The Kentmere Horseshoe Walking

One of the longest and most remote classic rounds in the Lake District, the Kentmere Horseshoe showcases the very best that the Far Eastern fells have to offer, taking in eight Wainwright fells with extra tops to be added as you wish. It may not be as popular as some of the other Lakeland rounds, but it certainly doesn't disappoint, with stunning vistas overlooking Haweswater, Kirkstone and Windermere, as well as providing a mixture of gentle grassy paths and some rougher rockier sections. Starting at Kentmere village, the route is best attacked anti-clockwise, commencing on the gentle trails up to Harter Fell. After traversing across the Nan Bield Pass to Mardale Ill Bell, it's only a short climb over to High Street and Thornthwaite Crag before getting stuck into the three dramatic summits guarding the western flank. The fell-top walk over Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke is certainly one to savour - a highlight of the walk - before heading back to Kentmere.

Harter Fell  © john1963  © john1963
Harter Fell © john1963
Fetching Map

Detailed description

NY4561304098 Starting at the Green Quarter bunkhouse to the east of the village, follow the farm track that is signposted 'Longsleddale' after passing through the gate. Height will gradually be gained after passing through a number of fields and you'll soon handlebar the Sadgill up until you'll reach a footbridge which will allow you to cross at the col. Sometimes there will be livestock in the fields, so stick to the track.

NY4757604973 After bearing left to cross the footbridge, join the line of the wall and follow it steeply up the hillside. As the angle eases, the wall turns a corner and the grassy knoll of Wray Crag stands to the left. Keep with the path following the wall before it makes a steep ascent again; the second cairned knoll marks the summit of Shipman Knotts. Follow the path to a stile. A wire fence leads to the top of Goat Scar, where a cairn provides a great view over Longsleddale. The fence continues further up the grassy shoulder to the summit of Kentmere Pike, where the trig point stands just the other side of the wall. After a short descent to Brown Howe, the same fence line takes you directly to the summit cairn of Harter Fell.
Kentmere Horseshoe  © john1963
Kentmere Horseshoe
© john1963, Dec 2013

NY4598209292 The path bears west off the summit plateau of Harter Fell, where there is a new order of drama whilst descending to the top of the Nan Bield Pass as the the path traverses both the skyline of Kentmere and Mardale. Small Water lies to the right and Kentmere Reservoir nestles to the left under the bulk of Ill Bell. The path is straightforward and the exposure is considerable as you pass the wind shelter marking the pass head. The path rises on the other side, first left then back right where the summit of Mardale Ill Bell will be in sight. Follow the main path as it steadily climbs, bearing right for High Street and passing a number of cairns along the way. The summit is marked by a triangulation pillar. In a lot of guidebooks High Street is often bypassed, as you can take a path left traversing the head of Kentmere directly to Thornthwaite Crag, however I like to include it as it's very little effort for an extra top!
Sunset on the Kentmere Round  © The Lemming
Sunset on the Kentmere Round
© The Lemming, Jan 2010

NY4406711021 High Street marks the highest point in the Far-Eastern fells. Almost heading back on yourself, briefly join the footpath which bears right around the top of the hanging valley with Hayeswater below. A short climb leads to the summit of Thornthwaite Crag, the top marked by a giant 14ft stone beacon that on a good day can be seen on the entire horseshoe!

NY4315109986 Descend the sweeping grassy shoulder southwards to the most dramatic and acclaimed section of the walk: Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke. A steady climb on rock is met by the first summit, the cairned top of Froswick. A descent and steep ascent gains the top of Ill Bell, marked by three summit cairns - it's a favourite by many local walkers. Down again, negotiate a few peaty hollows to the broader summit of Yoke.

NY4374606653 The path leads on down the shoulder to a stile over a stone wall. Cross over and follow the west side of the wall down to the Garburn Pass. You might add the two additional summits of Sallows and Sour Howes, but most will call it a day here. At the Garburn Pass take the gate on the left and follow the track down to Kentmere.

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Further Routes

by Daniel Dalton

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