A walk from Ravenglass to Penrith - July 1991
Cumberland Way Walks with a Camera
Walks with a Camera © Geoff’s Pages 2011
The Cumberland way is described in an excellent little "Wainwright-style" paperback by Paul Hannon, pub. Hillside Publications. It is a six day walk across the old county of Cumberland, from Ravenglass on the coast to Appleby (in the old county of Westmorland). Two further walks - the Westmorland Way, from Appleby to Arnside, and the Furness Way, from Arnside to Ravenglass, complete this (very roughly) triangular walk in and around the English Lake District.
Our itinerary was not quite complete, strictly speaking. We left the car at Penrith and, on our first day, travelled by public transport to Ravenglass. The sixth "official" day didn't look too exciting, and returning to Penrith on the fifth day would nicely complete our route. And (perhaps most important) our "pass-outs" would expire before we got to Appleby....
Day 1: Ravenglass - Nether Wasdale
We lunched well at the "Ratty" station buffet, before beginning our almost 10 mile walk across pleasant country, with the view to the hills drawing us onwards. An interesting, if none-too-direct route took us via quiet farm tracks to the isolated Irton church,
then, across fields to Santon Bridge, where the dark waters of the River Irt flow swiftly on their way from Wastwater to the sea. From Santon Bridge, a riverside path followed by more field walking leads eventually to the quiet village of Nether Wasdale, also known as Strands, where the two excellent inns provided our food, drink and overnight stay.
Day 2: Nether Wasdale - Buttermere
Day 4: Swinside - Dockray
Day 5: Dockray - Penrith
Near Muncaster Santon Bridge and the River Irt Nether Wasdale or Strands Nether Wasdale - the eastern side of the village
The path leaves Strands and crosses the Irt to head for the outflow of Wastwater. Here the more energetic walkers may follow the traverse along the southern shore, at the foot of the famous screes, but conscious of the day's 14 miles and two mountain passes, we took the "official" route, along the quiet road to Wasdale Head.
Here we took to the hills - firstly over Black Sail pass to the lonely youth hostel  Buttermere and the mist-topped Grasmoor at the head of Ennerdale, before climbing again over Scarth Gap pass into the Buttermere valley. The day had started with light rain, and cloud on the tops, but now it was improving, and we had some fine views as we cleared Scarth Gap - extending to Criffel, the Scottish peak away across the unseen Solway Firth. The path follows the western shore of the lake to bring the walker into the village. On this warm afternoon, we felt slightly superior to the poor motorists struggling to find a parking spot.
Wasdale - Great Gable in the mist ahead The pack horse bridge at Wasdale head The trudge up to Black Sail pass Ennerdale Buttermere and the mist-topped Grasmoor Haystacks, seen from the Scarth Gap path Descent from Scarth Gap Buttermere and Fleetwith Pike The B&B
Day 3: Buttermere - Swinside
This should have been "Buttermere - Keswick" - but we had planned our walk for the same week as the annual Methodist Convention. In booking our overnight accommodation, we had left Keswick to the last, but it turned out to be the most difficult. In the end we settled for the Swinside Inn, between the hamlet of Stair and the Hawse End jetty on Derwentwater. It would shorten our days walk significantly - but would extend the following day by an equal amount.
Given a pretty short route, we opted for the high level alternative - instead of the gentle ascent via Sail Beck, we would traverse the Whiteless Pike - Causey Pike ridge. I think it was on this stage of the walk that I realised that a couple of heavy Nikon bodies and two or three weighty lenses didn't make the ideal kit for this type of trip....
Leaving Buttermere Buttermere from Whiteless Pike Eel Pike - the view east Scar Crags Last on the ridge - Causey Pike Hawse End, Derwentwater
We left the inn and followed what should have been the previous day's route into Keswick, before heading on via Castle Head to the stone circle at Castlerigg. Continuing via St John's in the Vale, the Cumberland Way then follows an old coach road around the northern foothills of the Helvellyn range, reaching a summit level of around 1450' before dropping gently down to the tiny village of
Dockray, where we would spend our last night. It rained all day - sorry, no pictures (I wasn't planning on putting this page together in 1991). The camera stayed in the rucksack. There wasn't much to do in Dockray in the rain either - though at least there was a pub...
Dockray straddles Aira Beck - and a mile or so downstream, on route, is the shapely Aira Force, a regular destination on the Lakes tour. On leaving the waterfall, a pleasant path traverses Gowbarrow Fell, with magnificent views of Ullswater at first. Later, the path takes to the open country, and by a slightly tortuous route across the fields, we ended up at Stainton, a village about 2 miles from Penrith. Here we would part company with the
Cumberland Way, and in celebration of the fact, we entered the pub, only to find it had just closed! The landlord seemed prepared to serve us, so we took our drinks and sat outside, to reflect on a very enjoyable five days traversing this beautiful part of the country. And that was it. Just the couple of miles along the road to Penrith, then back to the car and home.
Aira Force Tree near Aira Force Ullswater from Gowbarrow Fell Dacre Castle, between Hutton John and Stainton
Paul Hannon's "Cumberland Way" is out of print - used copies are sometimes available on Abebooks or Amazon
Back to Walks with a Camera Contact Geoff