An alternative Fairfield Horseshoe

29th November 2014

This walk was pre-planned back in October by David & myself as an extended version of the already popular Fairfield Horseshoe, our route would see us start in Ambleside before taking in the long back bone of Red Screes in Snarker Pike from where we would pick up both Dove & Hart Crags before continuing in an anti-clockwise direction taking on the majestic Heron Pike ridge back to Rydal.

I suppose it would be true to say that our last two walks should have been this actual walk; yet due to bad weather we had to postpone it, dare I say any further towards December we might have even been forced to cancel it until Spring time due to the extended hours involved, as it turns out we had our green light with a predicted forecast of dry weather & even the possibility of walking higher than the cloud base, or so the forecasters predicted, it turned out they got the latter wrong but that didn’t matter as we had a belter of a day by literally squeezing every ounce of daylight from dawn till dusk into the walk.

Here’s how we got on.


Wainwright Guidebook

The Eastern Fells


The whole mass constitutes a single geographical unit and the main summit is Fairfield, a grand mountain with grand satellites in support.


Ascent: 4,500 Feet – 1,372 Meters
Wainwrights: 8, Red Screes – Little Hart Crag – Dove Crag – Hart Crag – Fairfield – Great Rigg – Heron Pike – Nab Scar
Weather: Dry & Bright, Hazy. Highs Of 11°C Lows Of 10°C
Parking: Roadside Parking, Miller Bridge, Ambleside
Area: Eastern
Miles: 13.8
Walking With: David Hall
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 7 Hours 45 Minutes
Route: Miller Bridge – Rothay Park – Ambleside – Kirkstone Road – Snarker Pike – Red Screes – Scandale Pass – Little Hart Crag – Bakestones Moss – Dove Crag – Hart Crag – Link Hause – Fairfield – Great Rigg – Heron Pike – Nab Scar – Rydal Hall – Rydal Park – Scandale Bridge – Ambleside – Miller Bridge

Map and Photo Gallery


Miller Bridge, Ambleside 08:15 10°C

I was running about ten minutes early by the time I had left the M6 at junction 36 but my lead time was soon taken up by not one, but two dare I say ‘Sunday morning drivers’ or Saturday in this case.

I’m all for road safety but driving at 20 mph under the actual speed limit is possibly just as dangerous as driving over it, needless to say this didn’t matter to the two drivers ahead of me. I arrived dead on 08:00 feeling a little flustered that now I had to rush things up a little which I did by greeting David & lacing up at the same time.

All David had to do was throw his pack over his shoulder. There was a still mugginess about the morning air as David demonstrated by not wearing his jacket & going for a fleece instead, sleeves rolled up of course.

With both cars locked we headed over Miller Bridge before a quick stroll through Rothay Park.

Rothay Park.

Rothay Park was almost deserted at these early hours nonetheless though a popular spot for joggers & dog walkers alike. After passing through the park we soon found ourselves in an equally deserted Ambleside before making a quick detour to see the old Bridge House.

The Bridge House, Ambleside.


Bridge House, Ambleside.

Bought by the National Trust back in 1926 for the pricy sum of £450, up until then the Bridge House had remained vacant with the exception of one man named Rigg who died sometime during the 1850’s Other rumours has it that one local built the Bridge House so as not to pay Land Tax, clever eh…

We press on.

The Golden Rule, Kirkstone Road.

After leaving Bridge House we soon found ourselves at the bottom of the Kirkstone Road. It wasn’t going to be the fellside that had us gasping for breath from an early start but here as the road gains height quite quickly over a mile in distance. Over our shoulders we did have the added bonus of a pink sunrise materialising which at least took the mind off the steep ascent.

After keeping up a healthy pace I asked David would he mind we stop just so I could take off my jacket as I was starting to feel like the inside of a kettle on the boil as the sweat dripped from my face, I never imagined I would feel this hot at the end of November, the theme would continue throughout the duration of the whole walk.

Shortly before we had passed two young fellows who then went onto pass us leaving both David & myself quietly questioning ones fitness over the younger walkers, however this was short lived as we went on to takeover them & take a healthily lead soon after gaining the fellside.

Although it wasn’t mentioned, self respect was restored!

After leaving Kirkstone Road we joined the fellside after passing through a metal gate.

Gaining Snarker Pike from here is done by keeping right with the wall, don’t worry about the left stone wall as it forms a wide sweep before coming back into view higher up the ridge.

It wasn’t long before we were walking under beautiful morning sunlight.


Red Screes ahead shortly after passing Snarker Pike summit.

We flank Snarker Pike summit cairn with a fleeting glance all the while taking in the wonderful southern ridge of Red Screes where the views back were as equally stunning.

Here, looking back over trodden ground.

