There is sometimes snow and ice. There is often rain. However, the draw of hiking in January and February in the Lake District cannot be ignored! With quiet roads; peaceful paths, and the guarantee of a seat in the pub when you get back down, it’s no wonder us ‘locals’ love this time of year in the Lakes!
That being said, the walking can get a wee bit more technical, what with all the snow and ice around on the tops. A good pair of Ice spikes and a bit of common sense is a must at this time of year. Be prepared and you will reap the rewards of an uncrowded trail and potentially (if your lucky) plenty of clear, icy days and views from the summit!
So, without further ado – Our 5 favourite, late-Winter walks in the North Lakes…
- Dale Head to Honister from Rosthwaite
- Fleetwith Pike
- Skiddaw via Ullock Pike
- Red pike and Haystacks from Buttermere
- High Tove, High Seat, Bleaberry Fell ridge walk
1. Dale Head to Honister from Rosthwaite
This walk takes you through the village of Rosthwaite; across the River Derwent, and up Tounge Gill, passing the old slate mines en-route. Levelling out as you cut across the grasslands to Dale Head Tarn, then beginning the steep climb up to Dale Head’s summit. The views from Dale Head across the two valleys of Borrowdale and Newlands are spectacular, especially when the surrounding fells are covered in a dusting of snow.
Drop down the Southerly path from Dale Head, which leads straight and steeply down to the slate mine and YHA at Honister. If you’re lucky, the café at Honister will be open for a quick tea break, before following either the road, or the off-road path back to Rosthwaite via Seatoller. Another pit-stop at the dog-friendly Riverside bar in Rosthwaite is a welcome relief in the Winter months, with its roaring fire and sumptuous food options.
Same area, different walk. Fleetwith pike is a great little jaunt if you don’t have much of the day to get out on the fells. Park at Honister Slate Mine and follow the path out the back of the car-park. This path will take you on a steep, stepped route to the level (ish) grasslands, roughly separating fleetwith pike and Haystacks.
Cut North across, to join the path running up Fleetwith’s ridge. This is great fun in the snow (if you’re into that sort of thing- if not, there is a more direct route via the slate road that keeps you on a more defined path). Views from Fleetwith summit over a Wintery Buttermere are sensational and it’s a perfect walk for dogs, with plenty of space for galloping about and rarely any grazing sheep (always be vigilant of course!).
Skiddaw via Ullock Pike
Probably one of the only times we’ve ever had a clear day on Skiddaw- was in late Winter! The route from Buttermere over Ullock Pike, then following the ridge-line up Skiddaw, is the most enjoyable and view worthy of the many route choices.
Parking somewhere along the A591 to the East of Bassentwaite Lake, there are a few different places you can join the Allerdale Ramble path up to Ullock Pike Summit. It’s an impressive ascent, with stunning views of Bassenthwaite to your right, the whole way up. Once summited, you will see the ridge-line ahead of you, curling around (more often than not, above the clouds, trapped and swirling in the valley).
It’s a steep climb up to Skiddaw summit from here; feeling even steeper if you choose to descend the same way (although, circular routes are available and advisable). The 360 views from Skiddaw are well worth the climb, and on a clear, crisp day are just astounding!
Red Pike, High Stile, High Pike and Haystacks from Buttermere
There are several ways to complete this amazing ridge walk, which is slippery and steep in places, especially in the Winter – just a word of warning.
Starting at Gratescarth farm on Buttermere, head along the Eastern side of Buttermere and up through the woods, where you can choose whether to begin the climb to Bleaberry tarn and Red Pike, or cut off Red Pike and make your first ascent up High Style. Either way, stunning views of Buttermere and surrounding Fells await.
You continue along the ridge line, taking in the summit of High Crag and either to Haystacks, or cutting back down to the valley floor via Scarth Gap Pass. With a choice between a couple of pubs in Buttermere on your return, this is Winter walking at its finest.
High Tove, High Seat and Bleaberry Fell
We only ever do this walk in either freezing or baking conditions- as the bogs on this ridge walk are not very enjoyable in wet (or even normal) weather. Perfect weather for this walk is a really deep freeze- but still watch out for the thinly veiled bog! The best Starting point is from Rosthwaite -climbing up to Watendlath, just above the Borrowdale Valley. You will then climb the stone steps at the back of Watendlath National Trust toilets to the often misty (and a bit bleak) summit of High Tove.
From here you’re following the ridge line (which is often just the fence line) to High Seat. This being the perfect stop for lunch, with a bit of craggy shelter from the weather if needed. The route across to the Summit of Bleaberry Fell gives you some of the most spectacular views over a frosty Borrowdale Valley and Derwent water.
Cut off Bleaberry Fell for a shorter walk, or extend it by adding Castlerigg Fell on your way into Keswick, where you can hop on the best bus journey in Britain (If we don’t say so ourselves) back down the Borrowdale Valley. Beware- the last bus in the Winter will be fairly early, so worth double checking the timetables. Also, if you’ve parked at Watendlath rather than Rosthwaite, you will have some further walking to do after you alight.
Walking back via the flatter paths that are strewn across the valley is another option of course.
Hopefully this has given you a bit of inspiration to get out walking this Winter in the North Lakes. If there are any amazing Winter routes you think we’ve missed off or you want us to write about, be sure to let us know and we’ll give them a go!
Never go without a map!
Read more about walking in the North Lakes: