Walk 2041 - printer friendly version
Barf (via the Bishop) and Lords Seat Walk
Author - John Paterson
Length - 4.0 miles / 6.5 km
Ascent - 1650 feet / 500 metres
Grade - mod/hard
Start - OS grid reference NY221264
Lat 54.6267 + Long -3.2081199
Postcode CA12 5SQ (approx. location only)
One of the most noticeable features of the North Western fells is the "bishop" of Barf - a pinnacle of rock which is painted white each year by staff of the Swan Hotel at Thornthwaite at the foot of the fell. This Lake District walk passes the Bishop on the way to the summit. Although the walk is short, this direct ascent of Barf is a steep climb on scree and heather plus an easy but exposed rock traverse at the half way point which puts the walk close to the "hard" category and only fit walkers with some scrambling experience should attempt it. Others will find a much easier path marked on the map approaching the summit of Barf from near the top of Beckstones Gill. The views are excellent on the ascent followed by easy walking to Lords Seat and a delightful descent through the forestry of Beckstones Plantation. Note: The last picture shows a slow worm which I spotted on the scree path near the "clerk". These legless lizards are quite harmless and should be left undisturbed.
Start: Take the A66 west from Keswick past the turn to Braithwaite and after quarter of a mile take a left turn signed "Thornthwaite" Proceed along this minor road for 1 mile until the Swan Hotel is seen on the right. Opposite the Swan is a small carpark by a bus stop (GR NY221264).
Walk up the narrow lane next to the carpark for about 50 yards and then pass through a kissing gate on the right. After a 100 yards the path reaches a white painted standing stone (GR219264). This is the "clerk" and marks the point where a steep scree path heads up to the "bishop" a few hundred feet above. After the bishop has been reached, even steeper scree leads to a breach in the rocks. Above the rocks thick heather on a steep slope makes progress difficult but faint paths eventually lead to a final patch of scree below the crescent shaped cliff of Slape Crag. There is only one way to negotiate the crag. There is a heather shelf between the scree and the base of the crag. At the left end of the shelf, a rock traverse for a few feet (exposed but not difficult and with wonderful views over Bass Lake) leads to another steep heather slope. Keep trending left to reach a break in a low escarpment above. Once the crags have been breached the difficulties are behind you. The path is now much more visible and leads over a false summit before joining the tourist path from Beckstones Gill less than 100 yards from the summit cairn.
From Barf summit, Lords Seat can be seen three quarters of a mile away blocking the view to the west but in all other directions there are good views of much of the north Lake District. The path to Lords Seat is excellent at an easy gradient but there will be some muddy patches after rain. To the right good views open up over the Wythop valley to the Solway coast. Lords Seat summit is a rather disappointing broad dome but there are better views westwards than from Barf and the views to the Coledale fells are good. Leave Lords Seat down a path bearing SSE leading to a fence and a stile (GR204265) after less than 100 yards. Cross the stile and proceed along an excellent forest path over attractive moorland dotted with self seeded conifers.
You are now in Whinlatter forest park with paths and tracks in all directions. To reach our next objective, Beckstones Gill, It is vital to turn LEFT AT EVERY JUNCTION you reach. A mixture of good paths and forest roads will take you down into the plantations of conifers until a forest road heading south east breaks out of the trees high above the Vale of Keswick. After 100 yards turn sharp left (GR213261) onto a disused forest road heading north back into the trees. This path becomes grassy once in the trees and reaches Beckstones Gill (GR212265) near the point where the tourist route down from Barf crosses the gill. Stay on the path on the south side of the gill and look for a marker post after a hundred yards where a path to the left leads down through Beckstones plantation with one small rock step to negotiate. At the base of the plantation the path crossed the gill and reaches the "clerk" after a few hundred yards.