Avoid the crowds and help reduce traffic in the National Park with this big day out, starting from the train station in Kendal. Kentmere Pike is probably best known to most walkers as one of a long line of fells on the ever-popular Kentmere Horseshoe, but it's a worthy peak in its own right, and offers magnificent panoramas of the southern Lake District, as well as distant views of the North Pennines, Yorkshire Dales and Morecambe Bay. A stroll beside the River Kent is followed by a wander over the solitude of Green Quarter Fell. The route briefly touches on the classic Horseshoe to reach the grassy summit of Kentmere Pike, before descending past disused mines and quarries into the serene, picturesque and much-overlooked valley of Longsleddale.
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SD5196393196 Head out from the station and turn right, then immediately after crossing the river via Victoria Bridge, follow the riverside path north-west. Look out for otter and kingfisher as you follow the path under the Kent Viaduct and past the Dockwray Footbridge to join the Burneside Road beside the railway bridge. Turn right onto Kentrigg and follow the footpath to rejoin, and cross, Burneside Road; then follow the pavement to Burneside. Take the back road behind Junction Cottages and turn right to cross the River Kent via the New Road bridge. After exiting the village, you'll see a sign for the Dales Way - turn left here and follow this path, which stays close to the riverbank. At Bowston, the Dales Way crosses the river, but stay on the right (true left) of the river, passing some rapids at Cowan Head, to reach Beckmickle Ing woodland.
SD4914797750 The path through this biodiverse Woodland Trust reserve reaches the road all too soon. Turn left for a brief spell along this minor road, then first right and left again to follow the lane through Spring Hag. Where this lane exits the wood, continue straight ahead to join a more or less traffic-free paved road, past several farms, to Park House. Keep going north along the byway, which soon becomes a bridleway on the open fell. Although there are a good few paths off to the side, navigation should be easy if you stay on the main track, which heads north up Green Quarter Fell and then descends slightly to the north-east before joining the byway leading uphill from Sadgill.
NY4815305054 Head steeply uphill on the byway and then turn right onto a path that follows the ridge to the summit of Kentmere Pike. As this part of the walk shares ground with the justly popular Kentmere Horseshoe, expect to see a few people here, but you'll soon be left in peace. At the summit, cross the dry-stone wall via a stile and head down a steep, pathless, grassy slope to pass the disused workings of Wrengill Slate Quarry. In poor visibility, navigation may be aided by following the fence that runs down north-east from the summit. After passing the quarry, cross Wren Gill and join the large track descending Gatescarth Pass.
NY4776808587 Follow the large track for a leisurely descent to Sadgill, admiring the crags on either side. At Sadgill, continue straight ahead along the paved road as far as a smooth, symmetrical green mound known as Whirl Howe. Just after passing this distinctive formation, head right along the footpath beside the wall to cross the River Sprint. Immediately after the bridge, turn left and follow this long bridleway south through tranquil Longsleddale, never straying far from the Sprint. At Docker Nook, turn left on the track and then, just before this track crosses the river, head right along the bridleway and stay on this as far as Garnett Bridge Wood.
SD5223999359 Zigzag up through the small woodland and continue along this path to turn right (in effect, straight ahead) onto the lane leading up to Birk Rigg on Potter Fell. After about 500m, take the footpath downhill to Potter Fell Road. Turn right and stay on the tree-lined road until you reach the bridleway on the left. Follow this lane downhill past Shepherd Green and Beetham Bank.
SD5148497146 At a T-junction, turn right to cross several fields towards Braban House. Just before the house, turn left onto the footpath and follow this south through farmland, across a minor road and back onto the Dales Way just outside Burneside. Now return to Kendal, retracing the route taken by your fresh-faced, younger self all those hours ago.
Start/Finish: If starting from a different part of Kendal, just join this route on the riverside path north of Victoria Bridge, but the walk is described from Kendal railway station, SD519932
Nearest town: Kendal
Terrain: A few short bits on pavements at the beginning and end, although most of the way through Kendal is on a riverside footpath. A clear, grassy path beside the River Kent is followed by a short section of paved road, but you won't see much traffic. On Green Quarter Fell, the path is obvious, with a couple of boggy sections. This joins a steep byway and then a well-walked path to the summit of Kentmere Pike. There is a pathless, grassy slope to descend into Longsleddale; then the route mostly follows obvious - and sometimes muddy - paths through farmland.
Seasonal variations: It should be fine in most conditions, for proficient walkers, but you'll probably want as much daylight as possible for this one.
But you'd miss the Where Eagles Dare schloss on the Kent
The entire skyline horseshoe taking in Gurnal Dubs, Potter Fell, Brunt Knott, the standard Kentmere horseshoe anticlockwise, then back over Sallows, Capple Howe and past Williamson's monument down to Staveley is an interesting alternative.
I've described a walk from Kendal - a biggish town with more accommodation options and better transport links than Burneside - and I chose the station as the starting point because it's fairly central and easy to reach.
The walk from Kendal to Burneside is partly along an interesting section of the River Kent and partly beside some pleasant farmland. If you think skipping this bit and instead travelling by train to Burneside is 'the obvious improvement', go for it.