The Coledale Horseshoe, sometimes called The Coledale Round, is a long walk over the Wainwright Fells surrounding the glacial hanging valley of Coledale, situated above Braithwaite near Keswick. On our route the fells visited include the distinctive Grisedale Pike, Hopegill Head, Crag Hill, Sail, and Outerside, which is usually considered the minimum set. Some people who have an excess of energy also go over Stile End, and/or Barrow which isn't unreasonable, but others go for an even more meandering affair to include Grasmoor, Wandope, Scar Crags, and Causey Pike and then Barrow.
Most people will find the basic round a suitably 'good day out'. The route has a mixed bag of steep ascents, scrambly rocky steps, and pleasant soft underfoot grassy lawns. In summer thick bracken lines the lower paths which gradually makes way for heather as height is gained which is particularly noticed on Outerside as you brush through it. Coledale Hause, the half-way point of the walk, is a wide grassy col at the head of Coledale. Incidentally, just after the Hause, whilst heading for Crag Hill, there is a beck alongside the path which is a good point to replenish water supplies for the rest of the walk.
The start of the walk is at Braithwaite, near Keswick. In the summer holidays parking is available at the village school, otherwise there are some on street spaces around. Near the bottom of Whinlatter Pass there is a small car park, perhaps for a dozen cars, that is handy for the ascent of Grisedale Pike. Only the albeit short climb back up to it at the end of the day may feel a little unwelcome. There is also a campsite in Braithwaite which is handily placed.
This walk takes you to the top of the following hills: Stile End, Sand Hill, Sail, Outerside, Kinn, Hopegill Head, Hobcarton Crag, Grisedale Pike, and Crag Hill; and includes 5 Wainwrights, 9 Birketts, 6 Nuttalls, 5 Hewitts, 1 Dodd, 1 Marilyn, 1 Dewey, and 2 HuMPs.
If you need accommodation we have details of 79 properties offering rooms near the start of this walk. Here are some examples:
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
Walk through the village to the Whinlatter Pass road, turn left along the road to climb to the small car park at the end of the track to Force Crag Mine, deep in the Coledale valley.
Just inside the entrance of the car park turn right taking the steps, probably lurking behind the summer vegetation, going steeply up. After a short climb the path rises more gently whilst parallel with the pass road. Let the path swing you more and more left to go back on your self along a small spur climbing southwards towards Kinn. Cross the fence at the step stile, there's a dog gate alongside, and bear right, the path continuing to climb.
Kinn is a minor bump on this spur. From here there are good views down the length of Coledale to Force Crag, Crag Hill, and the first real look at Grisedale Pike.
Continue from Kinn along this spur, dropping to shallow depression, then climbing a steep grass bank. The view north is to Skiddaw, east to Clough Head and the Helvellyn range, southwards is obscured a little by Causey Pike and friends. Great reasons to take a breather.
Now on Sleet How, the last steep section beckons. This narrowing ridge has something of an airy appeal. Steep, loose and stony, with rocky outcrops you can play on or avoid as you like you, it's not too long to be tedious.
The summit of Grisedale Pike is a rock outcrop just on from the top of the steep climb. A small unremarkable cairn marks the obvious spot. Curiously it's never been clear when we've visited it, mist always comes in tantalizingly obscuring the view!
From the summit of Grisedale Pike continue south west following the line of old rusting fence posts. This is safe even in the mist as the path is obvious. You'll have to drop left as this little ridge ends abruptly. There's usually a shallow puddle on the depression before the climb to the
Gradually swing through west to north west along the edge of Hobcarton Crag to the dramatic rocky outcrop of Hopegill Head.
Leave Hopegill Head slightly east of south, sharply left from the direction of approach. Climb to the cairn on Sand Hill, and drop down through the scree the other side onto Coledale Hause.
