DRIVE eight miles north of Kendal, walk over five summits on Whinfell Common and return along the peaceful Westmorland Borrowdale valley, writes JOHN EDMONDSON. Despite its modest elevation, the Whinfell Ridge offers excellent views. In 1972, Wainwright described Borrowdale as “the most beautiful valley in Westmorland outside the Lake District;” but in 2016 this area deservedly became part of the Lake District National Park.

Start from the lay-by on the A6 just south of Huck’s Bridge, grid reference NY 552 037.


Distance: 8.5 miles with 1,800 feet of ascent

Time: 4 hours

Terrain: fell paths, boggy in parts and firm tracks

Map: OS Explorer OL7


1 Walk uphill beside the A6 Kendal direction for 200 yards and turn left onto the track signed Public Way. This was the original site of the Leyland Clock, being exactly half way between John O’Groats and Lands End. The clock now stands outside Kendal's Brewery Arts Centre. Turn right immediately after the gate past a Fire warning sign and walk up a grassy path to above a conifer plantation. Continue climbing up the heather covered fell onto a path leading to a stone pillar. At a 1,493 feet elevation, this is the first of several excellent viewpoints. Continue along the path down a slope above conifers then ascend Ashstead Fell. At the top of the climb turn left along the ridge to the 1,539 feet summit with a rocky crag. Ahead are views of Borrowdale.

2 Descend to the left then walk uphill along a strip of open ground between conifer plantations. At the end of the open area turn right to go uphill to the cairn on 1,581 feet Mabbin Crag, the highest point of the walk. Its name derived from Mabon, an ancient name linked with native Celts. Descend on a grassy path that is steep in parts, through another clearing and past a stone bothy into woodland. Descend over a rocky, boggy path then over a (currently broken) fence stile and across a field to a ladder stile. Walk uphill alongside a wall on the right. Take an optional - but worthwhile - excursion to the left and visit the 1,568 feet summit of Castle Fell, returning to the wall to a gate. Continue ahead uphill and through a gap stile, to the 1,549 feet summit of Whinfell Beacon, marked by a cairn with a stone shelter.

3 Walk down the ridge, through a gate (with ladder stile) and up to the telecom repeater station, continuing along a tarmacked road. Immediately after passing the fenced buildings fork left along a track descending gently to the left of the hill with a higher mast. Pass through a metal gate and continue descending alongside a fence on the right. Views of Upper Borrowdale appear on the left. Borrowdale means the dale of the fort, perhaps referring to the Roman garrison and fort at nearby Low Borrowbridge. Follow the twisty track down towards the valley bottom and merge left onto a larger track.

4 From here, the remaining 3.7 miles of the walk is along the main track in the lonely and lovely Borrowdale valley. The valley was considered twice for a reservoir but following an environmental appraisal in the late 1970s the scheme was dropped. Friends of the Lake District now own and care for 108 acres of High Borrowdale. The track passes Low Borrowdale and High Borrowdale Farms crossing, then later recrossing, the beck and returning to the A6 near where the walk began.

Next week: Windermere to Staveley via Orrest Head and Sour Howes

NB: restrictions on space mean that this article provides a general summary of the route. It is advisable for anyone who plans to follow the walk to take a copy of the relevant Ordnance Survey map.