This weekend in the Lake District was stunning! It snowed on Thursday night, and Friday morning saw hundreds of photos being shared of the mountains, towns and villages covered in a crisp white blanket – a truly spectacular sight.
I decided to get out and take in the picturesque scenery with a walk up Castle Crag in Borrowdale. This stunning valley in the North West Lake District offers a huge amount of options for walking, but Castle Crag is a relatively easy one, gaining a bit of height on obvious paths. It’s dog-friendly, too, with no stiles. Remember to keep your pooch on a lead, though, as there are sheep about.
Please note: This is a summary description of the walk. For any walk, make sure you have a full route description and map before you start. Always wear appropriate footwear and clothing, even on shorter walks, and take plenty of food and drinking water, too! A walk that is suitable for one person might be completely inappropriate for another, so you should always use your own judgement when selecting a route to ensure everyone has a fun and safe day out!
From Keswick, drive south into the ‘jaws’ of Borrowdale. The drive itself is wonderful, and the snow on the higher mountains this weekend added an extra level to the spectacular outlook.
When you get to the tiny hamlet of Rosthwaite, there’s a turning up a narrow lane that will take you to a National Trust car park. There’s limited space here so, if you’re visiting in summer or during school holidays, you may want to make an early start to bag yourself a space. National Trust members can park for free, but if you’re not a member, bring change, as the machine doesn’t take card.
When you’re all paid and booted up, head out of the car park and turn right, walking along the narrow road until you reach The Flock-Inn Tea Room (an excellent place to call in after you finish your walk). Turn right here and head through the farmyard onto the lonning (lane).
The lane eventually comes to the River Derwent and here you have two options. In dryer weather, you can hop over the charming stepping stones straight ahead of you or, if the river level is too high, or you prefer a more steady route, follow the lane to the right until you come to an equally charming New Bridge over the river. Take a moment here to peer into the crystal clear water!
It was at this point that we were nearly caught up with some sheep being herded to the farm! It was a spectacular site to watch the farmer on his quad bike, alongside his sheepdog, sending the sheep scuttling down the lane. It did mean we had to get out of the way pretty pronto, though! We tucked ourselves in a safe corner and kept our dog on a short lead to keep both him and the sheep safe.
Crossing over the bridge, we continued to follow the river over a field to the small wooded hillock of High Hows Wood. The path either goes straight ahead or curves round the small crag to the left. Take the left if you have a dog with you, as there’s a stile if you go straight.
Here you can take a detour to Millican Dalton’s Cave. Dalton – who styled himself the ‘Professor of Adventure’ - lived in this cave for nearly 50 summers, starting shortly after World War 1. He was a fascinating character who, amongst other things, manufactured pioneering lightweight camping gear and took women on camping excursions at a time when women doing anything outdoorsy was frowned upon!
After you’ve admired the caves and imagined what it must have been like to live so close to nature, head back downhill to the path and follow it round and down back towards the river. You’ll see more evidence of the quarry here.
At a break in the woods you’ll come across a stream and a small footbridge – cross over this and head uphill to your right. From here, you follow the obvious path upwards for a while. To your right you’ll see a set of crags with some fantastic names: High Steel Knott, Goat Crag and Lobstone Band Door! This is a great spot if you’re a climber.
When the path forks, continue to the right. Alternatively, if you want to bag the summit of Castle Crag, take the left route. It’s a fairly short walk but very steep and slippery underfoot, with lots of loose rock, so do take proper precautions. You’ll return by the same path.
If you’re happy to admire the imposing peak of the crag from below, which is what we did, then you won’t be disappointed. The tall sides of the fell are covered in trees and make for an impressive sight.
Onwards and upwards on the main path. You will eventually get to a pass where you can see the mountains of Borrowdale in front of you. But don’t forget to peer back, too. There are wonderful views of Derwentwater from here, too!
It’s all downhill from now on (literally), so take a moment for a drink and a snack, and sit back and admire the views from a little while. It’s gorgeous at any time of the year, but we particularly enjoyed looking out on the snowy caps.
When you’ve admired as much as you like, continue downwards on the path. You’ll have a tiny scramble down a rocky section before crossing another footbridge over a stream and through a gate into some fields (there are sheep here, so make sure your dog is on a lead).
Enjoy the gently rolling journey here, surrounded by bracken, with the wide-open view ahead of you. It will soon be time to leave the main path.
The next left turn slightly surprises you. The small wooden gate in the stone wall is barely visible until you’re right by it. Cross through and bear right and downhill until you pass between two woodlands: Scales Close Coppice (with steep edges) on your left and Johnny Wood on your right. The path is grassy down this route, and very muddy in winter. I should know, as I slipped and landed in the wettest and muddiest part of it!
Part way along the coppice, the path bears sharply right and you follow it down, through a gate, and into Johnny Wood. It’s pretty easy going from here: continue through the woods, keeping to the edge of the fence. You’ll come round some farm buildings in Longthwaite and see the camping pods at Borrowdale YHA on your right. Follow the track to the left, over the bridge, and then take a left when the main track goes right. You’ll pass a small terrace of whitewashed cottages (including our very own Foxwood Cottage) and then head through several fields back to Rosthwaite. Look at the walls surrounding the houses to your right – some of them have a gap so the residents can hop right from the garden into the lovely countryside! Now that’s living the dream!
At the end of the final field, pass through the gate and turn right to meet a small road. Follow this to the left, past Yew Tree Farm Guest House, and you’ll find yourself in front of the Flock-Inn Tea Room once again! Enjoy something tasty from their menu before heading back to your car just a few metres away.
The whole walk took us about two and a half hours at a fairly relaxed pace. You get some stunning views with minimal effort and it’s an excellent choice of route if you’re staying in one of our self-catering Lake District cottages in Borrowdale or Keswick.
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