Great Gable walk from Honister Pass is a chance to bag another 6 Wainwrights in one day. Sounds pretty tough right? Well, it is. But with that being said it is definitely a great days walk. And you’ll seriously get your legs stretched in this Lakeland route from Honister Pass. But the views on all Grey Knotts, Brandreth, Base Brown, Green Gable, Great Gable and Kirk Fell will be worth it from Honister Slate Mine. Ready for a 7-hour hike?
Great Gable walk from Honister
So we started our walk up Great Gable from Honister Slate Mine. We had done our research and found that we could indeed bag another 6 Wainwrights at the same time. Anyone that knows us will know we love a challenge. Especially when it comes to the Wainwrights.
So after waking up early, again, we drove from our flat in Cockermouth to Honister Slate Mine. We took the A66 from Cockermouth to Keswick. Turning off through Keswick, we then continued on the B5289 on Borrowdale Road. This will take you around the side of Derwent Water, passing the gorgeous Lodore Falls Hotel and Spa. No, we have never stayed but yes, of course, we’d love to. And when you see the outside of this place, you’ll understand why.
You’ll also pass the little village of Grange on the right-hand side. Which is a great starting point for climbing Castle Crag. After passing through the villages of Rosthwaite, Borrowdale and Seatroller you’ll find you’re suddenly climbing up Honister Pass. It goes without saying that to drive the whole of Honister Pass you get some amazing views. And even if you’re not into the Wainwrights and Fells, you’ll get so much more than you bargained for on the drive along Honister Pass itself.
Parking at Hoister Slate Mine
People do climb these routes on their bikes as well so be careful when you’re driving along with them. Soon you’ll see the turning for Honister Slate Mine. This is a pay and display car-park with toilet facilities too. Take a wander to the roadside and look out to your left. You’ll see the southern side of Dale Head and Robinson, which you can also do from Honister Slate Mine.
If you prefer to not pay for your parking (which mostly we do opt for), there are little lay-bys along Honister Pass as you drive along the route. You can stop off and park in any of these free of charge. But then you will have the added walking time to reach the start point of Honister Slate Mine. For us, this doesn’t bother us too much, but we knew the walk on this day was going to be a challenging one. So we opted for a well-earned pay and display to start us off.
The car park itself if for the Honister Slate Mine, but you can park here to have a good day hiking too. The good news is that if you arrive here without any change for the car park. Just head into the reception at Honister Slate Mine and they’ll exchange a note for you to use for the car park.
It’s also a great place to have a walk around after your hike up and around Great Gable. They have a souvenirs shop with some really lovely products for a little gift to take away for yourself or others. In addition to this, they have a tour around the slate mine itself. And if you’re really feeling daring they have a Via Ferrata here as well as cave tours. Check them out here.
Bagging the first Wainwright on the walk to Great Gable, Grey Knotts
Once the backpacks are on we needed to head south from the car park which will be signposted for Grey Knotts. Here we’ll climb pretty steeply up the fence line. You’ll see a couple of stiles on the way up to Grey Knotts. Your legs will soon have their warm-up for sure. Ours definitely did haha. On seeing the second stile cross the fence line and head west (right). This will soon bring you on the summit of Grey Knotts which had a somewhat rocky outcrop to it.
We got up here at 7.05 am when the weather was pleasant and not another human being in sight. The views stretching out in all directions are stunning. You can see Buttermere and Crummock Water in a north-westerly direction. With Red Pike and High Stile on the left-hand side. The cloud was still just lifting over the Fells making for some lovely photos.
Heading towards Brandreth from Grey Knotts
The walk towards Brandreth is straight forward. We just continued in a south-westerly direction. This went across a shallow col and then up to Brandreth itself. All in all, it took us no less than 15 minutes to reach the summit of this Wainwright Brandreth. Where another high five was shared between the two of us.
From the summit of Brandreth, you do get a clear look at Great Gable and its almighty presence. The first two Wainwrights in the bag and we were going strong. We could also see the route that we’d have to take to Base Brown. It all looked simple enough from up here so we got the legs moving again. We had passed one other person by this time as well which was heading back towards Honister Slate Mine. They must have been up crazy early. Below is a quote that Alfred Wainwright had to say about Great Gable itself. And looking towards it now, we could see why.
