Walks Around Braithwaite
Braithwaite is blessed by its location. A real haven for walkers, there are so many walks from the village, from strolls to strenuous mountain excursions, that those who arrive here by public transport are unlikely to regret the lack of a car.
The following guide is by no means exhaustive - but an indication of the riches on our doorstep. All walks start from 1 Bridge Cottage - which is opposite the village store on the bridge over Coledale Beck at Grid Reference NY 232 236.
Thornthwaite Gallery and TearoomThornthwaite Gallery is always a joy to visit. Their constantly changing displays feature Lake District painters, sculpters, wood turners and other artists; several of the paintings in 1 Bridge Cottage come from here. Amongst our favourite artists are Jim Binns, Marilyn Tordoff and Diane Gainey. Almost more important, however, is the quality of the homemade cakes in the tearoom!
The walk is gentle with little height gain over easy ground. Length: 7 kilometres.
From 1 Bridge Cottage cross the bridge and walk north on the road to the Royal Oak (where a good pint of Jennings is to be had: although surely not so early in the proceedings!) Turn left up the B5292 (care!) and after 500 metres follow the signed track off right through the grounds of Hope Memorial Camp, which was set up on land given to Roan School, Greenwich, by Arthur Hope, former Headteacher.
Keep the buildings to the left and follow the lower footpath through a field and then into a wood. Roe deer can be found here, and evidence of their presence easily seen on the barks of the trees. There have been unverified reports of muntjack deer here too.
Cross the lane and take the walled track into Thornthwaite. Enjoy the gallery!
Return can be made by retracing steps. However, a slightly longer alternative is to return to the walled track, and then take the footpath (signposted) left following Chapel Beck to the A66. Turn right, keeping to the wide verge, and after 2 50 metres cross the road and take the footpath across Braithwaite Moss. This bends right to follow the pretty Newlands Beck to Bog House. Here follow the footpath right back to the A66, cross the road, and then take the quiet backroad that passes Middle Ruddings Hotel (pop in - you'll enjoy it!), the school and St Herbert's Church before returning you to the Royal Oak and 1 Bridge Cottage.
Braithwaite to Keswick via Portinscale
This is a pleasant stroll of about 3 miles each way. There are several variations, and it is possible to remain on the quiet back roads all the way by taking the Newlands Valley road and then taking each left turn until Portinscale is reached, then turning right to Stormwater bridge and Keswick. There is a regular bus service from Keswick to Braithwaite, so it would be possible to make this a one-way walk if the weather turns inclement. The route below keeps to footpaths rather than roads as far as possible, and is a pretty route through farmland and valley scenery.
From 1 Bridge Cottage, cross the bridge and turn immediately right. After a few paces, take the footpath on the right that runs through the top of the camping site. This runs alongside Coledale Beck (which runs from Coledale Hause past the cottage) and then the charming Newlands Beck. At Little Braithwaite, turn left onto the road, and follow this to Ullock, where a footpath to Portinscale is found on the left. Portinscale is famous archaeologically because of the find (in 1901) of several stone axes, and there is much debate about whether this was a site of a neolithic settlement.
Follow the track to the road; turn right, and after 50 yards take the footpath left to Stormwater Bridge. Follow the track to Keswick.
For a circular walk, return to the Stormwater Bridge. Cross, then turn right and follow the River Derwent under the A66 to the old railway line. Take the left fork to How, then cut back along the path which returns to the old railway line before heading West to Bog House. Cross the bridge over the Newlands Beck, and follow the footpath to the A66. Cross, and return to Braithwaite via Middle Ruddings, the school and the Royal Oak.
Dodd Wood, The Old Sawmill tea rooms and the Lake District Osprey Project. (With extension to Mire House and St Bega's Church)If all you want to do is to enjoy excellent tea and cake at the tea rooms and/or visit the Osprey Project then between April and August there is a regular Osprey Bus that leaves from the campsite in Braithwaite. This is not a circular walk, so if you are determined to stay on foot (and why not?!) then you'll be retracing your steps. Of course, there is the option to walk one way and bus the other.
Following prolonged rain, this walk is very wet. "Bog House" and "Bratithwaite Moss" have earned their names!
