High Rigg Walking

From the A591, passing the north end of Thirlmere en route to Keswick, High Rigg appears as a small, craggy mound with trees low down, thinning towards the top. It is unusual among Lakeland fells in that the land all around it is flat - this stand-alone peak juts out and does not belong to any other ridge - and all the peaks that surround it are substantially higher. It may be small, but there's no need to feel inadequate as this walk has all the variety you could ask for from a day in the Lake District. It's also easy to reach by public transport, and rarely busy. You don't need all day to do this and, as the highest point is a mere 357m above sea level, you don't need great weather either.

Looking north from High Rigg  © Chris Scaife
Looking north from High Rigg
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Detailed description

NY3156219501 Head north on a small path beside the road. After crossing the road bridge over St John's Beck, take the ladder stile into deciduous woodland, where verdant moss and lichen hangs from the gnarled native trees. There should be more of this in the Lakes. Take the first left uphill and, as the sound of traffic fades away, the path forks again. Take the left fork to continue uphill. This is quite a steep ascent and the trees become sparse and more coniferous, surrounded by bracken, as the gradient eases towards Wren Crag.

NY3168320057 Skiddaw and Blencathra should now be visible to the north, as well as most of the rest of the day's walk, unfurling ahead. This is a leisurely ridge made up of tufts of bracken and heather, rough grassland and small rocky outcrops. As with much of the Lake District, there are little paths all over the place, but just stick to the most obvious track to follow the ridge northwards. Minor detours to hit the high points should be obvious, if required. After passing a small tarn, the path starts to head downhill, but soon reaches a ladder stile and heads up again.

NY3087721980 The summit is marked by a cairn and there are higher fells everywhere you look. Stay on the path, which continues north and descends quite steeply to the minor road beside a youth centre and St John's Church. If you're looking for shelter, or sanctuary, this halfway point of the walk, with benches in the lee of tall trees, makes a logical spot for a brew. Past the churchyard, turn right onto the bridleway with a signpost towards Sosgill Bridge.

NY3073622492 Follow this gravelly track beside an old drystone wall. To the left is the wide glacial valley known as St John's in the Vale, and beyond that the scars of the disused Bramcrag Quarry and deep gully of Sandbed Gill on the craggy slopes of Clough Head; whilst to the right, the steep scree slopes of High Rigg give it quite a savage appearance for such a small hill. Don't try to follow the bridleway exactly as marked on the map; just stay beside the wall. When the impressively old-looking Sosgill Bridge, an 18th century humpbacked packhorse bridge, is on the left, the path re-enters woodland.

NY3143521078 Although this path is not far from the road through St John's in the Vale, there is rarely much traffic about. This is the quiet side of the hill. After passing the camping barn/farm/self-service tea garden at Low Bridge End Farm, the pale crag of Castle Rock is visible and the path skirts around the edge of the woodland, above the meandering St John's Beck, back to the road. If you have a bit of time to wait for your bus, you could always wander down Thirlmere Dam Road and look out across the reservoir.

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