On the southern side of Ennerdale in the Western Fells is a superb gathering of fells. These lay just to the west of Pillar. Sometimes included on the infamous Mosedale Horseshoe from Wasdale, the Wainwright fells of Steeple and Scoat Fell are our main objective. Steeple is perched on Scoat Fell's northern arm which it throws down to Ennerdale. It's resemblance is to a little squat rather than a sharply pointed church spire, but is still aptly named. Continuing south the short ridge to Scoat Fell is narrow and may become 'interesting' when banked with snow in winter. Otherwise a pleasant summer amble across an airy ridge and zigzag climb makes a great little stroll.
Our walk starts at the north western end of Ennerdale Water at the Bowness Knott car park. Following the track alongside the water heading into the valley you get a wonderful sense of the adventure to come. On a good day many of the fells on this walk can be seen from the track. Cross Char Dub by the Irish Bridge - apparently so called as it becomes a ford at times of spate, and along a lane to Ling Mell plantations. You may find a gang of Galloway cattle around here. One of three small herds that graze in Ennerdale, they are used to trample the bracken down and give other plants a chance to grow. They may also be found high on the fell. The route climbs the steep nose of Lingmell End using one of the few gaps in the trees. Then Steeple and Long Crag comes into clear view. The way to Steeple looks very rough and possibly difficult, but there are no difficulties and no exposure if you don't go near the edge of the crags! All the time the views over Ennerdale open out so plenty of excuses for a breather.
Once on Steeple you really appreciate its name. The ground drops away in all directions! You cannot make a straight line to Scoat Fell but have to drop down to westwards before swinging back south to cross the short ridge to Scoat Fell, whose summit cairn sits amusingly on top of the Ennerdale Wall. Look over the wall as the view is to Wasdale and Scafell Pike.
Since we're up here, we then head west following the wall to Haycock, Little Gowder Crag, and Caw Fell. The return uses a fine little tongue of ground between Silvercove Beck and Deep Gill to descend back to the valley floor.
There is a National Trust pay and display car park below Bowness Knott at the end of the public road.
This walk takes you to the top of the following hills: Steeple, Scoat Fell, Middle Scoat Fell, Long Crag, Little Gowder Crag, Haycock, Great Scoat Fell, and Caw Fell; and includes 4 Wainwrights, 5 Birketts, 5 Nuttalls, and 2 Hewitts.
If you need accommodation we have details of 15 properties offering rooms near the start of this walk. Here are some examples:
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
Continue through the car park to the far end and bear right to join the tarmac road. Turn left, as the road descends towards Ennerdale lake the tarmac finishes and becomes a firm gravelled surface. Keep to the track along the water's edge to the far end of the lake. Turn right across the Irish Bridge which is the first available crossing point on the valley floor. Follow the walled lane to the edge of the Scots pines.
Go through the gate next to the cattle grid, and turn left on the track. Cross Woundall Beck by the footbridge and bear left. In 200m (220 yards), just before reaching the next gate, a gap in the trees appears on the right. Turn 90 degrees right, ignore tracks going left and sharp right, cross the boggy lower reaches to the gate across the forest ride. Go through following the path mostly straight up between the fences either side. At the fence corner, bear left and continue climbing on to Lingmell End. Already rough the path gets worse and can be hard to follow amongst the deep heather - keep close to the fence on the left. This short rise does ease eventually. Keep alongside the fence to go through the gate ahead in the fence coming across, or step over the fence. There is no provision for dogs - Jessie jumped the fence cleanly, but less agile dogs will need to be lifted over for safety.
Continue near to the fence, although the gradient has eased the path is very rough and a good stride difficult to maintain. Approaching Low Beck bear right to descend gently and cross the beck at the ford well upstream of the fence. Bear left up the other bank. In barely 100m (110 yards) as the path bears left to descend slightly, turn right at an indistinct junction at the bottom of a shallow gully. There is little to mark the split, just the vague sense that continuing ahead will not magically climb the end of Long Crag!
Approaching Long Crag the heather thins and the ground becomes more rocky. The path is easily lost amongst the boulders, a line of cairns mark a vague and faint path. As further height is gained a better path materialises and climbs a short easy clambering gully in the middle of a low rocky wall above which the upper part of the narrowing ridge becomes visible.
Despite appearances the rest of the ridge is an easy walk on a clear path; there are no difficulties at all. Some of the small pinnacles along the very edge can be climbed with care to add to the excitement.
The summit cairn of Steeple is soon reached.
Leave the summit of Steeple to the west - turn right from the direction of approach, and drop down a loose stony slope before bearing left near the bottom to the saddle. Ascend the narrow zigzagging ridge the other side. The cairn at the top here marks the ridge to Steeple, and not the summit.
Turn left to follow the Ennerdale Wall to the small cairn sat on the wall barely 200m (220 yards) further on. This is the summit of Scoat Fell.
Retrace your steps back westwards to the top of the ridge to Steeple, bear left and follow the wall on the gently descending grass slopes over the almost imperceptible bump of Great Scoat Fell. Continue more steeply down to the saddle with Haycock. Cross the wall here where it is broken down and turn up along the other side of the wall.
The climb to the summit is marginally easier on this side. Keep close to the wall.
The summit of Haycock is rocky, 3 cairns can be seen around the plateau, but it is the cairn and windshelter beside the wall on the north side that is marginally higher, and considered to be the summit.
Keeping to the south side of the wall, continue heading firstly west, and then keeping alongside the wall, bear north west.
Little Gowder Crag is the rocky prominence ahead. Ignore a bypass path veering off to the left. Climb the rocky slope to the summit of Little Gowder Crag. Despite appearances there are no difficulties keeping to the path. From the summit leave by turning left and dropping down on a path through the rocks.
At the bottom of the rocky slope bear right towards the wall. Join with the bypass path and go through one of the gaps in the wall and turn left. Keep beside the wall.
In just shy of 600m (660 yards), as the path is climbing gently, leave the wall and bear right across the scattering of rocks which make up the summit area of Caw Fell. Two cairns mark the summit itself.
From the summit of Caw Fell, retrace your steps for 200m (220 yards) and bear left away from the wall on a narrow and faint path through the grass. Descend gently onto a wide ridge with Silvercove Beck on your left, and Deep Gill over to your right.
The path down the ridge is faint but followable. A cairn stands visible in the distance amongst the grass and heather. As you descend the heather gets thicker and the path is hard to see much more than 30m (33 yards) on. Under the heather it's worn into a deep groove with occasional steps. Another cairn is reached and the descent steepens.
Continue down to the fence corner where there is a step stile. Dogs can get under the fence just to the right where there is a lift up section weighted by a piece of wood. Continue down, now the ground is quite different. Trees, shrubs and some bracken make a change from the deep heather. Descend the narrowing tongue and meeting a path crossing just above the confluence of the two becks, turn left. Cross the footbridge and bear right to climb the bank.
Follow the path and then track through the bracken and conifers. The far end of the track is where the circle closes.
All that remains is to go through the gate next to the cattle grid, and follow the lane back to the Ennerdale track. Turn right and follow it back to the Bowness Knott car park.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|Great Borne and Starling Dodd above Ennerdale||30m (33 yards) away|
|Ennerdale Water||2.4km (1.5 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