How unpredictable is the weather in the Lake District? From one day to another you can truly feel as though you’re in different seasons entirely. From heatwaves the day before, to, well cloud and more cloud the day after. This is our seriously peaceful walk up Skiddaw, with only the clouds and each other for company.
If you would like any other information on Skiddaw the Wainwright then please feel free to check out our information page here. We have listed different routes and parking if you’re interested in going up a different route up the Wainwright.
Summer in the Lake District
It’s true what they say about the weather in any season throughout the year in Cumbria. It really can be anything from sleet and hail to heatwaves and blazing gales. And all of this is usually seen within hours of each other sometimes too. For our walk up Skiddaw, we woke up to see the sun had certainly disappeared from the previous days. And this had been replaced with cloud, cloud and more cloud, or mist if you’d rather.
You wouldn’t believe it was 13th August from looking at the photos below but this was the case. So we left our little flat in Cockermouth and headed to the small car park just off of the Fell of Latrigg. Also known as Underskiddaw car park. Which is pretty obvious from its name of just where it sits in the Lakes. See the map below for the exact reference so that you can locate it easily if you need to too. It’s just at the end of Gale road.
So yes we were feeling not lazy that day but we weren’t out to prove anything to ourselves. We just wanted a gentle stroll up Skiddaw Fell to enjoy the mountain in peace. And this is exactly what we got.
Getting parked up at Underskiddaw for our Skiddaw walk
For the middle of summer, we were expecting a full car park when we pulled up. (This is a free car park, and there is usually a little van there selling hot drinks and snacks throughout the year). But the weather seemed to have put many of the tourists off and there were only a few cars already sat empty when we got there.
Getting our backpacks on which was full of mostly food and drink. We headed away from the car and to the gate at the end of the car park. We didn’t need to check our ordinance survey map (which is OL4 for the North Western Fells in the Lake District if you need it). This is because we had done this walk many times and the Fell now felt like a friend of ours.
We knew what to expect from the walk and we knew where it’s difficulties were, not that there really are any for the mountain.
The start of our walk up Skiddaw Fell
When you get to the gate at the end of the car park near Latrigg you have two options. You can turn right here and this will take you up to Latrigg summit. The path is easy and uncomplicated to follow. And you can be at the top of Latrigg within ten or fifteen minutes. This is great if you’re new to the Lake District and want to see the views overlooking Keswick, Derwent Water, and beyond to the mountains in the south.
The second option, however, which we chose was to turn left. This starts you on the walk up to Skiddaw itself and it starts remotely gentle for a short while. There was sheep grazing on the Fellside as we began our walk and you could hear them further away bearing in the Fells, even though they became out of view from the mist.
The start of the route can be a little muddy after wet weather and this isn’t helped by the amount of footfall the Wainwright gets. So wear suitable footwear and this shouldn’t pose any challenge at all. It’s worth noting as well that on any Fell that you climb please try to stick to the paths and routes as much as possible. This saves further erosion on the mountains which is unnecessary.
The path splits after a short amount of time and you take the left-hand path as this is the route up to Skiddaw. On a clear day, it is easy to see up the Fell to know that you’re heading in the right direction. The path which continues right ahead is the Cumbrian Way and although it is a lovely walk. It is one that isn’t included in this exact walk.
Shepherds Memorial on Skiddaw
Not long into the walk on Skiddaw, you will come across the Shepherds Memorial. This can’t even be missed in low cloud as it’s right on the footpath that leads up the Fell. Up until recently, we had walked past it several times without really knowing what it was there for. And me being me, this didn’t sit too well. I’m the sort of person who needs to know things. And when I’m in the Lake District I feel as though I should be absorbing all there is to know about the area and the Fells while I am there. So here’s the low down on what the Memorial is there for.
It was erected in memory of two brothers who were shepherds in the area. These brothers were Edward and Joseph Hawell. The memorial is a cross and was erected apparently by a family friend, and member of the National Trust. On the base of the memorial the inscription reads:
“Great shepherd of thy heavenly flock, these men have left our hill. Their feet were on the living rock, oh guide and bless them still.”
now when we walk past it, we take a short moment to think about all the shepherds and how dedicated they are to their flocks. Especially in the heart of the Lakes when their herds are out and about on the Fells all year around. It’s not the easiest of jobs to have but they’re dedicated people and most of the time it’s been handed down for generations.
The small descent before the incline on the Skiddaw walk
Passing the Shepherds Memorial there is a slight decline in the path. This is only short-lived as you make your way to the next gate. The views of the path ahead really start to open up and you see the challenge that lies in front of you. It can seem quite daunting but as long as you go at your own pace, there really aren’t many complications to the walk.
As you pass through the gate the incline suddenly begins and it gets you set on your pace for a large chunk of the walk up to the summit of Skiddaw. It begins in a zig-zag path and this is all on a stone path which makes it easy and more durable for the amount of traffic it receives each year.
Upon reaching the next gate on our walk up Skiddaw, many people stop here to take a quick breather and get a drink while their legs catch up with them. This is known as the Halfway House. The views here really start to open up, and lucky for us the cloud had just lifted enough so that we could see these views before we headed into the mist.
The peaceful walk up Skiddaw
From continuing through the gate after a quick drink of water we carried on up the Fellside. The path is super clear the whole time and even in the mist that we had, we couldn’t have got lost if we tried. (Although this is not recommended to try either). We hadn’t passed a single person the entire time up until now. And with the cloud now around us, it felt super peaceful.
