Ambleside – Wansfell Pike – Troutbeck round
Cumbria is a large county in North West England and contains the Lake District and Lake District National Park. It is bounded to the north by the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, to the west by the Irish Sea, to the south by Lancashire, to the south east by North Yorkshire, and to the east by County Durham and Northumberland. Cumbria is very mountainous containing every peak in England over 3,000ft above sea level with Scafell Pike being England’s highest mountain at 978 m (3,209ft). Cumbria is also one of England’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty attracting mountain climbers, hikers and walkers, cyclists, runners and tourists and holds a source of inspiration for artists, writers and musicians. Cumbria consists of six districts Eden, Carlisle, Allerdale, Copeland, South Lakeland and Barrow-in-Furness.
The Lake District is an area with stunning scenery located within in the County of Cumbria. Commonly known as The Lakes or Lakeland it was granted National Park status on 9th May 1951 less than a month after the first UK designated National Park, The Peak District. It is the largest of thirteen National Parks in England and Wales and the largest in the UK after the Cairngorms. The Lake District National Park itself covers an area of 885 square miles and stretches 30 miles from Ravenglass in the west to Shap in the east and 35 miles from Caldbeck in the north to Lindale in the south. Crammed with so much natural beauty the Lakes attract visitors, tourists and holiday makers from all over the world. As the name suggests there are many lakes each with their own uniqueness, amenities and activities such as lakeside walks, sailing, waterskiing, boat trips and ferries. All of the lakes except Bassenthwaite Lake are named by water, tarn or mere and are surrounded by stunning scenery and magnificent fells. There are some wonderful towns to explore such as Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, Kendal, Hawkshead, Grasmere and Cockermouth all with a splendid mixture of shops, cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants. There are also many museums, theatres, historic homes, gardens and many easy walks for the not so energetic visitor wishing not to climb the fells. William Wordsworth the famous British poet was born in Cockermouth and later lived in Grasmere where he wrote some of his best works before moving to Rydal Mount near Ambleside for his last 37 years. Both places are open to visitors and so is Brantwood home to John Ruskin until his death. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and Thomas de Quincey all followed Wordsworth to the Lake District. Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, also grew to love the lakes and settled in the Winster Valley near Windermere. The painters Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner and John Constable were early visitors to the lakes but it was John Ruskin who settled here at Brantwood on the shore of Coniston Water. Farming and especially sheep farming has been historically and still is the main industry of the Lake District. The tough Herdwick breed with their stocky build and distinctive grey coat are especially hardy for the Lakeland fells and its weather. Sheep farming has probably been here since Viking times and is an important factor both to the economy of the lakes as well as in preserving the stunning landscape which attracts visitors and hence income to the region. Walking is a big attraction in the Lake District whether strolling around the low lying lakes or climbing up into the mountainous fells whichever is undertaken the scenery is magnificent. Alfred Wainwright’s famous hand written book, The Pictorial Guide to the Lake District, published in 1955 is a collection of seven books each illustrated with his unique style and charm of the 214 fells inspiring many visitors and tourists from all over the world.
Ambleside set in the centre of the Lake District at the head of Lake Windermere is a busy little market town surrounded by beautiful scenery and rich with history and heritage. The 17th century Bridge House, one of the smallest houses in Britain, built over Stock Ghyll was purchased by local people in 1926 and given to the National Trust. It is a Listed Grade 1 building and is used as an information centre for the National Trust and is part of the Trust’s Windermere and Troutbeck property. Ambleside Museum is home to many Beatrix Potter artefacts and offers an interesting insight into local life. The remains of a Roman fort, Fort Galava dating from AD 79, can be seen in Borran’s field at Waterhead. Nearby is Stock Ghyll Force which provides a stunning natural attraction. Ambleside is also home to the University of Cumbria and The Langdale & Ambleside MRT which is one of the busiest volunteer mountain rescue teams in Great Britain. Ambleside being one of the jewels of the Lakes is an ideal place for a walking holiday with easy access to the surrounding fells and for the less energetic there are strolls along the shore of nearby Windermere Lake. There are also boats trips on Windermere Lake, places to visit and a wide variety of shops both in Ambleside and Windermere town.
