The Fairfield Horseshoe is an absolute classic Lake District walk and deserves its popularity, rewarding the walker with fine views overlooking much of Lakeland.
As distance goes it is not excessively far: 16.4km (10.2 miles), it's the ups and downs on both ridges that take their toll. The east side of the Low Pike to High Pike section of the east ridge can be particularly boggy. There is a sign: "Warning Deep Bog". We're not sure its advice to head for the wall is for the best. A wide skirt below the patch, away from the wall may be better, perhaps. Or as we did thread a meandering line testing each footstep carefully lest a foot disappeared into the peat followed rapidly by the rest of us.
Weather forecasts only tell part of the day's unfolding story. Local conditions can and do vary considerably. What is a pleasant enough day in Ambleside can be rather brutal by the time you get onto Fairfield.
Do not underestimate the seriousness of this walk.
Whilst navigation is a largely a case of keeping left, the summit area of Fairfield can be confusing in mist. This is where a compass can be useful to ensure the correct way off is taken. From the collection of cairns and windshelters, the ridge to Great Rigg is approximately south and of a gentle slope.
Parking in Ambleside is relatively abundant. Rydal Road car park would be a good choice.
This walk takes you to the top of the following hills: Nab Scar, Low Pike, High Pike (Scandale), Heron Pike North Top, Heron Pike (Rydal), Hart Crag, Great Rigg, Fairfield, and Dove Crag; and includes 8 Wainwrights, 9 Birketts, 6 Nuttalls, 4 Hewitts, 1 Marilyn, and 1 HuMP.
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
Leaving Rydal Road car park turn right, at the mini-roundabout bear left into the Kirkstone Road. In just 50m (55 yards) turn left and bear left again into Nook Lane. Follow the lane to Nook End Farm. Go through the farm yard and the gate the other side.
On the track bear left, and left again to drop down and cross Low Sweden Bridge. Follow the track back round to the right and up the hillside. Reaching the next gateway go through and bear left keeping on the track which then bears right.
This wall now on your left will be your friend for some time.
Keeping close to the wall is quite undulating: you will have to negotiate the 'bad step' on Low Brock Crags which is a short scramble, and you have a number of ladder stiles to climb. Bear left off the main path if this is your wish.
Continue on the main track and later path to take the easier 'middle ground' and minimise the number of ladder stiles. Skirting Low Brock Crag the path finds an easy grass ramp to climb.
Above the crags is the "Deep Bog" as mentioned in the introduction above. Pick a line across, keeping clear of the hole. Testing each step with a walking pole helps. Alternatively, crossing to the west side via a ladder stile may be better, or take a wide sweep to the east to avoid this hollow.
Low Pike can be tackled head on with a short scramble. An easier path lies round the other side.
At High Pike the wall has fallen down and is easily crossed: you may want a change of scenery after all the boggy bits.
Follow the wall on to Dove Crag, bear left to rocky Hart Crag where the wall gradually disappears. Drop down to Link Hause and then on to the east ridge of Fairfield, before finally bearing right to the summit.
From the summit of Fairfield turn south, this is a sharp left but it is best to use a compass. Pick up the cairned path heading along the ridge to Great Rigg. Continue over Great Rigg, and bear left at the cairn to follow the ridge to Heron Pike. Carry on to, and down, Nab Scar.
At the bottom of Nab Scar turn left just above Rydal Hall on to the footpath signposted "Ambleside". Weave through the buildings, there are a few public footpath signs to help you, and bear left onto the track again signposted to Ambleside. Reaching the road at Scandale Bridge bear left and cross the road to the pavement. It's now barely 1.0km (0.6 miles) back to the town, and car park.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|An Ambleside Waterfalls Wander - Stockghyll Force and Blue Hill Wood||150m (165 yards) away|
|Stockghyll Force - Ambleside||180m (198 yards) away|
|High Sweden Bridge Circular||180m (198 yards) away|
|Red Screes and Middle Dodd from Ambleside||183m (201 yards) away|
|Loughrigg Fell from Ambleside||184m (202 yards) away|
|Loughrigg Tarn||184m (202 yards) away|
|Wansfell, and Wansfell Pike||186m (205 yards) away|
|Wansfell Pike, Troutbeck, and Skelghyll Wood||211m (232 yards) away|
|Lily Tarn above Ambleside||223m (245 yards) away|
|Loughrigg Fell from Rydal||1.7km (1.1 miles) away|
|Nab Scar and Alcock Tarn||1.9km (1.2 miles) away|
|Red Bank from White Moss near Ambleside||3.2km (2.0 miles) away|
|Loughrigg Fell from White Moss||3.3km (2.0 miles) away|
|Troutbeck Tongue||4.1km (2.5 miles) away|
|Sour Howes and Sallows||4.1km (2.5 miles) away|
|Red Screes from Kirkstone Pass||4.2km (2.6 miles) away|
|Grasmere and Rydal Water||4.6km (2.9 miles) away|
|Helm Crag||4.7km (2.9 miles) away|
|Stone Arthur, Great Rigg, Heron Pike and Nab Scar||4.8km (2.9 miles) away|
|A circuit of Grasmere||4.8km (2.9 miles) away|
|Alcock Tarn||4.8km (2.9 miles) away|
|Steel Fell, Calf Crag, Gibson Knott and Helm Crag||4.8km (3.0 miles) away|
|Easedale Tarn, Codale Tarn, and Tarn Crag||4.8km (3.0 miles) away|
|An Elterwater Stroll||4.8km (3.0 miles) away|
|Waterfalls and the Cathedral Cavern, from Elterwater||4.9km (3.0 miles) away|
|Easedale Tarn||4.9km (3.0 miles) away|
|Silver How||4.9km (3.1 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