North of the Whinlatter Pass

FIVE Wainwright circular walk: Graystones, Broom Fell, Lord's Seat, Barf, Whinlatter.

Walk Rating:⭐⭐⭐

Time: 5 - 6 hours 

Parking: free places at the Spout Force Car Park, off the main B5292 'Whinlatter Pass Road' (Grid reference: NY 181256).

Lord's Seat and Whinlatter from Hobcarton End

The road that climbs up the Whinlatter Pass, between High Lorton in the west and Braithwaite in the east, passes through the Forestry Commission lands carrying the same name. Whinlatter Forest offers its own walking and cycling trails but, to climb to the top of the five 'Wainwright' fells to the north of the pass, a route that leaves the confines of the forest is required.

The route outlined below provides a circular walk that first visits the four 'Wainwrights' that are grouped close together along a ridge to the north of Whinlatter Forest. The last of these, Barf, is a viewpoint not to be missed. The route then takes you along some of the forest trails before returning via the final peak, 'Whinlatter' itself.

Strava estimates a walking distance of around 16km

The route starts at the Spout Force Car Park and a good start to this hike would be on the path that descends to the 'Spout Force' waterfall in the valley to its north. However, in 2021 at least, this area could not be reached owing to forestry felling in the area. Therefore, I have described a route which heads to the start of the initial climb to Graystones via the main road. It's worth trying to find out what Forestry Commission works are taking place, and where, before setting out on any route in this area.

1) Walk out of the car park onto the main 'Whinlatter Pass' road and turn right. making sure to look out for any traffic (cars or bikes!). Follow the road as it bends to the left. You will see the first 'Wainwright' of the day, Graystones, rising to your right. You are going to walk up the fell alongside the wall to the left of the forested area. 

Graystones to your right as you walk along the road
2) Follow the road as it bends right, then goes steeply downhill to the substantial Scawgill Bridge. Cross the bridge than, as the road bends left, take a path on your right, passing below an old quarry. When you reach the wall that marks the edge of the plantation, head left and then climb steeply uphill on the path on the nearside of the crumbling wall, all the way to the top of Graystones (1476').

The small band of crags just below the top of Graystones

3) You'll find a few different knolls at the top of the fell, and you'll have to decide which is the highest point. However, there's certainly one good cairn from which you can look down into the Vale of Lorton to the south-west.

On the top of Graystones

4) To continue the route, head east, on a path skirting above the plantation area (although many trees have been felled on the higher slopes). Walk, for just over a mile from one 'Wainwright' to the next, up the ridge of the fell ahead of you with a very visible summit cairn. This is Broom Fell (1670'). The impressive cairn is relatively new, having been erected in 1981. There is also a good wind shelter too.

On the top of Broom Fell

5) It's now a little less than a further mile along the ridge, now heading south-eastwards, to the next 'Wainwright', Lord's Seat. The ridge rises at its end to form the highest summit of the walk (at 1811').

Looking across the forest to Grisedale Pike and Grasmoor

6) Whilst "Lord's Seat" probably has too grand a name for the view it offers, the next Wainwright offers a view that is far grander than its now rather comic name might lead you to expect. "Barf" lies along a path that heads eastwards, downhill, and then up to its summit (at 1536'), heading between some heathery hummocks.

Follow the path through the heather to the top of Barf

7) When you reach the highest point, it's a surprise on your first visit to see how the east flank of the fell suddenly drops away in crumbling cliffs and scree down to the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake below.

Skiddaw from Barf

A panoramic view along Bassenthwaite Lake from Barf

8) A short walk to the south of the summit will bring you down to a grassy slope where you can sit and take in the fantastic views across the lake towards Skiddaw.

From the southern slope of Barf's summit

Looking back up to Barf's summit from the south

9) Now head downhill, across the slope behind Barf, on a path heading south-west towards the edge of Whinlatter Forest. Cross the gill and then go up through the trees onto the forest road. Turn left and follow the forest road above the steep slopes leading down to the lake. If you look carefully, you can make out the white-painted pinnacle known as 'The Bishop' on the rocky slope at the foot of Barf.

Barf (and 'The Bishop') from the forest road

10) You will soon be amongst the tall trees at the heart of Whinlatter Forest. With the trees hiding the fell tops and other landmarks that you might use for guidance, finding your way in the forest can be a little confusing. You are aiming west, across the forest, to emerge out of the trees onto Whinlatter fell. Although you could try some of the smaller paths, I recommend keeping on the main forest road that heads generally west, although it makes a sweeping curve north, then back south, to contour around the valley of Comb Gill (see map below).

My route marked out in bright green on original map from Forestry England

11) Hopefully, you will find a track that suddenly emerges on to the open fell to the west of the plantation. When you are out of the trees, you will need to head uphill alongside the fence a little to find the path across the top of the ridge. Follow the path westwards, firstly to the 'eastern top' (which may actually be the highest point). Now continue on the path along the ridge. Shortly further on the path crosses a wall heading south towards the Whinlatter Pass road, hidden in the valley below.

The path heads westwards, crossing this wall

12) From the wall, the undulating ridge climbs slightly to the western top of 'Brown How', still regarded as the official summit, not least because of the impressive crescent shaped wall built upon it (1696'). 

Hopegill Head behind the crescent wall on Brown How

13) To complete the circular walk, continue along the grassy ridge, now northwards, until it shortly drops down towards the Forestry Commission plantations again. Depending on what forestry works are going on (and in 2021 this required taking a detour on a trail that heads back to the main road higher up the pass) make your way back to your starting point on the forestry tracks

Walking back through the plantation in July

Worth knowing: If you're walking through the main forest trails of Whinlatter forest during holiday season, don't expect to be alone! You will be sharing the paths and tracks with tourists trying out a whole range of activities organised from the Visitor Centre below. 

As well as the walkers and mountain bikers, you might even see visitors on segways or walking with alpacas! If you're really lucky, you'll see a gruffalo!

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