This stunning walk to the Wainwright of Haystacks would be one to remember. Not only does it include Fleetwith Pike which for me holds some of the best views in the Lake District. But it is also the place where Alfred Wainwright’s ashes were scattered at Innominate Tarn. The inspiration and man who made climbing the Fells in the Lake District easier for us all.
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Where are Haystacks and Fleetwith Pike located?
Haystacks and Fleethwith Pike are located in the western side of the Lake District. They are a walk from the lake of Buttermere which is a stunning place to have a stroll around as well. Not far from Crummock Water and Loweswater.
How to get to Buttermere to start our walk up Haystacks?
You can get there via Honister Pass or from Cockermouth on the B5289. Honister Pass will come from the direction of Keswick and Borrowdale and passes Honister Slate Mine. Another great location to climb some big Wainwrights like Great Gable.
For us, our flat was located in Cockermouth itself so we, of course, took the B5289 to Buttermere. The road as you hit Crummock Water and Buttermere are somewhat windy. Please be careful driving down here. It can get extremely busy in high season and the roads a little tight, windy, and a lot of ups and downs. Especially when you hit Buttermere.
We have driven this many a time and each time it feels like it gets tighter and tighter haha. It is still a very interesting drive with the views over Crummock Water and Buttermere. And of course, the occasional Herdwick Sheep wandering into the road as well. Another reason to be careful.
You’ll see other places to park down this road and other walkers starting their walks too. Maybe up the Wainwrights of Grasmoor or Rannderdale Knotts. All looking ready for the day ahead of them with smiles on their faces. Backpacks bulging with supplies for their walks too.
Parking at Gatesgarth for the climb of two Wainwrights
There are two options here. Firstly, there is a car park at Gatesgarth. It is a pay car park, so for us, we continued up the road a little further. We are of course quite tight on money and find anywhere that is free haha. You’ll see some little paths on the right-hand side. This is where we’ll be coming back down off of Fleetwith Pike.
Keep driving down on Honister Pass and you’ll see some little places on the left where you can park too. There is also a bigger layby a little more further up. But of course, bear in mind you will have to walk back this distance after the hike up Haystacks and Fleethwith Pike too.
Also, note to self the verges on the side of the road can suddenly drop a little so just be careful if you do park down here. I once nearly drove a little too far over, but that’s a story for another day.
Start of the walk from Gatesgarth to Haystacks
Anticipating the walk ahead of us up Haystacks and Fleetwith Pike, we threw on our backpacks, did a few stretches (never harms to warm up), and gazed around us for a brief minute.
So after admiring the views of the Lake District we walked back towards Gatesgarth car park. Just past the car park, you’ll see a bridge. This crosses Gatesgarthdale Beck. We don’t want to cross this. Instead, turn left through a gate on the right. This looks as though it walks alongside the farms drive, and alongside Gatesgarthdale Beck too.
Follow this clear path going through another gate or two and across the fields taking in the beautiful scenery of the surrounding Wainwrights. The path is quite wide and gravel too. Here, you’ll soon come to Peggy’s Bridge, this one you want to cross. The funny thing with bridges is that you always want to stop on them and take in the scenery. We did again with it being such a gorgeous day.
For us, this is a walk we have wanted to do for a while. We’ve spent a lot of time at Buttermere, enjoying the lovely lake walks, as well as hiking the other surrounding Wainwrights too. Again for us, it’s a place that the weather can soon turn too, like most places in the Lake District. But so many times we’ve travelled down on slightly cloudy days to find that Buttermere is a complete blanket of thick cloud.
Scarth Gap Pass up towards Haystacks
So from Peggy’s Bridge, you’ll soon see a forked junction. This is where you need to head left and climb against the tree line. Follow this briefly and at the next little junction take another left. This will climb up Scarth Gap Pass. Soon Haystacks will be in view too. Looking all bobbly and lovely. Now just a short walk and we’ll soon be on Haystacks.
We walked up this route on yet another hot day. So we were already feeling the heat. And for us, it was a pretty late climb too. We didn’t get started until around 12.30 pm, but we wanted an evening walk and to see Buttermere in lower light than before. And the end result would be worth. The photo on Fleetwith Pike looking over Buttermere is still one of my favourite photos we have in the Lake District. But we’ll get there soon enough.
