Whin Rigg, Illgill Head & Eskdale Moor

4th November 2013

I still had one days holiday left before I returned to work yet up to 24 hours previous I hadn’t a clue where to spend it. The weather forecast was set for a dry Autumn day with clear skies ahead, more so the clearer & sunnier skies favoured around the south west of the district which is something of a rarity this time of year.

I soon remembered about Illgill Head & the fact that the last time I was here I could barley see my hand in front of my face due to abysmal low cloud & I missed out on the splendid views down the ridge.

I had to get up early for this walk knowing the drive was half motorway & half A & B roads, so I set my alarm clock for 05:00am. I was actually up earlier & was brushing my teeth in the bathroom when the alarm clock went off.

I was soon underway under the cover of darkness which lay heavy on my mind because after leaving the comfort of the motorway I knew I had to drive the Birker Fell Road in pitch blackness, something of which I wasn’t comfortable with, with this, I set my sights on Muncaster instead, from where I would find my own way into Eskdale.

As it turned out as I approached Broughton in Furness along the A595 I soon caught the twilight in between actual dark & the sunrise, this lifted my spirits quite a bit knowing that now I could head for Eskdale via the suggested shorter route rather than keep to the main trunk roads.

As I arrived In Eskdale Green the sun had been up for around twenty minutes but I was still waiting for those promised blue skies, instead I got a rather murky grey.

I followed a narrow road through Porterthwaite to reach the car park, the lane was only as wide as the car in places & had deep potholes filled with the previous nights rain water, so as you can guess I took my time here. I soon found a grass verge to leave the car & started to kit up besides the sound of the River Mite.

My walk starts in Porterthwaite in a narrow lane just outside Eskdale Green.

Wainwright Guidebook
The Southern Fells

The climb may be made with equal facility from Boot using the old corpse-road to and beyond Burnmoor Tarn until it begins a gentle descent to Wasdale Head, when the route by the broken wall may be joined. Or a shorter more tedious ascent from the Tarn may be made. But, from Eskdale, a more rewarding plan is to climb Whin Rigg first, then go onto Illgill Head and return via the broken wall and Burnmoor Tarn: a splendid round.


Ascent: 2,519, Feet
Wainwrights: 2 Whin Rigg – Illgill Head
Weather: Bright & Sunny, Highs Of 10°C Lows Of 3°C
Parking: Car Park, Porterthwaite, Miterdale
Area: Southern
Miles: 10.9
Walking With: On my own
Ordnance Survey: OL6
Time Taken: 5 Hours 15 Minutes
Route: Porterthwaite – Miterdale Forest – Whin Rigg – Illgill Head – Burnmoor Tarn – Miterdale Head – Boat How – Brat’s Hill – Blea Tarn – Blind Tarn – Siney Tarn – Porterthwaite

Map and Photo Gallery



Miterdale Forest 07:38  3°C

As I kitted up a Water board van drove past the narrow lane, both of us looked surprised to see one another but that didn’t stop the morning nod.

After locking the car I crossed the River Mite over a wide steel footbridge & entered the Miterdale Forest which was thick in mud causing some early navigation issues sending me through the woodland rather than through the sinking mud which covered the path. The Forestry Commission had signs up stating that they were working in the area so I guess I didn’t need to look far for who to blame for ruining the paths with their heavy plant machinery.

Despite that continuous sinking feeling underfoot the forest was alive with colour with the yellow of the leaves still holding onto the bright brown pine needles that littered the forest floor, only adding to this, was that now the sun was starting to shine through the thick bush catching glances every now & again with a sudden brightness, almost making my eyes water.

I soon topped out of the woodland with views of Great Bank on my right flanks & Irton Fell ahead, what followed was more bog & mud negotiations.


An autumn morning in the Miterdale Forest.


Miterdale silhouettes.


Great Bank dominates my right as I top out of Miterdale Forest.


Irton Pike & Whin Rigg ahead.

After leaving Miterdale Forest & the Forestry Operations I soon crested the shoulder of Irton Fell. Here It was time to take on my first summit of the day by taking an abrupt right at the stone wall which lead me all the way to Irton Fell, a place I had always wanted to visit but never found the right time, until now.


Whin Rigg over Greathall Gill taken shortly after leaving Irton Fell summit.

Despite the great views & the high cloud I just couldn’t escape that pinch in the air, so here I opted for the hat which I pulled firmly down to the bottom of my ears.

Things were looking good.


Here looking back over Irton Fell, Greathall Gill, Muncaster Fell (far left) & Irton Pike together with the Cumbrian Coast from my ascent on Illgill Head.


Nether Wasdale with a glazing of morning frost taken beneath the summit of Whin Rigg.


Yewbarrow & Kirk Fell from Whin Rigg.

Despite Illgill Head being just one of the reasons why I am here today Yewbarrow & Kirk Fell did a pretty good job of averting the gaze.


And so did Illgill Head.

It’s been two years since my last visit to Illgill Head & conditions both on & off the fells were perfect for this mornings walk.

The last time I was here I couldn’t make out my hand in front of my face, back then it was pretty heart wrenching knowing on what I was missing & If I’m totally honest, I always told myself I wouldn’t return unless I had the best of weather.

I know it sounds pretty cliché but this one photo & maybe one more later on in the walk are the soul reasons for me being here.

Today the fell walking will always win hands down, but you cant help not to fall in love with the view ahead so it’s a good job I brought the camera then.


