The Far Northern Wainwrights – back of Skiddaw in the snow – Longlands Fell, Brae Fell, Great Sca Fell, Meal Fell and a Great Cockup (8 miles)

Lowly and unassuming they may be but this little group of hills north of Skiddaw are well worth a wander. There’s five easy tops for Wainwright baggers, lovely views of the Solway Firth and far fewer people around – oh and Great Cockup’s worth doing for the comedy value alone:-)

They’d been on my list for ages, forever forsaken for more illustrious fells, relegated to winter then almost forgotten. After a lengthy 4 months away from the Lake District finally a chance to return and with a slightly encouraging wintry weather forecast. It would be interesting and full of snow, boggy ground would be frozen and views would hopefully be pretty damn good. We were not to be disappointed.

  • Distance    =  8.13 miles (13.1 km)
  • Duration      =   5hrs in soft snow, (12.00 – 5.00pm), inc 20 mins extra road walk
  • Total Ascent   =   2,190ft (668 m), max height Great Sca Fell 2,136ft (651 m)
  • Start/Finish      =   As close to Longlands as possible, space for 3 cars
  • Date                      =   Sunday 18th January 2015, cold, cloud clearing, dry, slight breeze
  • Click on my Social Hiking Route Map below to zoom in/out
Back of Skiddaw route map, Longlands, Brae Fell, Great Sca Fell, Meal Fell, Great Cockup

Back of Skiddaw route map, Longlands Fell, Brae Fell, Great Sca Fell, Meal Fell and Great Cockup

Last time in the Lakes was mid September in shorts on a grand tour of Skiddaw, today would be different. After a dismal drive over the claggy A69 things began to improve on reaching the Lakes with lifting cloud revealing white sculpted mountains. Turning off the A591 at High Side we headed for the elevated start point of Longlands. As the road rose patches of ice appeared then tyres started losing grip on the final ascent. Deciding to drive no further we made a 7 point turn then retreated slightly leaving a 10 minute slippy road walk to Longlands. (In ice or snow the road from the top of Bassenthwaite west of Over Water is a better approach).

Back of Skiddaw with a Cockup_25

12.00 – Parked east of Over Water, another late start to take advantage of the afternoon weather

At the tiny hamlet of Lonscale we met a Sainsburys delivery van stuck in the dip! We had no regrets over our parking decision. There’s spaces for a few cars here, if you can reach it.

Back of Skiddaw with a Cockup_24

12.13 Lonscale, the start of the walk and end of the road for Sainsburys delivery vans

Through the gate there’s two routes depending whether you’re doing this clockwise or not. Our clockwise route meant heading north east along the grassy old road gently curving and rising for 10 mins before turning off south up the highest grassy shoulder. You could easily head straight up from the gate but this small diversion sticks to the better ground.

Back of Skiddaw with a Cockup_23

12.30 on the way up to Longlands Fell, looking west to Binsey with Longlands below

The weather at least was improving and instead of the forecasted low cloud the tops were pulling clear. This suggested the better weather was here early, but for how long and what about the possible 40mph winds later! It didn’t take long for Alan to utter his immortal words, “we should’ve been up there”. Just 25mins after leaving Lonscale we reached our first Wainwright and there can’t be many more straightforward ones. Nice views back across the clearing Solway Firth with snowy McScottish hills twinkling across the sea.

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12.50 Longlands Fell, north to the Solway Firth & McScottish moontains

Very refreshing to see no tracks in the snow, we were the first ones up despite our late start. Skiddaw also looked very attractive, definitely better in snow, as are most things.

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Skiddaw from Longlands Fell – nice

We continued on southwards down a dip where you can either follow a track east around Lowthwaite Fell or just head up. We headed up, it’s not far and it’s not a Wainwright, that would just be too easy:-) From the mounded top we then turned east down into the valley towards Brae Fell which sits stretched out on a higher limb. There’s probably a nice track to follow but down here the snow was deep so we just ploughed onwards. Here’s a tip for walking on virgin snow, pretend you need to adjust something and wave your mate ahead. Then follow in his footsteps. My mistake was picking a long legged Alan.

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Following some long legged bugger – 1.30pm

We contoured around a small gully, actually I edged carefully down across it then discovered just a little more contouring would’ve avoided this.

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Alan adjusting himself – looking back south east to Skiddaw from the flanks of Brae Fell

Then a pull north up towards Brae Fell joining a decent track. Very nice views up here including a faint Isle of Man.

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Brae Fell looking north – 1.45pm

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Top mountain posing on Brae Fell (with poorly placed waistband strap)

We saw ski tracks up here and spotted the first few people in the distance. Turning back south we then passed an actual person, the only person we passed all afternoon, a benefit of these modest hills. It’s then a steady 20 minute or so trudge up to Little Sca Fell.