“It is the undisputed Lord of the group of hill to which it belongs.”Alfred Wainwright
Making the summit of Base Brown on our walk to Great Gable from Honister
From Brandreth we headed in a southerly direction on Gillercomb Head, almost heading towards Green Gable. But before we reached Green Gable there is a cairn that sits at a junction. This will be where we are turning off towards Base Brown. Waving goodbye to Great Gable, knowing we’ll be walking back to her soon. We head off north-easterly (left) on a clear path.
This route heads down the ridge and towards another path junction called Blackmoor Pots. This one is wider than the one previous. The thing with heading down on the route is you know on your return you’ll be heading back up it again. I always start to think of my legs when we know we’ll be retracing the walk.
But for now, we continued on the path that we were on towards the Wainwright of Base Brown. 3 in the bag and the little one said, keep going, keep going. Here you feel like you are slightly disconnected to the main route to Great Gable. Like it’s an afterthought and doesn’t belong to the main group of Wainwrights. However, it still offers some amazing views over the Lake District.
At just gone 8.10 am in the morning we felt like we were flying through the Wainwrights. We had mentally prepared for a tough day and so far, so good. However, we did know the big Fells were still to come with Great Gable and Green Gable. After having a mid-morning snack we soon took in the sights once more. The best thing about being in the Lake District is that time sometimes feels like it stands still.
Base Brown from Seathwaite including Taylorgill Force
Just a quick note here. If you are wanting to climb Base Brown as a little Wainwright in the day, without a big hike then you can do. Simple park up in the village of Seathwaite and you can climb up Gillercomb Head and then on to Base Brown. You can also turn it into a circular route and head up to Green Gable and then back down towards Seathwaite via Windy gap.
Then making a sharp easterly turn down Aaron Slack. This route takes you along Taylorgill Force. It is said to be one of the highest waterfalls in the Lake District. Something not to be missed. However, we personally haven’t seen it yet.
Base Brown walk back up to Green Gable then onto Great Gable
So this part of the route is pretty straight forward. The only thing you need to do is head back in the direction you came. Back up Blackmoor Pots towards the cairn where we turned off. Once arriving back at the cairn again take the most obvious route up towards Green Gable. This meaning a left-hand turn. And voilà, you have arrived on Green Gable.
For us it was now 8.57 am and we were onto number 4 of the 6 Wainwrights today. From here it is hard not to look at Great Gable here and realise why it’s such a beauty that people love to climb. You can also see Kirk Fell, the final Wainwright on our walk from Honister Slate Mine.
When you look around you’ll notice that the paths are all pretty strong to follow. Something that has once again amazed us about the Lake District. You think heading up a mountain the paths would be practically invisible, but it’s not the case. Many of the Wainwrights have extremely good solid routes heading up them. And on clear days you’ll question the need to get the map out to check where you’re going. Of course, however, on bad cloudy days, you’ll know exactly why you have a map on every hike.
So at 9 am on a Monday morning we headed down from Green Gable and on towards Great Gable.
Our walk up Great Gable from Honister Pass
From Green Gable, continue in the direction towards Great Gable and down into the col of Windy Gap. Here you’ll see the magnificent views over the western Lake District. Head up towards the big girl herself, Great Gable. The climbing is pretty tough with a strong decline from Green Gable and a pretty hefty inclined walk up Great Gable.
We were surprised at how bouldery and stony this section was to climb. And be sure to keep focused to make sure you’re heading with the path line, as you can easily lose it. There are some hands-on scrambling to be had here too. However, not to worry, pay attention and you’ll be absolutely fine.
It took us until 9.26 am to make the summit of Great Gable which felt much longer than the half an hour. Some people would still be tucked up in bed and yet fur us, we were onto our fifth Wainwright of the day, with one more still to go. We had seen a couple more people heading down from Great Gable as we were heading up. There were a couple on the summit too, just heading down. So we had the summit of Great Gable to ourselves. And we had to agree with Alfred Wainwright once more from another quote of his about Great Gable and the views in front of us.
“An impressive view that reveals the whole of it’s half-mile altitude as an unremitting and unbroken pyramid.”Alfred Wainwright
Snacks on our Great Gable walk, enjoying the surrounding Wainwrights
A perfect place for a pit-stop, high five and some much-needed refreshments. Of course, by now we were starting to feel the pinch of tired legs. However, eating snacks overlooking the Lake District is something I will never tire of. And it worked out to be the perfect spot. The cloud formations rolling around making every second a different picture. Still, the shadows landing on different areas of the surrounding Fells and the sun adding slight warmth to the area too. For us, this is Lakeland walking. This is what it is all about. The bagging of Wainwrights is an accomplishment, one which we’ll continue to do. But take the time out to truly enjoy what is indeed right in front of you.
