Whitbarrow Scar situated, just off the A590, to the south west of Kendal is a limestone escarpment which is relatively rare in the Lake District. Most of the rock here is volcanic, formed from the ash and magma thrown out in eruptions, or igneous intrusions through weaknesses in the rock already laid down. Limestone, on the other hand, is sedimentary, formed from the shells and corals of a long ago sea. Although it is quite a hard rock it is prone to erosion by the very slight acidity of rainwater. This creates little pools and channels in the rock which over thousands of years form the clints and grikes of the classic limestone pavement more associated with the nearby Yorkshire Dales.
The exposed top of Whitbarrow feels like it is in two different sections. The abrupt southern end, overlooking the Kent estuary up to the wall beside Chapel Head Scar is largely rolling upland that happens to be limestone. Crossing the wall on the way to Lord's Seat small outcrops of mini-escarpments jut above the grasses and juniper. There are many more trees on this side. The whole of the top is grazed by a hardy breed of cattle.
The northern area is a National Nature Reserve. The plaque incorporated into the grand cairn on Lord's Seat is inscribed: "This reserve commemorates Canon G.A.K Hervey 1893 - 1967 Founder of the Lake District Naturalists' Trust". The Cumbria Wildlife Trust manages much of the land.
The small hamlet of Mill Side is the easiest place to start this walk. There is an informal layby just across the cattle grid from the A590 - signed Beck Head and Mill Side - where half-a-dozen cars may park.
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
From the layby continue along the minor road into the village. In front of the village pond, now part of people's gardens, bear right beside the notice boards and telephone box. Almost immediately bear right again to climb quite a steep tarmac lane. Follow it to its end where it becomes a bridleway, bear right on the rough track.
In a little over 200m (220 yards), at the top of the rise having swung left around the nose of the Scar, bear off the track to the left on a narrow path signed "permissive path". This continues to rise through trees and bushes. Follow the white arrows on short posts to a bench overlooking the River Kent estuary. Here take the path very sharp left to continue the climb, as directed by the arrows.
Reaching a wall go through the gap. The path then goes through a gate on the right, but before doing that continue ahead through the trees where at the end of the path you come out onto the edge of the escarpment at an excellent viewpoint that again looks out over the Kent estuary,
Return, and this time go through the gate. Continue on the muddy path onto the top of the Scar. Although there is a bit of the escarpment to the right, bear left to head roughly north. Keeping left around the rough ground and hollows, follow the path along the top. Soon a cairn comes into view in the near distance, and away far ahead the cairn of Lord's Seat can also be seen.
Dropping slightly, keep following the path. A gateway will be seen ahead. Cross the stone stile just to the left of the gateway, continue following the path it will take you all the way to the well built cairn at Lord's Seat.
From the cairn on Lord's Seat you have to be a little careful. Continue north on the main path for no more than 50m (55 yards) to where the path bears right. Here, leave the path to bear left heading north west. A faint meandering path starts to descend, some sections it becomes well defined if narrow as a sheep trod.
Aim generally for the stand of trees you can see at the top of what looks like a potential breach in the escarpment. It is and is called Bell Rake. A wall directly ahead will collect any over-shoot. Bear left towards the rake. At the top of the rake, amongst the trees, the narrow entrance to a mine level will appear in the bank. Take care if you investigate it.
Drop down the rake of loose and slippery limestone. At the bottom bear left to go through the gate and continue descending to the rather short signpost at the junction.
At the signpost turn sharp left to take a permissive path (no longer signed) to Witherslack Hall - the grand house you can see from the top. Follow the muddy track through High Park Wood.
In 300m (330 yards) as the track bears right take the path on the left. Meander through the woodlands of the nature reserve to the playing fields. Join the track going ahead and pass through the gate. In the field turn left, along the track past the sports ground, to another gateway and ladder stile.
Go over the ladder stile or through the gate onto the track into High Crag Wood. Stick with the track through the woods.
Reaching the tarmac road bear left to pass through the few houses here. At the beck alongside the road, look back at the source of the water. This is Beck Head.
Continue down the road and back into Mill Side beside the telephone box. Bear left to return to the layby.
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