Deep into Borrowdale a side turning goes to the pretty hamlet of Stonethwaite, really just a couple of cottages, a farm and a campsite. This little side valley is beautiful, pastoral sheep fields echo to the sound of spring lambs bleating for their mothers. Cross the the bridge over Stonethwaite Beck to the bridleway used by both the Cumbria Way and Wainwright's Coast-to-Coast and you could be in the middle of no-where. Following the valley south east it narrows and Smithymire Island sits near the confluence of Langstrath Beck and Greenup Gill. Here the valley is dramatically split by the forbidding Eagle Crag. It looks like a place walkers would do well to shy from, but Wainwright documented a fine "direct" route, bypassing crags, clambering up a gully, and a series of terraces to lead you on one of the finest ascents in Lakeland. We use it on this walk, combined with a visit to Sergeant's Crag and the notoriously boggy Ullscarf in an excellent walk. This is possibly the best way onto Ullscarf which is otherwise long, tediously boggy and generally unpleasant.
In fine weather this direct route to Eagle Crag is a fair proposition for any reasonably experienced walker, but do not attempt it in poor, inclement weather. Neither is it recommended for descent. Pick a fine day as you will want the views.
Parking in Stonethwaite itself is limited to residents, please park considerately on the approach road where there are a number of verge-side places. The Honister Rambler bus goes through Borrowdale and so passes the end of the road to Stonethwaite.
If you need accommodation we have details of 12 properties offering rooms near the start of this walk. Here are some examples:
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
Head into Stonethwaite and at the far end of the first cottage on the left, between it and the telephone box, turn left into the lane between fields.
Cross Stonethwaite Bridge and reaching the bridleway turn right. Go through a series of gates keeping to the edge of the enclosures and next to the wall just to your right for approx 1.5km (0.9 miles) to the footbridge over Greenup Gill the other side of the wall. Here Langstrath Beck and Greenup Gill join forces on their way to Stonethwaite.
Eagle Crag looks impossibly steep, but look to the upper crags and trace the route through for yourself!
Go through the gate and cross the footbridge, bear left around the fenced enclosure on your left to the step stile over a field fence. This is one of the keys to the route - we have seen people miss this and get lost going down Langstrath. Cross the step stile, keep left across or round a wet marshy patch, and follow round the field edge above the enclosed woodland. Continue through one gate, along the edge of another field to the next wall.
Keep to the path going through a hole in the wall and then immediately turn right up the steep grass. Follow the faint path through bracken up alongside the wall heading for the knoll of Bleak How. Despite the apparent gradient this is the easy bit.
Nearing Bleak How a clearer path materialises and swings left, and then right to the saddle behind Bleak How. Climb the step-stile across the fence. The lower step has long since rotted out so it is a high step up for those with short legs. Dogs can get under the fence.
Above the stile continue ahead over rocky ground. Keep an eye on the path for it swinging left to climb the short gully. We found this wet, but had plenty of hand and footholds for human and dog alike. At the top of the gully bear left to the grass and heather knoll for the view. Return to the top of the gully and bearing left continue on the path through heather.
Round the shoulder to above Heron Crag. A series of rock terraces is now above, some can be surmounted by traversing right and left, but beware of going too far right where the terrace narrows critically. Where an opportunity to take a short rocky step presents itself, do so. In this way climb up the terraces above which a clear path to the summit 'cairn' perched on a sloping rock materialises. Is that it, such a fine climb celebrated with a couple of stones atop a rock?! Afraid so, it would seem. Not even a trig point to reward you for such an accomplishment. The views will have to do.
From the summit of Eagle Crag, the next destination of Sergeant's Crag is initially south and visible across the saddle. Drop down, southwards, to the wall corner where an awkward step on the very corner allows you to keep to the right, west side, of the wall. Ignore the ladder stile, and follow the path alongside the wall, now on your left, across patches of damp ground.
After some 300m (330 yards) the path bears gradually away from the wall heading for the small cairn which comes into view on the rocky summit top of Sergeant's Crag.
Continue over the summit of Sergeant's Crag, bearing slightly left to drop down to a ladder stile over the wall. Cross the stile, it's quite steep the other side. Looking ahead of you is the boggy head of Greenup Gill. South east the long slopes climb to High Raise with Long Crag an obvious feature barring the way. Left is Greenup Edge, and is the way to Grasmere. Below and further left is the prominent Lining Crag which is a waypoint on the Coast-to-Coast walk. Above it are the slopes of Ullscarf.
So having set the scene, follow a faint path skirting the peaty ground at the head of Greenup Gill and swing left below the dark form of Long Crag where only a vague pretence at a path exists.Continue ahead climbing only gently to join Greenup Edge. Along the line of the Edge a fence is marked on the OS 25K map, this no longer exists. Even the metal posts are succumbing to the forces of nature and disappearing into rust.
Try to spot the line of the old fence as you bear left along the Edge, a faint but followable path soon appears and meanders around the numerous boggy patches.
Ahead a clear path climbs above the plateau on drier grass slopes. Just after leaving the boggy plateau behind keep a careful look out for the path splitting. Take the left fork to short-cut a fence corner, and in doing so miss out on further boggy ground. Above, our good path rejoins the main path following along the line of decaying fence posts. Note this point for the return to Greenup Edge.
After further boggy patches and a short rise to the summit plateau of Ullscarf the summit cairn appears on the path. A few rocky outcrops and small tarns dot the landscape of this otherwise anonymous plateau.
Return to Greenup Edge, taking the dry short-cut path back to the boggy plateau. Cross the plateau, and keep an eye out for a cairn well over to your right, or a line of cairns going sharp right. Reaching a large rocky knoll with distinctive summit fence post bear right in front of it, keeping right around a boggy patch, at least one cairn on the Greenup Gill path should appear. Continue ahead to join the wide Greenup Gill Path where you bear right to continue descending.
The path is quite rough here, occasional cairns confirm the route only in the initial descent. Sergeant's Crag and Eagle Crag are across the valley.
Soon the path reaches Lining Crag with little hint at the dramatic face below. Take care if you venture onto the top of the crag as the face the other side is near vertical.
On the top of Lining Crag turn sharp right onto a stone pitched path descending steeply into the gully on its eastern side. Watch for the path turning left and continuing its steep descent, getting rougher and more broken as it does so. At the bottom look back up at the face!
The path now meanders clearly through the moraines and joins alongside the gill. Pleasant waterfalls and cascades in the gill serenade you on the descent, eventually reaching the footbridge where you turned off earlier. Continue ahead, through the succession of gates, and turn left across Stonethwaite Bridge back to the hamlet and road.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|Skinny Dipping in Blackmoss Pot||58m (64 yards) away|
|Millican Dalton's Cave - Castle Crag, Borrowdale||1.1km (0.7 miles) away|
|Castle Crag - Borrowdale||1.1km (0.7 miles) away|
|Dock Tarn, Great Crag, and Watendlath, from Rosthwaite||1.1km (0.7 miles) away|
|The Glaramara Wainwrights||1.6km (1.0 miles) away|
|Scafell Pike from Seathwaite via the Corridor Route||3.0km (1.9 miles) away|
|A Short Walk to The Bowder Stone||3.1km (1.9 miles) away|
|Base Brown, Green Gable, Great Gable and Seathwaite Fell||3.1km (1.9 miles) away|
|Lodore Falls, Watendlath, Grange Fell, and the Bowder Stone circular||3.1km (1.9 miles) away|
|Grey Knotts and Brandreth circular from Honister||3.7km (2.3 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