From 1 Bridge Cottage, cross the bridge and at the Royal Oak take the turning that leads past the Holiday Property Bond, St Herbert's Church and the school. Join the A66, and walk (left) along the verge for 50 yards before crossing the road and taking the footpath (left) after passing the Braithwaite Village Hall. Follow the path north east down the lane and over the field to Bog House. Cross the bridge and carry on in the same direction - don't get side tracked by the well trodden path to the left! After half a mile, the path joins the Allerdale ramble: turn left before you reach the River Derwent. This track leads to high Stock Bridge: cross, and then follow the lane to the A591. Turn left, cross the road and walk past Dancing Gate for half a mile (care - it's not a busy road but a fast one) before taking a permissive path through Dodd Wood. Look out for red squirrels! The path drops down to an old quarry before gently gaining height. After a mile on the path, you will pass the (old, as of 2008!) osprey view point.
The Lake District Osprey Project is a real success story for all the partners: the RSPB, Forestry Commission and the National Park Authority. In 2001, the partnership were able to encourage the first wild ospreys to breed in the Lake District for 150 years. If you are in the area between late Spring and Summer, take the opportunity to watch these wonderful wild creatures fly, fish and raise their chicks.
The photograph above shows Lake Bassenthwaite, the osprey nest (bottom left) and the male osprey (May 2008). In 2008, for some reason the pair decided to abandon the original nest and instead take over a previously constructed platform in Dodd Wood. The higher viewpoint to view this new nest is about a quarter of a mile uphill from the old view point. During the "osprey season" both points are manned by volunteers who are very happy to discuss birds and help visitors get the best possible views; binoculars are also available for (free!) loan.
Past the lower viewpoint, at the path junction follow the path down to the Old Sawmill Tearoom
If time allows, historic Mirehouse is well worth a visit. Built by the Earl of Derby in 1666, the ground floor is open to visitors, and the house has a collection of manuscripts including letters from the Lake poets. The grounds stretch to the banks of Lake Bassenthwaite, and children are actively welcomed. Buy tickets at the tearoom, then cross the road to enter the grounds.
St Bega's Church is situated inthe grounds of Mirehouse, but you do not need to buy a ticket to visit. Cross the road, and follow the path past Mirehouse. The story of St Bega is told on my Keswick Saints' page: St Bega's is a haven of peace and sanctity, and one does not have to be Christian to appreciate the spirituality of the pretty church and the beauty of the surroundings.
So to return, either by bus or retracing steps. And not only have you gone some way to justifying the calorie intake from your visit to the tearoom, but by avoiding taking a car you've also helped preserve the environment!
The Newlands Valley, Beatrice Potter and Fawe ParkA beautiful walk of around 7 miles, all in the valley but enclosed by fells including Catbells, Maiden Moor, Dale Head and Hindscarth giving a wonderful mountain backdrop.
An alternative - and more strenuous - start to the walk is to go via Barrow Door (see Barrow Door walk) joining this route at Stoneycroft.
Leave 1 Bridge Cottage on the Newland Valley road (South). As the road bends left after a hundred yards, take the bridleway on the left of the road to Braithwaite Lodge, then pass a plantation until the Newlands road is reached again. Next comes Barrow Mine at Uzzicar: this disused lead mine is a reminder of the mining riches of the Newlands valley. This is the area prospected by the German miners commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century (see the History page.) This peaceful valley was once home to a number of working mines: as well as Barrrow, there were Yewthwaite, Dalehead, Brandlehowe and Goldscope. Copper, silver and gold were also mined here. However, "Goldscope" does not refer to the metal, but instead gives us an etymological pointer to the first German miners: they called this rich copper and lead mine "God's Gift", in German "Gottesgab", which later generations have Anglicised to Goldscope.
From here, you can follow the road a mile to Rowling Hill Farm, and then take the footpath on the left which plunges to Newlands Beck then up to Ghyll Bank.
Alternatively, there lies a literary pilgrimage ahead. If you remain on the road, after a further mile or so Little Town is reached. This is a place sacred to Beatrice Potter, who was a frequent visitor to the area. The first line of The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is
"Once upon a time there was a little girl called Lucie, who lived at a farm called Little-town. She was a good little girl - only she was always losing her pocket-handkerchiefs!"
Also at Little Town is the 14th Century Newlands Church, now extensively restored. Wordsworth featured this chapel in his poem "To May":
How delicate the leafy veil
Through which yon house of God
Gleams, mid the peace of this deep dale
By few but shepherds trod!
