farm you don't have far to go. The Royal Oak is at the other end of the village by the B5289, where it bends from near Stonethwaite Beck towards the Derwent.

If you've come for the views the rewards are self-evident

High Spy (2,080 feet or 653m high) is a mountain to the north of the walk route above and behind the disused Rigg Head Quarry
High Spy (2,080 feet or 653m high) is a mountain to the north of the walk route above and behind the disused Rigg Head Quarry | Source
Dale Head, (2,470 ft, 753 m)
Dale Head, (2,470 ft, 753 m) | Source

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15 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Alan, I think your country side is spectacular. Every time I see pictures of it I long to visit. Alas, I am a poor writer with no way to strap on wings and fly across the Pond. I will have to live vicariously through articles like this one.

Even though you do not celebrate our holiday, have a very Happy Thanksgiving Day my friend.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Bill, when you're a millionaire from this writing lark you'll be able to buy yourself a second home over here and drive around to these places!

Meanwhile, as we're in the same boat, who's doing the rowing?


aethelthryth profile image

aethelthryth 3 years ago from American Southwest

I enjoyed this one, as the pictures and names of places reminded me of what I've seen of Teesdale.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Hello Aethelthryth, Teesdale is only a few miles east of here across the Pennines. Rosthwaite is on the Coast to Coast Walk that leads to Kirkby Stephen and Tan Hill before going along to Richmond through Swaledale. Teesdale runs a little to the north, parallel to Swaledale.

The place names will be similar, as the people are similar, many in the later Middle Ages from what was Westmorland (where the Lakes are) across the mountains into the Dales. In Swaledale you have names like Thwaite, Keld, Muker, Reeth, Grinton and Marske (like the one on the coast where James Cook Senior is buried beside St German's church.

How many of this series have you read (41 others to choose from)?


aethelthryth profile image

aethelthryth 3 years ago from American Southwest

I think I've missed a couple of your series, but have eventually gotten to most of them from the last two years. I love those names!


Tolovaj profile image

Tolovaj 2 years ago

This looks totally like my kind of route. With right company and plenty of liquid of course;)


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 2 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Hello Tolovaj. Fully endorse your sentiment. Of course, it depends on what kind of liquids you've got in mind. For the walk you should keep to light refreshments or a flask of tea/coffee. In the rare event of dry weather here, and in any case with lots of hard walking you wouldn't want to court disaster with booze in your belly. That's for when you get back to the village and particularly the 'Royal Oak', with a good meal inside you. The hotel has Theakston's Best Bitter 'on draught' and other beers by the bottle. I like Theaston's Best myself, I'd recommend it as it is a light type of bitter and suitable for drinking on its own or with food.

Enjoy!


Gap4 profile image

Gap4 2 years ago from Charleston, WV

Well if I am ever in the UK, I now know a pretty place to walk. Those pictures are awesome, breathtaking actually.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 2 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

And some energetic walking! Hello Gap4, ploughing through my hubs? Like a seaside walk? Try the one about Port Mulgrave to Hinderwell or the Saltburn circular along the cliffs and inland. Lots of exhilerating sea views. TTFN, AL


old albion profile image

old albion 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

Hi Alan. This is a gem from someone who knows what he is about and it shows. Your photographs are first class, you bring out the atmosphere of the lakes beautifully. Kendal Mint cake is a great favourite of mine but Theaston's Best I have yet to try. Spot on!

voted up and all.

Graham.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 2 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Hello Graham, As you've raised the nectar factor, one brew from your side of the Pennines you might know is Jennings' Cumberland Ale. The same brewery came up with a new one recently, 'Wainwrights' (there's a Wainwright Bar in the Bay Hotel at the end of the Coast to Coast Walk in Robin Hood's Bay, see my Hub page about Whitby-Scarborough). Theakston's Best is similar to that, as is the Black Sheep Ale from the brewery of the same name. Better from tap than bottle.

Glad you like this piece. Rock on Graham!


kerlund74 profile image

kerlund74 2 years ago from Sweden

Spectacular landscape, definitely a place I would like to visit. Fantastic views and it seems to be great for hiking. Great article!


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 2 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Hej Kerlund.

Not as high as the Kjolen mountains maybe, but just as good for walking I'd imagine.

A lot of your fellow Scandinavians settled in the area in the 9th-10th Centuries from the west (now Norway) after being tossed out from Ireland. Look at the place names here and further south as far as the Derbyshire Peak District. Quite a few other walks in this region of England (some with historical links)


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 20 months ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

You certainly have a mastery of detail, Alan. I believe all I would need is your text and I could find my way. But your images are fantastic also. I've always been amazed at Britain's varied geography all packed into 1/40th the size of the US. As impressive as Alaska's mountain ranges or the Rockies are, there's something about the hills and mountains of Britain I prefer-- though the closest I got to the Lake District was the M6 delivering steel to Glasgow.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 20 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Hello David, got here at last then. Bit out of puff? I suppose if you ironed it all out it would be about the same area as New York State, but it wouldn't be half as much fun. Still, better than humping steel to Scotland -didn't they make their own at Ravenscraig?

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