Great Rigg to Nab Scar

FOUR Wainwright circular walk: Stone Arthur, Great Rigg, Heron Pike and Nab Scar (Fairfield can easily be added too)

Walk Rating:⭐⭐⭐

Time: 5 - 6 hours 

Parking: On the A591 layby between The Swan Hotel and the Travellers Rest (room for about 25 cars) - free. Alternatively, take one of the the regular buses to Grasmere.

Great Rigg and Stone Arthur from below Silver How

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 climbs up via Stone Arthur to Great Rigg, then goes south along the ridge to Nab Scar, before returning via the old Coffin Road to the start at Grasmere, finishing by the Wordsworths' Dove Cottage.

Strava estimates a walking distance of around 15km

1. Start by heading up the lane to the side of the Swan, an old coaching inn described by Wordsworth as "the famous Swan" in his poem, 'The Waggoner'. 

Take this lane besides "the famous Swan"

2. Don't take the first road to the right but follow the original lane round to the left until you soon reach the signpost marking the public footpath to Greenhead Gill.

Follow the sign and head right

3. Follow the road up the side of the gill until you reach the gate at the end of the tarmac.

Go through the gate at the end of the road

4. On the other side of the gate, a clear sign indicates an onward route to Alcock Tarn and the route you should take, left, up a stony track towards Stone Arthur.

Take the track to Stone Arthur

5. The track becomes a stone paved path. It climbs up alongside a wall with a wood to its left. 

The path climbs up alongside the wood

6. At the top of the wall, don't go through the gap ahead but turn right to follow the path that now traverses around the top of the valley of the Greenhead Gill.

Follow the path across the hillside

7. The clear path fords a stream then continues along to the ridge coming down from Stone Arthur and Great Rigg. The path turns left and ascends along the ridge.

The path turns left and ascends the ridge

8. When you reach a ruined stone wall to your left, you have a choice of routes. The main trail for those heading on at speed towards Fairfield continues straight up the ridge. However, a nicer route to Stone Arthur heads left above the wall.

Take the path to the left, above the wall

9. After a few hundred metres, the path in the grass leaves the wall and heads up towards the rocky outcrop of Stone Arthur.

Head away from the wall, up towards Stone Arthur

10. The route winds up across the rocks to the top of Stone Arthur. 

Stone Arthur

11. There's no clearly defined summit, as Stone Arthur is really just the rocky end of the ridge descending from Great Rigg. Amongst the outcrops you will rejoin the main path coming up the ridge. Walk on upwards to the next main outcrop, another good viewpoint across to Helm Crag and Easedale Tarn.

Fighter jets sometimes fly past on training runs

12.  Leave the outcrops behind and head on up a less interesting grassy slope towards Great Rigg. You can see Seat Sandal and the ridge of Helvellyn to your left as you ascend.

Walk up the slope to Great Rigg

13.  A large cairn greets you when you reach the top of the slope, marking the junction with the route that takes walkers around the whole Fairfield Horseshoe. There are good views south along the ridge of Heron Pike, towards Windermere.

Looking south along Heron Pike

14. Turning left to climb further up the ridge brings you shortly to the summit of Great Rigg (2513'). 

Turn left and climb up to Great Rigg

15. There are views northwards to Fairfield and the Helvellyn ridge and westwards across to the Scafells.

Looking west from Great Rigg

16. Walkers wanting to climb on to the top of Fairfield can continue north, down into a small depression, then up along the grassy ridge to its summit.

The onward route to the top of Fairfield

17. Otherwise, for this circular route, walkers should retrace their steps back to the cairn marking the path up from Stone Arthur but, this time, continue south along the high ridge towards Heron Pike. There are fine views back to the summits of Great Rigg and Fairfield and down into Rydale.

Looking back into Rydale

18. An easy walk along the ridge passes some small tarns then goes up to pass by a stone wall leading to Erne Crag, the rise reached before Heron Pike itself.

Pass by some small tarns

Looking back at the Fairfield Horseshoe

19. About a mile-and-a-half from Great Rigg, the path crosses the top of Heron Pike. There is no summit cairn but good views both back into the Rydale valley towards Fairfield and to the expanse of fells to the west.

Looking down from the side of Heron Pike

20. Continuing along the ridge, the path loses height then crosses a wall as you approach Nab Scar. The steps built in the wall can sometimes lead you through a large puddle, so crossing it a little more to the left may be advisable!

Crossing the wall onto Nab Scar

21. The path follows a wall to the end of the ridge, where crags drop away to Rydal Water. This is Nab Scar.

The views from Nab Scar

22. As the path starts to wind down from the highest viewpoints, look out for a square stone block on the right of the path. This marks the route of the Thirlmere aqueduct, passing underneath the fell.

The aqueduct passes beneath the stone block

23. The path now descends from the ridge, with some wooden balustrades marking the path at one point. A stone paved path brings you down to a large ladder stile.

Cross over the ladder stile

24. Continue along the path until a kissing gate is reached. Go through onto a tarmac road.

Looking back through the gate to Nab Scar

25. Go down the road a short way, alongside the prominent chimneys of Hart Head Farm then turn right where the signpost points the way, through a gate, to the "Coffin Route". This is a track that marks the 'corpse road' along which coffins were taken from Rydal to Grasmere for burial.

Follow the signpost ...

... along the 'Coffin Route'

26. After the second gate, look out for the remains of the 'Nab Well' to the left and right of the track (see below). Continue along the track underneath Nab Scar.

Walking along the corpse road

27. You will pass a couple of seats, supposedly where the flat slabs provided 'coffin rests' to provide the coffin bearers with a breather, although whether these really are the original resting stones is debatable. 

'Coffin rests' along the route

28. The route becomes a tarmac road, passing a tarn and various houses. Eventually, turning right onto a minor road (although this was once the main road through the central Lake District), you arrive at the buildings of Town End.

'The Lion and the Lamb' above the houses of Town End

29. The road meets the main A591 road close to Dove Cottage, once the home of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, now a museum and visitor attraction. Return to your starting point either via the main road or by walking through Grasmere village.

The Wordsworths' Dove Cottage

Inside the Cottage

From the cottage garden, (with daffodils of course!)

Worth knowing: The remains of 'Nab Well', passed soon after the second gate along the coffin route from Rydal, are easily overlooked. The spring emerges above the track and runs into a trough below it. Now usually choked with leaf litter, this spring was once an important water source for the local area and was visited regularly by Dorothy and William Wordsworth. They planted flowers around it and William wrote a poem extolling its "beverage pure as ever fixed the choice of Hermit, dubious where to scoop his cell; which Persian kings might envy".

The remains of Nab Well

The arrival of piped water meant that long used springs like Nab Well soon fell into decline. Indeed, the holy well of St.Oswald's, to the west of Grasmere, was turfed over in the nineteenth century and its exact whereabouts are now unknown.

Popular Posts