Kentmere Horseshoe from Kendal Walking

There are some walks in the Lake District that everyone with an interest in the outdoors really ought to do, and the Kentmere Horseshoe - or Kentmere Round as it is also known - is one of them. The walking is varied, the views are extensive, and there are numerous summits to enjoy. Walking the route from Kendal turns it into a real challenge, but this is certainly not a head-down test of endurance. The market town gives way to a scenic walk beside the River Kent up into the narrow valley of Kentmere, before joining the classic Horseshoe and including the oft-omitted peaks of Thornthwaite Crag and High Street, both of which are entirely worth the extra effort. Descending into Longsleddale, the walk now follows this tranquil yet rugged valley south, then takes a series of paths across the south-eastern part of Potter Fell back to Burneside and the return into Kendal.

Looking back to High Street and Nan Bield from the ascent of Harter Fell © Chris Scaife  © Chris Scaife
Looking back to High Street and Nan Bield from the ascent of Harter Fell © Chris Scaife

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SD5147892643 From the Town Hall, head north along Stricklandgate, then turn right at the corner with Sandes Avenue. Just before the bridge across the River Kent, turn left and follow the path beside the river until you emerge on to a pavement beside Burneside Road. You can just follow this all the way to Burneside, but to miss out a section by the road, turn right on to Kentrigg and follow the footpath to rejoin the road. In Burneside, take the back road behind Junction Cottages, then turn right to cross New Road bridge. Follow this road to the edge of the village and you'll see a sign on the left for the Dales Way.

SD5083295898 Follow the Dales Way to Bowston, then stay this side of the river and follow the path past the weir at Cowan Head and into the tiny Woodland Trust site at Beckmickle Ing. When the road is met, turn left and after passing the woodland, turn left again on to the footpath to Staveley. Rejoin the road beside the river, then cross the river at Barley Bridge and follow this road north, staying to the west of the river, for 2.5km. This may seem like a long stretch along the road, but you won't see much traffic here and - trust me - this is just a small part of the day. When the road bends left at Browfoot, head downhill on the bridleway to the right, then take the footpath to Sawmill Cottage, past Kentmere Tarn, to Kentmere Hall. A waymarked footpath through fields leads to the byway up to Garburn Pass, which is part of the standard Kentmere Horseshoe route.

NY4542904440 Head uphill on the byway, then after the highest part of the pass turn right on the footpath up to Yoke. Just follow this obvious path now, over the summits of Yoke, Ill Bell and Froswick. After descending Froswick, head up to the large beacon atop Thornthwaite Crag, then without losing much height continue to High Street - the Everest of the Far Eastern Fells and a respectable distance from Kendal for a day's walk. Enjoy the view and revel in your achievement, or quietly contemplate the return journey, before heading south and following the path up to Mardale Ill Bell.

NY4476210116 The steep descent to Nan Bield Pass may be a bit of a test for the knees, but there is a comfortable stone shelter in the col where you can sit down and look to the north. The last real ascent, up to Harter Fell, is quite steep, but you'll be used to that sort of thing by now. From the summit cairn, made not simply of stones but with aged metallic fence posts jutting out from every angle, follow the fence south. The eastern part of the Horseshoe is much flatter than the western side, and the summit of Kentmere Pike is reached with minimal upward effort. Keep heading over the highest points now, over Goat Scar and Shipman Knotts, to join the byway linking the serene valleys of Kentmere and Longsleddale.

NY4758504974 Turn left on to the gravelly byway, then after 800m or so, take the footpath down to Till's Hole and join the bridleway beside the River Sprint. The next 7.5km are on this long bridleway, always staying just to the west of the river, following the valley down to Garnett Bridge.

SD5224299348 At Garnett Bridge Wood, take the track that zigzags up and makes the most of this tiny patch of woodland, then follow the vague path to join the track up to Birk Rigg. About 500m along this track, turn left on to the footpath heading downhill, then right on the Potter Fell Road. After 400m, take the bridleway downhill past Shepherd Green and follow the path to the Garnett Bridge Road. Turn right on this road to return to Burneside, then retrace your steps from the beginning of the day.

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by Chris Scaife

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