Continuing our walk to Haystacks
We continued to walk up Scarth Gap Pass impatiently towards Haystacks. It becomes windy and crisscrosses quite a bit up to Scarth Gap. The path will lead over some small streams and a bit of rocky terrain too but soon it’ll level back out again. Taking a moment to look behind us we saw the stunning sights of Buttermere again. Something that never gets boring, like most views in the Lake District.
I never tire of taking a moment out to appreciate just where we are and who we’re with. It always feels like a special time when I’m climbing with my twin. Knowing we’re doing this together and banking the memory forever as well.
Soon you’ll reach another junction and a cairn. The right path will take you up High Crag and we want Haystacks. So we took the left turning towards south-east and Haystacks. This is a rocky path and there will be some scrambling involved too in certain places.
The summit of Haystacks on our walk from Gatesgarth
Keep following this walk up towards Haystacks summit which will have a metal pole on the top to mark the summit. Also having full views over Buttermere. Including some of the other Wainwrights of High Pike, Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Green Gable, Helvellyn, Skiddaw, and of course, Fleethwith Pike. This is just to name a couple in the Lake District of the Wainwrights you can see from the top of Haystacks.
You can also see Ennerdale Water from the summit of Haystacks which is another awesome place to have a walk around too.
Of course, a high five waiting at the top too. Another Wainwright bagged. For us, this is a place that is held dear for another certain reason and that is because of Alfred Wainwright. We of course never knew him but he is a kind of legacy for us. A man of inspiration. Someone who you can only but admire. Just a short walk from the amazing top of Haystacks is Innominate Tarn.
If you are only walking up to the Haystacks summit and then back down the same way then please, please take a short detour just a little further on to Innominate Tarn. It is the most magical place and shouldn’t be missed when you are so close to it. Just continue east/south-east towards Innominate Tarn. The path can be a little faint but you’ll soon find a stronger path again.
Walk more tarns in the Lake District as well as Haystacks
Innominate Tarn is just one of the amazing tarns in the Lake District. If you’d like to visit some more then grab hold of this little book. Easy to pack away, takes up no room, and great descriptions on how to get there to view them. We’ve got it and we love it. We also like ticked them off and scoring them out of five too.
Innominate Tarn and Alfred Wainwrights ashes
This is of course where his ashes were scattered as his wish was before he died at the Innominate Tarn. You’ll perhaps have read about his quote on his ashes. But if you haven’t then please read on. It is something that we had read prior to our walk-up Haystacks and something that made us really take a step back for a moment when we were in fact at the Innominate Tarn.
He adored this place and even wrote how one could even forget about a raging toothache on Haystacks for the absorbing interest it brings. If you do find yourself back in Buttermere too, or on your journey home then take a moment to stop at St James Church. Because this is where one of the windows contains a plaque in memory of Alfred Wainwright 1907-1991. And it urges visitors to ‘lift your eyes to Haystacks, his favourite place’. And you can actually see Haystacks from that very window. Again worth a visit.
Alfred Wainwrights quote himself about Haystacks and Innominate Tarn
‘All I ask for, at the end, is a last long resting place by the side of Innominate Tarn on Haystacks, where the water gently the gravely shore and the heath blooms and Pillar and Gable keep unfailing watch. A quiet place, a lonely place, I shall go to it, for the last time and be carried: someone who knew me in life will take me and empty me out of a little box and leave me there alone.
And if you dear reader, should get a bit of grit in your boots as you are crossing Haystacks in the years to come, please treat it with respect. It might be me…’Memoirs of a Fellwanderer – Alfred wainwright
Again if you wanted to read more about Alfred Wainwrights Memoirs of a Fellwanderer then check out the book here. We haven’t read it yet but it is on the list of things to purchase and have a good read of. Furthermore, I can imagine it’d be a pretty awesome read. And for us somewhere to get some more rather interesting quotes from. So watch this space.
Taking some time out to appreciate Innominate Tarn
We spent a good while here. Not only for the reason of Alfred Wainwright and to pay our respects to the man that made it possible for you and me to be here right now on the Fells. But also for the fact of its pure untouched beauty. We are quite the little chatterboxes when we get going but for a couple of minutes, we even stopped talking. We took a pew on a couple of rocks and took a moment out. Something I always feel we should do.
We watched other fell walkers on the Wainwright pass by without taking a moments gaze at the Innominate Tarn. And they were walking, talking, some even jogging past. And we smiled at each other.
