A mountain walk with everything: rough paths, peat bogs, waterfalls, a steep descent, and all with fantastic views tinged with the remoteness of this quiet Lakeland area.
As you drop steeply down to Haweswater on the Corpse Road imagine the people of Mardale taking their dead over that path to Swindale Head and on to the burial ground at Shap. The last such journey was undertaken in 1736 when finally the village church was allowed its own cemetery. Ironically when the valley was flooded for the Haweswater reservoir the remains where moved to Shap, and so claimed them all in the end.
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
Go through the gate at the end of the road at Mardale Head, and bear left following the sign for Gatescarth Pass. Quickly reaching a kissing gate you continue through. This old pack horse track is a typical rough mountain path with steep zigzags and loose rocks. Just, only 100m (110 yards) or so, before reaching the top of the pass bear left across soft boggy ground to join the fence line. Carry on up keeping the fence to your right, there is no real path here just indistinct traces of previous walkers.
Reaching the wall at the top of Branstree turn left and walk approximately 50m (55 yards) to the small cairn and OS trig station marking the highest point.
From the trig station you can either visit the two prominent cairns on Artlecrag Pike, or in poor visibility return directly to the fence line and continue towards Selside Pike.
Again another choice can be made, whether to remain on the main path alongside the fence, where there are no navigation difficulties even in mist, or cross the fence and head over to Howes top and the Haweswater survey post. This latter is best contemplated in clear dry weather as the path, of sorts, crosses peat bog.
The fence continues to climb to the summit of Selside Pike where a large and slightly incongruous windbreak come cairn can be found.
To descend to the Corpse Road, continue on the line of the fence as you leave it behind and follow one of the many small paths NNE to pick up the ridge line and wider main track. Reaching the small marker post on the old Corpse Road turn left. These days it's less of a road and more of a quad-bike width path.
High above Haweswater the Corpse Road crosses soft grassy terrain before dropping steeply down towards the reservoir. Initially passing two ruins, twisting and turning down well worn grooves in the crags, look back over your left shoulder for the waterfalls in the gorge formed by Rowantreethwaite Beck.
Reaching the road, turn left out of the gate, cross the road and drop down through another gate to the Lakeshore path, where you turn left to follow the path all the way back to the car park at Mardale Head.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|High Street (Racecourse Hill), and a few friends, from Mardale Head||same start point|
|Harter Fell||same start point|
|A Riggindale Round||28m (31 yards) away|
Unless otherwise stated the text in this walk is the copyright of Hug Solutions Ltd trading as The Hug and the photographs are the copyright of Elizabeth Oldham. Hill data is derived from Database of British and Irish hills which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Maps contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011 and paths © OpenStreetMap Contributors,CC-BY-SA, 2011