Here’s an even more interesting version of the classic Fairfield round via a scenic approach walk along the lakeside paths of Grasmere & Rydal Water. Seven Wainwrights in total including hopefully 3 new ones for us, Low & High Pikes on the central ridge plus Stone Arthur on the return. The route was a last minute choice after catching an opimistic Met Office forecast after breakfast on a rainy Grasmere morning. Thankfully the late start was proved to be more than justified on this classic Lakeland walk.
- Distance = 13.7 miles (22 km)
- Duration = 6 hrs 52 mins, (start 11.17am, finish 6.22pm)
- Total Ascent = 3,809ft (1161m), max height Fairfield 2,864ft (873m)
- Start/Finish = Grasmere Village
- Date = Saturday 26th April 2014, cloud & rain clearing
- Click on the interactive Route Map below for more details;-
Starting Point – Grasmere Village
I’m a Grasmere fan, yes it’s touristy but every morning there’s an irresistible bustle of walkers gathering excitedly in the streets before dissipating out onto the fells. Some return in time to visit the irresistible tea shops whilst others cut out the middle man and head straight for irresistible Tweedies bar. I’ve stayed in a few guest houses and many of the hotels, it’s become an annual birthday weekend and winner of ‘best evening meal of the year’ 2 years running!! Today was another rare treat. leaving the car parked and walking straight from the Hotel – after a class cooked breakfast too:-) It ain’t exactly wild camping, it’s a Grasmere weekend.
Route Summary – in 5 stages
Route inspiration from Paul aka @barry_the_cat who ‘pioneers’ similar and longer walks from Ambleside, usually including a Grasmere Tea shop. Bit like a Highland day with a civilised rest & nice cuppa tea thrown in. This walk felt like five stages, the timings below are just stage to stage, so don’t include some stops, overall time was 6hrs 52 mins and will vary of course.
- Grasmere Village to Glen Rothay Hotel & Badger Bar; (1 hr 13 mins)
- Badger Bar to start of ridge near High Sweden Bridge (50 mins)
- Ascent of middle ridge over Low & High Pike’s to Scandale Head; (55 mins)
- Scandale Head via Hart Crag & Dove Crag to Fairfield (1 hr)
- Fairfield back down to Grasmere Village via Stone Arthur; (1 hour 5 mins)
Route Detail & Pics from Saturday 26th April 2014
Stage 1 – Grasmere Village to Glen Rothay Hotel & Badger Bar; (1 hr 13 mins) – The day starts with a walk through the village and it’s morning mix of walkers, shoppers & tourists. Behind the Red Lion join Broadgate passing the Jumble Rooms and Tweedies, then making a right turn at the Garden Centre T junction west along Red Bank. It’s a slow burner however it’s always better to start gradually after stuffing yourself with a quality full English. Have discovered that leaving out the sausage helps nowadays as sausage often takes ages to digest. And thats the hillwalking tip of the day folks, no sausage no pain:-) The road continues to rise gently past the Gold Rill hotel and Faeryland boat hut – can certainly recommend a row around Gramere from here (on a nice day). Unfortunately there’s no quick way down to the lake yet due to the marshy woody shore so we continued along the road for another half mile eventually meeting a footpath sign pointing left which angles down to the shore. Finally it felt that the walk had started on this popular attractive path clinging to the lake with great views. A new path for us and an encouraging start.
After 30 mins we reached the south end of Grasmere lake just below Loughrigg. Here we made a slight navigational error carrying straight on north west past the bridge (above) to follow the river Rathay. The path winds through an attractive wood eventually looping round to join path to the south side of Rydal Water. We could/should have turned right at the bridge going due east over the side of Loughrigg to shortcut the loop to Rydal Water.
Having whooshed up and down the A591 it was pleasing to finally walk around these lakesd, both of these make very pleasant strolls if you were in a strolling mood. Today we weren’t, as despite the interesting 70 minute approach walk we hadn’t gained any height yet and were itching to start climbing a mountain. Weather had thankfully improved just as promised by the fairly reliable Met Office. Section one to the bridge opposite the Badger Bar complete. Now for the vague bit.
Stage 2- Badger Bar to foot of middle ridge near High Sweden Bridge; (50mins) We crossed the bridge over both the Rothay and a very busy A591, passing the Badger Bar full of people lazing in the garden enjoying a pint. This wasn’t tempting of course, not one bit (oh yes it was). Instead of ending the walk here sampling real ales we followed the road a few yards east taking a left turn by a cute country cottage & Rydal Church. Another attractive spot, some say you get the odd tourist around here?
