Fairfield Horseshoe

Outline of Route
Ambleside - Nab Scar - Heron Pike - Great Rigg - Fairfield - Hart Crag - Dove Crag - High Pike - Ambleside (Grid ref. NY 377046)
Total Distance 10.5 miles, Total Ascent 3450 feet, Equivalent Distance 17.4 miles

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Escape Routes

  1. None. Before Fairfield summit go back, after the summit, go on.

Details of Route
The main car park in Rydal Road costs £6.00 for 8 hours. Leave Ambleside along Rydal Road and just over Scandale Bridge turn right through the gates (photo) and follow the path to Rydal Hall. It is easy to miss this path which lies just outside the 30 mph zone opposite a bus stop. There is a lodge by the gates and if you search hard you will find a signpost indicating the footpath. Find your way through the Hall buildings and turn right uphill along the metalled road that comes from Rydal. Find a path on the left through a kissing gate (photo) that continues between two walls and leads to the open fell. I've seen damselflies here on warm days. The path zigzags up the slope to the top of the Nab Scar. The charming view to the south and west improves with the steep ascent and tempts one to keep stopping to turn for just another look (photo). There is a fine viewpoint for Grasmere a little further on (photo).

The clear path continues up to Heron Pike where the route to Fairfield becomes obvious (photo), even in snow (photo) ;after which the views on the right, down into Rydale 1000 feet below (photo), tend to hold the attention. I met an American up here once who told me that there was nothing more beautiful in the whole of the USA. Erne Crag is just one more (photo) opportunity on the way. Continue over Great Rigg where there are good views towards Dollywagon Pike (photo) and the conical peak gives a fine (355° panorama) and Fairfield lies dead ahead (photo).

The summit of Fairfield is very flat with many cairns and paths. It is easy to get lost in hill fog and there are precipious slopes to the north and west awaiting the unwary: make sure you have a compass, and can use it, before you set out. There are uninterrupted views of the felltops in all directions, the only detracting aspect being the flatness of the summit. Here is the view towards St Sunday Crag (photo). Set off south east then bearing east for Hart Crag. It is worth keeping to the edge of the cliff, if the conditions are safe, for a sight of the crags tumbling down into Deepdale. A fine view of Rydale and beyond can be seen just as the path veers to the left (photo). It is a rocky path to Hart Crag but the going gets easier as one continues towards Dove Crag. Beware the paths that lure one towards Hartsop above How (photo) and down into Dovedale: they are easily followed by the unwary. From here there are fine views to the east (photo), the southeast (photo), the north (photo), and the southwest panorama (photo).

From Dove Crag, the really energetic may wish to drop down to Scandale Pass and up onto Red Screes (photo) before heading for Ambleside - it adds about 1.5 miles and 900 feet of ascent to the walk - but for the rest of us there is just a steady downhill walk, south to Ambleside. Take particular notice of High Pike and Low Pike as you cross them: you are likely to be asked by breathless walkers coming the other way how far they are. I've often been struck, figuratively speaking, by the number of walkers who set off up here late in the afternoon as I'm coming down, and wonder what happens to them. Much of this descent is done alongside a wall (photo) but between High Brock Crags and Low Brock Crags a path diverges to the left to bypass an awkward drop in the path by the wall. Take this bypass. Return to Ambleside over Low Sweden bridge and by Nook End Farm. There are pictures taken from Dove Crag, Hart Crag and Fairfield during a temperature inversion (here).

Rev. 02 September 2014

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