Where is this walk?

Kirkstone Pass to Threlkeld

September 13, 2018

Kirkstone Pass to Threlkeld passes over the the full spine of the Helvellyn Range taking in 14 Wainwrights. Fortunately the hard work is in the first half of the walk, it is almost all down hill from Helvellyn!

The Walk

The Helvellyn ridge strikes like an arrow through the heart of the Lake District. Adding on the hills around Fairfield and a start at the Kirkstone Inn this crossing had always attracted my attention. Myself and JP failed miserably 20 years plus ago. Poor weather and the temptations (liquid) of the valley below distracted us sufficiently to bail at Grisedale Tarn. Pretty feeble in retrospect but the failure drove me on and having been dropped off at Kirkstone Pass Inn by Helen I crawled in to the Horse & Farrier at Threlkeld roughly 6 1/2 hours later.

One of the joys of the walk is that the hard work is early. The initial climb to Red Screes and from Grisedale Tarn on the zig zags to Dollywagon Pike are hard. However the second half of the walk is now free to enjoy the magnificent views on a high relatively level ridge. The paths beyond Helvellyn are grassy and pleasant and the summits come thick and fast. Finally arriving at Clough Head is a relief before the steep drop into the village of Threlkeld. There are very few none circular walks that are really worth the effort of bribing a driver but this is certainly one of them.

A word of credit to Sadie and Michelle who completed this challenge in stifling summer conditions in 2017. The photos reflect their pleasure and some pain.


Time of the year is unimportant here but cloud off the summits is. More than any other walk the joy is the swiftly changing light and scenery of the landscape.

Navigation Tips Kirkstone Pass to Threlkeld

The crossing from Red Screes to Dove Crag on the Fairfield section offers the most difficult navigational challenge. In particular coming off Red Screes the path is not obvious.

  • Jonathan Hacker says:

    I agree with Jonathan. The first part is quite tough, so it’s good to get the climbing out of the way. The views towards Blencathra across the rolling tops are great!

  • Dave Skiffington says:

    Hi, thanks for posting the route.

    I’m looking to run the route from Threlkeld to Kirkstone Pass. I note that you mentioned the route really should be done south to North for numerous reasons – am I missing something obvious here?



    • Jonathan says:

      My reasons are I always like to walk north away from the sun, the rough walking is out the way early, the second half is rolling terrain and easier on tired legs, Thelkeld is a great finish spot and I prefer the views to the north and west.

  • Jonathan Hacker says:

    A while ago your linear route from Kirkstone Pass to Thelkeld caught my eye.
    I was looking for a challenging route to tackle with my son. The Kirkstone – Thelkeld route seemed to fit the bill.
    We did the walk on Tuesday this week (10th July) in near perfect conditions. Thanks so much for suggesting this route – it really is a first class walk.
    Just one slight quibble. In the article you say you did the route in ‘roughly 6 1/2 hours’. Surely you can’t be serious. Walking at Naismith’s level path pace would have made this possible, but when you include the stiff climbs up onto Red Screes & Dollywaggon Pike, to say nothing of the steep descents off Fairfield and Clough Head, only a fell runner could complete the route in 6.5 hours. My son and I are pretty fit. We did stop for regular breaks for food and drink, but our time was about 12 1/2 hours to complete the 28.7km.
    It was a truly memorable day, but I’m not sure our wives would have been happy to let us go if they had known they wouldn’t see us from morning til night!
    Keep up the good work.

  • Michele and Sadie says:

    We were very fortunate that the weather was amazing when we did this walk with Jonathan. It was hard work but a great sense of achievement when we eventually reached the end. A pint of cider has never tasted so good!

    The initial climb was quite hard work but we were rewarded with stunning views as we were throughout the whole walk.

    Towards the end we needed encouragement and I’m sure that much patience was required to get us to get us there, but this was managed in a subtle way.

    Anyone looking for a challenge would certainly find it in this walk.

  • Martin Ansell says:

    After a bus ride from Ambleside I ascended directly (grassy slog) from Legburthwaite, just north of the top end of Thirlmere, to Great Dodd and walked the ridge to Watson Dodd, Raise, Helvellyn (snow on top), Dollywaggon Pike, Grisedale tarn and descended to Grasmere village and Tweedie’s bar. I’ve done the extra bit to Fairfield, Red Screes and the Kirkstone Inn before and will combine the two routes in the future. The Helvellyn ridge is often overlooked and offers great value for not too much effort. North to South seems fine to me. Grisedale tarn is great for a swim in hot weather.

  • Andrew Plasom-Scott says:

    My daughter and I did (almost) this walk the other way around and it was also very rewarding. We started at Matterdale Common, just above Dockray, and dropped off from Dove Crag to be picked up at the pub in Patterdale. A wonderful day out, though the pull up from Grisedale Tarn is a big one whichever direction you are going!

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