Bearing down on Wast Water from high above the Screes.


Here looking back on Whin Rigg with views towards the Coast


Yewbarrow’s South Ridge from Illgill Head.

Yewbarrow steeling self glory.


This time with a little zoom on Yewbarrow’s Bell Rib & Door Head.


Time to avert the camera over my shoulder towards Buckbarrow & Greendale.


Meanwhile Kirk Fell, Great Gable & Lingmell were still cloud topped.


A little cloud had moved in over the Scafells by the time I found myself at Illgill Head summit cairn.

The cloud was slow moving & was out-shone by the blue skies high above so I wasn’t the least bit worried I was about to lose my view.

After leaving the summit I surveyed & looked back on one of the best platforms a Lakeland summit has to offer.

It was now time to drop down & lose some descent towards Burnmoor Tarn via the Old Corpse Road.

My descent was steep but was overshadowed as I watched the cloud slowly lift away revealing Scafell & Slight Side, in my greediness I could only wish that right now I was standing on top of Yewbarrow to view such spectacle but, that would of just been too greedy I guess.


Scafell & Slight Side after the cloud had lifted.

I soon reach the Old Corpse Road connecting Wasdale with Eskdale, before I head to Burnmoor Tarn I wanted to pay a visit to Maiden Moor cairn seen centre right in the foreground of the photo.

It was a pretty wet affair between me & it.


Maiden Moor cairn in front of the Scafells & Slight Side.


Burnmoor Tarn with amazing sun.

Despite the rarity of the sun this time of year I spent my trek from the ancient cairn of Maiden Moor to Burnmoor Tarn looking at my boots as the suns glare was making my eyes stream (note to self…do not leave your sunglasses in the door pocket of your car)

I’m not complaining, my eyes could stream all they want, it was simply amazing to be here today.


Miterdale Head from Burnmoor Tarn.

I guess this was reason number two on why I chose the route I did today, although I wasn’t going to return via Miterdale I wanted to pay the head of the valley a little attention which I did but only after taking several more photos.


Ahead my next destination, Burnmoor Lodge high above the bank of Burnmoor Tarn.


Scafell, Slight Side & Great How from Burnmoor Lodge.

Time for a spot of lunch I think.



I took on the slight excursion to the head of Miterdale where waterfalls cascade down the flanks of Illgill Head forming the River Mite, a perfect setting for lunch.

The temperature isn’t more than 9°C but the air is calm & still, clammy even, I could be mistaken for believing that I am in the middle of summer than the beginning of November.

As I sat there I hear the noise of Jet Engines something that this morning, I had become accustomed to as I had already witnessed (and nearly missed) a training Jet come from the coast & fly over Wast Water & beyond between both Kirk Fell & Great Gable, that was over an hour ago.

From out of nowhere I hear the distinctive ear deafening burst of Jet engine, I know I have only seconds to locate him, he’s close, he has to be.

As I scour the skies I see the black dot heading straight up the valley of Miterdale, the jet is heading straight for me & before I knew it, it had passed over me & Burnmoor Tarn, it was so low the heat from the engines clearly visible.

The jet then took on Scafell & made an almost vertical ascent up Broad Tongue & beyond the summit, the jet engines poured out black plumage in their laboured state all the while, deafening my surroundings.

I thought to myself, this pilot is going to want some recognition for that stunt, he’s gonna fly by again & go…see that what I just did!! but I never heard nor saw a jet again that day.

I reached for the camera & only managed this next photo, the exhaust fumes can be seen emitting for the engines.

A true highlight if there could have been anymore than I had already encountered.



Boat How.

After lunch I retraced my steps slightly & made for the summit of Boat How which flanks Burnmoor Tarn & reaches out onto Eskdale Moor.


Miterdale & Muncaster Fell & the Cumbrian Coast from Boat How.


More ancient Stone Circles are found on Brats Hill a little further down the ridge.


Eskdale Moor.


Here looking over Eskdale towards Harter Fell & Green Crag.


Almost upon one of the three Tarns I will encounter during the final stages of the walk.


Blea Tarn Eskdale.


Blea Tarn Eskdale.

Here’s the first of three Tarns all within a couple of hundred yards proximity.

Cant see the other two…neither could I!

Joking aside for navigational purpose the next two Tarns, Blind & Siney Tarn’s are situated around to the bottom right (almost a hook affect) of Blea Tarn.


Blind Tarn.

Keeping to the right of Blind Tarn via a fairly prominent path will swing you round onto…


Siney Tarn.

Despite the area being as desolate as one can think the paths around Eskdale Moor really are quite prominent, but don’t do as I did unless you are familiar with the area & try to leave them because losing your bearings on Eskdale Moor will almost certainly bite you on the backside!


Miterdale & The Miterdale Forest.

After leaving Siney Tarn I followed a grassy path over bog & through long grass until after a short while I came across the opposite end of the ridge (Miterdale as appose to Eskdale)

Here a path lead down back into Miterdale not shown on my map but was clearly there, once I lost more descent the sound of the River Mite got louder & louder which is always a comfort after walking in isolation for the past hour or so.


The River Mite from Porterthwaite.

I took on the last mile through Miterdale & its woodland not really wanting to end such a fantastic day on the fells, yes I had the weather on my side which was truly rare, my main goal today had been reached in that I got to see Illgill Head from Whin Rigg in all its entirety, not only that but the sun shone on me & Lakeland in such a way that this walk will go down as one of the best of 2013


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