The High Street range is perfect terrain for striding out, Just ask any Roman soldier, pacing out the miles between Brougham and Ambleside. This route samples the northern terminus of the ridge, with its craggy escarpment offering magnificent panoramas over Ullswater. As so often with the Far Eastern fells, the lesser summits of Arthur’s Pike, Bonscale Pike and Steel Knotts prove to be the highlights, with steep slopes of boulder and bracken and interesting summit features both artificial and natural.
We start at the lakefoot village of Pooley Bridge. After the shocking collapse of the original stone structure, courtesy of Storm Desmond in 2015, it’s a relief to see the new stainless steel arch bedding into the landscape. The village is often busy with visitors but you’ll soon be out on the open fell, enjoying some of the most delightful views in the Lakes.
metres / Distance
NY4696424531 Assuming you start from the Dunmallard carpark on the northern bank of the river, start by crossing the bridge. Keep going through the village. It's often busy, but once you've forked right at the mini-roundabout by St Paul's Church, you'll soon be heading up a quiet street with fields on your left.
NY4747724320 At the cross-roads, go straight on (signposted as a no-through road to High Croft camp site). Keep following the lane, keeping the campsite on your left. The tarmac soon gives way to open fell and a land-rover track at a gate. As you gain height, you'll see more and more of Ullswater opening up on your right, topped by the enticing escarpment. That's where we're heading.
NY4831222728 At a cairn with a signpost to Howtown (right)and Celleron (left), turn right. Look out for another sign to Galava in Roman numerals. This was the ancient fort at Ambleside, and High Street is the ancient route used to get there from Brocavum fort (now Brougham), Penrith.
NY4824622237 As if the sense of history isn't already palpable enough, you'll soon reach the Bronze age stone circle called The Cockpit. Veer right again, on a good track through the bracken.
NY4726921978 After crossing Aik Beck, turn left on a good quad-bike track heading up between banks of bracken.
NY4712321743 At an acute fork in paths, take the smaller, right-hand branch so as to shadow the escarpment over the minor knobble of White Knott. Follow the edge to the prominent pair of cairns overlooking the lake, then go up to the summit of Arthur's Pike on your left.
NY4607520660 Follow the path down to the sheepfold by Swarthbeck. In mist, don't drift any further downsteam than the fold, because this leads into a gnarly ravine. From the beck, veer hard right on a north-westerly bearing to the top of Bonscale Pike.
NY4536320097 The next section is all about heading south, over the top of Loadpot Hill, which proves just as rounded and grassy as it sounds. You're now back on the High Street main route, down to a small tarn and up again to the even-grassier, even-more-rounded top of Wether Hill. Note there are two summits, of similar height. The first one you reach is traditionally regarded as the top, being graced with a small cairn. Continue a further 200m south of this and you should see another tiny cairn in the grass and a thin track heading down to the right.
NY4546516557 Take the descent, with a ruin as your guide if there's any visibility at all. The ruin sits at the top of the quiet side- valley of Fusedale but if you keep left of the stone wall, for very little additional effort you can gain the crest of Steel Knotts. Follow this to the distinctive summit tor of Pikeawassa. Look out for a tiny rowan sapling making a go of it in a crack on the eastern side. Follow the ridge down in a gently-right-curving arc, taking care not to be seduced away from the crest by the church at the col on your left.
NY4432019410 The descent brings you down to a good bridleway, where you turn right, then quickly left, on a farm road down to the Howtown Hotel where you get drinks and snacks to refresh you for the return leg.
NY4430319612 Head down the hotel access road down to the lakeshore and follow this past the jetty. If you are out of time or energy, there's the option of getting a boat back to Pooley Bridge from here. But assuming you still have some pep, pick up the Ullswater Way for the return. The route has many variations but all paths lead ultimately to Pooley Bridge. Start up a path from the entrance to the Outward Bound centre, heading up to the intake wall, where you turn left. You'll see the cairns on Arthur's Pike and Bonscale Pike up on the skyline to your right
NY4524820781 Stay on this good track until you get to the farm of Swarthbeck. Fork left then turn right over a small bridge, following the Ullswater way via a good sequence of paths running parallel to the lake, past Sharrow Cottages, Thwaitehill, Crook-a-Dyke, Seat Farm and Cross Dormont campsite.
NY4593322499 At the bottom of the Cross Dormont access lane, turn right and follow the road to another campsite entrance at Waterside House, on your left. It's now just a matter of following the lakeshore, which will lead inexorably to the outlet river, the Eamont, and the southern end of the bridge
It's a lovely area but Bonscale and Arthur's Pikes really demonstrate how odd some of Wainwright's criteria on what constitutes a seperate fell were. From up on the heights they barely register from what I recall. Great views of Ullswater mind and on that score alone they're worth visiting.
Yes, Harry, the boat opens options. The Pooley Bridge bailout is mentioned at step 11 but you could also do the sailing first and go anticlockwise round the fells. Or get the boat from Glenridding and do the whole loop from Howtown. Loads of possibilities.
Absolutely, Lankyman. Both "summits" are overshadowed by grassy lumps 20-30m higher just to the south. Yet I reckon AW's priorities were sound: his designated summits are both nicely poised on the edge of steep ground, putting aesthetics before arithmetic. 😃
Agreed. It's just one of the many charms and idiosyncrasies of Wainwright's guides. If he had personal guidelines they were based on 'feeling' rather than maths. I've read a few biographies (plus his own 'Fellwanderer') and I think I recall that how something looks viewed from the valley approach was a major factor. Slight Side on Scafell comes to mind. Why didn't he give a chapter to nearby Great How? It's much more of an independent fell than Slight Side. Just looking at the OS map and 'The Far Eastern Fells' you could (IMO) argue for seperate fell status for quite a few lumps and bumps in the region. I've wandered over much of Place Fell and there are a few examples there (eg Bleaberry Knott or High Dodd particularly).