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Lake District Walk
Buttermere Horseshoe

Nat Park - Lake District - Lake District Western Fells

Wainwrights - Dale Head, Haystacks, High Crag, High Stile, Red Pike (Buttermere), Robinson

County/Area - Cumbria

Author - Stephen Starkey

Length - 14.0 miles / 22.8 km

Ascent - 5800 feet / 1758 metres

Time - 12 hours 50 minutes

Grade - very hard

Start - OS grid reference NY178168
Lat 54.539765 // Long -3.272015
Postcode CA13 9XA (approx. location only)

Walk Route Description

Photo from the walk - Buttermere Horseshoe Photo from the walk - Buttermere Horseshoe Photo from the walk - Buttermere Horseshoe
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This is a strenuous Lake District walk that presents no technical difficulties. It starts from the village of Buttermere, which is situated on the shores of the lake with the same name. As with all mountain walks you should ensure that you have adequate clothing and food. Emergency exit points are noted in the description is you need to shorten the route.

The start is the Youth Hostel (Grid ref. NY178168) in Buttermere. Head north along the road to Buttermere village then take the bridleway to the left of The Fish Hotel. At the fork in the bridleway next to the fence, take the left hand fork to Buttermere Dubs footbridge (Grid ref. NY 173163). Cross the footbridge and then take the stone stepped path through Burntness Wood and up to Bleaberry Tarn (Grid ref. NY 166154).

Cross the outlet from the tarn to Sour Milk Gill and continue climbing on the obvious path to The Saddle (Grid ref. NY 163155) where a short detour to the right up a wide grassy path leads to the summit of Dodd (Grid ref. NY 164157) with spectacular views over Crummockwater and Buttermere.

Retrace the route back to The Saddle then continue the climb to the summit of Red Pike (Grid ref. NY 160154). Continue ahead for about 100 metres from the summit to where the main path crosses then turn left to follow the main path along the ridge, taking in High Stile, High Crag and Seat to arrive at the path junction at Scarth Gap. (From here there are escape routes available back to Buttermere lake via either Scarth Gap or Warnscale Beck just beyond Haystacks).

The main route continues from Scarth Gap to take in the twin summits of Haystacks - with all the plaudits from others, this for me is the most disappointing of all the Lakeland Fells. From Haystacks the path descends past Innominate Tarn and Blackbeck Tarn. Masochists may want to detour to take in the spectacular views from Fleetwith Pike. However, for normal, mortal beings, the route heads off to the road at Honister Hause.

The easiest route needs a little care on the navigation, ensuring you go right at the first fork in the path and left at the second fork, after which fording Warnscale Beck can be tricky if in spate, before the route heads around the Eastern slopes of Fleetwith Pike and then drops down to the Honister Pass road (Grid ref. NY 225135). (If required, the road can be used as a downhill escape route back to Buttermere with an occasional bus in season).

For the full route, cross the road and start the long slog up to the summit of Dale Head (Grid ref. NY 223153). At the summit cairn, turn left to follow a ridge path along Hindscarth Edge which provides stunning views on a clear day. At Grid ref. NY 214158 where a path forks right to Hindscarth, take the left hand path to go along Littledale Edge then veer right to the summit of Robinson (Grid ref. NY 202168).

The route back to the Youth Hostel is then reasonably straightforward, traversing rough open moorland of High Snockrigg (which can offer spectacular sunset views over Red Pike et al) before starting out on a knee jarringly steep descent to the Newlands Road just beyond the Youth Hostel

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Recommended Reading

Short Walks in Lakeland Book 2: North Lakeland

Short Walks in Lakeland Book 2: North LakelandThis guidebook contains 57 short half to full-day walks in the northern Lake District. Walking areas include Borrowdale, Newlands, Bassenthwaite, Thirlmere, Ullswater, Haweswater and the area north of Keswick up to Caldbeck. Part of a three-volume series, and predominantly focusing on low-level walks between 2 to 9 miles, and graded for difficulty.
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