By Rachael Parkin
Ordnance Survey (OS) have recently published Britain’s favourite place to start a walk; with Ambleside claiming the top spot for the Lake District, coming in fifth out of the UK as a whole. The survey shows Ambleside as the hub of walking in the Lakes, with more people choosing to start a walk from here than anywhere else in Cumbria. The survey also revealed that other Cumbrian walks scored very highly, with the summits of Scafell Pike and Helvellyn also appearing in the top 10 of the most commonly tread paths.
With this in mind, we at the Coppermines have decided to put together our antidote to the most popular walks list with a collection of our favourite walking spots that are unlikely to appear anywhere on this survey. Not because they are in any way lacking in beautiful scenery and dramatic landscapes but simply because they are far less well-known. These are quiet, serene havens of under-explored tranquillity off the well-beaten track. Places where true peace and solitude can be achieved, where your only encounter may be the curious stares of surprised Herdwicks and all without compromising on the stunning scenery you’ll get to enjoy along the way.
1. Caw from The Hawk, Broughton Moor
The Duddon Valley in the western Cumbria provides some of the quietest walking the Lake District has to offer. There are many miles of tranquil walking to be had in this area, from low level, family walks through secluded bluebell woods to more challenging fell walks offering panoramic views of this beautiful corner of the Lake District and beyond. This walk begins at Broughton Moor and climbs into the Dunnerdale Fells. Caw is a conical shaped fell with its position rewarding it with panoramic views of the Duddon Valley and across to the Sca Fell range. The walk begins on easy, Forest Commission paths before emerging on open fell side. Here the views begin to widen around you and you’re left to enjoy a remoteness and sense of isolation that makes the hustle and bustle of everyday life simply melt away. The summit of Caw is marked with a trig column and once reached you can spend some time absorbing the vistas before retracing your steps back to The Hawk.
2. Iron Furnace and Swinside Stone Circle, Duddon Bridge
This low-level, family-friendly walk has everything; ancient woodland, stunning open fell views and historic landmarks. The only thing it is missing is the crowds! The walk begins at Duddon Iron Furnace; here you can explore the ruins and learn about the history of ironworks which was in operation from 1736 through to 1866. The walk then continues uphill through lush, shaded woodland before emerging in open countryside. The highlight of the walk is Swinside Stone Circle, an impressive, yet rarely visited, standing stone circle comprised of 55 stones and with an imposing 90 foot diameter. The only crowds here are likely to be of the woolly variety, allowing you to soak up the unique atmosphere of this ancient and historically significant site in peace and tranquillity.
3. Black Combe
A walk few visitors to the Lakes will make but one not to be missed. Black Combe forms a distinctive, domed mass on the south-western fringes of the Lake District and offers a walk where mountain scenery meets sea views to produce a vista unlike any other you’ll experience anywhere else in the Lake District. Its rounded shape also produces gentle grassy slopes; perfect as a safe introduction to the fells for younger or less-experienced walkers, whilst even the most hardened fell-walkers will appreciate the unique panoramas on offer. Try to walk on a clear day if at all possible to make the most of the views!
4. Upper Eskdale
The head of the valley of Eskdale can only be accessed on foot which is perhaps why it offers some of the quietest walking in the Lakes. A walk following the River Esk deep into the valley from near the start of the Hardknott Pass sees you enter a cathedral of mountains with the mighty Scafells, Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags towering above you on all sides. Although hugely popular with walkers these fells are more commonly climbed from Seathwaite and the Wasdale, Langdale Valleys meaning a walk from Eskdale brings jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring scenery along with a peaceful serenity that will stay with you a lot longer than any blisters may. For those with the time and energy to spare then Scafell Pike and its lofty neighbours can be summited from here but this lower level, circular walk to Great Moss is rewarding in its own right.
5. Kentmere Valley
Escape the crowds in this quiet valley in the eastern side of the National Park. A walk up to Kentmere Reservoir from the picturesque Kentmere village offers fabulous, characteristic Lakes scenery, which you can enjoy all to yourself. The majestic, far eastern fells form the backdrop for this walk which begins by the quaint church of St Cuthbert’s. It then roughly follows the River Kent up to the reservoir before crossing it for the return walk back to the village on the other side, taking in farmland, meadows, quarries and open fell-side along the way. The only thing missing is the masses.
Many visitors to Coniston will make the expedition to the summit of The Old Man but far fewer will ascend its neighbour, Wetherlam. A trip to Wetherlam summit, from the picturesque valley of Tilberthwaite, affords the chance to wave across the Coppermines Valley to the crowds atop Old Man, while you enjoy your mountain top in wondrous isolation. Marginally lower at 763m to Old Man’s 803m what it slightly lacks in height it more than makes up for in views, with an unrestricted panorama northward towards the Scafells, the Langdales and the Northern Lakes from the top, making the hike up and the final scramble to the summit all the more worthwhile. A map of the route can be found here.