The Kentmere Horseshoe

The Kentmere Horseshoe, sometimes called the Kentmere Round, is one of the longest and most remote walks in the Lake District. Traversing all the fells bounding the upper Kentmere valley and its reservoir, it starts beside the village hall in the hamlet of Kentmere some 4 miles north of Staverley, near Kendal.

Climbing steadily to the top of the Garburn Pass and turning right to head north the first Wainwright fell of Yoke is quickly in view. There follows a fine undulating ridge walk from Yoke, over Ill Bell, and then Froswick before it terminates at Thornthwaite Crag where there is a tall beacon. This is also a good place to stop for lunch.

The very keen then head to High Street which is a little out of the way, but we traverse around the head of the River Kent to Mardale Ill Bell. We like to visit its summit as there are a couple of small tarns nearby which retain water for our dogs even through a dry summer. A drop of about 130m to the Nan Bield Pass and then a long 142m of ascent to Harter Fell feels harder than it is as by now tired legs start to complain. Still, there is a fine view of Small Water and Haweswater to act as excuses for a breather or two. Harter Fell is where you really feel you have turned the corner as you head south towards Kentmere Pike.

There is a slight drop and a little ascent whilst following the fence to Kentmere Pike but after a morning of hard stony paths the soft grass along much of this wide ridge is very welcome. Continuing to Shipman Knotts needs a little bit of care. Some people visit the intermediate Goat Scar but Wainwright didn't consider it significant enough for a chapter on its own, so most people bypass it. A fork in the path diverts from the ridge and misses both tops so a careful eye on the map and the instructions is needed here. Shipman Knotts itself, as the name suggests, is a complicated bit of ground strewn with bumps and outcrops of rock. Following the wall down past Wray Crag the path gets a bit rocky and steep but you soon get on to the track which takes you westwards and back to Kentmere.

The one almost constant view on the walk is down to the reservoir. It was dammed in 1848 to provide water for a gunpowder mill, snuff mill, and the James Cropper paper mill who still own it.

Parking is severely limited in Kentmere. There is a very small spot for less than half-a-dozen cars next to the village hall opposite St Cuthbert's church - an honesty box is on the wall of the hall for donations. Sometimes a farmer opens a field for parking but it cannot be relied upon. The Kentmere Rambler bus service which used to operate on Sundays and bank holidays appears to have ceased.