Cross Coledale Hause keeping slightly right to join the infant Liza Beck as you climb between Grasmoor on your right and Crag Hill to your left. The beck is a reliable source of water although you may want to keep an eye on it to refill slightly further up. Reaching a junction of paths on the col turn left along a wide path climbing directly to the trig point on Crag Hill.
The outlook from here, down the length of Coledale to Keswick, Skiddaw, Blencathra and on a clear day includes the northern Pennines, is fantastic.
From Crag Hill trig point turn right from the direction of approach, to head first south east and then more east. A scattered line of cairns marks the way to the top of a ridge, The Scar, dropping quite steeply to a col. On the way down there are two rocky steps of note. Neither are difficult to scramble down.
On the col continue ahead, you soon reach another rocky step which is easily overcome.
You soon reach the domed top of Sail. The path bypasses the summit puddle, and cairn. Sometimes there's a cairn on the grass, others it's 'moved' into the middle of the puddle.
Continue on the path heading ENE, to join the infamous zigzag path down onto the col before Scar Crags. Turn left at the crossroads. The path soon bears right and drops steadily across the northern face of Scar Crags along a fine airy terrace.
Force Crag Mine buildings can be seen below and across Coledale. Grisedale Pike looms above. Outerside is ahead. As the path gradually swings further right, turn left at a small cairn. Cross boggy ground to gain Outerside's south west ridge. Climb up brushing through the heather to the top.
The summit of Outerside is a simple rocky outcrop.
From the summit of Outerside carry on down the long north east ridge. Stile End is ahead across a boggy depression. Unless you want to climb Stile End, watch for the path turning off left in the bottom, it is not entirely obvious. Initially vague the path becomes clearer along the north west side of the fell. Coledale falls steeply on your left hand side.
Follow the path through increasingly thick bracken, heading for Braithwaite ahead. Lower down you get funnelled between a wall to the left, and Barrow Gill to the right. Joining a concrete road, go through the gate at the bottom onto the tarmac road. Head into the village and at the T junction, turn left to return to the car park on the Whinlatter road. Alternatively turn right to return to the school, campsite, and rest of the village.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|A Shorter Coledale Round||223m (245 yards) away|
|To Force Crag Mine - a Coledale Low Round||230m (253 yards) away|
|Grisedale Pike and Hopegill Head||248m (273 yards) away|
|Force Crag Mine||254m (279 yards) away|
|Words In The Woods||1.1km (0.7 miles) away|
|Whinlatter Forest - Heavy Sides Walk||1.1km (0.7 miles) away|
|Causey Pike and Scar Crag||1.9km (1.2 miles) away|
|Whinlatter||2.7km (1.7 miles) away|
|Catbells and the Newlands valley||3.0km (1.9 miles) away|
|Barf, Lord's Seat, Ullister Hill and Seat How||3.0km (1.9 miles) away|
|Catbells||3.0km (1.9 miles) away|
|Catbells, Maiden Moor, High Spy - A Half Newlands||3.0km (1.9 miles) away|
|Cumbria Way - Keswick to Caldbeck||3.7km (2.3 miles) away|
|The National Trust Centenary Stone from Keswick||3.7km (2.3 miles) away|
|A short walk to Friar's Crag from the Moot Hall, Keswick||3.7km (2.3 miles) away|
|Castlehead Viewpoint from the Moot Hall, Keswick||3.7km (2.3 miles) away|
|Around Derwent Water||3.7km (2.3 miles) away|
|The Old Keswick Railway Line and Latrigg||4.2km (2.6 miles) away|
|Robinson, Hindscarth and Dale Head - A Half Newlands||4.2km (2.6 miles) away|
|Robinson and Hindscarth from Little Town||4.2km (2.6 miles) away|
|Skiddaw - Dodd||4.6km (2.9 miles) away|
|Ullock Pike, Longside Edge, Carl Side||4.6km (2.9 miles) away|
|Walla Crag and Bleaberry Fell from Great Wood||4.8km (3.0 miles) away|
|Walla Crag and the Great Wood||4.8km (3.0 miles) 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