And it should be noted that Alfred Wainwright isn’t the only one to have his ashes scattered here by the shoreline of Innominate Tarn, or anywhere else in the Lake District. Of course, because of its beauty and the fold memories it holds for us all, it is a popular place that people choose to be left. And I for one can’t blame them at all.
The walk from Haystacks to Fleethwith Pike begins
After taking a perfectly timed food break we continued around Innominate Tarn and Blackbeck Tarn. Another stunner of a tarn. The path is a bit windy and does go to the edge of the crags a little too. But just follow it around and you’ll soon see Blackbeck Tarn. Which on clear days gives perfect views over Great Gable and Green Gable and not to mention the well known Windy Gap. It’s a very interesting walk and definitely has more to it than some of the other Wainwrights.
From here you bear north-east to reach Warnscale Beck. Crossing Warnscale Beck, continue north-east, right, towards Dubs Quarry. Another clear path and an easier walk as you can clearly see Dubs Quarry in view.
Dubs Quarry on our walk towards Fleetwith Pike from Haystacks
Dubs Quarry also has a little hut too. It sounds a little silly, but we love any little quirkiness to the walk. So any huts or quarries or tarns just make the walk that bit more interesting. Even a fallen tree can sometimes shake things up a bit. It’s another way of pin-pointing where you are too. Like small checkpoints.
Dubs Quarry is quite a spectacle in its own right too. It really does feel quite alien but then you have to realise Honister Slate Mine is now just a stone’s throw away. In fact, you can easily now get to Honister Slate Mine if you wanted too. We are however continuing towards Fleethwith Pike.
To the summit of Fleetwith Pike, the second Wainwright of the day
So following the path through the loose slate this is where I’m not even going to lie, we got a touch lost. So please bear with us here haha. Equally, I would now advise keeping your eyes peeled for some certain things. As for us the instructions we followed we very basic. ‘Go left up the grassy fell to reach a crossing point on the ridge. Go left on the path to reach Fleethwith Pike‘.
Maybe we were too fascinated with Dub Quarry and the slate paths but we know where we went wrong. We can’t even blame the weather for it was absolutely stunning. And we were absolutely roasting, maybe it was the heat we can blame instead?
So here we go. Instead, take the left-hand track path through the loose slate keeping Dubs hut on your right-hand side. At the next junction, ignore the more defined path on the left and instead continue straight ahead on a fainter grassy path. Soon the path becomes more clear. You’ll see two large mounds of slate. Follow this path as it sweeps right. This meaning the large mounds of slate will be to your left-hand side.
Keep walking and you’ll soon find yourself at another junction. Turn right and it’ll take you towards Honister Slate Mine, turn left and it’ll take you towards the summit cairn of Fleethwith Pike. So heading left, west, continue on this ridge until you see the cairn on Fleetwith Pike. And wow.
Where did we go between Dubs Quarry and Fleethwith Pike?
Yes, so of course I can not provide you with any photos of the two mounds of slate, and the faint grassy path. Why, well because we didn’t see them. Well, correction, we probably did see them but we definitely didn’t get any photos of them. This is because we were perhaps somehow in the grass trying to find the faint grassy path.
We did, however, find a new form of transport but Zoe wouldn’t let me take it home. I have no understanding of why. I mean to imagine that huge digger even getting up to somewhere like here is quite amazing. There are of course huge paths but it still is a wonder. So being well on our way towards Fleethwith Pike now, we were growing excited for the next Wainwright. And of course the views it would hold.
Did we get worried, well a little perhaps? But we have each other so we tend to just laugh about it. And it was summer, we had plenty of sunlight left. Not to mention we knew where we were. Either way, we just didn’t know where the path was. It should be noted that after some unnecessary hard climbing on the fell we did reach the ridge towards the Wainwright and Honister Slate Mine. Maybe some people would say a little premature for us, but a high five is always welcome to up the spirits.
So onwards to Fleethwith Pike we did venture and we did, of course, make it. And that’s how we know there are some of, for us, the best views in the Lake District.
Fleethwith Pike, the summit and views over the gorgeous Buttermere
I hope you can appreciate it when I said that this is still one of my favourite views in the Lake District. I mean wow. It actually bought us to silence. By now it was 4.30 pm and after the shenanigans of the last bit of walk up to the Wainwright, we needed a rest. Also, snack time did someone say?
