Helm Crag and your need to know guide on the Wainwright


Wainwright Number:

Central Lakes

OS Map:
Explorer maps OL5 and OL7

Welcome to our page on Helm crag and your need to know guide on the Wainwright. Take a look at our quick-fire questions just below so if you’re in a bit of rush you still get the information that you need. If you have more time on your hands and want to know in detail about Helm Crag then take a look through the page at your own leisure to learn more.

Helm Crag is 405m tall or 1329ft high. 

Helm Crag is located in the Central Fells near to Grasmere.

From Grasmere, simply head north-west out of the village along the road, and then up the side of Helm Crag to the summit. 

You will need explorer maps OL5 and OL7 for your walk. 

The Wainwrights of Steel Fell, Calf Crag and Gibson Knott are all close by to Helm Crag. 

At the top of the Fell is a rocky outcrop with large boulders. This makes the shape of the iconic 'lion and lamb' silhouette. 

Facts about Helm Crag

The one thing that is always the first thing to talk about when it comes to Helm Crag is its nickname. This great Wainwright has the alter ego name of ‘The lion and the lamb’. And to be fair when you’ve been and seen the Fell for yourself it’s not hard to see why. This is what makes the Wainwright of Helm Crag one of the most distinctive and recognised Fells in the Lakes.

I know when we first drove up to Grasmere and got parked up, the silhouette of a small lamb sat next to a bold lion stood out from the top of this Wainwright. This makes it easy to locate exactly where you’re heading for the day. And a great point of reference when on top of the other Fells in the Lake District too.

Moving on from the ‘lion and the lamb’ we head more to the other end of the Wainwright of Helm Crag where another structure lies and is recognised too. This is the lesser-known ‘old lady playing the organ’. What is strange is that only one of these structures will be in view at any one time as they lie on opposites ends of the Fell.

But on close inspection on the summit of Helm Crag, you can clearly see the rock formation that does indeed look like an old lady playing the organ. Which I think you’ll agree makes this little Wainwright well and truly worth visiting.

The lion and the lamb on Helm Crag near Grasmere in the Lake District, one of the 214 Wainerights in alphabetical order
The lion and the lamb on Helm Crag near Grasmere in the Lake District

How high is the Wainwright? (m/ft)

Helm Crag is 405m high or 1329ft tall. It is Wainwright number 201 so is one of the smaller fells in the Lake District. However, it is still a popular one to climb because of the recognisable rock formation at the top. So this does tend to draw in more people in the summertime. However, in the winter months, it can be a quieter Wainwright to climb.

When we hiked to the top of Helm Crag in wind and rain we barely saw another soul on our walk. But then we might have been the only people crazy enough to have headed out in such poor conditions that day. But it was a fun route for us and although it was too windy to climb to the top of the ‘lion and the lamb’ rock formation, it still put a smile on our faces as we walked by.

With the Wainwright of Helm Crag being a little smaller, you do get to feel as though you’re truly in the heart of the Lakes when walking up this Fell. This is because many of the Wainwrights around you feel towering over this smaller Fell. And they give you a real sense of perception and scale as you walk up. On top of this, it does also give you the bug to want to reach the tops of the higher surrounding Wainwrights and longer walks such as the Fairfield Horseshoe, or the Helvellyn Fells to the east too.

Where is Helm Crag located?

The lion and the lamb or Helm Crag is located in the central Fells in the Lake District. It lies just north of the popular Grasmere village and can be walked from parking in or on the outskirts of Grasmere. As you drive down the A591 you’ll be able to see this Wainwright from the road. And clearly see the popular lion and the lamb structure of rocks at the top of the summit too.

So how hard is Helm Crag to climb?

Helm Crag is pretty easy to climb. There aren’t any real complications except making your way on the right paths to the Fell itself. There are some steeper sections and the formation of the Wainwright does make it a little rocky and craggy. But this doesn’t make the walk any harder, but rather add character to the Fell and makes for a more joyful walk on your way to the top of Helm Crag.