Approx 100 yards uphill past the Church instead of taking the main route heading north west to Nab Scar, we turned off east/right at a sign for ‘Rydal Hall Gardens & Tea Shop’. Surprisingly only 3 mins later we found ourselves at Rydal Hall Gardens & Tea Shop.
Ok now for the vague bit, both our previous ascents of Fairfield had been up via Heron Pike and down via Snarker Pike missing the Wainwrights of Low & High Pike. Problem was we werent exactly sure how to get up to this middle ridge. At the back of the Hall we spotted open fells through trees, walked up towards it realised it was wrong and hastily rejoined the tourists walking through the Rydal Hall complex. No one had noticed and we retained our manly mountain dignity. There’s probably a suitable route from here but we decided to play safe and skirt round past the Rydal Yurts following the good track which was now heading south east to Ambleside, away from Fairfield. We were looking for the earliest opportunity to turn left up that ridge, intially this was barred by trees then there was no sign of a feint track indicated on the map, so we vaulted the fence & started up through farm fields. Ascent at last! Bit tiring this, better stop for a photo excuse.
We progressed in a disorderly direction till we came to the days biggest problem, an impressively feckin huge high wall, and we were on the wrong side. We followed the feckin huge high wall till we found a gate which was locked, then another gate, same story. The feckin huge high wall seemed to go on for ever, so we reluctantly & carefully had to climb it which wasn’t too easy. Putting this irritation behind us we had at least joined the main path just south west of High Sweden Bridge. Would we follow this section the same way again, no as there’s a feckin huge high wall to climb 🙂
Stage 3 – Ascent over Low & High Pikes up to Scandale Head; (55 mins) Now for an immediate mountain scenery upgrade as the route follows the feckin huge high wall snaking along the ridge ever upwards. Apart from a slight dip in the middle. Low Pike turns out to be a cracking little top with excellent views. At times the path is both sides of the FHH wall with walkers either side, just a matter of sussing out what looks best and driest. Good mountain route this and would be good in descent too.
Stage 4 – Scandale Head via Hart & Dove Crags to Fairfield; (1hr) After nearly an hour of uphill graft next to that feckin huge high wall it came as a welcome relief to reach the main ridge and turn north west. Views open up all around now and there was even some blue sky. Very happy with the weather, better than expected or hoped for, we assumed we’d be in cloud by now. Fairfield looks & feels close, it’s just over that high ground…and a bit further. First Dove Crag….
Quick 5 min stop on Dove Crag and first thoughts of dinner tonight. The Oak Bank food is excellent and it’s waiting back in Grasmere later. Next it’s Hart Crag just 15 mins away.
Fairfield summit was popular as usual so we walked past the various cairns to do the summit stop on the northern slope. Away from the throngs and offering far superior views than from the flat top. The Helvellyn range and St Sunday Crag are a bit special. We didn’t stay too long, time was pressing and I’d been thinking of that evening meal again 🙂
Quick Fairfield summit video, no commentary needed, mostly;-
Stage 5 – Fairfield to Grasmere via Great Rigg & Stone Arthur; (1hr 13 mins) Time to head back, so we skirted round the top via a slight diversion west for views of Seat Sandal. We would have descended over this if we had more time however we decided to come down over Stone Arthur instead. A familiar feature up above Grasmere village yet never previously visited. First though we had to head south then back up to Great Rigg.
Final ascent of the day was made up Great Rigg and then it’s downhill all the way back to the restaurant table in Grasmere Village. We broke off the ridge path to head straight for Stone Arthur on a feint forgiving path, nice gradient, the knees approved.
Stone Arthur 1650ft is a little underwhelming from above, we expected more stones and at least one Arthur. Couldnt see a cairn anwhere which is rare for a Wainwright. Despite this the views are nice with a different view of a very familiar Grasmere. Pleasing to be here after so many visits to the village. Did I mention there was a meal down there with my name on it?
Rather than a straight descent to Grasmere the path drops south then sharp west keeping high above Greenhead Gill. Eventually this leads down to a bridge and a track by some desirable houses to meet the A591 at the Swan Hotel.
Back at the hotel after a really excellent hill day, varied views, some new paths, new Wainwrights and a few familiar ones. The lakeside route round Grasmere & Rydal Water was a fascinating start, just need to work out a better way up from Rydal Hall if ever there’s a next time. Also particularly pleasant walking past my unused parked car and straight into the hotel. Boots off, complimentary sherry, deep hot bath, relax then the best food in Grasmere.
One more day left and a forecast of rain, see the next exciting episode of erm this blog!