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.
Shap is a long village situated in the Eden District of Cumbria. Although small it is actually a market town with a charter dating from the 17th century. The A6 and the West Coast Main Line run alongside the village and the M6 is also close by. Hanson and Tata Steel works is located just outside the village. Shap has three pubs and a variety of shops including a small supermarket, a fish and chip shop, a butcher’s, a newsagent’s and a coffee shop. Shap is on the route of Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk and close to Shap Abbey. The market town of Penrith that lies 10 miles north of Shap has a good variety of shops and facilities.
Shap Abbey, situated on the western bank of the River Lowther, was a monastic religious house of the Premonstratensian order. Although the present abbey was built in 1199 the monastic community was originally founded on another site 20 miles south of Kendal in 1190, but it moved to the present site then called Hepp in 1199. The abbey prospered for around 300 years until the Dissolution of the Monasteries when the lead was taken from the roof and the building stones carted away for re-use elsewhere. During the 17th century masonry was robbed to build Shap Market Hall and much of the ornate carved stonework was taken to be used in the building of Lowther Castle. Many of the monastic buildings were incorporated into a farmhouse and used as barns and over the last four centuries little has changed as they have formed part of a working farm. All that remains today is the tower, still at its full height, and the outline of the buildings is clearly visible. It is in the care of English Heritage and managed on its behalf by the Lake District National Park. Shap Abbey is open to the public at all reasonable times and admission is free.
Rosgill, a very small attractive hamlet with wonderful views, is only a few miles north-west of Shap. It is a sleepy hamlet with only a handful of houses and three working farms, the meandering lanes are flanked by dry stone walls. Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk passes through the bottom of the hamlet as well as the River Lowther where otters can be seen swimming or playing on the river banks. Rose Farm, which accommodates guests in their cottages, are often visited by red squirrels, deer and many hedgerow and wild birds including the kingfisher that regularly feeds from the bird feeders in the garden. There are many footpaths to walk from Rosgill, the best ones being a short stroll to Shap Abbey or up Swindale which is one of the forgotten hidden treasures of the Lake District and also a two mile walk to the west to the valley of Mardale where in 1935 the farming villages of Measand and Mardale Green were flooded to create Haweswater. Close by at Bampton and Bampton Grange there is a village shop and post office and a traditional village pub. Further up the Lowther Valley the beautiful village of Askham houses two more pubs. Lowther Park, Estate and Castle are only about 5 miles away for a great day out with plenty to do. Rosgill is the home of David Pitt who has edited Alfred Wainwright’s Pennine Journey. David and his team have spent much time adapting the Pennine Journey for today’s roads and rights-of-way, taking a route that Alfred Wainwright may have chosen if he was planning it today. The Pennine Journey Supporters Club was formed on 31st March 2012 when it took over from The Wainwright Society. The club will concentrate on promoting and supporting the Pennine Journey route so that this tribute to Alfred Wainwright becomes permanent especially once the route has been fully waymarked and then marked on future Ordnance Survey maps. To join the Supporters Club or for more details visit their website at www.penninejourney.org.uk
The River Lowther begins with the confluence of the Keld Gill and the Keld Dub near to the village of Keld. It is a tributary of the River Eamont which in turn is a tributary of the River Eden which flows into the Solway Firth near Carlisle.
Keld is a small, picturesque olde-worlde hamlet about a mile south-west of Shap. Like Rosgill it is situated the banks of the River Lowther. Keld, possibly a village in Roman times, is home to the rustic stone building known as the Chapel at Keld. The medieval chapel, dating from around the 15th century, has been used as a cottage and meeting house during its long history and originally was thought to have been the chantry for the monks of Shap Abbey. In 1918 the building was presented by Sir Samuel H Scott to the National Trust for places of Historic Interest.
This wonderful corner of the Lake District is largely unaffected by tourism and life goes on much as it has done for centuries.
From the bridge we take the footpath, signposted Coast to Coast, on the left through the gate. With the River Lowther on our left and the wall on our right we follow the track bearing right to go through a gate. We bear immediate left off the track following the arrow C to C Shap written on a stone. With the wall on our left we cross over a wall into a field then keep heading forwards. At the end of the field we turn left over a stone bridge. At the top of the steps we bear slightly right following some large stones to the farm we can see in the distance. We cross in front of the farm heading towards the next farm going over a stile in the wall. We head forward to the farm track and turn right. We walk between the farm buildings and follow the footpath sign on the wall through a gate. We turn immediate left to go through another gate and head forwards to the right of two trees. We go over the brow of the hill then head down to go over a stile. After a short way we come to a concrete track we turn right over the bridge then immediate left uphill through the trees with the wall on our right and the stream on our left. We keep following the path passing through a gate until we come to a farm. We go through the gate with a yellow arrow then make our way through the farm and turn left to follow the farm track which becomes a tarmac single road. We keep following the small road going straight over at a crossroads. We continue forward crossing over a bridge to the village of Keld. We walk through the village, ignoring the path off to the left for Shap Abbey, and just after passing the Chapel on our right we turn left at the footpath sign past Kiln House on our left. We head forward over the stile following the wall on our right. At the end of the wall we head forward to the left of the tree and follow the wall on our left for a short way to cross over the stone stepped stile then turn right. We keep following the wall now on our right to go through a gate. We keep heading forwards and soon see Shap Abbey on our left. We continue forward through the gate next to a stile then bear left downhill to the tarmac track. We turn left over the bridge to visit Shap Abbey. We then go back over the bridge and follow the road uphill. At the building on the left we turn left over the ladder stile. We continue forward through the field with the river on our left. We go through a gate and keep following the wall to go through another gate. We walk forward keeping the building on our left to go through the gate in front and keep heading forwards through the fields until we come to the road. At the road we turn left and make our way over the bridge back to our car park.
This is an easy walk on good paths and tracks mostly grassy through fields. There is also some minor no- through road between Tailbert and Keld.
Elevation: approx lowest point 191.60m (628.61ft) approx highest point 290.90m (954.40ft)
Distance and Start Point
Approx 5.15 miles allow 2½ plus extra time for visiting Shap Abbey using OS Explorer Map OL5 The English Lakes North Eastern area.
Start point: At the bridge over the River Lowther, south west of Rosgill near Shap.
Rosgill is north-west of Shap in the Eden District of Cumbria.
Directions and Parking
From the A66 at Penrith take the M6 south. Leave the M6 at junction 39 and turn right for A6 Shap on the B6261. At the t-junction turn right onto A6 following the railway line to Shap. Just before the end of Shap turn left onto a minor road. Bear right at the y-junction and follow road for about 1½ miles then turn left. Follow road through Rosgill to the bridge over the River Lowther. Free road side parking only.
Parking: At side of road near the bridge over the River Lowther. There is a car park at Shap and at Shap Abbey and also some road side parking at Keld. The school in Shap also offers parking out of school hours only.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are no public toilets on the walk the nearest ones are in the public car park at Shap. For refreshments there are three pubs and a variety of shops in Shap. There is also a shop and two pubs at Bampton and Bampton Grange and two more pubs at Askham.