The walk up Blencathra is one of the most popular and iconic walks in the Lake District. And with good reason as well. Even Wainwright loved the mountain so much he dedicated more pages to this Fell than any other in his pictorial guides. So here’s our round route to the top of Blencathra and its surrounding Fells too. Starting from Mungrisdale, let’s begin.
If of course you’d like any more information on the above Wainwrights’ then please click here and then follow the links provided.
The perfect morning for the perfect walk up Blencathra
My alarm went off at 5:00 am on my phone to let me know that yes we had another day of hiking ahead of us. We were in the Lake District for six months. Taking a sabbatical from work and life in general. And we had fallen in love with the Lakes a few years previous and knew that we had to be here right here, right now, to be living our true life for even six months. Check out more about us here on our story to how we got into the Wainwrights, and our search for true freedom.
Little did we know that a few years later we’d be creating that exact life for ourselves to make it a permanent fixture. So that we’d never have to ask for a holiday again. We’d simply go whenever we wanted.
But anyway, back to that morning. We were up and ready and left our flat at 6:00 am to drive down the A66 towards Mungrisdale. And after turning off down the correct road we made our way to this little village and got parked up just after 6:30 am.
We parked just opposite the tea rooms in the village and there is a lay-by here for around eight cars or so. However, this morning there was only one other van parked up. And we knew that by the time we were heading back to the car later on, it would be a different story.
Besides the village hall (tea rooms), a pub, and a church, there isn’t much else in Mungrisdale. It’s a quaint little village and the roads leading through are mostly single lanes. This meaning the parking can be a little tricky as there are stone walls and mostly driveways to the local’s houses to contend with.
This leaves little room for cars to get parked when wanting to start any hiking from here. So my best advice as always is to get there early. Oh, and one good thing is there is no charge for parking in the village. But there are also no public facilities unless you choose to visit the team room or pub.
Which we have to agree with you, there’s worse things to have to do.
The long approach up Souther Fell towards Blencathra
After crossing over the river which you park against, we walked towards the pub Mill Inn. Before passing and turning down a little lane on the left-hand side and this leads up towards a gate. Then, we made our way through the gate we followed the path on the right to pass alongside the back of Mill Inn.
After turning left shortly after this we were on the Fellside of Souther Fell and heading upwards. We knew then that we were on the right path and the walk truly got going. Being the first thing in the morning we started to see the mist rising from around us which was seriously beautiful.
Without any other walker in sight, it was just how we liked it. Alfred Wainwright walked alone and would do his best to avoid conversation on the Fells while he was out walking. I’m not saying we didn’t or don’t talk to anyone else, but there is a certain peace that comes from being alone in the mountains.
And as the Lake District gets busier with more and more tourists each year. It becomes harder to find those true solitude moments when it is just you and the mountains. Well and one another in our case.
Onto the flat top of Souther Fell
Once we had climbed the end of the Fell, we were onto the flat top. And this seemed to go on forever. As we walked and watched the mist rise and had little talk between each other as we made our way on the only path possible to the summit of Souther Fell.
After walking for half an hour or so on the top of the mound, reaching the exact top didn’t feel overly special. But we high fived each other and took in the views of Blencathra in front of us.
It looked truly majestic and we were ready to keep on moving to get there for a close-up. We had a quick drink of water and a cereal bar each. If you know anything about us at all, you’ll know that we’re hungry all of the time. We pack to go walking as though we’re going to be away for weeks on end.
So if you ever see us on the Fells and you’re in need of some food, don’t hesitate to stop and ask us. We’ll happily supply food to anyone that is in need of it.
Following the stream to walk to Blencathra
As we left Souther Fell we made our way on the clear path down to meet a col at Mousthwaite Comb. From here you can hear and see the river on the right-hand side and so following alongside this we took the path off and continued our walk towards Blencathra.
The River Glenderamackin comes down from Scales Tarn which is the Tarn just off of Blencathra itself. So following this path alongside the river, we knew we were heading in the right direction. There is a choice to take the higher path up steeply at the col to join Blencathra that way. But we wanted to see the Tarn and so followed the lower of the paths here.
As we neared Scales Tarn we could see a few hikers on Sharp Edge climbing up towards Blencathra and we watched them with awe as we continued on our route. The ridge’s former name was ‘Razor Edge’ because it was said to be sharp enough for shaving. Wainwright also quoted the following:
“Sharp Edge is a rising crest of naked rock, of sensational and spectacular appearance, a breaking wave carved in stone.”Alfred Wainwright
The lovely Scales Tarn on our way up to Blencathra
The Tarn itself sits at almost 600m above sea level and gives a lovely view from the edge looking up towards Sharp Edge and Blencathra. When we got the Tarn itself, the water was sparkling from the sun beaming down from the morning. It really is beautiful and such a peaceful spot next to the adventurous and adrenaline rush of Sharp Edge.
