Blencathra is a mountain in the Lake District, a familiar sight to folk travelling along the A66. It has a long and varied history and currently finds itself in the headlines as it has been put up for sale. The price? £1.75 million. So what would you get for your money? A fair bit of grazing land that’s for sure, and the title Lord or Lady of Threlkeld.
Blencathra is an important landmark mountain. It stands at 2,848 feet and covers a vast area. Rather than being one mountain in the traditional sense, Blencathra is made up of several fells, making it more of a small mountain range. The summit ridge links the tops of the 5 fells – Blease, Doddick, Gategill, Scales and Hallsfell.
Sensitive Victorians considered the name Blencathra coarse and offensive. They renamed it Saddleback based on its appearance when viewed from the east. It was thought that the name harked back to turbulent times of Viking and Scots invasions however on closer examination, the name is perhaps more Cumbrian than was originally thought.
Blaen is an ancient Cumbria term for a bare mountain top and cadeir or cathrach has Gaelic roots as a word for chair. When you combine the two terms, it becomes clear that the early settlers must have drawn inspiration from the eastern aspect of the mountain too. I must say I prefer the name Blencathra.
The village of Threlkeld sits on the lower slops of Blencathra and the mountain very much belongs to the village. Gullies run down the southern face separating the buttresses that rise up, creating a stunning backdrop to the village. There are two pubs in Threlkeld, the Sally (Salutation) and the Horse and Farrier, the latter being a virtual hall of fame to the history of the mountain. Threlkeld and Blencathra have long been synonymous with the Blencathra Hunt. There has been a hunt on Blencathra since the early 1800s although nowadays the pack is still over the fell chasing a scented rag.
Of course Blencathra is most famous for the fell walking. It is not a climbers’ mountain as the Skiddaw Slate of which is it is made up does not lend itself to rock climbing. There are two grade 1 scrambles though, Sharp Edge and Halls Fell Ridge. Sharp Edge is famed for the knife edged arête and is a thrilling ascent. Be warned, the rock is smoothly polished and should not be attempted in anything less than perfect conditions.
There are several routes of ascent that are directly accessible from our self catering cottages in Threlkeld. You can read more on our Lake District Walks page and be inspired to climb the mountain yourself.
In his book The Northern Fells, Wainwright wrote 36 pages on Blencathra, more than he wrote on any other fell. He declared Blencathra to be the ‘grandest object in all of Lakeland’, quite an assertion. His detailed description recorded 12 different routes of ascent, some of them only suitable for the very hardiest of walkers. He included his usual meticulous drawings and his description of the view stretched to 8 pages! You can see as far as the Isle of Man and the Mourne Mountains on a clear day.
Click here for self catering lake District cottages near Blencathra.