Best Walks from Buttermere
By Dave Roberts
Best Walks from Buttermere
Buttermere is one of the few Lakeland valleys that needs little introduction. Its natural beauty draws visitors from far and wide, and rightly so. While the lake and village share the Buttermere name, the parish extends to encompass Crummock Water and the smaller settlements of Brackenthwaite and Gatesgarth.
Buttermere village is sandwiched between the two lakes and is overlooked by the summits of Grasmoor and High Stile. Other notable fells accessible from Buttermere are Robinson, Dale Head, Fleetwith Pike, Red Pike and Melbreak.
Generations of walkers have visited and created fond memories of Buttermere, none more so than Alfred Wainwright who chose Haystacks as his favourite fell and the final resting place of his ashes following his death.
Everything you need to know about planning your Buttermere Walks
What’s in Buttermere?
Buttermere village is home to a handful of small businesses, catering for tourists all year round. Crummock Water and Buttermere are the two largest water bodies in the valley while Scale Force is one of the Lake Districts highest waterfalls.
For fell-walkers, the Red Pike to High Stile ridge is one of the great Lakeland outings. Though not in Buttermere itself, Great Gable can be reached from Honister Hause which is a popular starting point for the annual Great Gable service of remembrance.
Thrill-seekers should head for Honister Slate Mine’s Via Ferrata course for an adrenaline-packed outing on Fleetwith Pike.
The two largest places to stay in Buttermere are the Bridge Hotel and the Fish Inn, both located next to each other in the heart of the village. If you prefer things at your own pace and self-catering is your thing then there are few places to choose around Buttermere. The closest to the village are Cragg House Farm (and camping barn) and Bowder Beck while Wood House Buttermere can be found further afield. For those on a budget, there are two Youth Hostels in Buttermere; YHA Buttermere and (at a stretch) YHA Honister Hause.
Prefer a night under the stars? The main campsite in Buttermere is Syke Farm Campsite which has many camping pitches and a handful of glamping yurts. YHA Buttermere does have small, seasonal camping pitches.
The Fish Inn and Bridge Hotel both serve up classic pub grub and stock a range of beers, ciders, wines and spirits. Post-hike refreshments in the form of teas, coffees and cakes can be found at the award-winning Croft House Farm Cafe and Syke Farm Tea Room, both in Buttermere village. Honister Slate Mine has a small cafe catering for visitors and passers-by alike.
Parking in Buttermere
Pay and Display
- Lake District National Park – Buttermere Central – – CA13 9XA – Coins only
- Gatesgarth Farm (private) – approximately 25 spaces – CA13 9XA – £3 per day per vehicle – Coins only
- Honister Slate Mine – CA12 5XN (rural postcode can cover a wide area) – £5 per day per vehicle (refundable on the day against Mine Tours, Via Ferrata or shop purchases over £10)
National Trust (free for members)
- National Trust Buttermere car park (located a couple of hundred metres north of Buttermere village)
- National Trust Honister Pass – CA12 5XN (rural postcode can cover a wide area) – Coins only
- St. James Church – layby with room for approximately 12 cars
- Road above St. James Church – cars can park along the road rising to the Newlands Pass for approximately 150m before the road becomes too narrow
- Laybys dotted along the B5289 serve as useful starting points for hikes around Buttermere
How Can I Get To Buttermere?
Arrivals to Buttermere by car will be treated to one of three of the Lake Districts spectacular mountain road passes. The most direct is the Newlands Pass but the most striking and enjoyable for the driver is the Honister Pass. The third is the Whinlatter Pass. Please note, the roads will be impassable if there is ice or snow around and the alternative route will be required.
Leave the M6 at Junction 40 and follow the A66 west to Keswick.
From Keswick via Newlands Pass (unsuitable for caravans or large motorhomes)
Follow the A66 west and turn off into Braithwaite via the B5292, following signs for ‘Newlands Valley’. Bear left onto Croft Terrace following signs for ‘Newlands Valley’ and ‘Buttermere 6 ½’). Turn left across the small stone bridge and follow the road past the Village Shop, still following signs for ‘Newlands’ and ‘Buttermere’. Care should be taken as this road is narrow with frequent blind corners. Follow the road for 10.5km over the Newlands Pass, descending into Buttermere village.
From Keswick via Honister Pass (unsuitable for caravans or large motorhomes)
Head south from the centre of Keswick on the B5289 Borrowdale Road following signs for ‘Borrowdale’ and ‘Grange 4 ½ ’. Follow the road for approximately 11.5km along the length of Borrowdale to Seatoller and the eastern side of the Honister Pass. Follow the B5289 as it climbs the Honister Pass to the Honister Slate Mine. Care should be taken as this road is narrow with frequent blind corners. Descend the western side of the pass to the farm at Gatesgarth then continue for 2.75km to Buttermere village.
