With the arrival of March came Spring, lighter nights and the first real sunny t-shirt weekend of the year. Happily, it also coincided with us booking a week away in the sleepy Lake District hamlet of Kentmere.
Located in the South Eastern part of the Lake District, Kentmere is tucked away in a corner which I’d never visited before, It was actually a part which I’d completely dismissed, thinking it wasn’t really going to have any mountains or be that interesting. I feel like I was very uninformed!
The hamlet is approximately 4 miles north of Staveley (which you probably whizz past on the A591 from Kendal to Windermere/Ambleside) and access is on a narrow single track road with passing places.
Car parking in Kentmere is extremely limited (maybe 6 cars max) and the narrow roads mean that there are no options for abandoning roadside, so bear this in mind if you intend to visit for the day. Also, there’s no pub, shop or cafe so plan your refreshments around that!
The Kentmere Horseshoe
When planning our stay, we had a goal to walk the Kentmere Horseshoe from the front door of the cottage. The Kentmere Horseshoe is a 12-13 mile walk which stays up high for much of the day and takes in several Wainwright summits.
Walking in a clockwise direction, the start of the Horseshoe from Kentmere village is up the Garburn Pass – a wide track, climbing steadily to help warm up the legs. Once at the top of the pass, a right turn takes you to the summit of Yoke (706m and the first Wainwright).
From here, the walk stays high with all the summits above 700m until you drop down off Kentmere Pike on the way home.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that all the climbing is over!
Ridge walking at it’s best…
But honestly, the effort pales into insignificance when you get such amazing views to both sides of the ridge. A top tip for this walk is to wait for a clear day before you go – I promise you, it’ll be well worth the wait.
The beacon at Thornthwaite Crag is where the walk continues in the direction of High Street before turning right across the plateau towards Mardale Ill Bell (760m). Wainwright baggers may want to add High Street as another summit, but we took the right turn for some snowy walking across the plateau. The going was generally easy so it was good fun.
Stunning views looking across Haweswater
To hit the summit of Mardale Ill Bell, we had to make a short detour from the path – but honestly, it is definitely worth doing.
Sitting at the cairn to rest our legs, we were treated to a stunning view looking out across Haweswater, which was a good enough reason for the detour in it’s own right.
However, a little venture towards the steep edge meant that suddenly we were also looking down onto an incredible view of Blea Tarn, with the steep sided cliffs above. This is another area which I’d never explored, but it’s on the tick list now.
Continuing on towards the Nan Bield Pass our legs were starting to protest from the miles. The rocky drop down to the pass felt especially disheartening as we knew that there was a similar distance to climb back up the other side. Here was where my lack of mountain fitness showed as suddenly my left hip/quad really started complaining.
The summit cairn of Harter Fell (778m) was a welcome sight – and the location for a spot of emergency physio massage to help stop the muscle spasm. It worked and we set off for the return leg home (hah, no pun intended).
Dropping down off Harter Fell, a short climb up to Kentmere Pike (730m) gave us our last summit of the day. From here, we then took the path diagonally back down towards the Kentmere valley and Hallow Bank/Brockstones where a gentle meander back along the bridleway brought us into Kentmere village.
However, for the full horseshoe experience and maximum opportunity for Wainwright summits, continue onto Shipman Knotts (587m) before dropping down to Kentmere.
An all time favourite mountain day
Despite struggling with a spasming muscle on the return journey, this walk will be going down as one of my all time favourite mountain days.
Of course the weather helped, with sunny, still conditions and far reaching views across the Lake District. It’s not often that we get to experience basking in sunshine and without a breath of wind at a summit cairn, especially in March.
However, I also loved the fact that I was exploring a completely new area of the Lake District and also that I was seeing all those well known distant mountains from a totally different angle.
I’m already looking forward to more adventures in this area.
Map: OS 1:25,000 (OL7 The English Lakes, South Eastern Area)
Cafe: Wilf’s Cafe, Staveley
Pub: Eagle and Child, Staveley
Local Shop: Spar, Post Office and Pharmacy in Staveley
Parking: Very (very) limited in Kentmere
Public Transport: Bus to Staveley from Kendal or Windermere, Train to Windermere
Holiday Cottage: The Lakeland Cottage Company