Spectacular Skiddaw is something wonderful to behold! Thanks to its impressive hulk, convenient location, and unrivalled open views, it’s one of the top destinations for mountain walking in the northern Lake District.
Just outside Keswick and towering over Bassenthwaite Lake, the fell is iconic to the national park. It's the fourth highest mountain in the region - less than 50 metres lower than Scafell Pike - and evidence also suggests it’s the oldest! Thousands of people every year head to its slopes to scale its heights to enjoy the view from 931 metres up. If you’re one such enthusiast, then you’re fortunate to have a choice of routes available to you.
Although a walk up Skiddaw can be easier than other high-level routes in the Lake District, you should be properly prepared for fell walking. Good walking boots, warm and waterproof clothing, food, a torch (just in case), and a map and compass (and a knowledge of how to use them!) are a must. Remember that conditions at the top may be very different to conditions in the valley so you should prepare accordingly.
Skiddaw walk from Keswick
If you’re staying at one of our holiday cottages in Keswick, you will be delighted to know that you can walk up Skiddaw directly from the outskirts of town! From Brundholme Road, take the wide gravelled path (Spoonygreen Lane) up and around Latrigg. When the path splits, instead of heading to the peak of this diminutive mountain, continue west towards the car park. You then climb, keeping Whit Beck on your right, up a clear path to the top of Jenkin Hill, where the steep route eases to give you a respite on an almost flat plain. From here you’ll see the peak of Little Man but should follow the path slightly below it (unless you want to add a second peak to your walk!) in order to reach the top of Skiddaw, which comes into view a little later on.
If you’d like to shorten the walk slightly, you can drive to the car park at the top of Gale Road and start from part-way up the mountain!
Distance to the top: 5.5 miles
Highlights: A fairly easy mountain route that can be enjoyed by families; clear, well-trodden paths to follow; no need for a car if you’re staying in Keswick; the Hawell Monument commemorating a family of shepherds who once worked on the mountain.
Skiddaw walk from Millbeck via Slades Beck
The routes from Millbeck and Applethwaite could actually all be done from either village, as they’re only 800 metres apart.
From Millbeck, the path skirts a small fir plantation and follows alongside Slades Beck for much of the way. You’ll feel the enormity of the mountains on this route, as Carl Side and Little Man rise steeply on either side of you. At Carlside Col, where you’ll also find Carlside Tarn, head right and ascend until you reach the wide ridge that leads to the peak of Skiddaw.
Distance to the top: 3 miles
Highlights: Convenient when staying around Applethwaite; small tumbling waterfalls on the river; heather-covered slopes in the summer.
Skiddaw walk via Carl Side
Starting from the village of Millbeck once again, you take a left fork almost immediately and start the long ascent up Carl Side. The initial climb may be a little dull for some walkers, but you’re well rewarded with excellent views when you look back over your shoulder or take a break. It’s a pretty straightforward route through the heather all the way to the top, where you’ll find tiny Carl Side Tarn before veering right to meet your destination.
Distance to the top: 3 miles
Highlights: Two Wainwrights in one; excellent views; lovely cover of heather in the summer.
Skiddaw walk from Applethwaite
From the village of Applethwaite, pass through the small woodland just beyond the main cluster of houses. Shortly after reaching the other side, you can take your pick from a rambling grassy open descent to the left, and a more direct stony route up to Howgill Tongue to your right. Each will eventually join the popular ‘tourist path’ from Keswick, where you continue on the slopes of Little Man and to your destination.
Distance to the top: 3 miles
Highlights: A quieter route than other more popular options; a choice of routes; a decent challenge for more experienced hikers.
Skiddaw walk from Bassenthwaite
This is one for hardy walkers and perhaps may best suit you if you’re ticking off all the routes up Skiddaw or want to do something different. The walk feels like a slog at times, with plenty of false summits and seemingly endless grassy hill. It’s not as picturesque as other routes, but is quite direct and quieter than the heavier-trafficked paths.
A small layby can be reached by leaving the A595 at High Side and following the narrow road. This serves as somewhere to park if you don’t fancy walking all the way from Bassenthwaite village, and the route continues right next door. Much of the way is fairly undefined, so your map and compass will be particularly important. You’ll cross Bassenthwaite Common before going either via Randel Crag and a long section of scree or via a gentler option along Southerndale and towards Carlside Col.
Distance to the top: 4 - 4.5 miles from the village
Highlights: Long rolling grassy hills; a choice of routes; quiet and peaceful.
Skiddaw walk via Melbecks
“Of all the ways up Skiddaw, this is the least interesting,” wrote man of the fells Alfred Wainwright. But we told you we’d give you all the routes up, so here we go!
You can do this one from Bassenthwaite village, with a 1-mile route that’s partly along country roads, or directly from the 90-degree bend in the road at Melbecks. A straight path towards the peak of Cockup (go on, enjoy a chuckle!) is easy to follow, then you turn south and continue ascending Broad End (another chuckle, if you like) until you reach Skiddaw’s summit. You may prefer to descend via another route to add more interest to your journey.
Distance to the top: 3 miles from Melbecks
Highlights: A fairly easy-to-follow route.
Skiddaw walk via Dead Crags
A good chunk of this path is part of The Cumbria Way, so is well-trodden and easy to follow. Again, you can start from Bassenthwaite village via a path that avoids roads.
At Peter House Farm, join The Cumbria Way westwards as it skirts the steeper slopes of Cockup and the bottom of Dead Crags. The river is on your left so far, but you’ll soon see a crossing at Whitewater Dash (also known as Dash Falls), a gorgeous series of waterfalls that tumble down the mountainside.
After admiring the falls, you leave The Cumbria Way and follow the old fence up along Birkett Edge to the summit of Bakestall. Continue along the clear path all the way to your goal at the heights of Skiddaw.
Distance to the top: 5 miles from Bassenthwaite village
Highlights: Whitewater Dash waterfall; a clear path; off-road walking all the way from Bassenthwaite village.
Skiddaw walk via Skiddaw House
Skiddaw House is the highest hostel in Britain and therefore well-placed for ascending one of the highest mountains! It’s reached via The Cumbria Way, either from Keswick to the south or Bassenthwaite to the west, so you can choose which route works best for you.
From Bassenthwaite, follow the route via Dead Crags until you reach Whitewater Dash, then continue on The Cumbria Way to Skiddaw House. If instead, you’re coming from Keswick, head along the path around Latrigg and, rather than heading straight up Skiddaw from the car park, follow The Cumbria Way around Lowscale Fell to the hostel.
From here you have two more options to reach the top! The grassy slopes of Sale How is a more direct and gradual climb, joining the ‘tourist path’ towards the end. An ascent via Hare Crag can be marshy underfoot but is a generally more interesting route.
Distance to the top: To Skiddaw House: 5 miles from Keswick; 4.5 miles from Bassenthwaite. From Skiddaw House to the summit: 2.5 miles via Sale How; 3 miles via Hare Crag.
Highlights: Choice of routes; good for a longer walk; vast and impressive landscape.
Stay at one of our self-catering holiday cottages near Skiddaw
We have a lot of wonderful self-catering holiday cottages near Skiddaw where you can either walk from the door or take a short drive to reach your starting point. You can also browse our cottages across the Lake District.
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.