Views from Great Gable on our walk:
North views from the Wainwright top of Great Gable
To the north, you have the beautiful Crummock Water. At the far end the dark patch of Melbreak. Then working your way towards us is Red Pike, High Stile and then the perfect summit of the very much loved Wainwright that is Haystacks. You’ll also be able to see the paths which you have just walked on too. From Honister Slate Mine, up to Grey Knotts, and Brandreth.
Eastern views from Great Gable overlooking Glaramara
To the east is the Borrowdale Fells. These include the likes of Glaramara, one we haven’t yet climbed but thoroughly looking forward to. Seathwaite Fell is also there and so is Rosthwaite Fell.
Scafell Pike will be seen from Great Gable towards the south
To the south, you’ll be able to make out, on a good day, of course, Scafell Pike. The one an only Wainwright that is the Top Of England at 978m high. The one Fell that you strain your eyes to see from other Wainwrights. In spite of it being so far away, you feel from this one, you can almost touch it. Just in front of Scafell Pike is Lingmell. Furthermore moving to the left is Great End, standing at 910m.
To get a better view from Great Gable to the south you can also make your way down the southern side. It is called Westmorland Cairn and offers some of the finest views in the Lake District. We didn’t head down here as the cloud was coming in and we still weren’t fully-fledged confident hikers.
Moving from the south to the west you’ll see Wast Water. Which indeed is the perfect place to start your climb up to Scafell Pike. Additionally, it should be noted, the route we took ourselves. And on the edge of Wast Water is Illgill Head and behind Illgill Head is Whin Rigg.
West views from Great Gable summit
West views from Great Gable will include Kirk Fell, our final destination on our Great Gable walk from Honister Slate Mine. You’ll be able to see how flat Kirk Fell really is. Then the likes of Scoat Fell and Pillar will also be in view from Great Gable on a clear day.
Undoubtedly, this is the exact reason why you should take some time out to fully enjoy and take in the views of the Lake District from the summit of Great Gable. They are outstanding and on the perfectly clear day, you can literally see for miles.
Summit of Great Gable:
The summit of Great Gable itself has a memorial plaque on which was set on the top to commemorate those who lost their lives in the Fell and Rock climbing club in World War One. There is also a remembrance service held on the top of Great Gable each year to remember them. The plaque itself is at the very summit of Great Gable so you really can’t miss it if you’re looking out for it.
Onwards and downwards towards Windy Gap off of Great Gable
The clouds themselves started to come in pretty heavy. And as I said previously we aren’t overly confident in Fell walking. So for us, this was a sign to get moving. Knowing we still had Kirk Fell to reach, we wanted to make sure we didn’t get caught up in the change of weather. You can head down from Great Gable to the western side, however, for us, we read it was a craggy and steep route. So for us, we headed back down the way we came up, towards Windy Gap.
Being careful coming down Windy Gap
Importantly being careful on the descent here with the rough terrain. Once you’ve reached the col at Windy Gap it really starts to get fun. Firstly, heading down towards the next junction is a substantial amount of scree. Meaning slippery loose stones. Secondly, for or us, it meant a lot of hard work on our knees. And thirdly, I, Hazel, even took to slipping down on my bottom for some of it haha. Of course, as I was finding it hard to keep my balance. Maybe it was down to the tired legs, but either way, it was different. At this time after gazing back at each other with some forced smiles and some actual giggles, we made it to the junction path.
We met some walkers heading back up and wished them luck. Also, we saw what was quite astonishing, a sheep that looked like it was on a stone post on the front end of the Great Gable crags. We hoped he’d be able to find his way safely down. However, we never did see. In the case that you’re feeling tired, here you can actually head straight back towards Honister Slate Mine if you wanted to. But why would you leave the final Wainwright behind?
Heading towards Kirk Fell, the final Wainwright of the day
At the bottom of Windy Gap, we want to take the left path, going along the base of Great Gable. If you’re anything like us you’ll be looking up at the Wainwright of Kirk Fell with a tired gaze. Legs aching from the descent off of Great Gable knowing you’ve still got a long hike and climb to Kirk Fell. Not only this but we were thinking of the entire walk back to Honister Slate Mine too.
Anyway off we go. With energy dropping slightly we decided to have a little sing-song on this next section of the day. You’ll soon see a route heading up towards Great Gable again on your left-hand side once you’ve passed the majority of Great Gable. This is the route you could have come down if you wanted too. And also head up.
