Buttermere to Red Pike via Scale Force 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.

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 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.

Scale Force the highest waterfall in the Lake District has a total drop of 170 feet including a single drop of 120 feet and several smaller drops. The force, hidden in a deep gorge on the north side of Red Pike, falls into Scale Beck which feeds Crummock Water.

Red Pike at 775m (2476ft) is a fell in the High Stile range separating Ennerdale from the valley of Buttermere and Crummock Water. Red Pike is a rich red colour brought about by the presence of syenite in the rock and subsoil of the fell and the paths can be seen from some distance. The ridge walk from Red Pike to Haystacks is one of the finest in the area with superb views of the Scafells, Great Gable and Pillar. From the summit of Red Pike on a clear day the lakes of Derwent Water, Buttermere, Crummock Water, Ennerdale Water and Loweswater can be seen.
Bleaberry Tarn is a natural mountain tarn nestled below and between Red Pike and High Stile. The tarn which is in continual shadow from November to March is about 15ft deep and is well stocked with trout. The stream Sour Milk Gill descends from the tarn to Buttermere and the footpath that runs parallel is one of the more popular footpaths for the ascent to Red Pike. There is another Red Pike 3 miles away in Wasdale.

The Walk

We park at the side of the road just above Buttermere then walk downhill to the village and turn left down the side of the Bridge Hotel. We head forwards bearing to the left of the Fish Inn. At the end of the track we turn left. We come to two gated tracks and we take the one on the right with a no camping sign on it. We follow the track until we reach the stone bridge. We cross over and turn right and follow the path towards Crummock Water. We cross over two wooden bridges and keep heading forwards then bear off left following the grass path. We then bear off right to cross over a bridge then head forwards through the gate. We continue forwards to cross over another bridge then turn left following Scale Beck to the next bridge. We cross over and make our way uphill to the base of Scale Force. We turn left over the bridge and head forwards uphill to a wall. We now turn right steeply uphill with Scale Force on our right. We keep following the stream uphill taking care along the ridges and over the boulders. The path eventually turns left and we keep following it uphill. The path levels for a short way then bears slightly right along an edge towards Red Pike. We now head very steeply uphill over some rocks to the summit of Red Pike. At the top we head forwards then bear off slightly left downhill following the cairns. The downhill path is very steep on sort of crumbly loose stone here so please take care. We make our way down to Bleaberry Tarn we can see down below. At the end of the tarn we turn left following the stream. When the path splits we take the right one and head forwards. We go through a broken wall then turn right onto a track. We follow the track downhill which turns left, steep in places, until we reach a wood. We go through the gate and head steeply downhill through the trees. At the bottom we turn left then right to go over a bridge and then follow the track back to Buttermere and the car park.


This is a hard walk on mostly well maintained paths and track. The ascent following Scale Beck is steep with a little climbing over boulders and up to Red Pike is quite stiff. The first part of the descent down from Red Pike is very steep on loose crumbling red stone.

Elevation: Approx lowest point 100.6m (330ft) approx highest point 751.5m (2465ft)

Distance and Start Point

Approx 5.5 miles allow 3 to 4 hours using OS Explorer Map OL4, The English Lakes North-western area. Start point: Free car parking area at the side of the road just on the hill above the village.


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.

Parking: Buttermere pay and display car park in the village at the back of the Bridge Hotel and free road side parking, just on the hill above the village.

Toilets and Refreshments

There are public toilets at Buttermere situated in the car park. For refreshments there are two cafes selling local produce and two pubs The Bridge Hotel and The Fish Inn. The next nearest public toilets, shops, cafes, take-away, pubs and restaurants are in Keswick and Cockermouth.

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