We walked in silence as we do quite a bit. For me personally, I find climbing the Fells a detox for my mind. It’s when any thoughts that had been bothering me seem to diminish. Being on something so grand and focusing all of my energy into that one moment seems to switch off everything else. It makes you see how small some of your other thoughts are in comparison. And that sometimes, your worries are for nothing. Because what will be, inevitably will be.
And then in front of us through the mist, and out of no-where we saw two bright coloured raincoats. Only slightly but we were gaining traction on them and quickly. Which seemed strange as we weren’t going at any quick pace, but rather enjoying the walk and not wanting to rush it along.
You have to go when you have to go
It very quickly became apparent that one of the raincoats which belonged to the person wearing it was lower down. And it dawned on us that the lady wearing the coat was indeed squatting to have a pee. We slowed our pace down to not embarrass the woman but she didn’t make it easy for us.
We knew it was cloudy but she hadn’t ventured more than half a metre from the main path going up to Skiddaw Fell. And as we got closer and clearly in view she stood up and turned around. Then started to fumble with her trousers. We smiled at the man who was in close proximity to her.
But the truth of the matter is that when you have to go, you really do just have to go. When you’re Fell walking, there are no public toilets and so it’s something that every hiker faces. My best advice to you. Choose somewhere that isn’t on the main route heading up to the fourth highest Wainwright in the Lake District, even on a cloudy day.
Have a look for somewhere as out of view as possible and make sure as best that you can that you’re not going to be caught with your trousers round your ankles. It’s not always guaranteed. But finding some tall fern, a tree, or even a babbling brook can be good options. And please make sure you don’t leave anything on the Fells that shouldn’t be there. Take all rubbish home with you and leave the mountains in the same condition in which you found them.
Skiddaw Little Man not quite in view
Back on track and with a few giggles behind us, we continued the same as before until we reached the next gate. From here you can head off towards the right which follows the fence line to Longscale Fell. You can also take one of the main paths which heads left and this takes you up to Skiddaw Little Man.
Or like us you can continue through the gate and on the main path heading straight as this takes you to Skiddaw Fell itself. You can divert to Skiddaw Little Man and this will join up to Skiddaw after the summit top. So the option is yours to which way you go.
We’ve been up to Skiddaw Little Man on a previous walk and so we didn’t take the diversion that day. But if you choose to go up this extra Fell then it’s well worth it. On a clear day, you can see the views up to Skiddaw from here, but also down towards the rest of the Lake District looking south. So if you have a little bit of extra time or fancy bagging the two Wainwrights together then I’d go for it.
Closing in on Skiddaw summit on our walk
The route heading directly to Skiddaw passes alongside the back of Skiddaw Little Man which is a rather flat path considering the rest of the walk. But this doesn’t last for too long. The path then starts to head back up and you know that you’re nearing the summit of this Wainwright.
The walk gets steeper but not as steep as from the beginning of the walk. And slowly but surely you make your way to the top of the fourth highest Fell in the Lakelands.
The views from the top of Skiddaw
We made our way through the mist as it got thicker and thicker. And we knew that there were going to be no views from the top of the mountain. But this didn’t dampen our spirits one little bit. Seeing the cairns on the path side as we got to the top was still a sight for sore eyes. We knew that we had made it and it felt great. We had conquered Skiddaw the Wainwright once again.
The route up took us around an hour and a half, and by the time we were back to the car you’d be looking at just shy of three hours round trip.
But we located the wind shelter and then sat to have some food for a bit. While having a catch up from the walk up Skiddaw. After about ten minutes the two mysterious coats re-appeared. They came to join us in at the wind shelter for a sit down too. We didn’t mention the incident that we had seen but instead talked about the weather (always a safe topic), and the route up too.
The views from the top of Skiddaw are stunning and you can see far across the heart of the Lakes on a clear day. But that wasn’t meant to be for us and this was just fine. Each time you climb the same Fell, you still get different weather, different views, a different memory each time. And that for us is what keeps drawing us back. It just simply never gets boring. So apologies for the lack of inspiring photos here, but you can share with us your views you’ve captured if you like, down in the comments bar.
The route back to the car and the end of our Skiddaw walk
After some food, we headed back down the same way that we had come up. Just be careful in the low cloud like we had in finding the right route back off of the Fell. The top of Skiddaw Fell is long and vast and littered with small cairns. So it can be quite disorientating if you don’t know which way you have come from.
But once we were back onto the main path it was easy walking all the way back and for us, another good morning walk in the Lake District. A great walk up Skiddaw which we were happy with. We did see a few more people on our way back down, as they were heading up. The weather began to clear slightly and so we saw more views on our walk back towards to car. And as we emerged from the cloud it was a welcome sight to see anything. But especially the stunning views of the heart of the Lakes.
Cloud and mist is a funny thing. It looks daunting until you’re in it. Then you feel at peace and ease while you walk lonely through the mist. But when you re-emerge into clearer surroundings, it’s like a breath of fresh air too. And by the time we were back to the car and looking back to see Skiddaw Fell. A small part of me wishes I was back in the cloud, where everything seemed to stop, and where anything in the world could have been happening. Because at that moment, it feels truly perfect.
Take a look at the video below to see just how quickly you can disappear into the cloud. And why it is so important to know the weather conditions and be prepared for them when you head out. In the Lake District as well as other mountain ranges, safety should always come first.
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.