Buttermere and the North West

Jonathan’s View

“A colourful and beautiful landscape, particularly when it is set off by the setting sun”

The Area

This region covers the north west corner of the Lake District from Bassenthwaite to Ennerdale. In between these two large valleys the Lorton valley leading in to Buttermere is the best known. The valley completes its journey at Buttermere, a deep heavily glaciated landscape with steep mountains on all sides.

The deep lake settles perfectly in the valley floor. Buttermere village is a small community and there are limited places to stay at this end of the valley but visiting and walking from here should be on every visitor’s itinerary.


Fleetwith Pike over Buttermere
Fleetwith Pike over Buttermere

Buttermere is quite superb. The lake is picture perfect and the fells surrounding the lake form a steep ring of enticing climbs. The walkinging on the summit ridges make the climbs worthwhile. Haystacks in particular is a classic but Fleetwith Pike is an interesting fell (more so now it is getting a zip wire!) and the High Stile ridge has spectacular views.

There are 2 pubs and a cafes in Buttremere in what is little more than an extended farm. However the village has had a famous history for 200 years. The legendary beauty, the Maid of Buttermere (mentioned by Wordsworth and the subject of Melvyn’s Bragg’s novel) was born and lived in the Fish Inn until she fell for a ‘wrong un’ in the form of the bigamist John Hatfield. A sad romance which did eventually have a happy outcome for her at least. Stay in the village or Loweswater for a true Lakeland experience.

Crummock Water & Loweswater

Crummock Water & Buttermere
Crummock Water & Buttermere

A short flood plain separates Crummock Water from Buttermere (it used to be a single lake). The shoreline is excellent and on the western side easily accessible. However no-one walks here so it is easy to get a section of lakeside to yourself. The eastern side has the most dramatic mountains but the road runs close to the shore making the beaches less attractive than they were. We used to canoe and swim here here in the 1970s as I grew up and the road was simply not an issue.

The mountains are steep sided and imposing but none the less make for some excellent walking. Mellbreak on the west of Crummock Water is one of my favourites but I would also advise girding your loins for the steep climb on the west side of the lake and accessing the Grasmoor and the Coledale Round from an unusual direction.

Cute Loweswater leads away in a separate valley towards the Cumbrian Coast, much smaller than Crummock but including some lovely woodland walks.


Kirkstile Inn Loweswater
Kirkstile Inn Loweswater

Cockermouth is an excellent base to explore the area for those with a car and wanting more amenities than the smaller Lake District hamlets in the mountains. I liked the town so much I held my stag night there! Being in site of the fells, an interesting little golf course, the karting track at Maryport and of course the Jennings Brewery enticed me there.  Wordsworth House (where he grew up) is in Cockermouth and worth a visit. It is an attractive town in its own right but the location is superb. Access to Buttermere and Ennerdale are within a ½ an hour drive whilst Keswick itself is no further on the road alongside Bassenthwaite.

However if you want to be in amongst the fells there are some pretty villages up the Lorton Valley. Loweswater, Waterend and Lorton are in fantastic spots, overlooked by the rugged fells and with excellent walking from the door – each has a pub but each is still quiet as travellers tend to pass through rather than stay.


Ennerdale Water
Ennerdale Water

The Forestry Commission own the lake and the land around. They have forested the upper end of the valley extensively. In many ways this is a great shame as the valley would be stunningly attractive with great walking otherwise. The walking is still good but accommodation and facilities distinctly limited. There are 2 youth hostels, Black Sail high up the valley and above the trees. If this is not for you the nearest places are Ennerdale Bridge (which is fine) or the less attractive towns near the coast. Rather than staying on or near the coast I would suggest returning to Cockermouth, which makes a good base.

I passed through the full length of Ennerdale to the coast at St Bees whilst doing the Coast to Coast. I enjoy it, in particular the remote setting. Walking in the valley always seems like an adventure.

