Borrowdale – Castle Crag from Rosthwaite 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.

Borrowdale, often referred to as Cumberland Borrowdale to distinguish it from Borrowdale in the county of Westmorland, lies in the central Lake District. The River Derwent flows through the dale into the lake of Derwent Water. Derwent Water is situated at the northern end of the valley and the dramatic Honister Pass leads away from the southern end. Borrowdale is also completely within the Lake District National Park and houses the villages of Grange, Rosthwaite, Seathwaite, Seatoller, Stonethwaite and Watendlath. Above Grange Bridge, Borrowdale is constricted between the steep slopes of King’s How on Grange Fell and Castle Crag below High Spy. This narrow gorge, known as the Jaws of Borrowdale, was carved by the last Ice Age and erosion over thousands of years. Borrowdale is one of the most beautiful places in Cumbria with sheep grazed uplands and extensive areas of oak woodland draping the hillsides. The valley pastures are divided into fields by massive stone walls and ancient packhorse tracks wind their way through the landscape along with the River Derwent and its tributaries. In the 16th century an enormous deposit of graphite was discovered near the hamlet of Seathwaite. Known locally as ‘wadd’ or ‘black lead’ the locals found it was very useful for marking sheep. This deposit of graphite was extremely pure and solid and it could easily be sawed into sticks hence the pencil industry was born in Keswick. Seatoller, a cluster of white and grey cottages at the foot of Honister Pass, once housed miners from the graphite mine and quarrymen from Honister Slate Mine. Slate quarrying developed in the early 18th century and a narrow band of Lakeland Green Slate running through Borrowdale and up to Honister became the primary building material for Victorian Keswick. Honister Slate Mine, reopened in 1996, continues to mine slate commercially and offers underground tours to visitors. The mine also offers a Via Ferrata tour which the Victorian miners used to use. The valley is a very popular tourist location, with hotels, guesthouses, holiday cottages, bed and breakfasts, youth hostels and campsites catering for the lowland visitor as well as the hill walker. The National Trust cares for and undertakes a great amount of conservation and access work in this very special and beautiful area.

Rosthwaite is a very small village, six miles south of Keswick, consisting of a few houses, the Royal Oak pub and the Flock-in Tearoom for walkers. The Royal Oak, once an 18th century farmhouse and former miner’s tavern has been providing accommodation for visitors and walkers for over a hundred years. Since 1970 this small family run hotel have taken great pride in maintaining the homely atmosphere and excellent value for money. The Flock-in, a walker’s tearoom, provides a good varied menu of local homemade food including gluten free soup, cake and ice cream. The tearoom at Yew Tree Farm is based in a barn opposite the farmhouse which provides bed and breakfast accommodation.

Castle Crag at 945 metres is one of the smaller hills in the valley of Borrowdale and rises between Broadslack Gill and the River Derwent. Although below a 1,000 feet it is a very impressive rugged hill with steep faces on all sides except the south. The slopes and the summit of Castle Crag have been extensively quarried with pits and levels on the northern and southern sides. The summit area, a rock outcrop of about 8 ft high and 12 ft across, was an ancient Iron Age hill fort and later a Romano-British settlement. On the summit you will find a well constructed circular cairn of slate affixed to this is a memorial to the Borrowdale men killed in World War I. The views are stunning to the north Skiddaw can be seen across Derwent Water and to the south Great Gable and the Scafells. Castle Crag can be ascended easily from the villages of Grange or Rosthwaite and can be combined with the lovely riverside walk along the River Derwent.

The Cumbrian Way is a 70 mile long distance footpath passing through the heart of the Lake District National Park linking the two historic towns of Ulverston and Carlisle. The route cuts through the most beautiful Lakeland countryside via Coniston, Langdale, Borrowdale, Derwent Water, Skiddaw Forest and Caldbeck. The Cumbrian Way was originally developed in the 1970’s by local Ramblers’ Association members and is mainly low level but does contain some high level exposed sections and the highest point is High Pike at 658 metres (2,159 ft). The waymarking of the entire route was completed by volunteers and national park staff in May 2007.
The Allerdale Ramble is a 54 mile long distance footpath starting at Seathwaite at the southern end of Borrowdale. The route makes its way through Borrowdale and along the west side of Derwent Water to Keswick. The route then climbs over Skiddaw, there is another alternative path, both of which then follow the north east side of Bassenthwaite Lake and then on towards Cockermouth. The route splits again staying on the north side of the River Derwent or through Cockermouth either way the paths join again and heads west towards Maryport and the coast. The route splits again one goes into Maryport and the other direct to the open shoreline. The path then joins the Cumbrian Coastal Way for the final sections up the coast to Grune Point.

The Walk

We turn right out of the car park and head forwards down the lane also the Cumbrian Way. At the white building, Yew Tree Farm, we bear right past the Flock-in tearoom for walker’s and continue on the track until we come to the River Derwent. We follow the track round to the right with the river on our left then cross over the bridge and turn right. We head forwards then cross over the stile on the right now following the river on our right. After a short way the track turns to the left we ignore the gate on the left and bear round to the right. We go through the gate into the woods with the river still on our right. We follow the path through the woods and a disused quarry a little way from the river. We then head uphill to follow the signpost for Grange. We keep heading forwards through a wall and turn right slightly downhill back to the side of the river. We head forwards following the path then go through a gate heading downhill. At the signpost just before a bridge we turn left for Seatoller and Honister. We are now leaving the Cumbrian Way and follow The Allerdale Ramble. We follow the track uphill with Broadslack Gill on our right. Eventually we cross over the gill at a little stone slab bridge and keep heading forwards uphill for a short way. Just near the brow of the hill we turn left on the unmarked path uphill. We keep following the path which winds very steeply up through the spoil heap. At the top of the spoil heap we take the path up to the summit of Castle Crag. We then make our way back down to the bottom of the spoil heap and take the path on the left over a ladder stile in the wall. We now follow the path downhill to go through a gate. The path bears to the left and right until we reach the bottom and the River Derwent. We then turn right and follow the track we came in on back to Rosthwaite.


This is a moderate to hard walk on good paths and tracks with some steep inclines and declines.

Elevation: Approx lowest point 84m (275.6ft) approx highest point 288m (945ft)

Distance and Start Point

Approx 3.5 miles allow 1 hour 45 minutes using OS Explorer map OL4, The English Lakes North-Western area.

Start point: Borrowdale Institute car park in Rosthwaite


Rosthwaite is in Borrowdale in the Lake District, Cumbria.

Directions and Parking

From the A66 coming from the east take the A5271 for Keswick. At the junction turn right. At the traffic lights carry on forward. At the mini roundabout turn left then left again at the junction. At the roundabout go straight over then at the next roundabout turn right and follow this road passing Derwent Water then Grange on the right. Continue on to Rosthwaite and turn right at the car park sign. The car park is on the right.
Parking: The Borrowdale Institute car park £3 all day honesty box and the main pay and display car park.

Toilets and Refreshments

There are public toilets just next to the car park and for refreshments there is the Royal Oak pub in Rosthwaite on the main road and the Flock-in Tearoom at Yew Tree Farm.

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