Despite the fantastic conditions the main feature of our surroundings was how a thick haze had developed with the timing of the sunrise limiting distant views which at this moment in time, didn’t really affect us. we both wondered was this the low cloud the forecasters had predicted but soon came to the conclusion that the forecasters couldn’t have got it so mixed up.

Not cloud but haze, with the Coniston Fells peering out above.

Still a wonderful sight nonetheless, that’s Harter Fell (Eskdale) to the right.

Red Screes appears ahead seen from Raven Crag.

It was quite sad to have to leave our pleasant ridge walk behind us, taking in this fantastic ridge was one of the major highlights which contributed to the whole walk, doing it under such conditions was of course a major bonus too. We both touched on the subject on how at this time of year when the sunlight shines how much crisper everything appears including the different changes in the grasses, even the shadows look darker, it’s the little things that all add up & is why this time of year is my favourite.

The Coniston & Langdale Fells through the lingering haze.


Here the haze descends over Windermere & the surrounding countryside.

Haze & photography usually don’t mix but I quite like the afterglow the haze creates although the silhouettes were fast becoming the norm in any direction other than north.

Red Screes summit captured by the haze.

We soon arrived at the summit of Red Screes where we were met by a brisk wind, not wanting to appear a softie I folded down my sleeves when really I was yearning to add my jacket, my thoughts were lets see how much longer I can wait it out, after all the sun is out.

But not over Scandale Head.

We had visions of descending down to the ‘top of’ the Scandale Pass mostly on our backsides as this area is notoriously known for being wet, yet despite a few slips we managed to stay upright in full conversation all the way down.

Ahead a good selection of the Fairfield fells which includes Fairfield far right with Dove Crag & Hart Crag forming the head of Dovedale which was blessed with a little sunshine. In the right foreground of the picture is Little Hart Crag which is where we were heading next.

Little Hart Crag from the top of Scandale Pass.

We were soon frequented by a warm sun which scurried any thoughts of wanting to add the jacket again, once more we were at the mercy of sweated brows as we take on the gentle ascent with a scorching sun on our backs which left us feeling like we were walking in the middle of July rather than the end of November.

Dove Crag seen from Little Hart Crag.

Despite the sunshine it was whilst at the summit of Little Hart Crag was we met by a bitterly cold wind which bit at exposed skin, it was obvious we were exposed to the cross winds from both the Scandale & Caiston Valleys, after a few photos we descended back down before plotting our route over Bakestones Moss.

Not before taking one last photo of Dove Crag over Bakestones Moss.

We took a route via the remains of old wooden fence post which lead us across Bakestones Moss surprisingly without getting our feet wet.

Here, looking back on Little Hart Crag & High Hartsop Dodd with extensive views over the far eastern fells.


Dove Crag summit is just a short walk away.

It was great to have some even ground underfoot, much greater was the sight of Fairfield seen just left of Dove Crag summit. Despite the fantastic conditions we didn’t pass anyone up until reaching the summit of Dove Crag.

Dove Crag summit.

Fantastic light met us as we arrived at the summit cairn of Dove Crag, it was such a pity however we couldn’t make more use of it due to any long distant shots being hampered by the haze.

Summit time was brief as we agreed to have lunch at our next summit of Hart Crag.

Hart Crag with Fairfield just behind.

The crossing from Dove Crag to Hart Crag was yet again graced with great light which altered the colours of the grasses once more. It’s this type of arrangement which draws me back over & over, Fell walking isn’t ‘just’ about gaining summits, there is so much more to learn from the different season & the light they bring & no, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t got a high tech camera, this type of experience can’t be recorded.

This is truly a live event!

Hart Crag summit.

We soon reached Hart Crag summit which left these two gents oddly feeling a little sour after a brief conversation it turned out they were happy to have ‘ticked off’ Hart Crag which was said in such a manner they made it sound like a chore rather than a pleasure, we were a little stumped on how to react to this so we gave it our best advice by nodding & walking away.

Anyway, my stomach was rumbling & I bet David’s wasn’t far behind as we made our way to a small shelter found not far from the summit path where we sat out the cool wind & ate lunch.

Best put the jackets on as body heat can cool rapidly when not on the move.

Looking back on Hart Crag from Link Hause.

Link Hause is a great place to find yourself knowing you are either on your to, or from the main goal itself. It was here the crowds gathered coming from Fairfield or indeed the same direction as us from Hart Crag, if any one summit today was going to be busy it was going to Fairfield.

Fairfield summit.

We weren’t wrong but most of the people at the summit had congregated around the two shelters seeking shelter from the wind while they ate their lunches, both David & myself had a wee wander to view St Sunday Pike, we could see walkers heading down to Deepdale Hause at a time when the sun was obscured by thick cloud which blended the mountain in an almost colourless scape.

Great Rigg & Heron Pike through a wall of haze & sunshine.

Having covered one half of our alternative route the second half was now before us, the ridge from Fairfield to Nab Scar is considered to be one of the finest Lakeland has to offer, despite the haze & the blinding sun it isn’t hard to see why.

