Buttermere – Haystacks from Gatesgarth Farm round

YouTube Preview Image
Mobile friendly version

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.

Buttermere is a small village situated on the B5289 nestled between Buttermere Lake and Crummock Water in a very stunning area of the Allerdale district of Cumbria. The village and the two lakes are surrounded by fells such as the High Stile range to the south-west, Robinson to the north-east, Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks to the south-east and Grasmoor to the north-west. Alfred Wainwright’s ashes were scattered at Innominate Tarn on Haystacks. Although small this quaint village is popular with tourists and houses two cafes both selling local products with Syke Farm specialising in ice-cream made from the milk from the farms herd of Ayrshire cattle and also has two pubs, The Bridge Hotel and The Fish Inn both of which have accommodation. The road on which Buttermere lies heads northwards along the valley of the River Cocker to Cockermouth and southwards to Borrowdale and Keswick via Honister Pass. The little minor road heading eastwards crossing Newlands Pass into the Newlands Valley is a short cut to Keswick. The Bridge Hotel stands on a site dating back to the 11th century where an armoury and a bakery stood in connection with the Water Mill that Earl Boether built higher up stream. The mill worked continually for seven centuries until around 1734 when the buildings were sold to the church. The curate, Reverend Robert Walker, obtained a beer licence and the buildings became the Bridge Inn. It was sold to Jonathan Thomas Sleap in 1837 who rebuilt the inn using stone from the old water mill and changed the name to ‘Victoria’ after a visit by Her Majesty in 1850. Mrs H Cooper inherited the property in 1861 adding the bay windows. In 1920 the author Nicholas Size extended and improved the inn then after his death the new owners changed the name to The Bridge. The present owners, the McGuire’s, bought the hotel in 1978.

Buttermere the lake a beautiful lake from which Buttermere village takes its name is about 1¼ miles long by about ¼ of a mile wide and 75 feet deep lying at the head of the valley of the River Cocker. Buttermere village stands at the north western end of the lake and beyond this lies the just as beautiful Crummock Water and beyond that, to the north, there is another lake called Loweswater. Crummock Water owned by the National Trust is about 2½ miles long by ¾ of a mile wide and 140 feet deep, has six small islands and is dominated by the hill of Mellbreak which runs the full length of the lake on its western side. The River Cocker flows northwards from Crummock Water into the Lorton Vale. There is a footpath around both lakes.

Haystacks at 597m (1958ft) situated at the southern end of Buttermere Lake has become one of the most popular fells in the area due to Alfred Wainwright’s description and attraction to the fell. The summit sits on a short rocky spine set at right angles to the ridge. Both ends of the ridge have cairns but the northern end is accepted as the summit. The view from the summit of Gable Crag on Great Gable, Ennerdale Water, High Crag, Crummock Water, Buttermere and Buttermere lake is stunning. The interesting summit of Haystacks contains a number of attractive rock formations and tarns. The highest tarn just below the top is known as the summit tarn but officially unnamed. Innominate Tarn formerly known as Loaf Tarn is a small tarn situated at 520m close to the summit and it is here Alfred Wainwright chose to have his ashes scattered. The larger Blackbeck Tarn situated at 486m (1600ft), just below Innominate Tarn, is a glacial tarn with rocky outcrops and grassy patches clad with heather and bracken. Its outflow is Black Beck which flows down through a cleft between Haystacks and Green Crag then tumbles nearly 1000 feet into Warnscale Beck. Warnscale Beck rises on Grey Knotts and flows down in a north westerly direction into Warnscale Bottom and to its confluence with Buttermere Lake.

The Walk

From the car park we cross over the road and take the footpath through the gate on the left of the bridge and the post box. We head forwards following the track with Buttermere the lake on our right. We cross over a bridge and go through a gate then head uphill to the right of a small triangular wood. At the top of the wood we turn left and keep following the path steadily uphill with a fence then a wall on our left. We eventually walk along Scarth Gap Pass and then start bearing left steeply uphill to Haystacks clambering up and over some rocky outcrops on the way. At the top we keep heading forwards up and down and over the rocky tops following the cairns and after passing a small tarn we make our way down to Innominate Tarn. We follow the path with the tarn on our right and continue forwards to Blackbeck Tarn. We cross over the stream and bear left uphill then after a short way we turn right uphill. We keep following the path towards the mine workings in the distance. When the path bears sharply round to the left we keep heading towards the mine workings. We cross over Warnscale Beck and turn left following the beck downhill. As we head downhill following the cairns we admire the waterfalls. At the bottom we come to a track and we just follow this back to the Gatesgarth Farm and the car park.


This is a hard walk on mainly good paths and tracks with steep inclines and declines. There are some steep rocky outcrops to scramble up between Scarth Gap Pass and the summit of Haystacks.

Elevation: Approx lowest point 104.5m (342.5ft) approx highest point 591.1m (1939.3ft).

Distance and Start Point

Approx 4.5 miles allow 2½ to 3½ hours using OS Explorer Map OL4, The English Lakes North-western area.

Start point: Gatesgarth Farm car park.


Buttermere is in the Lake District, Cumbria.

Directions and Parking

From the A66 take the B5292 Braithwaite. On entering Braithwaite take the first left then bear left and follow this road and the signs for Buttermere. On reaching the t-junction at Buttermere turn left following the road B5289 to the far end of Buttermere Lake and Gatesgarth Farm car park is about ½ mile further on just on the left.
Parking: Gatesgarth pay and display car park £4 for all day.

Toilets and Refreshments

There are no public toilets or refreshments the nearest facilities are in Buttermere village, Keswick and Cockermouth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.