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.
Knott Rigg standing at a height of 556 metres (1852 feet) is situated at the head of the beautiful Newlands Valley on a four kilometre long ridge below Causey Pike and Sail. Knott Rigg is steep sided falling on the western side to the valley of Sail Beck and on the eastern side falls to the minor road in the Newlands Valley between Keswick and Buttermere. The hardest ascent of Knott Rigg is from Rigg Beck or Keskadale Farm and the easiest ascent is from the car park at Newlands Hause giving an advantage start at a height of 333 metres therefore giving an easy vertical ascent of just over 200 metres. Knott Rigg is usually climbed in conjunction with Ard Crags which sits on the same ridge 1.5 kilometres to the north east. Ard Crags at 581 metres (1,906 feet) is closer to the higher fells such as Causey Pike and Eel Crag and can easily overlooked but from the Newlands Valley it is clearly seen as a defined pyramid shape. It is sometimes referred to as Aikin Knott the name of the outcrop of rocks on the nose of the ridge. Both summits provide a wonderful aerial view of the Newlands Valley with a glimpse of Derwent Water and in the far distance Skiddaw, Blencathra and the Helvellyn Range can be seen.
The Newlands Valley on the western side of the Lake District is one of the quieter valleys in the National Park although quite close to the busy town of Keswick and the A66 road. The thinly populated valley bottom consists of mainly farms and tourist accommodation and is overlooked by the fells of Barrow, Causey Pike, Cat Bells, Ard Crags, Knott Rigg, Maiden Moor, High Spy, Dale Head, Hindscarth and Robinson offering superb fell walking. The Newlands horseshoe is 8.75 miles starting and finishing at Little Town. Situated on the steep slopes of Ard Crags above Keskadale Farm is Keskadale Oakwood, an ancient woodland, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. The valleys main hamlet is Stair which is the location of the Newlands Adventure Centre and about 1½ miles north of Stair in the only pub in the valley the Swinside Inn. Further up valley the hamlet of Little Town consisting of a farm, a few cottages and a church has been made famous by the writings of Beatrix Potter, whose 1905 children’s book “The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle” is based in the area. At the most southerly part of the valley is KesKadale Farm, a traditional sheep and beef cattle farm, which has been in the Harryman family for generations and offers accommodation. Newlands Hause at the end of the valley provides a car park which sits at the foot of the slopes of Robinson where the Moss Force Waterfall can be seen coming down from the fell. From the Hause the road descends steeply to Buttermere. The Newlands Valley was extensively mined for centuries. Lead, copper, silver and even gold has been extracted. Goldscope mine on the lower slopes of Hindscarth, which has operated since the 16th century, is the most famous mine in the Lake District. It yielded such large amounts of lead and copper that it was named “Gottesgab” (God’s Gift) by the German miners brought over to develop the mine in the early days. The mine closed at the end of the 19th century because the main shaft had gone so deep it had become uneconomic to pump water from it. The other mines in the valley are Barrow lead mine closed in 1888, Yewthwaite lead mine closed in 1893 and the Dale Head copper mine closed at the end of the 18th century.
Braithwaite, only a few miles west of Keswick, is a small but quaint village in the northern part of the Lake District within the National Park. The village nestles below a fell called Barrow and is overlooked by Grisedale Pike. Coledale Beck which flows along the V shaped valley of Coledale passes through Braithwaite before it joins Newlands Beck east of the village. Newlands Beck coming from the Newlands Valleys then heads north towards Bassenthwaite Lake. For such a small village it houses three pubs, guest houses, B&B’s and a campsite with a caravan park. Not far from Braithwaite is Whinlatter Forest where there are many short and long walks to undertake. The Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway, now closed, called at a station in Braithwaite.
From the quarry car park we head forward over the bridge and follow the road for about 1.5 miles until we come to a bridge over the little beck of Ill Gill. We cross over and turn immediate right uphill on the faint path with the farm and the fence on our left and the beck on our right. We cross over the stile next to the dog kennel and head forwards to cross over another stile. We turn left and follow the path, with the fence on our left, uphill through the fern. As the path levels out at an open grassy bit we turn right uphill towards the fence on our right. We now keep heading steeply uphill on the path with the fence still on our right. The path eventually levels out and at some wooden posts we cross some boggy ground heading towards the mound to the right which is the highest point of Knott Rigg. The views towards Buttermere are awesome from here. We turn right past the cairn and keep following the path, dropping down into a gap then uphill for just under a mile to the summit cairn of Ard Crags. We soon start heading downhill fairly steeply to the hump of Aikin Knott then very steeply downhill towards the bottom. When the path levels out we walk through the ferns and just before the grassy area we turn left to follow the path, quite boggy, downhill to Rigg Beck. We cross the beck at a safe narrow point and make our way to the clear path and turn right. We now follow this path back to the quarry car park.
This is a hard walk on minor tarmac road, grass and stony tracks and paths. There are steep inclines and declines.
Elevation: approx lowest point 163m (534.5ft) approx highest point 572.3m (1887.6ft) approx ascent 654.6m (2147.6ft)
Distance and Start Point
Approx 5 miles allow 3 to 3½ hours using OS Explorer Map OL4, The English Lakes North Western area. This walk is done anti-clockwise.
Start point: disused quarry next to the bridge over Rigg Beck.
Rigg Beck is south of Braithwaite in the Newlands Valley in the Lake District, Cumbria.
Directions and Parking
From the A66 take the B5292 into Braithwaite then take the little road going over the bridge, signposted Newlands Valley and Buttermere. Bear right at the y-junction then at the next y-junction keep heading forwards towards Buttermere for Just over a mile and the quarry car park is on the right just before the bridge over Rigg Beck.
Parking: limited parking at the quarry next to the bridge at Rigg Beck.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are no public toilets the nearest ones are at Keswick. For refreshments there are two pubs in Braithwaite the Royal Oak and the Coledale Inn and a small shop that sells everything. There is also the Middle Ruddings Hotel close to Braithwaite on the A66.