Whin Rigg and Illgill Head
TWO Wainwright circular walk: Whin Rigg and Illgill Head
Time: 6 - 7 hours (depending on how long you take looking at the views!)
Parking: Free parking spaces near the public toilets on Smithybrow Lane in Eskdale Green or, if full, the free Forestry Commission car park in Miterdale (Grid Ref: NY 146 012) is a good alternative.
|Whin Rigg and the Wastwater Screes in the evening sun
Whin Rigg and Illgill Head are fell names that are not particularly well known. Indeed, if it was for their grassy slopes alone, they certainly wouldn't be fells to prioritise when deciding where to walk near Wasdale and Eskdale. However, it is the views they offer down over the crags and screes of their north-western slopes, as they fall away into Wast Water, that make them so special.
Yes, these two fells provide the summits that stand above the well-known Wastwater Screes, so often viewed from below, rather than from above. The route described provides a circular walk that gives you a chance to take in the tremendous views from above the screes as well as offering a return route past Burnmoor Tarn and into the hidden valley of Miterdale as well.
|Strava estimates a walking distance of 17km in total
1) The route described starts near the village stores at Eskdale Green (but passes Miterdale Forestry Commission car park near its end, enabling this route description to be adapted for that alternative starting point). Look for the lane heading east besides the public toilet block and the adjoining woods named "Giggle Alley" on the Forestry Commission signpost.
|Start the walk along this lane next to Giggle Alley woods
2) You could just stick to the lane, but for a pleasant diversion, head through the first gap in the wall on the left, following a path directing you to the 'Japanese Garden' on a slate sign.
|Follow the slate signs to the Japanese Garden
3) The path heads back left, climbing above the village to arrive at the surprising ruins of a Japanese style garden, originally laid out in 1914. Sadly, it's now very unkempt, certainly by Japanese standards!
|Walk into the woods beyond this little bridge in the garden
4) From the top of the garden, head through the woods on a path running through the trees parallel to the lane below. On your left you can see the rocky knoll of Great Bank, rising above the forested slopes that you will soon be walking through.
|The knoll of Great Bank, with Whin Rigg in the distance
5) Stroll through the woods until you rejoin the original lane. Immediately afterwards, at a junction of old walled lanes, ignore the lane to your right and keep straight ahead.
|Keep straight ahead at this junction of lanes
6) The lane goes downhill until it reaches the tarmac road heading to the Miterdale Forestry Commission Car Park. Go straight across the lane to take the signposted bridleway to Irton Fell and Wasdale, which immediately crosses the River Mite on an arched stone bridge.
|Follow the bridleway across the river
|The first crossing of the forest road
|Heading up the old path after the second crossing of the forest road
|Walk briefly along the road and then take the path on your left
|The path now takes you through tall pine trees (in 2022 at least!)
|Cross the road and follow the path across the open land ahead of you.
|Pick your way through boggy ground up to another gate
|Walk around the top of the Greathall Gill gully
|Looking along Wast Water from the top of Whin Rigg
19) Continuing on the thin path skirting along the cliff top, you will then cross the top of Great Gully, with the head of Wast Water and Wastwater Youth Hostel far below you.
|Wasdale Head from the end of the Illgill Head ridge
|Burnmoor Tarn will be down to your right
|A view of Wasdale Head as you descend the fell
|Scafell across the moorland below Illgill Head
|Scafell from the path above Burntmoor Tarn
|The head of the Miterdale valley below the path
|One of the streams flowing down from Illgill Head into Miterdale
37) The path continues south-west above the valley on a fairly level course. There is no dramatic end to the ravine. Instead, the surrounding fellsides grow lower and the valley starts to opens out into woodland ahead of you.
|Follow the wall uphill to find this gate into the field
|Head downhill along the middle of a grassy ridge
|... and cross the footbridge at Bakerstead
|In case you're looking for the path to Eskdale
|The Miterdale Forestry Commission Car Park
|Great Bank above the road from the car park
|Turn left and follow the lane back to Eskdale Green
Worth knowing: In the pages on Illgill Head, Wainwright's Walking Guide to the Southern Fells points out that the Wastwater Screes consist of stones lying on a slope at their maximum 'angle of rest', that is at about 35 - 40 degrees. That's not just true of the scree slopes above the waterline. The slopes continue down a further 250 feet or so to the bottom of Wast Water, which is the deepest lake in England.