The Skiddaw massif standing over the town of Keswick can be seen from much of Lakeland and often with its own cap of cloud. Its bulk made of layers of shales and mudstones formed over 450 million years ago, compressed and heated to form its own particular variety of slate then pushed upwards as tectonic plates collided. Skiddaw slate has a grey tint unlike the Borrowdale green slate mined at Honister, and can be seen in many of the buildings around Keswick. A curious feature of the way the slate was formed produced the "Musical Stones of Skiddaw". Made from hornfels which is a hard, dense rock from the interface of mudstones and hot lava, the stones ring when struck and the instrument is called a Lithophone.
So to this fine walk. A convenient starting point is the rough car park at the end of the Gale Gill road behind Latrigg. From there you follow the Cumbria Way around the southern shoulder of Lonscale Fell with simply wonderful views from the east through to the west. A terraced path below Lonscale Crags is as dramatic as the contours on the map hint and provide a stunning way round to the remote area of Back O' Skiddaw. Passing Skiddaw House and following the supply track to Dash Falls is just the beginning of the walk. It is only here that the climbing really gets going. Views open out again to Bassenthwaite and the plains of Cockermouth. Bakestall, perched above Dead Crags on the northern end of Skiddaw's summit ridge comes after a steep path through heather. Then after a short respite another steep climb to Skiddaw North Top. The summit itself has a trig point and troposcope showing the direction of the many, many visible fells. The descent over Skiddaw Little Man and Skiddaw - Lesser Man has further interest in the views down to Keswick, Derwent Water and the Jaws of Borrowdale.
This walk may be started from Keswick, in fact many purists would insist that Skiddaw is climbed from the town, not from the car park at the end of the tarmac road behind Latrigg. However the car park makes for such a convenient start and end point that, as here, we often use it. The road up is a little rough these days but passable with just a little care to avoid the worst potholes.
This walk takes you to the top of the following hills: Skiddaw South Top, Skiddaw North Top, Skiddaw Middle Top, Skiddaw Little Man, Skiddaw - Lesser Man, Skiddaw, Broad End, and Bakestall; and includes 3 Wainwrights, 1 Furth, 8 Birketts, 2 Hewitts, 2 Nuttalls, 1 Marilyn, and 1 HuMP.
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
At the top of the car park, go through the gate and immediately turn left to follow a path alongside the wall.
After a straight path for 250m (275 yards) through a couple of gates, the path bears left to another gate. Go through and bear slightly right away from the fence line. Descend to the ford crossing Whit Beck, follow the track round to the right climbing a little, then left across the southern shoulder of Lonscale Fell through fields of bracken. The views to the right over St Johns in the Vale are fantastic.
The track bears left to go through the gate.
Follow the track as it continues to swing left, northwards, becomes narrower and perched high above Glenderaterra Beck on a wonderful terrace.
Follow the track. Keep on the track and don't inadvertently descend towards the beck. Pass the ruined buildings below the ridge of Burnt Horse, a wall joins on the right for a short while. Continue generally ahead, northwards. Go through the gate at the bottom of Burnt Horse, and bear left to YHA Skiddaw House in amongst the only trees in Skiddaw Forest.
At YHA Skiddaw House follow the path in front and below the hostel, at the far edge bear left and up to the supply track. Turn right onto the track.
Follow the supply track down to the ford with the River Caldew, there's a footbridge to keep your feet dry. And continue up, along, and eventually down the track to the gate above Dash Falls.
Go through the gate and immediately turn sharply left up onto steep grass slopes. After an initial soft patch, which may be rather boggy after wet weather, a plausible path materialises.
Keep close to the wall, and then fence, on the left, although a look over to the right at Dead Crags is worth a look higher up. The cliff edge path through the heather is little used these days and makes the climb more arduous. Just below the last steep section to Bakestall is the welcome respite of an almost flat section. Carry on across and continue climbing up beside the fence. Nearing the top of this steep bit you can take the narrow path bearing right to take a direct line to the summit cairn of Bakestall, or follow the fence to the corner and turn right on the wide path to the cairn 100m (110 yards) north.
You may notice that the cairn beside the fence corner is marginally higher - it is not the summit.
From the cairn on Bakestall turn around, and return to the fence corner just 100m (110 yards) back. Carry on, bearing slightly right to follow the fence. Cross the depression, past the ruined sheepfold, and just on the other side of the fence through the broken gate a puddle might be found holding enough water for a thirsty dog. Continue climbing alongside the fence, bear right and more climbing.
At a corner the fence bears away left, continue ahead across open grass and moss to the path ascending the ridge. A few cairns mark the way in poor weather. Now climb the small zigzags over loose skiddaw slate and bear left to the north top and the windshelter.
The trig point and toposcope is just a little further along this ridge.
From the summit continue ahead down to the slight depression and up again to the cairn on the South Top. Just before reaching the gate bear right to the fence corner and follow the path ahead along the fence line down into the shallow depression.
Climb up the other side and when the fence bears away left continue ahead to the cairn on Little Man.
Continue over, and down to the wonderfully adorned cairn of Lower Man. It definitely stands proud with the old bits of rusting fence embedded in its cairn, rather like stags picking up grass and undergrowth to make their antlers look more impressive!
Drop down the other side to the track just below the gate. At the track bear right and continue the descent. This rough track takes you all the way down past the Hawell Shepherds monument, and to the car park.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|Misty Skiddaw||10m (11 yards) away|
|Latrigg: a short stroll||58m (64 yards) away|
|Lonscale Fell via Burnt Horse Ridge||58m (64 yards) away|
|Skiddaw Shepherd's Memorial||58m (64 yards) away|
|The Old Keswick Railway Line and Latrigg||1.9km (1.2 miles) away|
|Castlerigg Stone Circle||1.9km (1.2 miles) away|
|Castlehead Viewpoint from the Moot Hall, Keswick||2.4km (1.5 miles) away|
|Cumbria Way - Keswick to Caldbeck||2.4km (1.5 miles) away|
|A short walk to Friar's Crag from the Moot Hall, Keswick||2.4km (1.5 miles) away|
|The National Trust Centenary Stone from Keswick||2.4km (1.5 miles) away|
|Around Derwent Water||2.4km (1.5 miles) away|
|Blencathra via Hall's Fell Ridge||3.7km (2.3 miles) away|
|Walla Crag and Bleaberry Fell from Great Wood||4.0km (2.5 miles) away|
|Walla Crag and the Great Wood||4.0km (2.5 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