The Fairfield Horseshoe

17th April 2022

The Lakeland fells are still in the transition between Winter and Spring and even though the fells are almost snow free I wouldn't rule out more snow fall before Spring turns to Summer. Despite the dry weather we were experiencing the valleys are feeling very Spring like while above the summits as proved today, temperatures are still dipping below freezing which caught quite a few people out who'd chosen to walk in shorts and T-shirts where exposed skin turned red raw.

We'd originally planned to walk this walk yesterday (Saturday) but due to low cloud which was only forecast to clear in the afternoon we pushed the walk forward to Sunday. Haze cloaked much of Lakeland so thickly that from Heron Pike we could only just make out Steel Fell less than 3 miles away while Ullscarf beyond was lost in the thick of it so you could say up until lunchtime views were limited. Trapping the haze was a layer of high cloud which rose the humidity to the point we were looking forward to those cool forecasted summit winds.

Its been an incredible six years since I last walked the Fairfield Horseshoe and will count as one of many 'big walks' I'm planning this year and no amount of haze of lack of views could of spoilt such a classic walk.

Wainwright Guide Book One
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. No group of fells in the district exhibits a more striking contrast on appearance when surveyed from opposite sides than this lofty Fairfield group.

Ascent: 3,356 Feet - 1,024 Metres
Wainwrights: 8, Nab Scar - Heron Pike - Great Rigg - Fairfield - Hart Crag - Dove Crag - High Pike - Low Pike
Weather: A Mild But Very Hazy Start. Intermittent Sunshine With Haze Lifting Slightly. Cool & Windy At Height. Highs of 20°C Lows of 8°C
Parking: Car Park, Pelter Bridge
Area: Eastern
Miles: 10
Walking With: Rod Hepplewhite
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 6 Hours 30 Minutes
Route: Pelter Bridge - A591 - Rydal Mount - Nab Scar - Heron Pike - Rydal Fell - Great Rigg - Fairfield - Link Hause - Hart Crag - Dove Crag - High Pike - Low Pike - Low Sweden Bridge - Rydal Park - Rydal Mount - A591 - Pelter Bridge

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: LA22 9LW
Grid Reference: NY 364 305
Notes: Pelter Bridge car park lies south of Rydal Bridge and gives easy access to Rydal Water, Loughrigg Fell and anyone attempting the Fairfield Horseshoe. The car park is owned by Lake District National Park and charges apply.


Map and Photo Gallery


Fallen tree above Pelter Bridge Car Park 07:35am 12°C

I'd arranged to meet Rod at 08:00 from our starting point at Pelter Bridge car park just outside Rydal where I arrived a good half hour early. It was no biggie as I laced up I emptied more items I can do without from my pack in an attempt to lighten it due to carrying a 3ltr hydration bladder which I'd filled to the brim. I'm a firm believer of 'you can never have enough' hydration.

More cars arrived whose occupants wandered off towards Rydal Water followed by a LWB camper van who just about tried every parking spot on the car park but due its length it was gonna stick out wherever he left it. I emptied £8.00 into the parking meter for a full days parking before Rod arrived and parked next to my car. Despite the A591 being just beyond you could still hear the River Rothay coupled with bird song, a perfect setting as we kitted up. Rod emptied his £8.00 into the meter before leaving the car park, crossed over the cattle grid and crossed Pelter Bridge onto the A591. Here at valley level the haze wasn't really apparent, in fact it was very mild soon agreeing that it wasn't going to be a day for the camera.

Nab Scar from the familiar twin stone walls.
We left the A591 towards Rydal Mount where the road steepend towards the two holiday cottages at the of base of the fell. We could see that two walkers were a good proportion into the climb who soon disappeared beyond the fell side. Looking back over the Rydal valley we took in the hazy views towards High and Low Pike then southwards towards Loughrigg Fell, sadly both views were poor due to the haze.

Heron Pike from Nab Scar.

