Castlerigg and St John's in the Vale Circular Walk

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This relatively easy walk, starting just outside of Keswick, takes in some wonderful fell views, as well as a mysterious stone circle, an isolated church, a quiet tarn and even, if you’re lucky, wild fell ponies! Starting at Castlerigg Stone Circle, it heads above St John’s in the Vale, over Low Rigg fell and past Tewet Tarn before rounding off back to your starting point.

For most of the way, the paths are very obvious and easy to follow, though quite boggy in parts after heavy rain. There’s also a small amount of road walking on quiet back roads.

View from Castlerigg in the Lake DistrictRemember, as always, to be fully prepared on your walk with map, compass, warm clothes, food and water. Although this particular route is fairly straightforward to follow, if you accidentally take a wrong turn, you want to be able to find your way back!

This guide serves as a brief outline of the walk and you should always double-check the route and conditions before setting out.

The Walk

Approximate distance: 6.5km / 4 miles
Approximate time: 2 hours

Castlerigg Stone Circle with Blencathra behindStart off by driving up to Castlerigg Stone Circle just above Keswick. On the December day when I went, it was quiet and I had no trouble parking. However, this is a popular spot in summer, and you will have to get there early to get a parking space. Alternatively, if you’re staying at one of our Keswick cottages, it’s possible to walk from town to the circle without adding too much extra time to your hike.

Once parked up, take a little while to explore the stone circle before heading off. This ancient site offers stunning panoramic views from its high vantage point and, even on the busiest days, is ideal for a bit of contemplation.

When you’re done, head back onto the road and walk away from Keswick. You’ll pass Keswick Climbing Wall on your left and then see a signpost on your right pointing you through a gate. There are actually two apparent paths here, right next to one another, and you want to take the first one you come to.

Low Rigg and High Rigg from CastleriggWalk through the fields on the evident grassy path, passing through a number of kissing gates that help mark your way. Don’t forget to enjoy the surrounding views, including Blencathra and Skiddaw behind you and Low Rigg, High Rigg and the Helvellyn Range to your left.

Continue on until you reach a small collection of buildings on a lane. Continue down the lane, keeping to the left until you meet the A591 road.

At this point, you can cross the road and use the pavement, but the verge is spacious on the nearside, and you only have a few metres to go until you’re once again turning left through a gate and into fields.

Cutting diagonally through the field, you’ll come onto a lane where, at the time of writing, there is some work going on to improve the water mains around Keswick. You’re not supposed to walk on the lane because of works traffic and there are signs warning walkers to keep to the designated paths. However, by keeping to the designated paths, you’ll find yourself sinking into mud that is literally ankle deep and higher. Luckily my waterproof boots and garters did their jobs, so I was relatively unscathed. But do be wary of this when you go. Fortunately, it’s only for a small section of the walk.

High Rigg and Low Rigg with Helvellyn BehindPassing through more fields, you need to be heading more-or-less east, towards the craggy hulks of Low Rigg and High Rigg. The path remains pretty clear and there’s an obvious track heading up High Rigg ahead of you that you can use as a guide to keep you heading in the right direction.

Pass the farm to your left and start heading up the steepest part of your walk, which follows the track just mentioned. This continues up until you reach the lovely church of St John’s in the Vale and it’s accompanying youth centre. This is the perfect place to stop for a break, and perhaps something to eat and drink. I had a little potter into the church, which, though out of the way, still holds regular services and is a charming spot for a quick look in.

Opposite the church, various paths skitter across Low Rigg and it’s not completely obvious which one you want to take. However, the widest and moth obvious path takes you between two mounds on the fell, and you can take this route, or clamber to the top and over. Either way, when you spot Tewet Tarn beyond, you’ll know exactly where to head next.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the wild fell ponies here. I didn’t see any – perhaps they were sheltering from the wind – but they do wander this area. Remember to take note of the signs and don’t feed them.

Blencathra in the snow and Tewet TarnContinue walking so that Tewet Tarn stays to your left, admiring Blencathra looming over you. Past that, you’ll follow the wall to the right and round into a field that goes steeply downhill. Wind your way down – carefully (I slipped a couple of times) – until you reach the gate in the bottom right of the field.

From here it’s road walking for a while. Turn left on the small back road, and then take the left when you meet the junction. It’s another left at the next turning and you then continue on the road until you cross a bridge, after which you’ll head left into the fields. Cross a couple of fields, heading for Goosewell Farm beyond. When you reach the road here, turn left and continue up the road until you get back to your car.

This is a lovely walk for a morning or an afternoon. It’s suitable for families and dogs, too, when kept on leads. Not too long or strenuous, it offers some spectacular views and allows you to learn some fascinating local history. It’s also ideal if you’re staying at one of our cottages in Keswick or St John’s in the Vale.

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