Here looking back on Great Rigg, Fairfield & Hart Crag.

Great Rigg was gained under a blazing sun, so much so I could hardly lift my head high enough without being caught by a blinding gaze from the sun, this hampered photography but not the whole experience of ridge crossing which was made more inspiring each time we turned around to take in our view.

I spoke of a detour once we had gained Heron Pike to Alcock Tarn which seemed a great idea at the time yet the more I thought about it the more I thought we may be pushing our luck with light so we agreed to leave it & continue with our intended route.

Cloud soon arrived from the east which at first didn’t look menacing at all which started to blanket a small portion of Hart Crag summit, however within twenty minutes what was seemed to be a lone cloud was being helped along by a mass of cloud behind it, slowly but surely the Rydal Head & the summit of Fairfield started to disappear beneath a curtain of cloud & haze, the light soon faded too, all of which was witnessed shortly before arriving & during our time at Heron Pike.

Heron Pike from Nab Scar.


Rydal Water.

A few large groups had passed during our down time, by the time we got up they had long disappeared taking in the final steep descent before reaching Rydal & now it was our turn, not before David giving his backside a wipe after sitting down on wet grass. We shouldered packs before arriving at a grassy purchase that over looked Rydal Water from where we stopped to take a few photos.

Down below we could see the groups of walkers close to the bottom of the fell side some of whom rested at the large sty, we just stood a while taking in our magnificent view.

We were soon on our way again were I thought I sustained a nasty tweak to my left knee cap, the force so violent I felt the side of my knee almost pop out after standing & slipping on what David described as a perfectly round stone, David saw the whole thing & I was quietly nervous about the pain surrounding my knee cap all I could think was that kind of force is bound to cause swelling yet a day later It seems I’ve got away with it.

We rounded a section in the path only to see a walker huddled down on the path in an almost foetus position, David clocked him & instantly looked at me, I waved both arms wide silently giving him the signal I knew, but what to make of it was a different matter.

Has he fallen? are we going to have to carry this guy off the hill?

We approached the guy who must of heard us before he’d seen us, ‘just look at that he said’ I cant believe it’s December, ahh I know we both replied.

Odd & very strange.

The funny fact to the matter was when David mentioned, should we go back & tell him we were still in November!

But that’s just David’s humour.

We hadn’t put that matter behind us when shortly after crossing the sty did we meet two young girls heading towards Nab Scar ‘is that Heron Pike’ one of them asked? Err no that’s Nab Scar followed by in the nicest possible way ‘you do realise you have less than an hour of daylight left’

Oh that’s okay the young girl replied, I have a head torch…

So let me get this right, you don’t know exactly where you are & your in a place you haven’t visited before, you have no map, you have less than an hour of daylight left but you’ll be ok because you have one head torch between the pair of you.

There wasn’t a single thing myself or David could & did say to discourage these two young girls from making an ascent without psychically leading them of the fell ourselves.

Stupidity knows no boundaries.

Rydal Hall.

We drew a line under our last conversation before making our way through to Rydal Hall, a place I had yet to visit.

Rydal Hall.

After being mighty impressed with the Grade ll listed building David suggested we pay a quick visit to the ‘Grot’ & the waterfalls at Rydal Beck.

The Grot.

The Grot is another Grade ll listed building built by the Fleming family who presided at Rydal Hall during the 16th Century, often described as a summer house it was built with only one intention…..

Rydal Beck waterfall from the viewing window.

So the Fleming family could view Rydal Beck waterfall from this special viewing window.

Christmas time in Ambleside.

It was fast approaching dusk after leaving Rydal Hall behind where we had no choice other than to walk single file along the narrow footpath besides the A591 as the car headlights came & went as the night quietly descended over lake Windermere.

We walked into Ambleside as rows of Christmas lights lit the streets from lamp post to lamp post, ahead, a Christmas Tree all in white as shoppers seamlessly walk by. For one moment there I’d all but forgotten the eight hours behind me, Ambleside was alive with Christmas cheer.

With poles still clasped we took it all in for those few moments; mud an all before heading past Ambleside Church with its mighty steeple where shoppers hurried to grab the last parking spots, all to no avail.

We were still in those last few moments before dusk became night which didn’t stop some local youths playing a game of football in the park, the goal keeper of which looked like he’d spent a day on the fells with us & by judging the save he’d just made, &. was much more agile too. We crossed Miller Bride making way for dog walkers wrapped up in their winter woollies & back to the cars by which time dusk had descended into night.

By this time it was 4 0 Clock on a winters afternoon, the sun had set & I couldn’t but help feel as pleased as I did having squeezed every minute of the daylight into one walk…

We spoke about this possibly being the last big one of 2014 sure enough if that’s true, we couldn’t of got it better.


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