ONE Wainwright circular walk: Ullscarf

Walk Rating:⭐⭐

Time: 4 hours 

Parking: at the pay-and-display Dob Gill Car Park (Grid Ref: NY 316140).

Ullscarf from Low White Stones, High Raise

Ullscarf from the western flank of Helvellyn

Ullscarf, arguably the most 'central' prominent fell of all in the Lake District, does not always get the attention it deserves. Yes, its summit is featureless and unexciting, but a hike from Harrop Tarn, particularly if it takes in the views into Wythburn from Nab Crags, is definitely a good day out.

The route described below starts and finishes at the Dob Gill Car Park, on the reservoir road that runs around the western banks of Thirlmere. I hope you'll excuse me for including a few more shots of the views from Nab Crags than are strictly needed, just to encourage you that this is a walk that is well worth doing!

Strava estimates a walking distance of around 9 km

1. Take the signposted path from the back of the car park up through the trees to the right of Dob Gill. The path emerges in the hollow of Harrop Tarn.

Harrop Tarn underneath Tarn Crags

2. Follow the forest road to the right of Harrop Tarn and then look for the path that takes you through the woods to the right of Mosshause Gill and emerges onto the open fell. Continue westwards until you reach the fence on top of the ridge. You will see Blea Tarn below you on the other side of the fence.

Blea Tarn on the other side of the ridge fence

3. Now turn left and follow the fence south towards Standing Crag.

Follow the fence towards Standing Crag

4. The path climbs the slope in a gully to the left of the peak of Standing Crag.

Walk up the slope to the side of Standing Crag

5. You are now on the open grassland at the top of Ullscarf. Bear south-west, walking up the fell, keeping a fence to the right of you.

Keep the fence to your right as you climb up the fell

6. Walk over the turf towards the highest ground, although there will be no obvious summit ahead of you.

Walking up towards the top of Ullscarf

7. When you reach the actual summit (2382'), there's not a lot to see, although there are views in all directions, although the grass of Ullscarf takes up much of the foreground.

The Helvellyn range from the top of Ullscarf

8. To descend, walk eastwards in the general direction of Fairfield, looking for a collection of tarns that Wainwright rightly advises offer "very photogenic" views.

Looking at the 'photogenic' tarns

9. From the tarns, you will see the deep valley of Wythburn to your right. Walk down towards it across the grass.

The tarns above Greenburn, across the Wythburn valley

10. The grassland ends abruptly at the top of Castle Crag, where the ground falls away steeply into the valley below. You can look down, across the boggy upper reaches of the Wyth Burn, towards High Raise.

High Raise at the top of the Wythburn valley

11. Now make your way left, across the top of the valley. Steel Fell rises steeply on the opposite side. Occasionally you will having to skirt away from the top of the steepest valley sides in order to cross some gullies cut by streams flowing down into the Wyth Burn. 

Skirt around the gullies as you walk above the valley

11. Some of the best views are from the top of Nab Crags, looking down to the southern end of Thirlmere and the fells rising behind it.

Looking across to Fairfield from Nab Crags

Across the Wyth Burn towards Steel Fell

Herdwick Sheep guarding the crags

The Helvellyn Range from Nab Crags

12. Towards the end of this line of crags, the faint path that you may have managed to find heads left off the ridge down towards Harrop Tarn. For now, however, keep as best as you can to the line of the ridge, heading towards the 'beacon' at its end.

Make your way along the ridge towards the 'beacon'

13. As you get close, the 'beacon' turns out to be a short section of high stone wall built as a landmark on the fellside.

"The Beacon" on Nab Crags

14. You can now head back towards Harrop Tarn, picking up a path that descends by a wall at first. Continue through some gates alongside Birk Crag, avoiding a marshy field to your left. 

15. Cross over the Dob Gill at the end of Harrop Tarn and return through the woods to the starting point.

Crossing Dob Gill

Worth knowing: Wainwright set aside a section of one of the Ullscarf pages in his Guide to complain at "the stupid conduct of a party of schoolboys" that had destroyed the original beacon on Nab Crags while two of their teachers looked on. Wainwright took particular aim at these "two brainless idiots, a disgrace to their profession. Lakeland can do without visitors of this type". 

However, I note that the modern revised guide has left out Wainwright's original exhortations to "respectable walkers" to "stop mischief of this sort whenever they witness it - and punish the offenders to the best of their ability" (!!).

The beacon, originally built by a man from the now drowned village of Wythburn, has since been rebuilt. Once you know to look for it, it can be easily spotted on the ridge from the main road alongside the southern end of Thirlmere.

"The Beacon", now rebuilt on Nab Crags

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