Fleetwith Pike is found in the area between the Borrowdale and Buttermere valleys in the Lake District. It's poses a striking image, with a sharp ridge rising almost from the lake edge at Buttermere. The famous Honister slate has been mined from deep inside the fell for hundreds of years and Honister Slate Mine is now an exciting attraction that also offers a fascinating peek into the history of the area.
Don’t let the cafe, museum, huge car park and fantastic slate mine lure you into a false sense of security: this is still a sizeable fell so you’ll still need a sizeable backpack to tackle it. Proper boots, warm & waterproof clothing, food, torch (just in case) and a map and compass (or other properly reliable navigation aid) are a must. You may be humming Fleetwood Mac songs as you climb this fell, but leave your long flowing Stevie Nicks dress at home.
There is a nice big car park at Honister Slate Mine where you can start and end the walk. It's free if you're also going to use one of their attractions, or £5 per day if not. Alternatively, if you’re a National Trust member, there’s also a National Trust car park where you can park for free. It’s right next to the youth hostel, so you can park up there and reminisce about teenage nights spent in dorms!
The route up Fleetwith Pike couldn’t be simpler: follow the big track leading out of the car park and up the hill. It’s a proper track – they even have hill climb races on it at certain times of the year, so there’s not a lot of navigation required (but do keep your map handy because that’s the sensible thing to do, and you never know what might happen!). Of course, it's steep in places - you are heading up a 648m fell after all - but it’s steady going and not too tricky.
Along the way you may hear some yelps and lots of oohs and aahs echoing around the valley. That will be the people on the Honister Via Ferrata: they'll be scaling the sheer cliff face, harnessed to a continuous wire that follows the original miner's path to the top of Fleetwith Pike. So you might even meet them at the summit, though they'll have had a more hair-raising journey than your comparatively easy climb!
When you get to the top you can pause to admire the stunning views far below, all along Buttermere and towards Crummock Water and the coast in the west. Don't be tempted to descend this route down to the lake as it’s steep, slippery and likely to tear holes in your trousers if you slip over.
From up here you can truly appreciate how Buttermere and Crummock Water used to be one big lake. In fact, after very heavy rain, they merge once again. If you’re here in the spring, it’s definitely worth taking a side trip to see the Rannerdale Bluebells alongside Crummock, which are utterly stunning every single year. Scale Force, on the opposite side of the lake, is the Lake District’s highest waterfall and definitely worth a visit.
As you stand on the top of Fleetwith Pike, take a look to the west and admire Alfred Wainwright's favourite fell: Haystacks. Innominate Tarn on the top is the final resting place of the famous author, whose ashes were scattered there in 1991. The name of the tarn is a bit of a conundrum as it literally means “without a name”. So, by naming it Innominate Tarn, it now has a name, so shouldn’t be called Innominate Tarn!
Once you’re done arguing about the logic of tarn names (or lack, thereof!), wander back down the way you came and pay a visit to the excellent cafe and shop at the slate mine. There’s plenty to see and do including the Via Ferrata, Climb the Mine, or a mine tour. Or you could just sit and eat an enormous cream cake. Your call!