True Freedom Seekers

Did you know

You can hear and spot low flying military jet planes flying through the Lakes in Cumbria. On one of our walks, one jet plane came over the brow of the mountainside as we were walking close by. We both ducked for cover and it felt as though if we put our hands up in the air we would have touched it. 

So keep an eye out on your walks along the Wainwrights.

Weather on the Fell in the Lake District

For the latest and up to date weather on all of the Wainwrights including Helm Crag in the Lake District I’d advise following this link. It takes you to the same mountain weather forecast that we regularly use and you can select each mountain which you wish to know the weather for. This is important because each mountain in the Lakes can have very different weather from one to another.

As you move from one region to another in the Lake District you might find this useful to know. But with Helm Crag and with all of the Wainwrights, the weather can change quickly on the Fells. So make sure that you take an extra layer with you, and a raincoat just in case you need it.

It is the Lake District, so a raincoat should be kept safe in your backpack at all times.

How long does it take to climb Helm Crag?

Depending on the route that you take to the top of Helm Crag will determine your overall walking time. Generally, if you start from Grasmere and walk up to the top of the Wainwright and then back down the same way, I’d give yourself a couple of hours.

If however, you choose to do a longer walk while bagging more Wainwrights then this can turn into half a day, or even a full day walking in the Lake District while bagging Helm Crag too. So it really depends on your start point. And where you want to bag through the day too. But definitely give yourself a few hours minimum. If you’re anything like us, then a lot of the time is taken looking at the views and taking photos along the way too. So always bear this in mind.

What routes can you take up the Wainwright?

As I’ve just mentioned one of the most popular walks is from Grasmere which heads up Helm Crag and then back down the same way. This is a great option if you have less time on your hands, or are a beginner to fell walking. Or you just want to stretch your legs a little without going over the top in the day.

From Grasmere village, you head north following the Easedale Road. The road will get quieter as you head further out of Grasmere and you’ll see Helm Crag come into view every now and again. This helps to know that you’re on the right routes to Helm Crag summit. The road will have a steady incline as you make your way to the base of the Wainwright.

As you near the edge of Grasmere there will be a fork in the road. This is where you will want to take the right-hand road and head further up here. At the end of this path, you’ll see the open fellside in front of you. Take the grass bank up here and keep right. This path will lead you to the top of Helm Crag and to see the iconic ‘lion and the lamb’ rocky structure at the top too.

Path coming down Helm Crag Wainwright
Path coming down Helm Crag and Hazel at her best angle.

Are the paths good climbing up Helm Crag?

The paths are mostly good for walking up to the top of Helm Crag (the lion and the lamb). If you’re heading to the summit from Grasmere, then you’ll be walking on good paths until you reach the base of Helm Crag. Then it’s a steep grassy bank as you make your way up the fellside and then onto the rockier outcrop of the Wainwright.

Most of the paths though are clearly located and shouldn’t be too difficult to follow. But with all walks in the Lake District make sure that you have a map and compass with you at all times. And make sure that you know how to use them too. That way you’re not relying only on the clear paths in front of you. And in poor weather conditions, it is easy to become disorientated even for a skilled fell walker.

Best parking for Helm Crag

Some of the best parking for Helm Crag (the lion and the lamb) is at Grasmere. You can choose to park in one of the larger car parks in the village which are pay and display. The main car park is as you head into Grasmere just after the roundabout turn right and it’s hard to miss. If you’d like directions then the postcode for the car park is LA22 9SJ. They do have toilets in the car park to and these do have to be paid for to use. So make sure you have a small amount of change with you when you do visit.

Again a quick point to note out. In the Lake District, most of the toilets around the towns and villages do require money to get into them. For us when we visit on a regular basis, we save up 20p coins to take with us each time. It’s something that is easy to do and when you have a handful then leave them in your backpack for when you might need them. Just a little top tip for you.