Follow the road downhill, and rejoin the route at Ghyll Bank.
From Ghyll Bank, take the footpath on the left past Skelgill (another name reminding us of the Norse occupation of this area!) Skelgill Farm is illustrated in The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (page 8 of my copy!) Follow the quiet road round the foot of Catbells. Maybe you should spend some time looking for "that door into the back of the hill called Cat Bells" where Lucie found Mrs Tiggy-Winkle's cottage.
Join the Allerdale Ramble footpath straight ahead. This leads through Fawe Park, where Beatrice Potter spent several holidays, and where she wrote The Tale of Benjamin Bunny.
The path leads through the woods - watch out for red squirrels! - to the road to Portinscale. Once you hit the road, if you turn left to Nichol End Marine there is the chance to buy refreshments. After a hundred yards, take the footpath on the left, and left again after 500 yards, following a path over meadows to Ullock. Turn left on this quiet road, and walk to Little Braithwaite, where you join a footpath on the right that follows Newlands Beck and then Coledale Beck, through the campsite, and back to 1 Bridge Cottage.
Barrow via Barrow DoorThis is a very popular route from Braithwaite. At less than 1500 feet (455 metres) Barrow is not high enough to qualify as a mountain; however, it has a real mountain profile, and as a viewpoint is like Catbells in that it puts you at the heart of the real lake District fells. (And you have a perfect profile view of it through the single bedroom window of 1 Bridge Cottage!)
Length - 4 miles. Height gain - 1200 feet. Time - 2 hours.
Possible variants: visit Force Crag Mine (you'll need to book if you want to tour the workings, now owned by the National Trust) then drop down to Birkthwaite Beck on the track. Or join up with my Newlands valley walk.
The walk: leave 1 Bridge Cottage by the middle road (keeping the village store to the left) past the Coledale Inn (you haven't earned a pint yet!) and up the path, past the ruins of High Coledale, enjoying the views of the Coledale valley - Causey Pike, perhaps the most easily recognised fell in this part of the lakes ahead, Grisedale Pike, one of the most graceful fell profiles, behind.
It is possible now to take the footpath to Stile End, and either then drop off the summit to hit the path, or proceed over Outerside, joining the path at the sheepfold - neither are recommended in mist, however. Barrow Door was the access route for miners to the workings at Stoneycroft Gill.
At the Door, an obvious track leads off left to Barrow. Take the track, and enjoy the panorama that unfolds. The track leads to Braithwaite Lodge, where the bridleway takes you back to Braithwaite.
Causey PikeOn a fine day, no-one driving from Penrith to Keswick could fail to be impressed by the individual outline of Causey Pike, its ribs making it unmistakeable - Wainwright likens it to a sea-serpent. It is also a popular target for the fell walker; a fine profile and a delightful walk in both ascent and descent.
Part of the delight of this walk is the views: the whole Coledale Horseshoe beckons seductively during the ascent, whilst the two lakes and Skiddaw sum up the whole Lake District on the way home. The route given below can be reversed: the major deciding factor is the position of the sun to enhance the view!
5 miles; around 2000 feet of ascent. Time - 3 hours 30 minutes
From 1 Bridge Cottage, as with the Barrow Door route, leave the village store to the left and, passing the Coledale Inn, ascend the path towards Barrow Door. Either follow the path as it sweeps West under Outerside to join the old Stonycroft miners' track, or (in good visibility) take the path which forks right, leaving Stile End to the left - this is slightly more direct and gives uninterrupted views of the Horseshoe. Either way, follow the miners' track which leads to the col between Sail and Causey Pike.
Now is decision time! Sail summit is only half a mile and 500 feet of ascent away - but continuing West may see you succumb to the temptations of Crag Hill (only another half mile!) and Grasmere! And, unless you abandon all hope of Causey Pike and continue round the Horseshoe to Grisedale Pike, you'll need to retrace your steps.
Following the path east, a short period of ascent reaches Scar Crag - at over 2,200 feet this fell is actually bigger than Causey Pike, although it lacks the visual "pull" of its smaller brother. Three quarters of a mile later sees the summit of Causey Pike, and in good visibility it would be a mortal sin not to revel in the views: they are almost unsurpassed in Lakeland.