From Keswick via Whinlatter Pass
Follow the A66 west and turn off into Braithwaite via the B5292, following signs for ‘Newlands Valley’. Keep right along the B5292, following a sign for ‘Lorton B5292 via Whinlatter Pass’. Weave through the village then start climbing the Whinlatter Pass. The Whinlatter Visitor Centre stands at the summit of the pass (https://www.forestryengland.uk/whinlatter). Continue, following the B5292 as it descends to the village of Lorton. At a give-way, turn sharply left onto the B5289 and follow it for 11km to Buttermere village.
Alternative route from Keswick avoiding all passes (suitable all weather conditions)
Follow the A66 west and then north along the shore of Bassenthwaite Lake. Leave the A66 after 17km, taking a left at the roundabout onto the A5086 towards Egremont. Turn left at a crossroads signposted ‘Lorton 4 / Embleton 4’. After 1.7km, take a right signposted for Rogerscale and Lorton. Follow the road to a T-junction and turn right onto the B5289. Follow the B5289 10.5km to Buttermere.
- Stagecoach buses operate the seasonal Service 77/77A Honister Rambler from Easter to late autumn. Timetables will vary annually so seek the latest information here.
- Lake District guru Mark Richards has an excellent walking guide for the 77/77A bus service. Download it here.
There are no rail links to the Buttermere valley.
The Best Buttermere Walks
Walk around Buttermere
Height Gained – 150 metres , Distance – 7 km, Time – 2 hours
No trip to Buttermere would be compete without a visit to the lake of the same name. This shortish walk around the lake is perfect for families or if you’ve only got a few hours on your hands. You could also include a walk along the southern shore as part of a longer hill walk.
The Buttermere Ridge – High Stile to Haystacks
Height Gained – 1170 metres , Distance – 16 km, Time –8 hours
This is one of the classic Lake District ridge walks and according to our Local Expert Dave Chick is one to be savoured and saved for a fine day. It’s also a good one to get your Wainwrights bagged – as this walk includes the 4 Wainwrights of Red Pike, High Crag, Haystacks and High Stile. It includes Wainwright’s favourite hill, Haystacks and a return along Buttermere’s shore – so if you had to choose one walk from Buttermere – this would be the one!
Mellbreak and Crummock Water
Height Gained – 490 metres , Distance – 9.5 km, Time –3.5 hours
While you can walk around Crummock Water, with only a few short sections of road walking, we think this is a better option. The Wainwright of Mellbreak compliments the shoreline walk along Crummock Water perfectly, providing you with both panoramic and intimate views across the lake.
Grasmoor and Rannerdale Knotts
Height Gained – 860 metres , Distance – 15 km, Time –6 hours
Rannerdale Knotts may not be the highest hill in the neighbourhood, but it’s still everything you’d want in a pint sized Wainwright. This route starts off via Rannerdale Knotts before setting off towards Grasmoor, on what’s a shorter mirror image of the more popular Coledale Round. The walk continues along the summit of Hopegill Head, but it can also be shortened by descending via Gasgale Gill or by following this shorter walk up Rannerdale Knotts instead.
Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks
Height Gained – 710 metres , Distance – 9.5 km, Time – 3.5-4 hours
This walk is another classic from Buttermere, and includes the 2 Wainwrights of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks. The views all around are stunning, especially down the valley towards Buttermere and Crummock Water.
These routes are a little further out of the village. From Loweswater up to to Honister Pass, these provide further walking options to those bases in and around Buttermere.
Walk around Loweswater
Height Gained – 100 metres , Distance – 6 km, Time –2 hours
Loweswater is the smallest of the valley’s three lakes, with the full walk around the shore only around 6km in length. The initial section from Maggie’s Bridge as far as the end of Holme Wood is part of the Lake District National Park’s Miles Without Stiles initiative that promotes accessible paths and is fully accessible for wheelchairs and there’a a full description here – Loweswater Accessible Walk.
Low Fell and Fellbarrow
Height Gained – 540 metres , Distance – 8 km, Time – 3 hours
Starting in Thackthwaite village a bit further down the valley, this walk includes the 2 Wainwrights of Low Fell and Fellbarrow. These may only be llowly hills, with the highest point being Low Fell at only 424m, but you’ll be treated to extensive views towards the surrounding fells of Grasmoor, Hopegill Head and towards the High Stile ridge.
Robinson and Dale Head From Honsiter
Height Gained – 650 metres , Distance – 9.5 km, Time – 4 hours
This linear walk makes use of the 77/77A Honister Rambler bus from Buttermere to get to the start at Honister. The route takes you back to Buttermere along Dale Head and Robinson, a fine but short ridge walk. For a longer circular walk, this could be combined with Fleetwith Pike and Buttermere or even with Haystacks and High Stile for a more challenging outing.
Great Gable From Honister Pass
Height Gained – 700 metres , Distance – 8.5 km, Time –4 hours
The route up Great Gable from Honister lets you start off at around 365 metres, so a lot of the hard work’s done for you. There’s still a great deal of climbing left to do as the route takes you up and over Brandreth and Green Gable before tackling the summit of Great Gable. You can return the same way to Honister, or if you’ve used the Honister Rambler bus then you can even return to Buttermere directly via Moses’ Trod and Warnscale Bottom.