Optional parking in the lay-by

You can also park at a lay-by on the outskirts of Grasmere for your climb up to Helm Crag. This is what we tend to do because we like to save money on parking so that we can spend it on food and drink in the Lake District instead. It is free to park in the lay-by and it does get pretty quick and full rather fast in the summer months. So if you do want to park here then maybe set off a little earlier to avoid disappointment. This lay-by in Grasmere is located just off of the A591 heading south to Grasmere and you’ll see it clear as day on the left-hand side. If you get to the roundabout then you’ve gone too far.

From the lay-by, you cross the road and take a little path down the side of a stream and into the back end of Grasmere and the pay and display car park. So the toilet facilities are only a five-minute walk away too.

What is at the summit of the Fell?

At the top of Helm Crag (the lion and the lamb), there is a natural stone structure which coincidently stands in the shape of a lion and a lamb from a distance. When you’re up close to the structure it isn’t so clear to see, but from the roadside and looking across from other Wainwrights in the area, it is very clear.

With regards to this structure, you can climb to the top of it, which would be the true top of Helm Crag. Make sure that you are careful as you do, especially on windier days in the Lake District.

Just a quick note of warning as well. We like to keep safety first when hiking and walking in the Lake District. So it’s worth pointing out that there are a few ridges on the top of the Helm Crag. They lie parallel to one another and if you have smaller children or a dog with you, then make sure they stay away from the ridge here. They don’t pose as dangerous but of course, if you get too close or in poor weather, then it’s worth noting just to be on the safe side in the Lake District.

What are the views from the top of Helm Crag?

From the top of Helm Crag, you will see views in all directions. To the northeast, you will be able to see the start of the Helvellyn Fells which gives you to buzz to really want to climb these and see what views you can get from the top of Helvellyn. And can I just point out that from the top of this incredible mountain of Helvellyn you will see some of the best views in the whole of the Lake District. So be warned, you may just feel like a new adventure on the cards during your walk up Helm Crag.

You will also be able to see the likes of the Langdale Pikes from the top of Helm Crag too. These include Pike O’Stickle, Harrison Stickle, and Pavey Arc. Which is another fabulous day walk in the Lake District too.

There are more views of the surrounding area and looking down towards the lovely Grasmere with Loughrigg Fell to the south of the lake here too.

Views looking down towards Grasmere from the top of Helm Crag
Views looking down towards Grasmere from the top of Helm Crag

Which OS map do you need?

The ordinance survey maps that you will need for Helm Crag are Explorer maps OL5 and OL7. These will show you the routes to get to the top of the Wainwright. And from here you’ll be able to see the adjoining Fells that you can include on your walk in the Lake District.

If you want to follow the Alfred Wainwright books on the Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells. Then you will need book number three which is for the central Fells. This will give you some good advice from Wainwright himself and show the walk as you go on it too. They’re great books to have in your backpack at all times. And from the top of Helm Crag, you can identify the surrounding Wainwrights with the help of them being mapped out in book three too.

Where to stay around Helm Crag, Campsites etc

With Helm Crag (The lion and the lamb) being so close to Grasmere, it would be wrong to not put this as the top place to stay. Grasmere is a beautiful village and has accommodation for you to stay on your visit to the Lake District. There is also a campsite or two not too far away if you prefer to be truly outdoors in the Lakes too.

The benefit of staying in the village of Grasmere is that they have all the local amenities that you would need while on your stay. And a visit to Grasmere isn’t complete until you have tried their famous gingerbread too. On top of this, it’s a great starting place for many other walks in the Lake District so once you’ve completed Helm Crag, you can enjoy routes heading off in all directions from the village too.

True Freedom Seekers
Thank you for taking the time to read our page. We hope you have enjoyed the information which we have for you. Please feel free to reach out to us about anything regarding the Lake District. Or leave a comment below. Happy Wainwright bagging.

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