Winding Down on the Kentmere Round

25 04 2012

Thu 29 March 2012

After my first ever rock-climb the evening before unexpectedly turning out to be a 250 foot high multi-pitch route in Langdale with around a 150 feet abseil off it (in contrast to my expectations of something more like a 30 foot single pitch you could just walk away from at the top), I needed to wind down some! What better way to do that than the Kentmere Horseshoe walk – a round of 7 Wainwright fells to which can be added another couple of peaks if you feel inclined on the day. The weather was due to continue to be gloriously hot and sunny and I’d used the thought of this walk to spur me on up the rock climb the evening before.

I overslept after having a bad time getting to sleep following my climb and so was very late arriving in Kentmere Village at the valley roadhead. Despite this being mid-week, arriving late meant the afore-mentioned glorious weather made it quite unlikely I would find a parking place as there is little parking at the head of the main valley and this is quite a popular walk. Also, South Lakeland was pretty mowed out with walkers due to the great weather.

I was lucky and got the final place by the village hall… For others arriving late, there are various other parking places which could be used – some are up near Hallow Bank on the Green Quarter road – but there are only 3 or 4 places there. A farmer sometimes opens up his field for a few quid, and there was a house with land in front of it above the village hall who had provided about 6 spaces at £3 for the day. There are also buses up the valley but I was late enough!

It was already after 11 when I set off walking to the start of the Garburn Pass – an old stony byway which, until recently was being churned up by 4x4s. All engined traffic has now been banned so you can breathe easy and know that the state of the path isn’t going to get any worse – it is very gullied in places at the start though! I always do the horseshoe clockwise (as I think most do) – that way, the second half of the round is easy going along a long and gentle ridge and also, you hit the easier ascent side of the hills on the first half of the round.

Near Start of Garburn Pass

To find the start of the Garburn Pass, continue to head along the tarmacked lane past the village hall. Ignore the almost immediate straight-ahead track signposted for Kentmere Hall and continue sharp right on the lane. After a sharp left you meet another track heading straight on signposted for Kentmere Hall and nearly dreamily continue along it but this is where you need to turn right through a gate which is signposted for the pass and Troutbeck. Pretty soon you pass the famous ‘Badger Rock’ – a huge boulder thatched with thick plantlife and a favourite of climbers who like to go ‘bouldering’.

The pass winds stonily upwards for around 2.5 miles amid beautiful scenery typical of southern Lakeland. Towards the top of the pass several tracks take off to the right heading north for the start of the long ridge to the first Wainwright summit of Yoke. If the weather has been wet and the ground is boggy, you’re best to continue to just past the summit of the pass and through a gate near a small woodland and turn right there. This was always a much drier path and has now been upgraded substantially with stones and looks very firm and dry. If the prevailing weather has been dry, as it was this day, you can turn off on the first track you find just after passing through the first gate near the summit of the pass.

At this point I saw a group the wrong side of the wall – either lost or on a navigation exercise as they were doing a bit of prevaricating and were on pathless ground. The lack of a path didn’t matter so much as the fact that, on the other side of the wall, you have to take in several unnecessary small hills to reach Yoke instead of continuing along fairly level ground until the long climb up to the peak.

There was a white-haired gent ahead of me on the path and I expected to whizz past him but found he took quite some catching up! When I finally caught up with him near the start of the ascent, I had quite a chat with him about how lovely the day was etc. I’m normally in too much of a hurry to chat for long but today was feeling relaxed so was in no rush. He was a lovely bloke and reminded me of Wainwright himself – not that I ever met him unfortunately.

I eventually left him in peace and continued ahead up Yoke, having now joined the good path I mentioned earlier. This is a long, gentle peak with an easy ascent and descent.

