This is a journey, or linear walk, from the lovely village of Buttermere, over the Wainwright fells of Robinson, Hindscarth, Dale Head, High Spy, Maiden Moor and, last but not least, Catbells. To walk these in a day is usually accomplished as the Newlands Horseshoe, but here we've taken a slightly different look at them.
Buttermere village sits between the lakes of Buttermere and Crummock Water, and hemmed in by the High Stile range to the south and the Dale Head range to the north. It's the sort of place you go to be amongst the fells even you don't climb them. The way up to Robinson from the village is steep and airy with the view behind to the village, and out westwards to the coast opening out with each step. Once reaching the first summit, with views constantly changing, you stay high until the descent of Catbells somewhat later in the day. Then it's just a short wander to Portinscale and across the fields to Keswick.
If the day doesn't go according to plan there are a number of escape routes from the ridge. From Robinson it is better to drop into Littledale than take the ridge north to High Snab Bank as that way is steep and has awkward rocky steps. From Hindscarth you can take the ridge north to Scope End as it's quite a pleasant walk (see our walk Robinson and Hindscarth from Little Town). Escaping at Dale Head, head south to Honister Pass to get a bus back. Alternatively drop down to Dale Head Tarn where you can head northwards into the Newlands Valley, although obviously it's still quite a trek to get to Keswick it would get you lower and possibly more sheltered from southerly gales. Once on the High Spy to Catbells ridge the only escape is at Hause Gate to either the west, or east.
Park in Keswick and take the first bus of the day over Honister Pass, which is an experience in itself, to the stop around the back of the Bridge Hotel. Prefer a day with a good forecast, and expect the walk to take the full day. Outside of the long days of June take a head torch to avoid being benighted.
This walk takes you to the top of the following hills: Skelgill Bank, Robinson, Maiden Moor, Hindscarth, High Spy North Top, High Spy, High Snockrigg, Dale Head, and Catbells; and includes 6 Wainwrights, 8 Birketts, 2 Marilyns, 4 Hewitts, 5 Nuttalls, 1 Dodd, 3 HuMPs, and 1 Dewey.
If you need accommodation we have details of 14 properties offering rooms near the start of this walk. Here are some examples:
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
Return to the road and bear right, climbing steeply. Beside the small chapel bear left onto the Newlands Pass road. In 300m (330 yards) as the road swings left, bear right onto a grassy footpath through the bracken. The junction is marked by a particularly short post with finger board.
Without much respite the path climbs steep zigzags using a series of gullies and terraces. A couple of rocky steps provide interest. The view behind rapidly opens out back down to the village and the Buttermere Fells, as well as Crummock Water and beyond.
Approaching Broken Gill climb a wet little rocky gully or take a grass bypass on the right, before sweeping dramatically across the head. Small rowan trees mentioned by Wainwright still cling to the gill sides. Above is a fine terraced path, ending finally at a large cairn.
Just beyond the cairn swing right onto Buttermere Moss. Keep right and follow a narrow path to the understated, small cairn on High Snockrigg.
From the small cairn on High Snockrigg, turn left, crossing pathless rough grass and mosses making for the wide path and visible crossing in the bottom of the moss. At the crossing, you'll find evidence that many people simply stride across, you'll only manage this without wet feet if you are wearing wellies! Otherwise turn left, downstream, by just 30m (33 yards) where you'll manage a dry crossing even in shoes.
On the other bank bear right to return to the other side of the boggy crossing point, then swing left joining a clear path on drier ground. Soon climbing steeply again, take the steep right-to-left rake above.
Nearing the top the path seemingly splits, keep on the present line and avoid turning directly uphill. Finally the ascent eases.
Swing right to the windshelter and rocky outcrop at the summit of Robinson.
Leaving Robinson summit turn left to follow a wide path southwards to a cairn at the corner of a fence line. Do not cross the fence. Bear left to drop steeply along Littledale Edge.
There is a good view down to Honister Pass and mine workings on the side of Fleetwith Pike.
