Scafell Pike, Cumbria

Julia Bradbury takes us up the highest peak in England: Scafell Pike

11th August 2011
image
Difficulty
Difficult
Distance
10 miles
Duration
7 - 9 hours
Sometimes, on my Wainwright Walks series, I work with a sound lady called Clare Edmonds. As well as being one of only two sound women that I’ve had the pleasure of working with in nearly 20 years on television, Clare is the kind of person who can make you laugh out loud, however serious a task you are undertaking.

One day when we were filming on Haystacks in the Lake District, she posed a question that could have occupied Socrates for hours; looking up at a tiny cluster of people high up on the fell she asked, “Do you think we’ll look that small when we get up there?”

I still don’t know the answer, but when we did get to the summit, which is where Alfred Wainwright’s ashes are scattered, I could certainly see why it was one of his favourite views. “This is not a case of distance lending enchantment to the view – the enchantment is close at hand,” he wrote. “Set in a tight surround, a rewarding study deserving leisurely appreciation.”

I’m fully aware that it would be all too easy to reel off a list of magnificent views in the Lakes, so perhaps it is a cheating to name a Lake District view as my favourite, but I can’t ignore the outlook from Scafell Pike, the highest ground in England. The view from this mountain will always be one of the best in my lifetime. You can see all the way to the Isle of Man – and on a clear day Blackpool Tower – from the boulder-strewn summit.

1. Getting started
The route up to Scafell Pike begins at the southern end of the Borrowdale Valley at Seathwaite Farm. It starts off gradually, as the path follows the River Derwent southwards up to Stockley Bridge, but then steepens and head up Grains Gill to a height of 610m (2,000ft), looking out for the great ravine at the top. Above the ravine there’s a detour past the sheer face of Great End to Sprinkling Tarn.

2. scenic picnic
Heading back on the route, there’s a long and steady climb up to the plateau at Esk Hause for a lunch spot with views to remember. Turning westwards you pass round the back of Great End, and finally get on to the rocky Scafell ridge. This dramatic stretch takes you past the lower peaks of Ill Crag and Broad Crag before the last testing climb to the Pike itself.

3. sweeping views
When I reachesd the peak (camera crew in tow), the sky was a perfect shade of misty pink and gusts of wind blustered all around, holding me up against the skyline. Spread all around are low hills, green valleys and, in the distance, an expanse of sea. Helvellyn, Crinkle Crags, the Old Man of Coniston, the Howgill Fells and even Slieve Donard in Northern Ireland can all be seen on a clear day. The sense of fulfilment from making it to the top was intoxicating. I just wished I’d remembered to bring a pie.

The return descends via the rocky Corridor Route, crossing a number of ravines with breathtaking views over Wasdale. Next you walk along Styhead Gill, before arriving back at Stockley Bridge and following your footsteps back to Seathwaite.


Useful Information


Eat/stay
Wasdale Head Inn
01946 726229
www.wasdale.com
This quiet corner of the Lake District is home to the Wasdale Head Inn, surely one of the fell’s most stunningly set pubs.

Newfield Inn
01229 716208
www.newfieldinn.co.uk
A roaring fire, slate floor and range of cask ales from Lakeland breweries makes this atmospheric inn suitably cosy, while the beer garden offers superlative views of the fells.

Near by
Via Ferrata at Honiston Slate Mines
01768 777230 www.honister-slate-mine.co.uk
Britain’s only via ferrata offers a chance for non-climbers to scale the peaks via a series of fixed cables, ladders and hooks.

Subscribe to BBC Countryfile Magazine today!

Choose a subscription offer to suit you and benefit from generous savings on the shop price, free UK delivery and discounts off special editions and back issues.

Countryfile Magazine - Current Issue