A Kentmere Horseshoe

Outline of Route
Kentmere - Shipman Knotts - Kentmere Pike - Harter Fell (plus diversion to see Haweswater) - Mardale Ill Bell - Thornthwaite Crag - Froswick - Ill Bell - Yoke - Kentmere (Grid ref. NY 456041)
Total Distance 12.2 miles, Total Ascent 3700 feet, Equivalent Distance 19.7 miles

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Escape Routes

  1. Descend from the summit of Nan Bield pass back to Kentmere.

Details of Route
Parking in Kentmere village is now a hit-and-miss affair. If you are early enough there will be space by the church hall just as you pass the church. Alternatively a local farmer allows parking, for a fee (£2.00 on my last visit), in a field before you reach the church. There is a dispute with the local council over the use of the field and it is not always available for parking. There is a bus service operating on Sundays (July-Sept) from Staveley. From the church go back along the road till you cross back over the bridge and take the road on the left. After about fifty yards take the footpath on the right across a field, up a steep ascent, to another road. Turn left along this road and then right in the hamlet of Green Quarter to find the well marked path to Longsleddale. Avoid the earlier path marked "Sadgill via Cocklaw Fell". You will notice, as you climb this path, another path to the left, coming up the other side of this little valley, which you will meet at the top of the pass. There is an excellent view of the head of the Kentmere valley from here (photo). Shipman Knotts is up to your left as you approach the pass's summit (photo). Negotiate the stiles and head for the top of Shipman Knotts up the occasionally boggy terrain with the wall on your right. Across Kentmere the shapely peaks of Froswick and Ill Bell, the later stages of your route, and the rugged crags of Yoke hold the attention. Continue on the other side of the wall to Goat Scar where the ground sweeps down steeply and precipitously into Longsleddale (pronounced locally "Longsleddle" with the stress on the first "e" - literature enthusiasts might be aware that it's the source of inspiration for "Greendale"). The views both up (photo) and down (photo) the valley are excellent. Go on by the fence, where I recently came across half a dozen fell ponies (photo), and then the wall to Kentmere Pike. There is little to keep you at this summit so keep going, by the fence, towards Harter Fell where there are fine views across the Kentmere valley (photo). From the summit of Harter Fell there is a fine panorama from the southwest to the north (photo)

It is worth following the cairned path from the summit of Harter Fell going north east, towards Gatescarth pass, for about 600 yards for views of Haweswater. One might also ponder the relative merits of the north ridge of Mardale Ill Bell and the Rough Crag ascent of High Street (photo), the alternative starts for the Mardale Head - High Street - Wether Hill route described on another page. Retrace your steps to the summit and head west, then down the narrow ridge to Nan Bield pass and up the other side to Mardale Ill Bell. From here some may wish to include the summit of High Street on their schedule. This detour adds about half a mile and 250 feet of ascent to the route, however the direct route to Thornthwaite Crag lies to the west. The path soon becomes clear, skirting the head of the valley above Bleathwaite Crag where there are excellent views of Yoke, Ill Bell and Froswick (photo). Avoid following the path when it turns south but continue west over the brow after which the summit beacon of Thornthwaite, and the path to it, come into sight. The views to the north (photo) and northwest (photo) from Thornthwaite are excellent. Here is a complete panorama seen from the top of the summit wall (photo). From here, and for the next three miles, the views of Windermere and the distant estuary continue to catch the eye.

To the south lies the easy-going, clearly defined route over Froswick and Ill Bell (photo). These very pretty peaks have smooth western flanks (photo) contrasting with their rugged, eastern faces, these latter dropping perilously down into the Kentmere valley (photo). As you continue towards Yoke you will notice the impressive Rainsborrow Crag on its left flank. Once over Yoke's summit head down towards a kissing gate through a wall. The path now continues by the wall which has turned by about 90° and is now going south. There is a newly-paved path heading for Garburn Nook which turns at a narrow angle away from the wall (photo). Follow this to the Garburn road. On reaching the Garburn road turn left and continue along it all the way back to Kentmere church.

Rev. 02 September 2014

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