The return is straightforward but should not be rushed: with the wonderful views, the descent is always over too quickly. The good path leads down to the road at Stoneycroft, past Barrow Mine; after a mile take the bridleway left that leads to Braithwaite Lodge and then to Braithwaite.
Grisedale Pike and Hopegill HeadThe Coledale Horseshoe dominates the horizon in this part of the Lake District, and the two most noticeable peaks are surely Causey and Grisedale Pikes: the two pikes face each other at opposite ends of the Horseshoe. Grisedale is the taller of the two, at 2593 feet, and is an obvious magnet for the walker; the name “Grisedale” comes from the valley that runs north-east from the summit to the Whinlatter Pass. The name means “valley of the wild boars” from the Old Norse “gris”, “wild pig”. The ascent from Braithwaite is perhaps the best of all routes to this peak, with views of the summit predominant after the first section, and Derwent Water and Skiddaw a delight for the descent.
8 miles; 2700 feet of ascent. Time - 5 hours
Leave 1 Bridge Cottage crossing the Bridge and then taking the left hand turn after The Ivy House to reach the High Bridge. Join the Whinlatter road, following it uphill past a quarry car park on the left (and ignoring the first signpost!) to a track on the left through the gorse. This joins a wall which it follows until the gradient eases and the summit comes into view.
Hospital Plantation to the right takes its name from the old isolation hospital, now called Lakeland View. The path passes Lanty’s well (unlikely, sadly, to be named after the famous Langdale moonshiner, Lanty Slee, given the distance from his haunts) , over Sleet How, and more steeply to the summit cairn.
It is possible, of course, to retrace one’s steps; however, the circular route is not difficult, and prolongs the delights of the walk. Take the path down south-west down the ridge to Hobcarton Crag. Owned by the National Trust, this fractured crag is the only known place in England where the Red Alpine Catchfly grows; A. Harry Griffin suggested in the Guardian (17th May, 2004) that this would be a more suitable county flower for Cumberland than the Grass of Parnassus. The path curves around to Hopegill Head, and then down to the Coledale Hause. The path east drops to Coledale Beck and back to Braithwaite. On the way down, pause for Force Crag mine, now also owned by the National Trust, the last working metal mine in the Lake District – it closed in 1991.
The walk ends passing the Royal Oak. Jennings, anyone?
The Coledale RoundThis horseshoe walk is unmissable for the Lake District rambler. It allows a circumnavigation of the whole Coledale valley, taking in the major peaks of the area. The views are unsurpassed, and despite the relatively modest length (11 miles) completion leaves a real sense of achievement - not just because of having climbed 4500 feet and seven 2000 feet fells, but from the memory of being privileged to spend time in such sublime surroundings.
11 miles; 4500 feet of ascent. Time - 7 hours The beginning is the same for the walk up Grisedale Pike: leave 1 Bridge Cottage, over the bridge and onto the Whinlatter road, past the quarry and up the gorse track on the left. From here it is almost a direct line to the summit: the path is well-worn, but that does not detract from the surroundings.
From the summit, descend to the col and then follow the sweep of Hobcarton Crag up to Hopegill Head. Take time to enjoy the views of Loweswater before descending to Coledale Hause. With Eel Crag to your left, climb the imposing flank of Grasmoor, and again enjoy the vista that opens to the West.
Now return East: either retracing steps for three quarters of a mile before taking the footpath that runs right towards Crag Hill, or in clear weather more directly past the cairn and straight on where the main path veers north-east. From here it is eastward-ho: Crag Hill (or Eel Crag, as listed by Wainwright), Sail (peak-baggers should note that the path just misses the summit cairn: Sail is as shy underfoot as she is on the skyline), Scar Crags, and finally Causey Pike.
Take a moment in the heaven of the high fell before descending to Braithwaite. The direct route continues on the path east to the road by Stoneycroft, and then after a mile on the (quiet and attractive) road take the bridleway left to Braithwaite Lodge and then Braithwaite. Alternatively (for those who are allergic to roads!) and only in good weather, return to the col between Causey Pike and Scar Crags, and then follow the indistinct track right down to the miners' track by Outerside. Take the left hand path to Barrow Door (the miners' access route to the Barrow Mine and Uzzicar workings) and thence to Braithwaite.
As this route down passes the Coledale Inn, maybe some liquid refreshment is called for to assist "that inward eye/That is the bliss in solitude" to remember the glories of the walk?