Best Walks near Buttermere

My favourite walks in around Buttermere and the North West. Just click the links for full walk details.

Easy Walks

A walk round Buttermere. One of the best lakes to walk around, the scenery is fabulous and the paths good.

Rannerdale Knotts . A small fell of great character tucked away on the shores of Crummock Water.

Lands west of Ennerdale. Rarely visited by an Lake District visitor this is a lovely spot with fine walking for over 5 miles.

Sale Fell, nr Cockermouth. A low fell near Bassenthwaite which offers an easy but pleasant 1/2 day with unusual views over Keswick.

Binsey from Bassenthwaite. Takes in some unexplored countryside before emerging on a fell with great views of the Northern hills.

Lands around Loweswater A short but attractive circuit of this pretty lake which lies off the normal routes.

Moderate Walks

Mellbreak & Crummock Water. Mountain and lake combine to reveal excellent views down the Buttermere valley.

Hen Comb from Buttermere. A remote and unusual walk in this popular area

Haystacks. Made famous by Alfred Wainwright the walk is enhanced by starting at Buttermere rather than Gatesgarth. 8 miles.

Fleetwith Pike. A dramatic situation with a superb profile characterise this peak standing at the head of Buttermere.

Around Ennerdale Water. Hugging the shoreline throughout there is no better walk that circles a lake.

Hard Walks

High Stile ridge. A typical walk in the western lakes; mountainous, rugged, hard underfoot with excellent views.

Great Gable from Honister Pass. An excellent approach to this iconic mountain with a pleasant high start.

Grasmoor from Crummock Water. A steep pull offers an exceptionally rewarding high level walk on easy walking terrain

Steeple & Haycock. Two great ridges lead to the high plateau south and east of Ennerdale Water

Weather Forecast



Other Things to do

Wordsworth House. Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy spent their childhood in Cockermouth in this well preserved house and garden.

Whinlatter. Walking, cycling, Go Ape and a cafe are all available at Winlatter Pass summit

Honister Slate Mines. Book a tour of the mines and understand the importance of slate to the Lake District

Jennings Brewery Tour. Cockermouth is the centre of one of the 3 best breweries in the UK in my humble opinion


Places to Stay

Cottages in the Dales
  • Mountain Mike says:

    Hi well today its a scramble up the front edge of Fleetwith Pike,conditions wet under foot and foggy skies no cameras today as Gav and I start off from Gatesgarth Car Park,its a sharp walk upto the first stop,good path and nobody around.As we progress to steeper climbs the weather gets very sunny,a good few scambles on and we are nearing the top,a great day and surprisingly a good number of scrambles with great views and some long drops.After a stop for refreshments we make for Dubs Quarry where we see the first walkers of the day,quick hello and we have a good check out of the Bothie,light refreshments and we are off back down the track to Gatesgarth this was a great 3 hour trek well recommended,tomorow its Pillar Mountain again and Gavs first attempt from Ennerdale Valley bottom upto Pillars Shamrock Traverse then scramble to the top watch this space.

  • Mountain Mike from Stockton On Tees says:

    Well here I am back to try and get to the top of High Stile,after last months attempt in the snow where the white out, deep snow and gusts beat me.
    Its the 8th April and at my start time of 09.15 hrs finds me at the bottom of Honister Pass at Gatesgarth Farm looking out on a cloud clear range of High Crag,High Stile and Red Pike,there are a few people about around a half a mile in front of me.
    I find myself just below High Crag and its time to skirt round and up to just in front of High Stile a few looks from the people who are wondering where Im going this is personal my aim Summit High Stile,weather still clear but the ground is slippy and wet,but better than four feet of snow.
    I make my way towards the top when hailstone starts to beat down,time to cover up this is not funny and as Im on a steep slope not easy to get the waterproofs on,kit on and its onward to the top and what next total cloud cover,I stayed on the summit to see if it would clear but it did not I make for lower ground to get out of the cloud……….what a day you need your wits about you up here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *