A Deepdale Round to Fairfield

SIX Wainwright circular walk: Hartsop above How, Hart Crag, Fairfield, St Sunday Crag, Birks, Arnison Crag 

Walk Rating:⭐⭐⭐

Time: 6 - 7 hours 

Parking: Either in Patterdale or at the car park by Brothers Water. Alternatively, take a bus to the start of the walk.

Great Rigg, Fairfield and Hart Crag (seen above Rydale)

The complete round of the 'Fairfield Horseshoe' is a classic Lake District walk, and one well worth doing. However, to add some more varied scenery to this long ridge walk, I have suggested some routes that break up the horseshoe into separate circular walks, beginning from different starting points below the ridge.

The route described here is a spectacular round of Deepdale, climbing up to Hart Crag and Fairfield, and then returning via St Sunday Crag and two subsidiary Wainwright fells below it. The views on this return route, particularly in the vicinity of Cofa Pike, are certainly memorable.

Strava estimates a walking distance of at least 16km

1. Starting at the Cow Bridge car park, take the path behind the car park that heads up through the trees of Low Wood, opening out to a viewpoint looking down over Brothers Water. 

Brothers Water from above Low Wood

2. Follow the path which ascends the ridge alongside the stone wall at first. The path joins another one coming up the ridge from the main road at Bridgend, a better choice if you are starting from Patterdale.

On Hartsop above How

3. The path then climbs up to the knolls that mark the official peak of Hartsop above How. The highest point is above Gill Crag, to the left of the path.

Looking south into Dovedale from Gill Crag

4. Continue along the grassy ridge towards Hart Crag.

Hart Crag lies ahead along the ridge

5. The final ascent to the top of Hart Crag suddenly feels more like a proper fell walk. The path climbs up a stony gully. Wainwright advises against trying this route in misty conditions.

Climbing up to the summit of Hart Crag

6. There are summit cairns on the rocky top of Hart Crag. 'Fairfield Horseshoe' walkers who have come up along the ridge from Dove Crag will have had to pick their way up through boulders to reach here.

Summer and Winter at the top of Hart Crag

7. Head north-west along the clear ridge path towards the curved height of Fairfield, standing high above the top of Rydale.

The curved top of Fairfield in the snow

A winter panorama down into Rydale

8.The path goes down into the grassy depression of Link Hause and then up towards the broad top of Fairfield. 

Crossing Link Hause in winter

Looking down into Deepdale

9. A wide path, marked by large cairns, goes across the top of the fell. Near the highest point, the path turns to the north to reach the broad top of Fairfield. 

Looking south to Windermere

Looking back to Hart Crag from Fairfield

10. At 2863' in altitude, Fairfield stands as the 13th highest of the 214 Wainwright Fells. Its summit is a grassy plateau marked by a collection of summit cairns and a stone wind shelter.

Grazing on the summit of Fairfield

11. Fairfield Horseshoe walkers continue on south, around to Great Rigg, but our route takes a more memorable descent, north towards Cofa Pike and St Sunday Crag. Again, this is not the best choice of route in poor visibility however.

Descending towards Cofa Pike

12. A stony, and sometimes loose, path makes its way down from the top of Fairfield towards the small subsidiary summit of Cofa Pike. There is a good view down to Grisedale Tarn below.

Grisedale Tarn and Dollywaggon Pike

13. The stony path continues spectacularly over Cofa Pike. 

Crossing Cofa Pike

14. The route then descends on a narrow ridge to Deepdale Hause and then starts a gradual climb up the south-west ridge of St Sunday Crag. The Helvellyn ridge is prominent to the west across the grassy slopes of the fell.

Looking west to the Helvellyn ridge

15.  The top of St Sunday Crag is a stony mound (2756').

The top of St Sunday Crag

16. From the top of St Sunday Crag you can either continue towards Birks on the main path descending the north-east ridge or head down the east ridge to visit the subsidiary peak of Gavel Pike - both routes give good views down over Ullswater.

The view over Ullswater from the north-east ridge ...

... and from the east ridge

17. Make your way down across the grassy slopes towards the small col below St Sunday Crag. 

Walking downhill from Gavel Pike with Birks ahead

18. Then walk north-east along the grassy ridge to the tiny summit cairn of of Birks.

The cairn marking the summit of Birks

19. Unless you want to leave Arnison Crag for another day, the direct path descending from Birks to Patterdale should not be taken. Instead make your way down to the east, picking up the course of a broken wall that leads down to Trough Head. Here a much better maintained wall runs across the valley of the Hag Beck. Cross the beck but stay to the right of the good wall. Walk left up the low ridge of Arnison Crag above.

Looking across Deepdale towards Hartsop

20. Now descend north on a path that runs along the wall, then right into Patterdale.

Heading down to Patterdale from Arnison Crag

21. If returning to Brothers Water, the quickest way back unfortunately requires  taking the pavement for much of the way south along the main A592 road. At least the very last part of the route leaves the road to walk parallel to it on a path that runs along the bottom of Low Wood back to Cow Bridge. 

The old lane back towards Hartsop

22. However, for a more pleasant return route, head left on the road across the river at the bridge just beyond the old Patterdale Post Office. Then, at the houses, turn right to take the lane that runs south, at the foot of the fells, along the river valley towards Hartsop. At a fork, head down and right to cross a bridge and then over a stile to follow the Goldrill Beck back towards the main road and Low Wood.

The Fairfield Horseshoe

Worth knowing: The Fairfield Horseshoe can be completed as one round, starting at Ambleside and finishing at Nab Scar, above Rydal. From here, you can either return to Ambleside by the track from Rydal Hall or follow the "Under Loughrigg" road along the west side of the River Rothay. The complete circuit, including the return to the start, is about 18km in length, so takes approximately 6 hours. 

The complete Fairfield Horseshoe from Ambleside

Directions can easily be assembled from this post and the relevant parts of three other Eastern Fells posts: A Red Screes Round, Dovedale and the Priest's Hole and Great Rigg to Nab Scar.

The only section that is not described in the other posts is the descent from Fairfield to Great Rigg. However, the route along the grassy ridge is easy to follow. This section of the round gives good views back over Grisedale Hause towards Dollywaggon Pike and Seat Sandal.

Descending Fairfield towards Great Rigg

Popular Posts