The sprawling high ground north of Far Sawrey on the western side of Windermere is the playground for this meandering walk. First time visitors to Moss Eccles Tarn will find this small body of water an enchanting place. In early spring the honking of Canada and greylag geese echo around the tarn's shallow bowl, seemingly amplified by the terrain and in summer the western edge of the tarn is fringed by water lilies. After meandering along forestry tracks and dark plantations, the highest point of Claife Heights is reached. It used to have a fine outlook however the surrounding trees have grown up obscuring the view although sitting on a rock in the clearing is still very pleasant.
Visitors to this area will undoubtedly be familiar with the name of Beatrix Potter. Known to the locals as Mrs Heelis, as well as writing the famous children's stories of Peter Rabbit, she was a land-owner and notable breeder of Herdwick sheep. At Near Sawrey is Hilltop, her home for many years, which she left to the National Trust.
The walk is mainly a wander along forest tracks, roads and rough paths amongst woodland. Some areas have been harvested though which leaves quite a devastated landscape. It's worth mentioning that given this high ground is modest in height, paradoxically it needs a close eye kept on navigation. One stand of trees looks much like another, as do clearings, as do forestry roads or paths which over time get changed or re-routed. It's surprisingly easy to get lost.
Note: a large number of trees have been damaged in the area of Claife Heights summit, High Blind How, during a storm which has meant some paths have been closed for the clear-up. As of October 2022 this work is nearly finished, we'll have a look when next in the area.
Parking in Far Sawrey is severely limited. The village's Braithwaite Hall car park is usually open for walkers to use for a donation to the hall's restoration fund.
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
Leave the Braithwaite Hall car park and turn left towards Near Sawrey. In 150m (165 yards) just as the road swings left, bear right into the lane signed, on the wall partially hidden by shrubbery, "public bridleway to Moss Eccles Tarn and Claife Heights". At the end of the lane, cross the cattle grid to enter a field and shortly bear left onto a rough track to cross a footbridge and up to a gateway.
Go through the gate and follow the rough lane as it climbs gently. Keep ahead, the gradient steepens a little. Look behind as the views are opening out. Scattered outcrops of rock appear, and the track swings right with a sign pointing the way.
After a rock gap your eyes are immediately drawn to Moss Eccles Tarn.
Continue on the track as it passes the tarn on its eastern edge, climbing at a gentle gradient. Keep left. Reaching a gate, go through. The Langdale Pikes some 13.0km (8.1 miles) away north west are seen across Wise Een Tarn. Keep to the track as it bears right and descends past the tarn and climbs into the woods. Go through the woods to burst back into the sunshine at the western edge of Highs Moss where the conifers have been harvested.
Bear right keeping to the track, the television mast can be seen and is a useful landmark. As the track descends, and the bridleway is signed off to the left, keep to the track until it swings sharp left. Here at the apex turn right off the track onto a gravelled footpath. In 200m (220 yards) it reaches the end of a forestry road. Ignore the roadway, instead bear right following the small yellow footpath markers.
Up into the trees, now heading for Three Dubs Crags, watch your step on the tree roots, the path is no longer stone but mud, rocks and boggy puddles. Our little path climbs a bit, swings left and climbs some more, to swing left again, whereupon you pop out onto a viewpoint overlooking Windermere and the mast.
On the viewpoint turn right and drop down the immediate outcrop. Cross the board-walk, the path meanders ahead for a while, then swings right to eventually meet the forestry road which can at times be seen below you. Join the forestry road at a small tarn below Three Dubs Crags.
Bear right for 100m (110 yards) and then take the footpath off left, signposted Hawkshead, opposite the tarn. The signpost hides amongst the shrubbery!
Boggy at first, the path dries as it climbs gently through the trees. Just 10m (11 yards) after the crest of the rise turn right onto a path climbing more steeply.
At the top of the immediate rise bear left, and then out in the open again bear right up to the trig point on High Blind How, Claife Heights. Although the top is open, the trees below have grown obscuring the view.
Continue below, left of the trig point, and descend steeply on a narrow path to join a much wider path where you turn left. As you approach an open, boggy area, bear right past a little yellow marker to cross the footbridge that appears. Continue ahead, across the track, the path is signed to Sawrey and ferry. Climbing steeply for a very short distance, then bear left along the side, to climb onto High Pate Crag.
With an immediate scene of harvesting devastation, the upside is the long views to the fells. In the distance you should be able to pick out Crinkle Crags, Bowfell, and the Langdale Pikes.
Amongst the rocky outcrops on the top of this crag, follow the path as it swings left and descends initially eastwards, more little yellow markers guide the way. Just above a stone wall you reach a track at a signpost. Turn right along the track. In just less than 100m (110 yards), through a gap in the wall you may spot there is quite a good viewpoint for Windermere. Return to the track once you are done exploring.
Back on the track from the viewpoint, turn left, and continue SSE. Drop steeply down through Low Pate Crag, the path is mostly easy with only one little rocky step perhaps needing to put a hand to the rock to steady a step down.
At the base of the crag bear right and follow this track for quite a while. The woods are gradually left behind, the navigation is now easy: keep with the track. Through gates, along the edge of a field, and past a boggy little puddle of a tarn, until you eventually join the bridleway between Bell Grange and Far Sawrey.
Obviously, turn right, signposted to Far Sawrey. Along the edges of more fields next to the stone walls, you continue the descent back into the village arriving directly opposite The Braithwaite Hall.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|Cockshot Point stroll from Bowness on Windermere||2.6km (1.6 miles) away|
|Brant Fell above Bowness-on-Windermere||2.9km (1.8 miles) away|
|Latterbarrow from Hawkshead||3.7km (2.3 miles) away|
|Carron Crag||4.4km (2.8 miles) away|
|Orrest Head - the view that changed a young man's life||4.7km (2.9 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