The humidity was creeping up and with little to no wind I was already starting to sweat. The ground levelled slightly where we took in the view over Rydal Water towards Loughrigg Fell again where I took a few moments to see if I could see anyone on the fell or Loughrigg Terrace sighting no one.

Only the odd car or bike passed on the A591 which was only to be expected given the hour. The couple we'd seen earlier were by now scaling Heron Pike as we took in a momentary view of Alcock Tarn below Nab Scar's summit.

Murky views from Heron Pike towards Erne Crag, Rydal Fell, Great Rigg, Fairfield, Link Hause, Hart Crag and Dove Crag.

We left Nab Scar behind and took in the slight ascent towards Heron Pike where we were passed by an elderly (but very fit) 72 year old gent from Kendal who told us he had lost his wife last year and ever since had walked almost everyday which left Rod and I feeling very humbled only sparking up conversation again once Heron Pike summit was reached.

The chap seen in the photo had been talking to the couple ahead of us and still had his head buried in his map as we passed.

Great Rigg, Fairfield, Link Hause and Hart Crag from Erne Crag summit.
Cloud had been lingering over Link Hause and Hart Crag all morning and with little to no wind, was slow to lift. We soon reached Erne Crag from where we took in the view of the Rydal valley below.

Great Rigg, Link Hause and Hart Crag from Rydal Fell.
We descended Erne Crag and picked up one of the finest ridge walks Lakeland has to offer, the ridge between Heron Pike and Great Rigg.

Haze obscuring views beyond Stone Arthur seen right.
Sadly these were the best views we could muster through the haze.

Looking back... we stop to look back on Rydal Fell, Erne Crag, Heron Pike and Nab Scar.

In this photo...
...Stone Arthur comes into view over on the right with Windermere in the murky distance.

The Rydal Valley, Rydal Fell, Heron Pike, Erne Crag and Nab Scar from Great Rigg summit.
We took Great Rigg in our stride and we were soon catching up the couple who then surprised us by leaving the ridge half the way up Great Rigg for Stone Arthur. Perhaps they'd had a sudden change of plan.

Fairfield awaits.
We both agreed that this was another great view from the ridge as we began our ascent of Fairfield while in the distance Seat, Dollywagon Pike, Nethermost Pike, Striding Edge and Helvellyn almost lost in the haze beyond.

Looking back on Great Rigg.
As we pass the top of Nettle Cove.

Greenhow End and The Step from Fairfield summit.

Two lads who joined the ridge from Stone Arthur reached the summit first and were 'summit hogging' by the time we arrived so we continued on with Rod taking in the view over Cofa Pike while I sat down and gawked down on the incredible rock scenery. Rod soon joined me and from the summit ledge we could both hear what sounded like a Shepherd directly below corralling sheep, trouble was we were buggered if we could see him or the sheep for that matter. Soon Rod spotted three sheep crossing a beck far below followed by a sheep dog (which Rod could only confirm by using the zoom on his camera) more sheep followed with more shouting but through want of trying, we couldn't spot the Shepherd!

A great few moments spent trying though.


Cofa Pike, Deepdale Hause, St Sunday Crag and the Deepdale Valley from Fairfield summit.
The silence only broken by a slight wind, the odd Lapwing and many a wow's, yep's and bah's from below. Delightful.

Link Hause from Fairfield summit.
We returned to the summit and Rod managed a photo before a couple arrived who we'd spotted behind us earlier. Link Hause was looking busy with many a walker approaching and we wondered of their routes.

Hart Crag and a hazy Dove Crag from Link Hause.
The first fellow we passed was the first victim of the valley Spring like temperatures who'd set off wearing only shorts and T-shirt, the poor lads arms and legs were red raw so much it had caused myself and Rod to add soft-shell jackets earlier.

Hart Crag from Link Hause.
We hadn't expected to pass so many people on Link Hause some of whose arms and legs had also fell victim to the windchill. We took in the rocky descent where despite it only being around 11:15am we agreed to an early lunch 'out of the wind' once Hart Crag summit had been reached.