Back of Skiddaw with a Cockup_16

Little Sca Fell – 2.20pm

Conditions rather nice now with cloud drifting away and no signs of gales, just a bit nippy.

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Little Sca Fell looking north over the Solway Firth and Scotland

A short trek to Great Sca Fell, slightly higher yet less satisfying.

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Alan heading south to Great Sca Fell (it’s not so great)

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Great Sca Fell, not as great as the Little one – 2.30pm

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Great Sca Fell looking north, white snow, blue cloud, red nutter – 2.20pm

From here an out and back diversion can be made to the Knott which gives a panoramic view of the south which is the main thing missing from today’s route. We had already done the Knott but it’s probably worth the detour if you have the time. We did not, so we did not do the Knot. With more time we would have done the Knott, but we did not. I hope that’s clear. We had many similar sounding fun conversations in the snow that day. From Great Sca Fell we turned west, descending to a dip then up to Meall Fell.

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Descending Great Sca Fell to Meal Fell – 2.45pm

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Looking back east up to Great Sca Fell, Alan now following my footsteps – 2.50pm

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Nearing Meal Fell summit cairn with Skiddaw beyond – 2.55pm

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A beauteous view to snowy Binsey and Scotland 2.55pm

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Another beauteous view, except I’m in the way 3.00pm

Shaky quick panorama from Meal Fell with cold fingers, hence speeding up 🙂

First chance to sit down on this route but not for too long in the cold.  Damn glad I’d brought my ancient Yeti gaiters out of hibernation, how the elasticated rubber soles are still going strong is beyond me, but they reminded me how excellent they are in totally enclosing the boot and shins with ancient Gore tex. Dry feet all day.

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Descending Meal Fell to Trusmadoor and Great Cockup beyond – 3.20pm

Having feasted on choccy brownies with flask tea we made the short descent down to the dip of Trusmadoor then the short ascent to the final Wainwright with the glorious name.

Back of Skiddaw with a Cockup_5

Final Wainwright and there’s been no Great Cockup today except this one – 3.40pm

Great Cockup, what can one say, except there’s nowt here except a tiny pile of stones, lovely views of Skiddaw and the Solway coast.

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Alan on the summit cairn! 3.40pm

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On Cockups west top, a final view to Skiddaw, Dead Crags and Bakestall 3.53pm

There’s no shelter on Cockup and a strengthening freezing breeze started to bite at the face, so time to go. Most routes retrace down to Trusmadoor before heading north, I’m guessing to avoid boggy ground. From here though it all looked pretty straightforward so we walked out to the west top before blasting directly downwards north in the snow.

Back of Skiddaw with a Cockup_2

Now to head down due north, this was immense fun 3.55pm

Excellent fun, my dodgy knees even seemed to like the soft snow. After speeding down the slope we turned right joining a path east crossing a tiny stream to join the main track from Trusmadoor. This heads north back to the starting gate at Longlands giving a last lingering view of Binsey with the sun going down.

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Looking back at Great Cockup with Trusmadoor top left – 4.20pm

Back of Skiddaw with a Cockup

Binsey in failing light – 4.20pm

Only then did we remember the extra 10 minute slippery walk along the road to the car. Instead of taking the same route back we drove west of Over Water via a straighter flatter wider road to meet the A591 further north, definitely the one we should have taken.

A great afternoon in the snow and arguably the best conditions to walk these hills. Stopped for a pint at the Middle Ruddings, a friendly Braithwaite hotel bar with well kept real ales.

Most walking routes on the net favour today’s clockwise circuit which has a nice rolling feel to it. Either way would work maybe depending on the prevailing wind or whether you want the low sheltered path at the end or the start. Must admit I’d choose this way again.

(Whilst we were enjoying the soft snow on rolling hills it was sad to see a walker fell to their death on Helvellyn’s icy Swirral Edge. Condolences to the families and friends and a reminder of the dangers of winter conditions in the hills. We didn’t need our crampons & axes today but carried them nonetheless, being over equipped is safer).


Hillwalker with dodgy knees and dodgier sense of humour. Lover of the outdoors, Lakes, Highlands, Cheviots, nature, good food, real ale and leaf tea.
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3 Responses to The Far Northern Wainwrights – back of Skiddaw in the snow – Longlands Fell, Brae Fell, Great Sca Fell, Meal Fell and a Great Cockup (8 miles)

  1. Pingback: A Tour of Skiddaw From Millbeck – Lonscale Fell, Burnt Horse, Skiddaw House, Bakestall, Skiddaw and Dodd (14 miles) | MART IN THE HILLS

  2. David Murray says:

    I love that area, to the north and almost out of the Lake District. Decades ago when a friend had a cottage in Ireby I used to walk there but have been neglecting it for years. Thanks for bringing it back to mind. Having moved back north I really ought to have “back of Skiddaw” firmly on my agenda.

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