It’s many years since I’ve done the round and I was thinking back to the first time I walked this side of the round back when I was ‘bagging Wainwrights’. I’d just got to within about 5 minutes of the summit of Yoke and had been anxiously watching an approaching thunderstorm. When it became apparent the storm really wasn’t going to go away, I made a very hurried exit from the ridge and reached the valley in about 10 minutes. I just managed to find an open barn in Hag Gill when the storm started. I spent the next hour and a half in total awe watching the lightning repeatedly strike Ill Bell and Yoke every few seconds – I was glad I wasn’t still up there.

When the storm finally abated, I felt I should give it another half hour or so and ended up having to climb back onto the ridge via Scot Rake at its far end at six in the evening! I then had the full ridge to do and walk all the way back to my car at the end of the Dubs Road.(another 9 miles after I’d hit the ridge). I ended up getting back to the car just in time to drive to the Little Chef at Ings for my tea, a few minutes before it shut at 10pm, before sleeping in the car (as intended) for the night – a very tiring day!

Anyway, back to this glorious day. Now I was walking along the ridge there was a very pleasant breeze and the views either side, although very hazy, were great. I was also finally feeling fit for the season and so was strolling effortlessly along at a good pace. I took quite a few photos but mainly ‘filling in’ ones as I already have quite a stock of photos of the area (or the Lakes in general) so this post is a mixture of old and new shots. As is usual for the Lakes, there is a great path all the way along the ridge so there isn’t really any need to navigate until you reach the turning point at the head of the horseshoe, even in bad weather.

Ill Bell from Yoke

The Round Ahead

Looking back to Yoke from Ill Bell

Rainsborrow Crag on Yoke

Ill Bell from Froswick

Froswick from Scot Rake

Thornthwaite Crag from Froswsick

As I was going so well I decided to include Thornthwaite Beacon but miss out High Street as I find that quite a boring diversion.

There was quite a crowd around the well-built beacon and I did my compulsory and customary traverse of the small rock shelf around the beacon itself, earning myself some strange looks from the assembled crowd. I then settled down to a quick coffee and tried to eat one of the biscuits I’d absconded from my hotel the previous night. However, I found I wasn’t really hungry due to the hot weather so only nibbled at it and stuffed it back in my trouser pocket. This biscuit later got washed with the trousers and made a considerable sticky and greasy mess! I remembered to remove all the tissues etc. but completely forgot about the biscuit – ugh!

Gray Crag & Hayeswater

High Street

Most people headed off towards High Street (but they weren’t necessarily on the Kentmere Round anyway) while I turned off on a little track which heads East towards Mardale Ill Bell followed by one couple – I wasn’t sure whether they were just following me out of curiosity as they’d looked at their map a couple of times looking uncertain before continuing after me. The path misses the summit of the fell out so I branched off to bag it and then continued on the very good path SE down to Nan Bield Pass.

Tarn on Mardale Ill Bell (High Street Behind)

The path continues straight on past the large dry-stone shelter at the summit of the pass and heads up one of my favourite parts of the walk – the rocky and pleasantly narrow ridge climbing up to Mardale Harter Fell.

Small & Haweswaters from near Nan Bield Pass

Looking Back at the First Half of the Round

Looking Back to High Street Across Piot Crag on Mardale Ill Bell

This is a huge whale-backed fell with a large flat plateau for a summit and the summit cairn is famously decorated by old iron fence-posts. I felt the fence-posts weren’t as artistic this year so didn’t take a photo. The views on the way up to Harter Fell are spectacular, especially on the Haweswater side, where you look across Small Water in a lovely rocky coombe, down to Haweswater itself.

The Fencepost Cairn on a more Artistic Year

From this summit, apart from a longish walk back, the job is done really as there is no appreciable ascent on the rest of the walk. I romped along the ridge for the couple of flat miles south then south-east to the slight climb up to Kentmere Pike.

