Blencathra - often referred to as Saddleback because of its iconic shape - is one of the most famous of all the Lake District mountains. One of the most northerly fells, it stands proudly over Keswick and was the star of popular documentary, Life of a Mountain: Blencathra. There are also lots of options for climbing it, ranging from the challenging to the relatively straightforward.
If you're an experienced walker and want an adrenaline rush, you can take your chances on Sharp Edge or Halls Fell Ridge, but not every route up Blencathra requires a hard hat and nerves of steel!
Read on for the easy walk up one of the Lake District's most famous fells.
Blencathra has six fell tops, with Hallsfell Top being the highest points at 868 metres (2,848 feet). It's the 14th highest mountain in the Lake District and commands stunning views down over Derwentwater. As with all ventures into the high fells, you’ll need to ensure you’re properly kitted out and have allowed for plenty of time (these things always take longer than you think!). Make sure you have more than enough food and drink, good boots, a torch (just in case!), a map, a compass, and extra layers of clothing, including something waterproof. It may be warm and sunny in the valley but it will be a lot different at 868 metres up - check the fell top conditions before you go!
The easiest route up is from the free car park just above Blencathra Field Studies Centre (FSC) – it means you can drive up the first 300 metres, leaving just 568 metres of ascent. From the car park, follow the finger signpost pointing uphill and follow the well worn track. It’s just under 2.5 miles from there to the summit and, although it is undeniably uphill, there are plenty of excuses to stop and take in the views on the way up. The path is so broad that you can even head up in a specially adapted wheelchair. Assuming you’ve allowed plenty of time, then there’s also no need to rush. Ignore any hikers (or fell runners) who come whistling past; you can take your time and enjoy taking it all in.
The steepest part of this walk is at the start to the top of Knowe Crags – after that, it’s a much gentler hill ridge to the summit. Once you’re up there, take a wander around: go and peer at Sharp Edge and be glad you took the nice, straightforward path! Although one Trip Advisor review famously mentioned the lack of a visitor centre or café at the summit(!), there’s plenty of open rocky ground where you can sit and enjoy a delicious picnic before heading back down.
The easiest way back is to simply retrace your footsteps and return to the car park. A ‘there and back’ route has a lot going for it and you’ll be amazed at how many different things you spot on the way back down that you missed on the way up! Once you’re back at the car, take a tootle into Threlkeld where you'll find a good selection of local pubs where you can put your feet up with a well-earned pie and a pint!
If you're ready for your Blencathra adventure, take a look at our holiday cottages in Threlkeld, where you will be close by a number of starting points! Our holiday cottage search also has lots more options to pick from.
Please note: Remember that this is a summary description only and you should always get hold of a full route description and map before setting off. 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!
Blencathra is a mountain, so it will be harder than lower-level walks. However, for a mountain, many of the routes are relatively straightforward, with clear paths and gradual ascents. One of the easiest is from a car park part way up the mountain. Remember, though, that even on easy mountain walks, you should be fully prepared.
You can do a round trip in just 5 miles from the car park above Blencathra FSC, which will take, on average, around 2-3 hours. Longer routes will take more time, and your skill and fitness levels will affect this. Blencathra is the 14th highest mountain in the Lake District, so takes a reasonable amount of time to climb.
Yes, there are lots of routes up Blencathra, and Sharp Edge should only be attempted by experienced hikers. Alfred Wainwright, in his pictoral guides, describes 10 routes for climbing Blencathra, so you have plenty of choice to avoid Sharp Edge and its hazardous scramble! Look for the more gentle, grassier routes with gradual slopes.
There is a car park just above Blencathra Field Studies Centre for the shortest and easiest walk up Blencathra. You can also find car parks in Threlkeld village, and at Scales. Arrive early for a chance of a space, as parking areas fill up quickly for this popular mountain. Please remember to park considerately at all times.
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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.