From Link Cove.
We took on the view towards Hartsop above How with Erne Nest Crag and Blake Brow seen foreground...I think the haze is beginning to lift slightly...emphasise on the words 'think' and 'slightly'

Looking back on Link Hause.
With Greenhow End and The Steep seen right.

Lunch with a view 11:30am

We crested the shoulder then took in the rock strewn summit before agreeing on a place out of the wind to lunch, with that found we tucked into our scran while taking in the view towards a distant Fairfield.

Footnote: It might be an early lunch but it's been over 5hrs since I had those two banana's for breakfast.

...Dove Crag.

Looking back on Hart Crag and Fairfield.
It wasnt mild enough to lose the soft-shell jackets but as midday approached, the cloud broke and the sun started to come last!

Leaving Dove Crag summit.
We crested the shoulder and found that we had the summit to ourselves and took in the view over the Scandale valley towards Little Hart Crag and a distant Red Screes which shimmered in the haze. More walkers arrived which was our queue to exit and let them have the summit to themselves.

High Pike bound.
The Fairfield Horseshoe has it all from high ground, incredible views and enough rock scenery to make yours eyes water followed by this wonderful grassy descent to High Pike.

'The Stone Wall'
Full credit to the stone wallers which we agreed must have been some sight when it was first built.

A close up of Little Hart Crag above The Scandale Valley.
Having been passed by a chap who offered this advise "don't worry guys you'll be fine during the descent it's just a little busy" Rod and I looked at one another, thanked the guy under baited breath before laughing blimey "do we really look like amateurs up here today" Ok - we could see that the guy had good intentions but I'm going to go back to the old phrase 'never presume' unless your absolutely sure.

Looking back towards Dove Crag from High Pike summit.
You might just be able to spot the stone cairn at High Bakestones over on the far right.

Approaching Low Pike.
The smooth grassy ground is replaced by rock, stone, boulder and peat from here on in. That's Wansfell appearing over on the left.

Looking back in High Pike, Scandale Head, High Bakestones and Little Hart Crag.
The ground underfoot naturally slows descent where we were surprised to be dodging bogs after the dry spell. In warm afternoon sunshine now as we approached Low Pike summit so off came the soft-shells and up went the sleeves.

Red Highland Cattle.
We stopped to take in the view which was indeed becoming less hazy and with the warm sunshine began the descent towards High Sweden Bridge while passing a herd of Red Highland cattle soaking up the afternoon sunshine.

The Step below Low Pike.
A much easier ascent than descent,nevertheless we took the rocky descent in our stride even if it met tossing our walking poles down first.

The Grot, Rydal Estate.
Continuing our descent all the way to High Sweden Bridge which was busy with picnicker's hence no photos. We kept right then and descended into Rydal Park where tree fellers using chain saws were cutting up a huge fallen tree onto the back of a trailer.

Rydal Hall.
From Rydal Park we entered the estate and paid the hall a quick visit.

Rydal Hall.

St Mary's Church, Rydal.

We dropped down from the hall and headed through the gate and Rydal Mount thereafter. A solo walker who I'd spotted on Hart Crag hours earlier had been tailing us all the way back to Rydal but turned right and we wondered of his route, perhaps he was heading back to Grasmere via the Coffin Route, either way he still had some walking to do. By now the A591 was busier than ever and we had to wait before we crossed the road before arriving at a very busy Pelter Bridge car park where the ice cream van was doing lucrative business.

Unlike the quietness of the morning the air was filled with hustle and exhaust fumes from folk wanting to park on the car park causing no end of frustrations by blocking both the entrance and exit to the car park. I could go on about how the frustrations brought on by the next ten minutes which if let, could have had potential to spoil the end of the walk but I'm not going to end my report that way. I'm going to end my report with the enjoyment I took from spending six hours plus on the fell experiencing both windchill and sunshine while enjoying one of the finest horseshoe's Lakeland has to offer and to end my report I'm going back to those few moments spent looking into the broken silence of the Deepdale valley looking for a mystery Shepherd.


Back to top