Check out the link to the right which shows the top ten ridge walks in the Lake District. It’s a small pocket-sized book that you can take with you on the Fells while attempting the ridges yourself. It’s a fully coloured book with plenty of detail and points of interest along the way. We’ve got a few of these ‘top 10′ pocket-sized books including the waterfall walks, and they’re great to include on the walks that you take.
We took a few minutes to stop. Just to hear the water lapping gently at the shoreline and watch the hikers finish their climb up the popular ridge. It was a perfect morning so far and we knew there was plenty still to come. So we took our route to the left of Scales Tarn and headed up the much easier but just as steep path towards Blencathra summit.
Blencathra summit walk and being attacked on the top
We took this route because it was our first time up Blencathra and we wanted it as stress-free as possible. The way we like all of our walks in the Lake District. We know that we’ll be coming back soon enough, and next time we’ll be heading up the famous ridge. But for this walk, we were rather enjoying the views looking over to the ridge as we climbed higher.
The incline started to ease off slightly and so we knew we were nearing the top. Blencathra is one of the only Fells in which the name refers to the entire mountain.
On reaching the top we were over the moon. But this didn’t last long as out of no-where there was a swarm of midges which seemed to hover right over the concrete circle on the ground to mark the top of the Fell. We quickly got a photo or two, then a high five, and batting them out of our faces we quickly moved from the summit and down the path that we knew we needed.
I wouldn’t say it was disappointing but it would have been nice to appreciate the views that we had for a little longer. So we were happy that we had something up our sleeves. Well, we weren’t actually wearing sleeves as the sun was now warming up nicely and the walk up to Blencathra had well and truly got us, even more, warmed through on the way up.
But up our hypothetical sleeves, we knew our next stop was that of Atkinson Pike. This would be the third peak of the day and from the research that I had done, the views were going to be spot on.
A short walk to Atkinson Pike (Blencathra)
Following the path along the ridge of Blencathra, we made the short but lovely walk to Atkinson Pike, which is part of Blencathra. So, from here you look down the Foule Crag and onto Sharp Edge. The views really are something else. And without the midges hovering around us, we could truly appreciate them views looking down towards Scales Tarn too.
The strange Wainwright of Mungrisdale Common
Looking out to the west we got the view of a flat mound that went on for quite some time. And then at the far end of this mound, we could just about make out a cairn in the middle of the bunny tail grass meadow that seemed to take up the whole of the mound.
This sight in itself was beautiful as the bunny tail grass was literally everywhere but looking towards the cairn, it seemed like a long walk for nothing.
No-one really seems to be too sure as to why Mungrisdale Common is a Wainwright at all. It’s not very interesting at all and the views from the cairn which I’ll tell you now as well as in a short while, are well, lacking. Some say that Alfred Wainwright put this Fell into his Pictorial Guides to the Lake District as a joke because no-one ever visited the Fell. Others think he simply needed to add the numbers up for this book and so that was his reasoning.
But either way, it is a Wainwright, and we were going to be bagging it while we were here.
So off we went heading down the slopes of Atkinson Pike and then across the flat top of Mungrisdale Common. It took us some time to get there too. I believe around twenty minutes or so, and when you then have to walk back in generally the same direction to get back on route to the next Fell, this is a detour and a half.
A note on Mungrisdale Common
But we got there and to be fair the views really were lacking (told you I’d let you know again). There wasn’t much to see except all the bunny grass around us and the walk back of Blencathra. Which isn’t as mighty from the westside as it is from the east.
But here’s a little note which I feel I need to point out. The path leading to Mungrisdale Common is seriously faint. I should think this is due to the lack of visitors it receives. But if you are heading out this way in low cloud, mist, or generally bad weather. Then it will be boggy and it can be quite disorientating too. The second path leading back towards Blencathra is no better than the one leading out.
So just be careful if it isn’t as clear as we had it on our walk that day. With it being entirely flat, there is nothing as a point of reference to head for either. So it’s just something that is worth pointing out.
The long walk to Bannerdale Crags
Back to the walk of our round trip from Mungrisdale to the Blencathra Fells. And we were on the faint path leading back towards the north of Blencathra. If you’re unsure of the path you can head for the Crags ahead of you and then follow the edge the whole way going north. This is because it rounds with the path and then finally pulls away as the route leads east towards Bannerdale Crags.