Don’t get confused with the east side of Kirk Fell thinking it’s the summit
Again the walk itself to Kirk Fell is pretty straight forward, but be aware the first cairn you reach will be the eastern side of the Fell. This stands at 787m. Amazingly this is not the summit of Kirk Fell. Instead, here you need to head in a south-west direction, across a shallow col. Then passing the Kirk Fell tarn(s). From here you’ll climb up to the summit of the Wainwright. Also, there will be a shelter cairn there which is a great spot for lunch.
11.12 am we reached the summit of Kirk Fell. Just over 4 hours from our first summit, the Wainwright of Grey Knotts. It felt like a fulfilled day that just kept on giving. The views back to Great Gable were without doubt breathtaking. Honestly, still to look at these photos makes me so proud of this day. The Lake District just keeps on giving and giving, even when you aren’t there. Those kinds of memories just don’t fade away.
Dinner time on Kirk Fell, before heading back towards Honister Slate Mine
After taking in the views that surround Kirk Fell we decided to take our dinner break. Putting on some extra clothes to keep the warmth in we tucked into our sandwiches while enjoying the view. Yes, there was some lemon cake too, of course. There were another handful of people around but that was it. Again the Fell top was pretty much ours. The final Wainwright of the day and now we were feeling sad that there were no more. Even though we knew the walk back would be a long one.
We were, however, looking forward to getting our felt tip pens out when we got home and colouring in these 6 Wainwrights. We have a colour map which when we’ve climbed a Wainwright you can colour it in and put the date down too. This is something we did the minute we got back home. To be honest, the maps and pens live on the table. We had a good laugh up here and some equally quiet silence. This had been a tough hike from Honister but a most enjoyable one at the same time.
And even better yet, the sun looked like it was about to come out again for the walk back to Honister. Looking back over Great Gable and Scafell Pike it was a day we would remember. Only nine days ago we were in fact on Scafell Pike looking back over this very point where we now sat. We had climbed the Wainwright for our birthday, our twin birthday.
The long walk back to Honister Slate Mine to end our day on Great Gable
So backpacks back on. Let’s get going. 11.50 am and we started heading back towards Windy Gap on Beck Head. Bellies full and energy on the rise, we can do this. Here we literally retraced our steps back along Beck Head. For your concern, the sheep indeed was still there on the crags of Great Gable. Please sheep make it down safely.
Once at the junction at the bottom of Windy Gap, we head in a northerly direction, along Moses’ Trod. It is a pretty decent path which we followed around the contours of the valley. The views down here over the Lake District again were just beautiful. We couldn’t help stopping to get photos.
Keep on heading down here until you see a faint junction. Here we headed right (north) to a fence stile. Cross this stile and then you’ll reach a second stile. Again cross this one and the route will soon join the Coast to Coast walk. This will continue to head in a northern direction where you’ll soon reach an old disused Drum House of an old tramway.
Option to continue the Wainwright bagging if you want with Fleetwith Pike
So here it is pretty much the end of the walk. All you need to do is head right (easterly) and descend back to Honister Slate Mine. If you feel really adventurous you can go left (west) on the path. This will take you to Fleetwith Pike and eventually Haystacks. Two of our favourite hikes. Fleetwith really does have some beautiful views over Buttermere.
We headed right towards Honister Slate Mine which we were relieved to see, I’m not going to lie. The last part of the walk felt never-ending and Zoe’s knees were starting to get to amber. We were ready to get back to the car and the facilities too. Again don’t forget to have a look in the gift shop or book yourself on the Via Ferrata.
Six Wainwrights bagged on this walk from Honister Slate Mine
For us, this was a very tiring and yet exciting and fulfilled day. 6 Wainwrights in one day is a true accomplishment. Of course, you can add on Fleetwith Pike as well as a couple more if you wanted to. Hey, the Lake District is literally yours for the taking. For us the views from all the Wainwrights today were incredible and the weather was perfect too.
Grey Knotts, a simple little Wainwright with its rocky top. Brandreth, the quickest Wainwright to get to from Grey Knotts, 15 minutes. Base Brown, the Wainwright that doesn’t quite fit into the walk and yet owns itself and stands strong non the less. Green Gable of course leading onto the amazing Great Gable. Offering some of the best views in the Lake District. This Great Gable walk is magnificent. And then not forgetting there was the Wainwright of Kirk Fell. The perfect viewpoint overlooking Great Gable and the surrounding Fells.
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.