Loweswater Area Guide
Loweswater, Crummock and Buttermere
This series of linked lakes were once one larger lake, and they still have a lot of things in common. Unlike the better-known lakes, they are rarely overwhelmed by visitors and, at the right time of year, it’s possible to feel you have a lake path all to yourself.
Loweswater Lake, like Crummock Water, is wholly owned by the National Trust. The name is Old Norse for ‘leafy lake’ and no description could be more true. The lakeside path, a very satisfying, easy four-mile walk, is mostly shaded by trees, eventually reaching the beautiful Holme Wood with its hidden Holme Force waterfalls. Here, there’s a good a chance as you’ll ever get to see our indigenous red squirrel.
Have a look at our Loweswater walk.
Loweswater also gives its name to a small village at the foot of the lake, known for two things: the agricultural show, held each September, and the famous Kirkstile Inn. This sixteenth-century pub is the current holder of CAMRA’s Pub of the Year title, and holds a popular beer festival in April (check the dates before you go, though!). It is also known for its traditional menu, which makes a point of including a lot of local produce.
To the west of Loweswater is the village of Mockerkin and Mockerkin Tarn. Set amongst gently rolling hills and lush pasture, the tarn is transformed in summer by a riot of white and yellow waterlilies. Just to make the point that we are now in the extreme reaches of Lakeland, the tarn is said to be the site of the palace of one of Cumbria’s legendary Celtic kings, King Morken. As usual, details are lost in the mists of the proverbial, but it’s good to sit at the lake’s edge and imagine its romantic past.
The village of Lamplugh lies a short distance to the south. The village name is Celtic, and no surprise there – Lamplugh is known to have once housed a stone circle which will have rivalled Long Meg, in the Eden Valley, for size. Like many stone circles, the stones were blasted and removed to make way for farming by the mid-nineteenth century, so there is nothing to see, now. It was known throughout history for the extent of its woods:
‘A squirrel could hop from tree to tree
from Lamplugh fells to Moresby’
The local pub is the Lamplugh Tip – ‘tip’ being a clipped Cumbrianisation of ‘tup’, or ram – where sheep auctions were held for generations. The pub serves local beer and traditional, hearty food.
Crummock Water is another National trust-owned lake, and has a Celtic name – ‘Crummock’ means ‘crooked’. It is two and a half miles long and surrounded by more gentle fells. Nearby, in contrast, is Scale Force, a spectacular waterfall through a narrow, wooded ravine. At 170feet, its drop is the greatest of any in the Lake District. Coleridge’s description lingers in the mind: ‘Scale Force, the white downfall of which glimmered through the trees, that hang before it like the bushy hair over a madman’s eyes’.
At Buttermere we reach more popular territory, and the history turns from ancient Celts to Viking invaders. Buttermere is, according to some, named after an early Norse chieftain, Boethar, and there is evidence of Viking settlement as far as the ninth century. The lake has a wonderful 41/2 mile circular walk, with equally attractive views of the lake and a number of towering fells including High Crag, High Stile and Hay Stacks.
Alfred Wainwright considered Hay Stacks to be ‘the best fell-top of all’, with its marshy land and many pools. Innominate Tarn lies near the summit of Hay Stacks, 520ft above sea level, and it is here that Wainwright’s ashes were scattered.
The village of Buttermere has two inns, the Bridge Hotel and the Fish Hotel. It’s in the latter that Buttermere’s main claim to fame came about; the Maid of Buttermere, Mary Robinson, was hoodwinked into a bigamous marriage in the eighteenth century. Mary’s story became famous across the land, and visitors flocked to the Fish to see if she was as beautiful as her reputation. No less a writer than Coleridge reported the scandal in the Morning Post, as the bigamous husband was exposed as a fraudster of the worst kind. The rogue was hanged at Carlisle in 1802, and Mary married again, and died in Caldbeck in 1837.
The Buttermere agricultural show usually takes place in October. It’s well known locally for its Cumberland Wrestling competition – an eclectic and very Cumbria version of the sport. The brave might like to look at the BBC’s commentary on the last show and have a look at our review of the Lake District shows.
The Bridge Hotel and the Fish Hotel are both lovely Lakeland inns, especially the Bridge with it's cosy bar which has a flagstone floor and interesting pictures on the walls. The finches and sparrows are particularly friendly in the beer gardens and will often join you for a pint! Both hotels have a public payphone in their bars.
Syke Farm has a wonderful ice cream parlour in a converted barn. They offer a huge variety of flavours all made with milk from their own Ayrshire cattle, which you can often see as in the fields near the head of the lake. You can also purchase hot and cold drinks and a selection of homemade cakes and baked goods. The picnic benches outside catch the sun all day and the every present friendly little finches and sparrows will sit on the edge of the table hunting for scraps.
Croft House Café is newly refurbished and is a great improvement on it’s previous incarnation. The café offers brilliant bacon and sausage baps for breakfast and all manner of home baked cakes and treats to go with a cup of tea or coffee. A good selection of sandwiches to eat in or take away on a walk can be purchased here. The soup made fresh daily is a particular favourite. There is free wifi at Croft House, useful to know as there is no mobile signal in the valley.
Buttermere is an excellent spot for birdwatchers and keen wildlife enthusiasts. The farmland at the head of the lake is home to stoats, weasels, hares, and badgers. Further around the lake and especially in Burtness Wood on the western shore you may be lucky enough to see roe deer, red squirrels and even a fox. I have been lucky enough to have an early morning encounter with a fox high up near the slate mines at Honister.
Otters have recently staged a comeback in the area and have been spotted at the head of the lake nearest the village. The lake itself is home to a varied range of birdlife including crested grebes and tufted ducks.
At the junction of Honister Pass and Newlands Pass is the tiny church of St James. There has been a church here since 1507 and the present building dates from 1840. Unique features worth noting include the wrought iron shepherd’s gate, the antique 1800’s organ and the stunning East Window by Henry Holiday, who is responsible for designing many stained glass windows across Lakeland. Honister Pass leads to Honister Slate Mines & Via Ferrata, with the Borrowdale valley and Keswick beyond...
If you would like to have a chef for the evening in your holiday cottage, have a look at what celebrity chef Peter Sidwell & Dan Grimshaw can offer you - they can cook your evening meal in your cottage and they also they offer cookery courses to people staying in our Lake District cottages.