Lake District Country Walk Blencathra from Scales round

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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.

Blencathra, also known as Saddleback, is one of the most northerly mountains in the Lake District. It is more like a small range than a single fell with a series of fell tops standing out on a 3 mile long curving ridge. The slopes to the north and west are smooth and easy whilst to the south and east are a system of rocky spurs and scree slopes. It has six separate fell tops, the highest point being Hallsfell Top at 868 metres directly above Hall’s Fell, marked by a sprawling cairn only feet from the edge. Blease Fell sits on the west and Scales Fell on the east. Between these two fells there is Gategill Fell, Hall’s Fell and Doddick Fell all of which fall as spurs from the ridge-top summit and are separated by four streams that flow down the south east face towards the River Glenderamackin and the River Greta. In addition to the spurs on the south east face, Hallsfell Top also throws out a high ridge to the north this is the saddle that gives Blencathra its alternative name and this rises to the sixth top Atkinson Pike. A good path connects the five summits on the main ridge giving superb views over the valley towards Keswick, Derwent Water and to the fells beyond. Between Tarn Crag and Foule Crag, below Atkinson Pike, is Sharp Edge which is appropriately named and is one of the most famous scrambles in the area. The crest of Sharpe Edge, formerly Razor Edge, is very narrow and a lot of effort and a good head for heights are needed to climb this edge. Below Sharp Edge is the pretty Scales Tarn, an almost circular lake filling a corrie. It is about 25 feet deep and plants and fish are scarce.

The River Glenderamackin which drains much of the eastern and southern sides of Blencathra rises on Mungrisdale Common. The river flows south east through the valley below Blencathra and then north east below Souther Fell to Mungrisdale village. It then turns south to go under the A66 and from here it turns west then south west to just beyond Threlkeld where it merges with St. John’s Beck to form the River Greta.

Scales is a tiny Hamlet consisting of only a few farms and buildings and a pub the White Horse Inn and Bunkhouse.

Keswick is a market town in the Lake District in the county of Cumbria and lies within the Lake District National Park. Derwent Water is about 3 miles long by 1 mile wide and sits on the south edge of Keswick town and is fed and drained by the River Derwent. The river also connects Derwent Water to Bassenthwaite Lake which is north of Keswick. There are several islands in Derwent Water the largest being Derwent Island on which stands the inhabited 18th century Derwent Island House. The house is a tenanted National Trust property open to the public on five days each year. Lords Island was also home to a grand looking house and a drawbridge but in the late 18th century the house fell into disrepair and only the foundations remain now. The stone from the house was used to build Moot Hall in 1813. Moot Hall in the centre of Keswick was once the town hall but is now a tourist information centre and it is here in the square where the market is held every Saturday. During the 16th century Keswick was home to copper and lead mining on a small scale and the town was also the source of the world’s first graphite pencils. The pencil industry continued in the town until 2008 when it then moved to Workington. The Cumberland Pencil Museum and the Mining Museum are both close to the centre and are excellent places to visit on rainy days. Keswick is now mainly tourist orientated due to the many thousands of tourists visiting every year and the majority of side streets are abundant with B&B’s.

The Walk

From the lay by we head eastwards for a short way towards the pub and take the path at the end of the first building on the left. We head forwards and bear right to a gate. We go through the gate and turn right following the wall on our right. The wall becomes a fence and as the path turns sharp left uphill we keep heading forwards still following the fence. The path bears left downhill into the valley below and when we reach the track we turn left and follow the track quite steeply uphill bearing right to the top. At the top we keep heading forwards on the faint grassy path. After a short way we start bearing left downhill to cross the bridge over the stream. We keep heading forwards with the stream on our left following the track as it bears right on the side of the hill. We make our way to the head of the valley and walk steeply uphill to the top. We now turn left and keep heading uphill passing Sharp Edge on our left to the top of the first hill. We drop down for a short way then start heading uphill again to the top. At the top, Sharp Edge is straight forward, but we turn right at the cairn and follow the path on the level to Hallsfell Top. At the top we turn left taking the wide track downhill which after a short way zigzags still downhill. We now take the faint path to the left downhill to Scales Tarn. At the tarn we take the path on the right still going downhill following Scales Beck which joins the stream in the valley bottom. The path bears right and we return on the valley we came up on but on the opposite side following the path round the side of Scales Fell until the path slits then we take the right path uphill. The path bears right and we keep following it downhill back to Scales.


This is a moderate to hard walk on good paths and tracks with steep inclines and declines.
Elevation: Approx lowest point 217.50m (713.6ft) approx highest point 864m (2834.50ft).

Distance and Start Point

Approx 6.8 miles allow at least 4 hours using OS Explorer Map OL5, The English Lakes North-eastern area.

Start point: Road side close to Scales located on the A66.


Scales situated on the A66 near Keswick.

Directions and Parking

From Penrith cross over the M6 and head westwards for approx 10 miles and Scales is on the right.
Parking: lay bys on both sides of the A66 before and after Scales.

Toilets and Refreshments

There are no public toilets. For refreshments there is the White Horse Inn & Bunkhouse at Scales. One and a half miles further on at Threlkeld there are two pubs the Horse & Farrier Inn and the Sally Inn (Salutation) both have B&B accommodation. The nearest public toilets are in Keswick where there is a variety of shops, cafes, hotels and pubs.

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