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.
Skiddaw situated just north of Keswick is the sixth highest mountain in the Lake District and standing at 931 m (3,054 ft) it dominates the skyline in this part of the northern lakes. Skiddaw has a north-south running ridge of about half a mile long with steep slopes to the east and west. Its ridge continues northwards over Broad End to Bakestall and at the southern end it throws out ridges to the east and west. To the south east are Little Man, Lonscale Fell and Latrigg beyond these are the Blencathra group. To the south west the ridge curves round to run north above Bassenthwaite Lake giving Skiddaw an outer wall comprising of Carl Side, Long Side and Ullock Pike, collectively known as Longside Edge. Down below between Skiddaw and Longside Edge is the quiet valleys of Southerndale and Barkbethdale. The last member of the Skiddaw group is Dodd, a satellite of Carl Side. Skiddaw’s summit ridge has four tops known as North Top, High Mann (the Summit) Middle Top and South Top all of which are marked by cairns. There are also a number of wind shelters. The views are absolutely amazing from the whole of the Lakeland fells, a part of Snowdonia, the Yorkshire Dales and the Forest of Bowland. The Isle of Man is visible some 60 miles away, on clear days the Mourne Mountains 120 miles away, the coastal plain and the distant Solway Firth backed by the hills of Galloway and Goat Fell on Arran 105 miles away can also be seen. Many routes of ascents to Skiddaw have been devised but the most popular route starts from Keswick and 200m of ascent can be saved by driving to the top of Gale Road and starting the walk from the car park just behind the summit of Latrigg. Latrigg at 368m (1207ft) is one of the lowest fells in the Lake District but very popular due to its location overlooking Keswick and its views down the valley of Borrowdale from the summit.
Little Man is situated 4 km north of Keswick and is a subsidiary summit of its parent fell, Skiddaw. Little Man at a height of 865m (2,837ft) lies 1.5 km south east of Skiddaw’s summit and has its own subsidiary top known as Lesser Man at 815m which lies half a kilometre to the south east of its main summit. Lesser Man is marked by a cairn of rocks and old fence posts and half a kilometre to the south east of this stands Jenkin Hill at 735 m which is regarded as an outlier of Little Man. To the north and east Little Man is connected to the Skiddaw massif and to the south and west it falls steeply away towards the River Derwent. Little Man, due to its convex southern slopes, has one of the best panorama viewpoints in the National Park far better than Skiddaw itself.
Carl Side at 716m (2,349ft) is situated north west of Keswick and also part of the Skiddaw group. Carl Side sits at the southern end of Longside Edge with the grey flanks of Skiddaw and Little Man looming above. A small cairn marks its summit which is a mainly grassy plateau smoothly sloping away on all sides except to the north where some shattered crags look down on Southerndale. The views southwards towards Derwent Water and the fells surrounding the water and beyond are wonderful. From the summit a system of ridges descends southwards towards Millbeck. The main spur runs straight for a mile the first half being of a gentler gradient taking in the large area of White Stones at around 1,600 feet then falls very steeply to the bottom of the valley. On the eastern side is Carlsleddam a steep sided spur and the crags of Doups. On the western side is Dodd, a fell on Forestry Commission land that is mainly wooded. Carl Side is often ascended via Ullock Pike and Long Side then continued to Skiddaw but Millbeck provides the nearest starting point.
Keswick is a market town now mainly tourist orientated due to the many thousands of tourists visiting every year and the majority of side streets are abundant with B&B’s. Derwent Water is about 3 miles long by 1 mile wide and sits on the south edge of Keswick town and is fed and drained by the River Derwent. The river also connects Derwent Water to Bassenthwaite Lake which is north of Keswick. Bassenthwaite Lake about 4 miles long and three quarters of a mile wide is one of the largest but very shallow water bodies in the Lake District and is the only body of water in the Lake District to be defined as a lake and named as a lake all the others being waters, mere’s or tarns.
At the end of car park we turn left through the gate and follow the wall on our left. The wall becomes a fence and we follow it as it bears left. We pass a memorial to two shepherds and continue to follow the zigzag path steeply uphill. When we come to a fence we turn left uphill then at the cairn we turn right and follow the path to the summit of Little Man. From the top we head forwards slightly right downhill. At the fence we bear left uphill and keep following the path as it turns right towards the trig point on the summit of Skiddaw. From the top we retrace our steps for a few hundred yards to a cairn on our right we turn right here very steeply downhill towards two small ponds. The path is stony with shale so care must be taken. At the ponds the path splits into two we take the left path uphill to the cairn on the summit of Carl Side. From the top we start to go downhill very steep in places. We walk to the left hand side of the White Stones and keep heading downhill through a wall. We keep following the path downhill until we arrive at a house and some trees at Millbeck. We go through a gate next to the trees and follow the narrow path. At the end we turn right and then turn left at the road. We follow the road bearing left at the y-junction. Now with the houses of Applethwaite on our right we keep heading forwards over the bridge at a gill. At the next y-junction with a hotel on the left we bear left signposted Skiddaw. We now just follow this road uphill back to the car park.
This is a hard walk on well defined gravel paths and tracks with steep inclines and declines. The descent down from Skiddaw to Carl Side is very steep on loose shale so please take care.
Elevation: Approx lowest point 113.11m (371.1ft) approx highest point 927.90m (3044.3ft) approx total ascent 856.21m (2809ft).
Distance and Start Point
Approx 7 miles allow 4 – 5 hours using OS Explorer Map OL4, The English Lakes North-western area.
Start point: Car park at the end of Gale Road just below Latrigg summit.
Skiddaw is north of Keswick in the north-western fells of the Lake District, Cumbria.
Directions and Parking
Travelling from the east on the A66 after passing the Keswick turn off continue to the roundabout and turn right onto the A591 then turn immediate right again onto a minor road towards Ormathwaite and Applethwaite. Just past Ormathwaite take the next very sharp right turn (Gale Road) going uphill and continue to the car park at the end of the road.
Parking: free parking at the end of Gale Road and also some verge parking just below Latrigg summit.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are no public toilets or refreshments. The nearest facilities are at Keswick where there are public toilets and ample shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants.