Dove Crag from Brothers Water

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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 meters (3,209 feet). 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 in the North West of England 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 with the tough Herdwick breed being most closely associated with the area. Sheep farming 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.

Dove Crag at 792 metres (2598 feet) is situated in the Eastern Fells of the Lake District National Park and is often climbed as part of the Fairfield Horseshoe walk from Ambleside. But the ascent from Brothers Water or Hartsop in the Patterdale valley portrays the best views of the fell, displaying the impressive crags just to the north-east of the summit. This route passes through the beautiful and relatively unknown valley of Dovedale. The valley, with its little beck that flows down it and the crags above, is a very tranquil and picturesque place waiting to be discovered. The crags of Dove Crag are 75 metres high at their highest point and are popular with rock climbers. Concealed within the crags is the Priest’s Hole which is a cave of about 5 metres deep with extra protection provided by a wall built in front, this is often used as a rough overnight camp. It is well used and stocked and even has a visitor’s book but it is not easy to find in bad conditions. The summit is a small rock platform with a cairn. A dry stone wall crosses the summit about 15 metres to the west and this runs north to south to the adjoining fells of High Pike to the south and Hart Crag to the north. The best view from the summit is from the edge of the crags and looking down into Dovedale. The Fairfield Group of fells include Fairfield, Hart Crag, Dove Crag, Little Hart Crag and Red Screes.

Brothers Water was once called Broad Water and was renamed after two brothers drowned there in the 19th century. It lies at the northern end of the Kirkstone Pass and may be described as one of the Lake District’s smallest lakes or one of its largest tarns and its shallow water is covered by lily pads creating a green carpet on its blue waters which bloom in July. The lake is home to trout and harbours a rare species of fish called schelly. A short walk from Brothers Water car park through woodland skirts the western shore to Hartsop Hall a 16th century building and the Hartsop Hall Lead Mine.

Just to the north-east of Brothers Water is Hartsop a small olde worlde end of the road village at the foot of Kirkstone Pass consisting of 17th century grey stone cottages and farm buildings and lies in the Patterdale valley within what was once a royal forest set aside for deer hunting hence Hartsop meaning ‘valley of the deer’. Red squirrels, badgers, birds and other wildlife are attracted to this peaceful valley. The village was a lead mining community and it still retains its historic image in that it has houses with spinning rooms. The villagers would have made their own clothing and sold any surplus in the local market towns. Nearby is the Brotherswater Inn and Sykeside camping and caravan site.

Kirkstone Pass is a mountain pass at an altitude of 454 metres, almost 1500 feet. It is the Lake District’s highest pass that is open to motor traffic and connects Ambleside in the Rothay Valley to Patterdale in the Ullswater Valley. In places the gradient is 1 in 4 and provides stunning views of Brothers Water on the descent to Patterdale. Near the top of the pass is the Kirkstone Pass Inn which is the third highest public house in England. It was once an important coaching inn but now mainly caters for the tourists. The pass from Ambleside up to the inn is known locally as ‘The Struggle’. The pass was named after a nearby stone, the Kirkstone, which can be seen standing a few yards from the roadside and several yards from the inn. The stone is so named, as its silhouette resembles a church steeple, Kirk meaning church in Old Norse. Copper and slate mining have taken place in the area for many years and Pets Quarry still currently being worked by Kirkstone Green Slate Company lies just before the highest point of the pass on the Ambleside side. Caudale Slate Mine a few miles down on the Ullswater side was last worked at the beginning of the 20th century.

The Walk

We walk to the end of the car park and go through the gate and follow the path by the shore of Brothers Water. We go through two gates then walk to the right of the buildings following the track round to the right. The track splits and we take the right track uphill along Dovedale with Dovedale Beck down below. We keep following the wall on our left. We go through a gate passing an old quarry on the right and then keep heading forwards uphill into the trees. We walk through the trees still following the wall on our left. We come out into the open and keep following the path going through a gate until we come to a footbridge. We do not cross the bridge but bear right following the path on the right of the stream. The path bears left and then starts to turn right away from the stream uphill. We cross over a little water waterfall and keep following the path. We start to go steeply uphill through the gully. We pass an old building on our right and then the path bears left still steeply uphill. At the top we bear left on the level for a short way then we start going uphill following the cairns to a wall. We now turn left and follow the wall on our right passing the summit of Dove Crag just to the left until we come to two cairns and an old metal fence post we turn left and follow the metal posts downhill. The path then bears right and we keep following the metal posts and then a wall downhill to a crossroads of paths (Scandale Pass) at a cairn and a ladder stile over the wall on the right. We turn left and keep following the path downhill through the valley towards Caiston Glen. After about a half mile we follow the wall on our right until we come to a building. We walk to the right of the building going through a gate. We cross over the field and a stream then cross over another field to the track we set off on and retrace our steps back to the car park at Brothers Water.


This is a moderate to hard walk starting on a level track but the paths and tracks become stony and or grassy. Some of the ascent and descent are very steep.
Elevation: Approx lowest point 157.70m (517.4ft) approx highest point 789.10m (2588.10ft)

Distance and Start Point

Approx 7.4 miles allow at least 4 hours using OS Explorer Map OL5, The English Lakes, North-Eastern area.

Start point: Brothers Water free car park.


Brothers Water is in the Patterdale Valley in the Lake District.

Directions and Parking

From the A66 at Troutbeck take the A5091 sign posted Ullswater. Follow the A5091 until it joins the A592, on the edge of Ullswater, turn right and follow the road through Glenridding and Patterdale. Brothers Water is about 2 miles further on, on the right.

Parking: Free car park at Brothers Water.

Toilets and Refreshments

There are no public toilets, shops or pubs at Brothers Water or in nearby Hartsop. There is the Brotherswater Inn down the road just past Brothers Water and the Kirkstone Pass Inn near the top of Kirkstone Pass. The next nearest facilities are at Patterdale and Glenridding to the north and Ambleside to the south.

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