The summit for this is a trig point the other side of the wall – I often wonder how many people miss the true summit here, especially now someone has built a cairn on the path side of the wall – but the stone stile through the wall is a hint…

From here you have three options… firstly, you can descend the ridge to Shipman Knotts which is part of the round. Or, if you’ve had enough, you can descend south, then south-west from the flat area of the fell after the initial descent from the summit, over a wooden stile and down a good path into the valley. You have another option of continuing along the fence line for a slight diversion, with good views into Longsleddale – the most untypical of Lakeland’s valleys – to Goat Scar. I normally bypass this but today decided it was worth a visit and was glad of the scenic diversion. Another couple were having a break at the cairn on Goat Scar so I didn’t stay long in case they’d been expecting the place to themselves. I then headed back south to the Shipman Knotts track.

Looking Back to Kentmere Pike from Goat Scar Track

Buckbarrow Crag & Grey Crag across Longsleddale from Goat Scar

Longsleddale from Goat Scar

I find Shipman Knotts another highlight of the walk – the final descent from them is very rocky and scrambly but safe and great fun – I rarely miss this bit out.

At the foot of the Knotts, you meet the pass between Kentmere and Longsleddale – a pleasant wander along a landrover track amid pastoral scenes dotted with lots of sheep on the green pastures.

There used to be a farm tearoom around the end of this pass track, probably at Hallow Bank, but I couldn’t remember where and wasn’t sure it would still be open so continued on to rejoin the road back to Green Quarter where it is around a mile and a half back to Kentmere Village. You have two options for the return – you can either follow the quiet tarmacked lane which, on this particular day, I did – or you can cross the river on a footpath and return to the church just before the village hall.

The Round From Hallow Bank

16 miles, 5 ¾ hours, 8 Wainwrights

Some Winter Pictures:

Tarn Crag from Goat Scar




6 responses

6 01 2015

That looks a cracking walk – one to think about.


6 01 2015

That’s my favourite Lake District round 🙂


25 04 2012

Great report & pics, one of my favourite Lakeland rounds. Its at the other corner of Cumbria to me so I tend to get distracted by other hills.

Handy parking info – last visit I also got the last space by the village hall (£1 donation) 🙂 Although I seemed to be the first visitor up the valley & the first on the hill – so I’m not sure if its used more by locals ?


25 04 2012

I’m sure it’s definitely used by locals on a Sunday to go to church as I’m not sure there’s a carpark at the church? It was mainly walkers that day as I saw a lot of them either setting off or when I came back though. I’m glad a few other enterprising individuals in the village are setting aside bits of land for more parking though. I’d love to go up on the bus sometime – not sure if the times are great or not.


25 04 2012
Paul Shorrock

Great post Carol – the link from the email notification didn’t work at first, but is ok now (duhh… obviously, otherwise how could I have read it?!!)

It’s a super round isn’t it? I did it a couple of years ago as a route for Walking World, but the weather turned foul and the photographs of the waymarks were poor – the inside of one cloud looks pretty much like the inside of any other cloud. So, I’m going back when there’s the promise of a good day, and looking forward to it.

Your epic in the thunderstorm made good reading – ‘spot on’ decision to bail out during the storm, then real fortitude to pick up the route again when it had settled down – most walkers would have opted for an early finish.

There’s a great alternative route to start the round (that you would probably hate!) that takes a scramble up Rainsborrow Crag. The only difficulty is a three metre rock wall right at the bottom – get past that and it’s an easy ramble up billberry ledges, but if the wall is wet (or you just don’t fancy it) it’s possible to make a way up the hillside next to the crag – steep, but safe.

I got to know this area well when I was a member of Penrith MRT – the teams area included High Street and Harter Fell, and I often went up there for night exercises when I was training my Search Dog.


25 04 2012

I’ve actually been looking at that edge in my photo of Rainsborrow Crag if that’s what you mean. My friend Mark (who took me climbing) though thought it looked horrible and ‘chossy’ and declined to do it with me. It does look steep though. Good to see someone pronounce it safe. I still might have a dabble sometime.

The reason you couldn’t get to the report the first day is that I was having a horrendous shift at work and accidentally pressed ‘publish’ instead of preview – at that point it had no photos in so I deleted it so that I could put the photos in last night after I’d scanned them and re-publish it. So you weren’t imagining things after all!


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