4 - 5
FATMAP difficulty grade
So, do you want superb views? You got ‘em; unhindered perambulation on lofty ridges? Check; eight Wainwright summits? Fill your boots.
This celebrated round packs a lot into its ten and a half miles, giving easy striding and ever-improving vistas culminating on one of the best-loved peaks in Lakeland.
The Fairfield Horseshoe is classic ridge walking and an essential addition to every fellwalker’s CV. Follow the lane towards Rydal Hall, then past Wordsworth’s old home ‘Rydal Mount’ until a gate leads to the foot of Nab Scar.
A pitched path climbs steeply to the top where an excellent bird’s eye view of Rydal Water along with the Coniston and Langdale fells can be enjoyed while you take a breather. The next section is ridge walking par excellence.
Between you and Fairfield lie Heron Pike and Great Rigg linked by a high level crest punctuated with rocky knolls and peaty pools.
Though daunting in aspect to breathless walkers the ascents are never as bad as they look and the unfolding view of the Helvellyn range is a joy to behold.
Fairfield’s summit is an extensive stony dome with a profusion of cairns which can be confusing in claggy conditions.
To get the best of the views (which are especially good towards Helvellyn) an exploration of the summit plateau is well worth the small effort required.
Onwards, and the path to Hart Crag is trouble free but requires careful navigation in poor conditions; beware, steep, craggy declivities abound! The descent from Hart Crag is the most awkward section of the walk and the rocks can be greasy when wet.
At a grassy depression a wall is encountered and becomes your companion for the remainder of the walk.
A useful guide if the clag descends, the wall is a magnificent display of craftsmanship and a fitting tribute to its long forgotten creators.
The ridge to Low and High Pikes respectively has some steep ascents and descents which can be hard on tired legs but keep going; the end is almost in sight.
From Low Pike continue to follow the wall.
Before long paths offer a choice of endings, one drops down to High Sweden Bridge in Scandale, the other follows the ridge down via a short downclimb/scramble to Low Sweden Bridge.
Whichever you choose, eventually you will arrive in Ambleside where you’d be forgiven for nipping into the Golden Rule for a well earned pint and a packet of pork scratchings! © Nicholas Livesey - UKHillwalking.com, Nov 2011