Best Walks from Borrowdale in the Lake District
By Dave Roberts
Best Walks from Borrowdale in the Lake District
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Best Walks from Borrowdale in the Lake District
The River Derwent and its tributaries form the idyllic valley of Borrowdale in the heart of the Lake District. The waters of this river travel from far across the expanse of the Scafell massif, carving several valleys on their route towards Derwentwater. The Seathwaite, Stonethwaite and Langstrath valleys come together at the village of Rosthwaite forming the main mass of Borrowdale before the valley is squeezed between the natural constriction of Castle Crag – the ‘Jaws of Borrowdale’.
Some would argue Borrowdale is the Lake District’s most beautiful valley – none more so than cartographer-cum-author Alfred Wainwright. He described the area around Castle Crag as ‘the loveliest square mile in Lakeland’. Use our handy guide to plan your trip to Borrowdale and decide for yourself.
Everything you need to know about planning your Borrowdale Walks
What’s in Borrowdale?
Borrowdale stretches from the southern shores of Derwentwater into the heart of the Lake District. It is home to the hamlets of Grange, Rosthwaite and Seatoller, with other clusters of cottages to be found in Seathwaite, Stonethwaite, Manesty and Watendlath.
The valley is ringed to the south by some of the Lake District’s highest fells including Great Gable, Great End and Bowfell. The route to Scafell Pike, which begins at Seathwaite Farm, is one of the most popular hikes in the country. To the east is the notoriously marshy central ridge where you’ll find only the most determined or foolhardy walkers while the west is formed of the popular Catbells-High Spy ridge. Climbing is popular in the valley thanks to the general good quality of the volcanic rock and the varied situations of the crags, often hiding among the ferns, waiting to be discovered.
Borrowdale forms a rare and special habitat. The Oak woodlands are the last surviving fragments of the once enormous ancient forest which stretched down the west coast of Britain. The incredible amount of rainfall (which Borrowdale is still famed for!) actually qualifies the woods and temperate rainforest. Step into Borrowdale and experience what the Lake District may have been like thousands of years ago.
Borrowdale is littered with places to stay. The largest is the Lodore Falls Hotel & Spa which occupies a 40-acre site overlooking Derwentwater. The Borrowdale Hotel, Scafell Hotel and Glaramara House are also located in the heart of the valley. In addition to the hotels, numerous guest houses and B&Bs are dotted around Borrowdale, with several clustered around the villages of Grange and Rosthwaite.
There are a few large campsites in Borrowdale; the legendary Seathwaite Farm is the perfect base for a Scafell Pike epic while a short distance back to the entrance of the valley is Seatoller Farm. Chapel House Farm and Stonethwaite Farm are located in the Stonethwaite valley, with the latter offering basic but year-round facilities. For motorhomes and caravans, Borrowdale Caravan and Motorhome Club Site is a short drive north of Grange in Manesty.
Excluding the large pubs and hotels already mentioned, there are a handful of cafes and tearooms to be found in Borrowdale. Caffle House Tearooms commands an idyllic location, hidden in the depths of Watendlath. Grange Bridge Cottage, Grange Cafe and the Flock-In all serve an assortment of teas, coffees, cakes and snacks.
Parking in Borrowdale
Pay and Display
The largest pay and display car park close to Borrowdale is in Keswick. Why not leave the car and catch the bus?
- Central Keswick – CA12 5DP – 334 spaces
National Trust (free for members) – all-day tickets are transferable to any Borrowdale or Buttermere National Trust car park
- Ashness Bridge and Surprise View – CA12 5UN – Coins only
- National Trust Kettlewell – perfect for watersports on Derwentwater – CA12 5UN – Coins only
- National Trust Great Wood – CA12 5UP – Coins only
- National Trust Bowder Stone – CA12 5XA – Coins only
- Rosthwaite Village – CA12 5XB – Coins only – The toilets here are now open weekends only in winter and may be closed if there is a risk of freezing.
- National Trust Watendlath – CA12 5UW – Coins only
- National Trust Seatoller – CA12 5XN – The toilets here are now open weekends only in winter and may be closed if there is a risk of freezing.
- National Trust Honister Pass – CA12 5XN (rural postcode can cover a wide area) – Coins only
- Seathwaite Farm – room for plenty of cars along the lane at Seathwaite Farm though it can fill up on the busiest days. If you decide to park here you must leave enough space along the road for large vehicles such as tractors, trailers or emergency services to pass.