It took some time to get to Bannerdale Crags just because of the walk back from Mungrisdale Common. But the views from the summit here are awesome. From the top, you can see southwest looking towards Sharp Edge and it looks insanely nice. Looking around from the summit to the other Fells in the north of the Lake District you can see so many other Fells. And it’s incredible to see how far you can really walk in one morning too. We had set off at around 6:30 am and within a space of three or four hours, we had walked miles and miles.
And the day wasn’t over yet. So onwards and upwards to the next Wainwright in the walk, Bowscale Fell.
Following the Bannerdale Crags to Bowscale Fell
It’s clear to see how Bannerdale Crags gets its name when you start following the next part of the route to Bowscale Fell. The path literally follows alongside the Crags and it’s such a relief to see some shape to the Fells around. Being in the Northern part of the Lakes, this area is primarily mounds and flatter tops.
So to have the Crags on the walk up to Blencathra, and Bannerdale Crags is so nice to see and mix up the views that you get throughout the day walking. It’s a clear route to Bowscale Fell and when you get to the end of the Crags, it simply continues northeast towards the summit here.
There is a cairn at the top to mark the point. And obviously a high five between the two of us too. Looking back towards the Crags was ace and we took a short break here to get some water and enjoy the views before our last hilltop of the day. This was Wainwright number five of the day and we were truly buzzing from the walk.
It’s a funny thing being the Lake District. It’s like an addiction that draws you in the more that you do. Once you get the bug, there just is no getting away from it. As the famous anonymous quote says:
“You may leave the Lake District, but once you’ve been, it’ll never leave you.”
This is so true. And we know this just as much as anyone. Whenever we head to Lakes, I’m never happier than tying my boot laces up knowing that we’ve got a day to hike ahead of us. And this day was no different. And the day after would have been exactly the same.
Lunch on Tarn Crags Top
Heading north and then northeast along the ridge of Bowscale Fell we made our way to the top of Tarn Crags Top. There is a cairn here that marks the summit although it is mostly heading downhill to get to the top.
We sat having lunch as a sheep came wandering over the edge of where we knew the path was going to be taking a steep descent. It made us laugh that we had barely walked past or seen anyone else the whole time. Despite this, a Herdwick sheep stood watching us eat, which was the most company that we had had along the whole walk. As for me, I think we’re perhaps more sheep people than human.
That was until two walkers came over the top of the same ridge. But after a brief smile and ‘hello’, they had gone past to enjoy their days walking in the Fells too.
As the clouds gathered around us, we felt a drop or two of rain and we’re so glad that we had made the most of the morning. So packing our backpacks back up and getting back up off of the cairn which we were sat on. We started to head over what looked like the edge of the world.
The long walk back to Mungrisdale on our round Blencathra walk
Once we were over the ridge, the path drops steeply down the front of the Fell. Compared to the slight inclines and declines of the entire walk after Blencathra, this was a bit of a shock to the knees. We kept our pace pretty slow. And made our way down the steepest part of Fell before it gently started to ease and the walk back down became pleasant.
Looking back to see where we had come from only showed us the ridge in which we were coming down. The views of the day were well and truly gone from sight but this didn’t bother us. Because we knew that the memories which we made were more and they would last for years to come.
Writing up this blog has brought back those memories all over again to make them clear in my mind. As well as re-living the walk it is also a privilege to write them up for you to read. And if you then go on the same walk and make your own memories, then it’s a win-win all around.
Continuing down the Fell and through the ferns, we made our way slowly back on the long walk to Mungrisdale. The rain had subsided for now and we were grateful but also in need of cooling down. And a quick shower would have certainly helped with that.
Back to the car and a good mornings walk
As we neared the bottom of the Fell we looked at our map to make sure we were in the right village. Ok, we didn’t. But we did check the map to see where we were going to be coming out in the village of Mungrisdale. And once we hit the road it was a right turn onto the road. Within five minutes we could see the car parked amongst a few others now.
It took us a total of around six to seven hours to complete the round trip and we were back to the car around 1:00 pm. In spite of the long walk, we loaded our backpacks into the boot happily and did a few stretches just to make sure we warmed down our muscles a little. Especially before getting back into our little car.
But a really good day’s walk. And some great views of the surrounding area too. To bag five Wainwrights off together as well while enjoying the whole route at the same time was spot on. And it’s certainly an area that we’d like to head back to and try a few more routes alongside.
So I hope you’ve enjoyed it and drop us a comment if you have. And any questions regarding the route, again comment or get in touch with us via the contact us page. As we are happy to help with anything you may need regarding the Lake District.
True Freedom SeekersHazel and Zoe
We hope you find our walks and adventures in the Lake District helpful. And we wish you much fun and success on bagging the Wainwrights yourself. If you want to share any stories with us then please feel free to. Have a super day.