Stock Ghyll Force is a spectacular 70 foot waterfall, in the spring the area under the trees is a carpet of daffodils. Stock Ghyll, a tributary of the River Rothay, tumbles down through a series of waterfalls to the centre of Ambleside passing under the famous Bridge House which is probably the most photographed building in the Lake District. The tiny building, originally an apple store for nearby Ambleside Hall, was built over the beck to escape land tax. It is said that at some time a family with six children lived here in the two rooms. Stock Ghyll and other local becks once powered twelve watermills producing bobbins, processed fabrics, paper and ground corn. Most of the mills have now been demolished or converted but the view from opposite the Bridge House offers an impression of those industrial times. The nearest mill is the Old Corn Mill on a site occupied by a mill since 1335. This was the old manorial mill, rebuilt in 1680 by the Braithwaite family of Ambleside Hall. The building was restored in the 1970’s for the use of shops.
Wansfell lies 1.5 miles east of Ambleside and is part of the long southern ridge of Caudale Moor that divides Ambleside from the Troutbeck valley. It has an extensive summit ridge with two summits named Baystones a grassy hummock marked by a few stones at 488metres (1,601) and Wansfell Pike an attractive rocky top at 482 metres (1,581 feet). The summits are linked by a dry stone wall and even though Wansfell Pike is the lower top it is regarded as the true summit because of its superb views especially of Windermere Lake. The fell is mostly ascended from Ambleside on the western side of the fell using the road from the town centre which passes Stock Ghyll Force. A slightly easier route of ascent is from Troutbeck on its eastern side following a farm track called Nanny Lane. The Windermere Way, a long distance footpath that circles around Windermere, passes over Wansfell. The 2.5 mile popular fell race takes place annually between Christmas and the New Year, the faster runners completing it in about 20 minutes.
Troutbeck, a small tranquil village situated 3 miles north of Windermere town, is a conservation area and home to the National Trust property of Townend. Townend is an atmospheric farmhouse full of quirky objects and fascinating stories. The farmhouse was the home of the Brownes an ordinary farming family but today their home and belongings bring to life more than 400 years of extraordinary stories. The village also houses a combined Post Office, general store and tea shop and a pub The Mortal Man which displays a verse with reference to Sally Birkett’s Ale.
We cross over the little footbridge at the end of the car park and turn right following the main road heading through the town. At the bend in the road we head forwards on the little tarmac road between Barclays Bank and the Market Hall. The road after a short way bears round to the left and we follow the sign for the Waterfalls. We keep following the road and turn left at the sign “This way to the Waterfalls”. After viewing the Stock Ghyll Force we head forwards to the track and turn right towards the exit. We go through the gate to the road and turn left. We follow the road and take the path on the right up some steps sign posted “Footpath to Troutbeck via Wansfell”. We now keep following the path, some of which is stepped, steeply uphill to the summit of Wansfell Pike. From the summit we head forwards through the gate in the fence and follow the path downhill until we come to a gate. We go through the gate and head forwards following the path downhill to the next gate. We go through the gate and turn right onto a track. We now follow the track called Nanny Lane to a gate. We go through the gate and turn right along the road through Troutbeck. At the combined post office, general store and tea shop we turn right and head uphill along the tarmac track called Robin Lane passing some houses on the right. The track becomes stony and we keep heading along the track uphill until it splits. We turn left through the gate and follow the path going slightly downhill. We cross over a footbridge and follow the track towards the farm, High Skelghyll. We pass through the farm and follow the track going through a gate into the wood. We keep following the track ignoring any paths off to the left. We cross over a little bridge and walk downhill with the stream on our left. The path bears right again and after a short way we follow the wall on our right. The track becomes a tarmac one and as we head downhill we pass some houses. We then come to a little back lane we turn right and follow it back into Ambleside.
This is a moderate to hard walk on easy to follow paths and tracks. The inclines and declines are moderate except the incline up to Wansfell Pike is very steep, including some steps.
Elevation: approx lowest point 50.30m (165ft) approx highest point 462m (1515.75ft)
Distance and Start Point
Approx 6.5 miles allow 3 to 4 hours using OS Explorer Map OL7, The English Lakes, South-eastern area and OL5, The English Lakes, North-eastern area.
Start point: Ambleside’s main car park on Rydal Road. Pay and Display £7 for all day.
Ambleside situated at the head of Lake Windermere in the Lake District, Cumbria.
Directions and Parking
From the A66 take the A591 to Keswick. At the t-junction turn left staying on the A591 past the lakes of Thirlmere, Grasmere and Rydal to arrive at Ambleside. Car park is on the right before entering the town.
Parking: There are five Pay and Display car parks in Ambleside.
Toilets and Refreshments
In Ambleside there are four public toilets, Cheapside behind Barclay’s Bank, Low Fold car park on Lake Road, entrance to Rothay Park on Vicarage Road and Rydal Road car park. For refreshments there is a good variety of shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants to choose from. For refreshments at Troutbeck there is the Mortal Man Inn and a combined Post Office, General Store and Tea Shop.