Pillar is a towering presence in Ennerdale, a classic mountain to climb. Pillar Rock dominates the face of the fell and is a historic location when it comes to Lake District mountaineering.
This magnificent walk is more than manageable from Ennerdale however if you put in the leg work, starting from Buttermere, you can walk the length of the lake and climb Scarth Gap pass before you even get anywhere near the foot of Pillar - some people like to do this to make the most of this idyllic day out.
Leave your self-catering Lake District cottage in Ennerdale in the morning and make your way to the memorial bridge, which is about 4 miles from the parking at Bowness. Cross over the bridge and walk along the track to your right, taking the left-hand fork. Shortly along this left-hand fork you leave the track and start to climb directly up the scrubby fellside. There is no official path, so keep an eye out for a steep step off of the forest track, directly below Pillar Rock.
The walk up through Pillar Cove is not recommended for children or inexperienced walkers. It is a steep and rough uphill climb without a path over rough fellside. There is a magnificent view of Pillar Rock as you climb alongside the falls. Towards the top of the falls, you can make a beeline to the left for Robinson’s Cairn and the start of the high-level route, or continue straight up towards Pillar Rock. The rock itself is strictly reserved for climbers and there is no way for a mere walker to reach the top.
After toiling uphill with burning thighs, you emerge at the start of the Shamrock Traverse. The Shamrock Traverse is a path along a ledge at the base of Pillar Rock, slightly tilted downhill and exposed to one side. The path is straightforward, but the slab section is fairly polished in places, keep your wits about you and enjoy the feeling of being right on the edge!
In clear conditions, the route uphill is easy to follow and gives a superb up-close view of Pillar Rock. You might even see some climbers!
The top of Pillar has a wind shelter and a triangulation cairn. Here you can enjoy a well-deserved stop for lunch with views of the Scafells, the coast and the fells to the north.
After a testing climb uphill, you can chose a simple walk back down again, leaving the summit in the direction of Kirk Fell. You will reach the top of Black Sail Pass, an ancient foot pass between Ennerdale and Wasdale. Descend back down to Ennerdale and saw the Galloway cattle contentedly munching away. At this point, if you started from Ennerdale, then you have no more climbing to do, just a simple walk back to your cottage. However, there is one last climb to get back over Scarth Gap and down into Buttermere. On a hot day this can be a sweaty undertaking, so reward yourself with a dip in Buttermere Lake and a lie down on its grassy bank!
Distance: 8.5 miles (from Ennerdale) or 10.5 miles (from Buttermere Village)
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.