- Ashness Pier – an old quarry has space for a few cars
- Grange Bridge – room for 8 or so cars at the Methodist church in Grange – perfect for hikes along the River Derwent
- Stonethwaite – there are a few spaces along the road entering Stonethwaite valley
How Can I Get To Borrowdale?
A single road runs the length of the valley, permitting entry from Keswick to the north and from Buttermere to the west (over the Honister Pass).
Leave the M6 at Junction 40 and follow the A66 west to Keswick.
Leave the A66 following signs for Windermere and Keswick (A591). Follow the A591 then take a right towards Keswick Town Centre. Drive into Keswick, passing the car park along Bank Street. At the mini roundabout turn left onto the B5289, following the road around to the left. Head south from the centre of Keswick on the B5289 Borrowdale Road following signs for ‘Borrowdale’ and ‘Grange 4 ½’.
The Stagecoach 78 service operates year-round between Keswick and Seatoller: Timetable
The seasonal Service 77/77A Honister Rambler runs from Easter to late autumn. Timetables will vary annually so seek the latest information here.
There are no rail services to Borrowdale.
It is possible to get to Borrowdale using one of Keswick’s historic launches. There are landings at Ashness Gate and Lodore. The full timetable can be found on their website.
Best Borrowdale Walks
Height Gained – 380 metres , Distance – 6 km, Time – 2.5 – 3 hours
Catbells is one of the most popular walks in the Lake District, and was voted the UK’s 4th favourite walk a few years back. It’s not surprising as it may only be small, but offers everything you’ll need for a short day on the hill. Some steep sections, some easy scrambling, plenty of views and a variety of terrain to keep the interest up. All that makes it a perfect choice for child’s first hill walk, or anyone’s for that matter!
Height Gained – 980 metres , Distance – 15 km, Time 6 hours
What better way to follow the UK’s 4th best walk, than with the 5th. We think that the masses voted for the Wasdale Path, but what do they know! There’s no better way to walk up to England’s highest point than via the Corridor Route from Seathwaite It’s a route that contours high on Scafell Pike, with a few interesting sections of scrambling on the way. The route then returns over the summits of Broad Crag, Ill Crag and Great End before returning to Seathwaite via Esk Hause.
Height Gained – 240 metres , Distance – 5.5 km, Time – 2 hours
Castle Crag is a typical Wainwright in that it’s all about the hill and not the statistics. Being only a lowly 290 metres in height it is one of only two Wainwrights that were not included in the extensive list of Birketts (the other being, unsurprisingly Mungrisdale Common). This is only a short walk, yet provides a rugged and challenging outing for those pushed for time. It arguably makes a better case as a more exciting first fell than nearby Catbells especially if you make finding Millican Dalton’s cave part of the outing!
Height Gained – 780 metres , Distance – 8 km, Time –4 hours
There are few mountains that deserve the overused rank of iconic, with Great Gable being one of the few deserving of that title. However, whilst the iconic profile is best seen from Wasdale Great Gable is best climbed from Seathwaite. Offering a wilder approach than that from Honister, and quieter than the alternative approach via Styhead Tarn which shares the way with the Corridor Route up Scafell Pike.
Height Gained – 700 metres , Distance – 8.5 km, Time –4 hours
High Spy From Grange
Height Gained – 725- metres , Distance – 12 km, Time – 6 hours
You can start this walk up High Spy and Maiden Moor from either Grange or Rosthwaite. It starts off by following the route of the Cumbrian Way for a short distance before heading up onto the fells via Tongue Gill towards Dale Head (an optional extra summit of you feel up to it) and the summit of High Spy. The route continues over Maiden Moor, another Wainwright and finishes off with a cheeky dog leg to Catbells.
Height Gained – 880 metres , Distance – 14.5km, Time – 6 hours
As it is often overlooked in favour of some of the other more popular fells, Glaramara offers a reasonably quiet outing compared to the likes of Great Gable and Scafell Pike. With the summit of Glaramara consisting of two tops and numerous rocky outcrops and the bonus Wainwight of Allen Crags, there’s plenty of interest on this circular walk.
Height Gained – 950 metres , Distance – 18.5 km, Time – 7 hours
This is a fine fell walk over High Raise and Ullscarf, taking in some of the quieter and lesser trod hills of the Central Fells. You could even extend the route in order to bag the Langdale Pikes, with a straightforward return down Stake Pass and Langstrath.