The 5 Best Ridge Walks in the Lake District

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The Lake District is, of course, well known for its excellent walking, scrambling and climbing opportunities. There truly is something for everyone and those who are well prepared, experienced and confident on the mountains may want to take on some hair-raising challenges with a ridge walk or scramble.

Fortunately, there’s plenty to choose from! Towering peaks look down upon the world, and these adrenaline-inducing walks, many of which include sheer drops on either side, are some of the favourites in the Lakes.

Note: These descriptions are intended as brief overviews only. You should always ensure you are fully prepared and adequately experienced to take on these routes. They can be dangerous and weather on the fells can change quickly or be dramatically different to the valley. Adventure Smart provides a good guide for staying safe and enjoying yourself while out and about.

Sharp Edge, Blencathra

Above Sharp Edge on Blencathra in the Lake DistrictStart/Finish: Scales, Threlkeld

Blencathra is iconic in the North Lake District, with its great hulk and saddle-like shape. In fact, it’s commonly referred to as Saddleback because of this! Sharp Edge is another imaginative (!) name and is, in fact, the sharpest edge in the Lake District. It’s a great scramble and, with adequate care, is a very enjoyable route.

There are several laybys at Scales, near Threlkeld, where you can park (though these do get full very quickly, especially in the summer). You then head on up the mountain towards Scales Tarn and can see Sharp Edge ahead of you – don’t worry, it’s not quite as intimidating as it looks! The path is well trodden and obvious and, once at the top of the edge, you can follow the path in a semi-circle along the top of Tarn Crags, back to Scales Tarn and your starting point. The White Horse Inn is nearby and great for some refreshments to calm your nerves!

Get straight onto Blencathra from one of our cottages in Threlkeld.

Riggindale Edge, High Street

Riggindale near Haweswater in the Lake DistrictStart/Finish: Mardale Head car park, Haweswater

You’ll be walking in the footsteps of the Romans on this route, as High Street is named for the Roman road that once ran across it. Towering over the western edge of peaceful Haweswater Reservoir, you can enjoy spectacular views on this fairly quiet route up Riggindale until you get to High Street itself, which is likely to be busier.

There is a small car park at Mardale Head on Haweswater, and you’ll start with a short walk along the water’s edge before beginning your ascent westwards onto Riggindale Edge. Though still narrow in places, this ridge doesn’t have quite the same dizzying heights of Sharp Edge and Striding Edge. Enjoy looking down upon Blea Water to your left and towards Haweswater behind you. Once you reach the top, you’ll head right along the Straits of Riggindale (with views of Hayeswater) before descending via Kidsty Pike.

Take a look at our cottages around Haweswater.

The Fairfield Horseshoe

View from the Fairfield Horseshoe near AmblesideStart/Finish: Rydal Road car park, Ambleside

One of the big Lakeland classics, the Fairfield Horseshoe is a challenging walk with lots of ups and downs on its two ridges. But you’re rewarded for your effort with a stupendous panorama over the region surrounding Grasmere and Ambleside. The views stretch for miles and you’ll probably spend longer than expected on this walk, just to take them all in!

From Ambleside you’ll head north on a gradual slope that eventually steepens as you head up Low Pike towards High Pike. There are some boggy areas to watch out for, as well as a number of stiles and a couple of fun scrambles. At the summit of Fairfield, look back and pat yourself on the back for your efforts. The horseshoe shape is very evident here and the long stretch of Windermere reaches out in the distance. You can catch glimpses of Coniston Water too! From the peak, continue round over Great Rigg, across a second ridge to Heron Pike. You’ll then pass through the pretty village of Rydal and back on to Ambleside where you can have a well deserved rest at one of our holiday cottages in the town.

Whiteside and Hopegill Head

Gasgale Crags on Whiteside in the Lake DistrictStart/Finish: Lanthwaite Green Car Park

There are some steep drops to the edge of the tracks on this route, but the path itself is wide and clear, and the ridge is easy enough to navigate. You can drive here and park in Lanthwaite Green Car Park next to Crummock Water. However, you may find it easier – especially during the busy summer months – to catch the Honister Rambler bus, which stops at the same place.

The first climb up to Whiteside is steep and quite hard going, but keep looking back to enjoy the view over Crummock Water and keep yourself motivated. The outlook just gets better the higher you go and on a clear day you can even see the coast and Scottish mountains. The 1-mile ridge towards Hopegill Head is a stunning stretch that’s an absolutely pleasure to walk along and the steep drop on one side offers an impressive addition to the scenery. Head down over Sand Hill and then follow Liza Beck back to your starting point.

Browse our self-catering cottages around Crummock.

Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, Helvellyn

Striding Edge on HelvellynStart/Finish: Glenridding or Patterdale

Last but certainly not least is the most famous ridge walk in the Lake District: Striding Edge on Helvellyn, followed by Swirral Edge. This iconic scramble is often busy because of its popularity, and a continual line of eager hikers can usually be seen making their way carefully across the sharp rocky ridge. It’s definitely worth joining the crowds to experience this iconic route.

One of the best paths up to the ridge is from Glenridding or Patterdale via a gap in the field wall – helpfully called Hole-in-the-Wall. From here it’s onwards and upwards until you reach the ridge. There’s a lower level, less scary path if you get there and have second thoughts, and beyond the ridge you can either head back down or continue up a steep face to the summit of Helvellyn. From the top, continue round onto Swirral Edge for your descent  - you can head all the way to Catsycam to tick off another peak, or drop down alongside Red Tarn.

Browse our holiday cottages in Glenridding and Patterdale.

Self-catering holiday cottages

Walking is one of the best things to do on your visit to the Lake District and there are gentler options to enjoy alongside the tall mountains and sharp drops. Find your perfect location at one of our holiday cottages and then plan your days out with some of our walking guides.

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