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.
Stonethwaite is small village in the valley of the Stonethwaite Beck, a side valley of Borrowdale and within the Lake District National Park. The Cumbria Way, a long distance footpath, passes through the village. A camp site sits at the end of Stonethwaite’s no-through road. The farm at Stonethwaite was once owned by the Cistercian monks at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire from 1195 as part of lands they owned in the Borrowdale valley. When the monks complained to King Edward II that they objected to the terms of their ownership of what was now a thriving dairy business he did not judge but just confiscated the farm and sold it back to the complaining monks in 1304 for two pounds.
High Raise the highest fell in the Central Fells, not to be confused with the High Raise in the Far Eastern Fells, rises to a height of 762 metres (2,500 feet). It is known as the most central mountain in the district therefore providing a superb view of all the major fell groups including the higher fells of Skiddaw, Helvellyn and the Scafells and in the far distance the Three Peaks in the Yorkshire Dales and Morecambe Bay. The actual summit is named High White Stones due to the grey boulders in the area around the highest point. The summit bears an Ordnance Survey column and a large cairn which doubles as a wind shelter. There is also a ruined fence that crosses the summit plateau. Ascents of High Raise are usually done from Stonethwaite in Borrowdale or the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Great Langdale the latter being the most popular.
The Langstrath valley with its beck flowing along its bottom is a hidden gem. The Cumbria Way coming down from Stake Pass also runs along this very peaceful and beautiful valley. Langstrath Beck is said to have the best piece of white-water in the Lake District and is also a great place for a picnic and a paddle. Black Moss Pot, a dramatic little gorge in the beck, has a waterfall at the upper end which is surrounded by steep rocks. Often at weekends people can be seen swimming and jumping into the deep pool from the 6 metre high cliff.
The Cumbria 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 Cumbria 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.
Facing the post box and telephone box bear left onto the little lane go through the gate to cross over Stonethwaite Bridge. We head forward and turn right through the gate sign posted Grassmere via Greenup Edge following the Cumbria Way with Stonethwaite Beck on our right. We come to a sheep fold and keep following the path at the side of the wall on our right. We continue between two walls then cross over a footbridge then go through a gate. We cross over a dry waterbed and continue forward. The wall becomes a fence and when we see Langstrath Beck coming in on our right we keep heading forwards uphill with Stonethwaite Beck still on our right. We go through a gate and keep following the path past a series of waterfalls along Greenup Gill. We keep heading forwards following the path then head steeply uphill to the top of Lining Crag. The views are amazing from here. We then turn left and follow the path towards two big cairns. At the second cairn we head forward to the rocks following the cairns. At the rocks we head towards an iron fence post. We turn right at the post heading uphill on the path following the iron posts to the top of Low White Stones. At the cairn at the top we bear slightly left uphill to High Raise. At the top we bear right to the OS column and a shelter. Standing in front of the shelter we head downhill, you will see a small cairn, and head towards the two small tarns we can see in the distance. We head steeply downhill and before we reach the first tarn we start to follow a little stream on our left. In the dip we cross over the little stream and bear right over another little stream making our way to the track (Stake Pass) and turn right we are now back on the Cumbria Way. We now head steeply downhill on the zigzag path into the Langstrath valley below. At the bottom we cross over the footbridge and keep heading straight forwards along the valley bottom with Langstrath Beck on our left. When we get near to the end of the valley we cross over the footbridge then turn right. We head forwards following the track which bears left now with Stonethwaite Beck on our right. When the track bears left we head straight forward to the right of a big stone. We follow the path through some trees. We go through a gate and then another gate taking us through the campsite. We keep heading forwards following the track with the beck still on our right to the pub and car park.
This is a hard walk on gravel, stony and grass paths and tracks with some very steep inclines and declines.
Elevation: approx lowest point 98m (321.5ft) approx highest point 761m (2497ft) total ascent 761.6m (2498.7ft)
Distance and Start Point
Approx 8.2 miles allow 4½ to 5½ hours using OS Explorer Map OL4 and OL5, The English Lakes North-western area and South-western area.
Start point: parking area at the end of the road at Stonethwaite.
Stonethwaite is in the Borrowdale Valley 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 through Rosthwaite then take the next left sign posted Stonethwaite. Follow the minor road to the end and parking in on the left.
Parking: At the end of the road in Stonethwaite, next to the telephone box and post box just before the campsite and hotel. Also some verge parking. Parking is free.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are no public toilets. For refreshments there is the Langstrath Country Inn. The next nearest toilets and facilities are at Rosthwaite, Watendlath and Keswick.