As you just start to climb again from the bottom of the col, bear left to take a path cutting off a corner to head directly for the summit of Hindscarth. From this slightly airy path there is a good view down into little Dale and Newlands.
Nearing the top keep left to the summit of Hindscarth marked with a windshelter cairn amongst a rocky mossy plateau.
From Hindscarth turn back sharp right to take the wide path across the top of the ridge.
In an often damp little depression between rock outcrops bear left to take a side path cutting off the corner to join Hindscarth Edge. Look carefully at the crags under Dale Head summit for tell-tale signs of some of its mining history.
As Hindscarth Edge climbs towards Dale Head. Outcrops of rock can be scrambled, or bypassed to the right.
A tall well built column standing at the edge of crags marks the summit of Dale Head.
Continue on the wide path swinging to the north east descending steeply to the top of Dalehead Crags. At the small cairn. turn right, descending still on a good mostly stone pitched path.
Dalehead Tarn comes into view.
Descend to the left side of Dalehead Tarn. This is a popular gathering place for a breather and something to eat.
Bear right, and then in a few metres immediately left to go behind the rock outcrop to join more stone pitched path. Cross the beck at the ford and on the other bank bear left.
Climbing steadily, when the path splits keep right on a mostly grass path. As you gain height the path becomes more rocky, and returns closer to the cliff edge above Red Crag.
The tall cairn at the summit of High Spy is soon reached.
Keep on the path heading roughly northwards. Keep left on the main path, and just beyond High Spy North Top, which is over to your right, start descending. Cross Narrow Moor and as you climb again the path splits. Take the left fork.
The accepted summit of Maiden Moor is a quiet little cairn just on the left side of the path. It's quite possible the highest ground is on the rough grass somewhere.
From Maiden Moor's little summit cairn, continue on the path and swing right to rejoin the wide path, then bearing left. As you descend past Hause Gate a little care is needed on the rocky steps.
Go straight across this wide grassy crossroads, and climb the slope ahead. As the slope eases bear right.
The summit of Catbells is an understated affair, just a patch of bare rock at the obvious high point.
Continue across the summit area of Catbells, and you quickly find yourself at the top of steep rock steps in places worn smooth by the passage of many boots. Drop down carefully. Many options present themselves so you should find something within your comfort zone. We found zigzagging across the face quite easy stepping down from one ledge to another. Descend the series of rocky steps on to Skelgill Bank.
Below are easy zigzags with stone pitched corners. Keep left, and then turn right down to the road corner.
Continue descending, cross the cattle grid and at the next sharp left corner, continue ahead taking the footpath signed to Hawse End.
Down through the trees and alongside the wall to the education centre road, and bear left to a hand gate opposite. Go through more woods on a wide path, down to a footbridge and path across an open field. Go through the gate into more woodland, cross the Lingholm Estate driveway. Follow the Cumbria Way through the woods into Portinscale. Turn right beside Harney Peak apartments, signposted public footpath to Keswick.
At the end of the road continue across the wobbly suspension bridge and then in 100m (110 yards) bear right to cross the fields, and back into Keswick.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|Around Buttermere||22m (24 yards) away|
|Bleaberry Tarn, Red Pike, and Dodd||28m (31 yards) away|
|The Buttermere Edge||28m (31 yards) away|
|Bleaberry Tarn above Buttermere||31m (34 yards) away|
|Rannerdale Knotts||50m (55 yards) away|
|Grasmoor via Lad Howes ridge||1.9km (1.2 miles) away|
|Knott Rigg and Ard Crags||1.9km (1.2 miles) away|
|Moss Force on Newlands Hause||1.9km (1.2 miles) away|
|Haystacks||2.7km (1.7 miles) away|
|Haystacks and Fleetwith Pike||2.7km (1.7 miles) away|
|Fleetwith Pike via Fleetwith Edge||2.8km (1.7 miles) away|
|The Grasmoor Six Wainwright Fells||4.2km (2.6 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