We perched ourselves on another uncomfortable stone and had some much-needed food. And as we did a father and daughter appeared over the front end of the Wainwright. They had just started their hike around this route and were also going across to Haystacks. Which you can clearly see from Fleethwith Pike. Another love is seeing where we’ve come from in the day.
After a lovely brief chat with them, we finished our snacks with the surrounding Wainwrights in view. I mean, again just to name a few, Mellbreak nearly straight in front by the side of Crummock Water. Moving towards Red Pike, High Stile, and High Crag to the left of Buttermere. To the right of Buttermere is Rannerdale Knotts and Grasmoor.
South you can see Green Gable, Great Gable and Scafell. You really do have panoramic views over the Lake District here. And whether its because the weather was so perfect or the sky was so blue, I don’t know. But I loved it. As you can probably tell from the big smiles on our faces. You can also see Gatesgarth which is of course where we’ll be heading to finish the walk of Haystacks and Fleethwith Pike.
Downwards off of Fleethwith Pike
I am a lady of options so here we go again. I’ll give you two others to come back down from Fleethwith Pike. These are around the side of Fleethwith Pike or down the very front of the Wainwright, Fleethwith Edge. We had read a little bit of information about Fleethwith Edge and it seems quite a sudden drop. Which looking down I can only agree.
So firstly you can either again retrace your steps back to Dubs Hut and then back to the little junction at Warnscale Beck and turn right. This will bring you down to Warnscale Bottom and around Fleethwith Pike back to Gatesgarth.
For us, we’ll take the second, down the front of Fleethwith Edge to Gatesgarth. For this it is a pretty straight forward plan, head down. The path itself can look a little mismatched but when you’re on it and staying on it then it is obviously the way it goes. Be careful as some parts are very steep and may need a bit of hands-on descending too. For us, it was the best way down and the views of Honister Pass were again wonderful. The day was starting to cool slightly and the number of people was thinning out. We only saw one other person going back up this way on our way down from Fleethwith Pike.
We quickly descended from the fell on the lookout for the white cross of Fanny Mercer. Again, previously read up about it, it was something we wanted to see closer up. We’d noticed it on our drives on Honister Pass to Buttermere before but wanted to really see it and again appreciate it.
The white cross of Fanny Mercer
You will perhaps come to notice a white cross on Low Raven Crag, near the base of Fleethwith Pike. This white cross marks the tragic story of Fanny Mercer.
Fanny Mercer was an 18-year-old young lady from Rugby in Warwickshire. A servant that was enjoying and blessed to be able to be in the Lake District. And especially near Crummock Water and Buttermere, for she had never been away from Rugby before.
Then on one sad evening, she was climbing back down from Fleethwith Pike with two other servants. They reached the summit of the Wainwright at 4 pm and then started their descent. This would be the last Wainwright she would ever walk down from.
Fanny Mercer was trying to get down to one of the other servants. She was climbing down and used her alpenstock to aid her. Unfortunately, this was to do the opposite. Rather than slide her hands down the alpenstock to get to the others, she held on to the top of it. Consequently, this swung her further than anticipated. Twisting her around she fell backwards about 20 feet, hitting the rock striking the back of her head.
She sadly then rolled 130 feet down the steep mountainside of Fleethwith Pike. With the help of another man who saw what happen, they carried Fanny Mercer to Gatesgarth where she, unfortunately, passed away around 4 hours later. It was put down as accidental death and later Fanny Mercer was transported to Keswick and then onwards to Rugby.
The white cross was erected by Fanny Mercers friends to commemorate her passing. A very sad story.
Down from Fleethwith Pike and back to Gatesgarth
Safely making our way to the base of Fleethwith Pike we made our way onto the road. Again if you parked in Gatesgarth car park then you need to take the left towards Gatesgarth. For us, however, we made our way along Honister Pass and our car.
This was a day that was one of our highlights. Whether it was because of the history, company, or the weather, or maybe a combination of all the things, it was just perfect. It was a walk that made us appreciate what we do have and admire the views all that more.
The walk to Haystacks with the story of Alfred Wainwright and then the story of Fanny Mercer on Fleethwith Pike. All in all, I was grateful to have my twin by my side every step of the way. And tomorrow is another day for another adventure. Popping that walk in the memory box we headed back towards Cockermouth to plan the next walk and the next Wainwright, or Wainwrights.
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.