Lake District Classics – unusual approaches

July 19, 2021

Many of the best approaches to the higher Lake District peaks are not necessarily the most popular. As an example Skiddaw from Keswick is much bettered by an approach from the north.

I have listed below 10 of my favourite alternative’ approaches to the Lakes highest fells. They are particularly useful for those who have already ‘done’ the traditional route in the past but also for those wanting to avoid the more crowded summits this summer.

1. Dow Crag via Seathwaite

Blind Tarn

This is Seathwaite in the Duddon Valley, a walk from the other one would be a little challenging! From the Newfield Inn (excellent) the route takes you past Seathwaite Tarn, on to the col between Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man then over Dow Crag and down via the Walna Scar Road.

Add to the day by including more of the main Coniston ridge by heading north from Seathwaite Tarn to the rarely visited Grey Friar and joining the main ridge there.

Full Walk Details

2. Dove Crag and Red Screes

Approaching Dove Crag

The best part of the Fairfield Horseshoe is the eastern ridge to Dove Crag. This is followed before leaving the horseshoe and heading east to Red Screes. The return to Ambleside is via another fine ridge.

Full Walk Details

3. Steeple and Haycock

Haycock looking to the Steeple ridge

Starting at Ennerdale this is a rare and lonely walk in to the valleys heart. Take the direct path up Steeple and on to Scoat Fell before returning by the rarely visited Haycock.

Pillar with views across Wasdale towards the Scafells is only half  an hour from the summit of Scoat Fell.

Full Walk Details

4. Grasmoor from Buttermere

Buttermere from Whiteless Pike

Any climb out of Buttermere is steep but the rewards make it worthwhile. Grasmoor direct from Rannerdale simply gets better the higher you are. Complete the walk and the back end of the traditional Newlands Round by carrying on to Hopegill Head and the wonderful ridge to Whiteside.

Full Walk Details

5. Scafell from the South

Scafell and Slight Side

Scafell is difficult to get at and not much fun as a climb from Wasdale but venture in to the Upper Esk Valley and it becomes a great day out. Very few people will attack the fell from the south and the safe route via Foxes Tarn.

The return via Burnmoor Tarn and Eel Tarn, is exquisite.

Full Walk Details

6. High Street from Haweswater

Small Water

A long day striding out along the Roman Road on High Street and an interesting return on the banks of Haweswater are part of the enjoyment of the day. In total contrast the climb to Nan Bield past Small Water is more typically rugged Lakeland.

Full Walk Details

7. Skiddaw via Ullock Pike

Between Ullock Pike and Skiddaw

Near Bassenthwaite village the path zig zags pleasantly up the slopes of Ullock Pike, initially graceful and then increasingly rocky. However it is on Long Side and Carl Side that the views open up superbly and the northern fells spread out in front of you.

The many walkers who have slogged up from Keswick will be astonished as you head north in to trackless country to the north when exiting the summit area.

Full Walk Details

8. Pike O Stickle via Mickleden

Pike O’Stickle

The track up to Stickle Tarn can be unpleasant for many. a much better route goes west up the long valley of Mickleden and then ‘cuts back ‘ along the grassy shoulder of Pike O’ Stickle from Stake Pass.

After Pike O Stickle as many or as few of the remaining Langdale Pikes can be climbed depending on the weather and how you feel.

Full Walk Details

9. Swirl How & Wetherlam


Little Langdale is the start point for an alternative route up the northern fells of the Coniston massif. A long graceful ridge ascends to Great Carrs and Swirl How before dropping on to the rugged slopes of Wetherlam, one of my favourite Lake District fells.

Grey Friars is worth the extra time (3/4 an hour there and back) for the views south and west to the sea and beyond. Don’t bother if it is cloudy!

Full Walk Details

10. Great Gable

Great Gable, summit slopes

Great Gable is an conic mountain but climbing it can be a slog (unless you cheat by starting from Honister Pass). However from Sty Head Tarn do not take to the unremitting slopes ahead and skirt round the western slopes. At Napes Needle pick the route near the needle and scramble on to the summit plateau after an ‘interesting’ climb

The return via Green Gable and Base Brown is excellent, easy walking after climbing Gable.

Full Walk Details

Enjoy the walks


Here is a full list of the Classic Circuits in the Lake District. Complete with maps of their locations.

Leave a Reply

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

Discover more from Where2Walk

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading