“I happened to come across this walk purely by accident, but within minutes of reading all the information provided I was “hooked”. There was no way that I was not going to take on what I perceived to be a wonderful challenge in Lakeland.

After a number of e-mails and telephone conversations with Richard, the walk devisor, it became apparent that I might just be the first person to take on and complete the walk in a continuous loop. Not wanting to miss the chance of “being that person”, on Saturday 22nd July, I began what I hoped would be a superb adventure.

Why don’t you come along with me and find out how it went?

Oh, you might just want to bring a coat!”

Saturday 22nd July 2023
Day 1
Ravenglass to Wasdale Head – 14.5 miles

“Leaving Ravenglass station at 1:00pm, the first few miles to Boot are relatively flat through woodland tracks. It left me feeling a bit complacent and I even stopped for a coffee break at Dalesgarth station. It was here that the rain decided that it should join me on my walk.

Leaving Boot and crossing Eskdale Moor, any complacency you may have felt is suddenly shaken from you, and you’re reminded that you need to respect the fells and hills as they can be wild and unforgiving.

Eskdale Moor was very challenging, with lots of rainwater coming off the tops and you certainly had to keep your wits about you trying to cross the becks. Some parts of the path were like streams and circumnavigating the end of Burnmooor Tarn was fun; even the duck board was underwater. Worse was still to come though crossing the stream near the campsite in Down-in-the-Dale, as there was no choice but to go straight through with water at calf height.

I arrived at Wasdale Head very wet at around 6pm. I set up my tent in the small field opposite the pub; you have to book in at the pub first and pay a very reasonable £6, and they give you a tag to tie onto your tent along with the code for the shower block.

A nice meal and a couple of pints later I was ready for bed.

I have enjoyed every minute of it so far, and looking forward to the next bit. If you are still wanting to continue with me I’ll see you in the morning (I bet you wished you’d brought a tent as well as your coat, because there’s no room in mine).”

Sunday 23rd July 2023
Day 2
Wasdale Head to Buttermere – 22 miles

“Hang on a second, should that not be day 2 and day 3?

Yes, did I not mention it before you joined me on this walk that I might do this sort of thing as we went along?

I woke up to the not so gentle pitter-patter of torrential rain on the tent, and thought to myself that there was not going to be much point in applying factor 50 sun cream, thus saving me time to get on with the walk. Let’s go then, no hanging about in this weather.

Leaving the campsite about 8:00am on what promised to be a good days walking despite the weather. The walk up onto the fells via the Sty Head path certainly got the heart and lungs working. It was a pity that the weather was so bad as I’m sure you would have been rewarded with superb views of Great Gable. It was a case of now just following the path; using GPS is probably a good idea in this weather, and it was essential just after “Tongue Head” to find the way towards “Stake Pass”, and along the Langstrath Valley making your way to Rosthwaite via Stonethwaite.

I bet you’re wishing you hadn’t listened to me and stayed at home?

After an half hour break for some snacks at Rosthwaite it was time to move on to Buttermere. You can stay at Rosthwaite if you want to, but if you have nothing better to do let’s get a wiggle on. We have another 10 miles to go and I’m sure the rain will stop (unfortunately it didn’t).

Leaving Rosthwaite, I followed the route, omitting “Castle Crag” due to there being no views because of the poor visibility, towards Honister Hause where I stopped for a coffee at the slate mine. It was then a case of following the paths across the old tramway before descending the cobbled path towards Gatesgarth Cottage (wet feet, tired legs and cobbled descent not the best combination).

On we go, crossing Peggy’s Bridge, and then along the bank of Buttermere arriving at my campsite at Sykes Farm for the night. I had pre booked and paid online for the site, £10, basic site but had all the facilities required. So after putting up the tent, having a nice hot shower (50p coin needed), it was off to the Walkers Bar (Bridge Hotel) for a well deserved meal and a couple of beers.”

Monday 24th July 2023
Day 3
Buttermere to Cockley Moor (near Dockray) – 25 miles

“Well spotted! After all the fun we had yesterday I have decided that perhaps combining days is the way to go; we’ll just have to see how it goes. Are you coming or do you want to stay on a wet campsite?

It was a strange start to the day in that it wasn’t raining. In fact the sun looked like it might be joining us for a few miles at least.

After leaving the campsite at 7:30am, it was a lovely pleasant 4 miles or so walk along the side of Crummock Water and up towards Lanthwaite Green Farm, before crossing the B5289 road to begin climbing. Now this part is a hard slog up the side of Gasgale Gill, with a few scrambles to contend with and along narrow footpaths. So just be careful, take your time and after about two and a half miles (weather permitting) you’re rewarded with fabulous views of Eel Crag to your right, Grisedale Pike to your left and sweeping views along the valley towards Braithwaite. Now wasn’t that worth sticking with me?

Whilst Braithwaite has a number of fine looking pubs, I decided to continue on a further 3 miles or so into Keswick where I stopped for lunch, and took the opportunity to get provisions at the local Co-op store. There are not many more opportunities to do so from now until probably Ambleside. So unless you have booked accommodation it is a good idea to stock up here.

Leaving Keswick I followed the route, using a printed copy of the maps provided on the website, through the town towards Friars Crag then up through the woods towards Castlerigg Farm. There was not much need for a GPS device on this part but if there is anyone still following me, if you decide to use one that is fine. Better safe than sorry.

At this point I had to make the decision as to where my stopping point for tonight was going to be. There is very little in way of camping facilities; in fact there are none in Dockray. So my choice was: I either stopped at Castlerigg Farm campsite or to make the most of the dry weather and find a wild-camping spot near Cockley Moor. Yes I know, it’s illegal to wild camp, but if you act responsibly and leave no trace it can be done. So with my responsible head on, I found a little out of the way spot on Cockley Moor and settled down for the night with a bar of chocolate I bought in Keswick. Yes, I know it was a family size bar of fruit and nut but it was the only size they had, honestly.”

Tuesday 25th July 2023
Day 4
Cockley Moor (near Dockray) to Troutbeck – 24 miles

“Early start this morning, and I left my wild-camping spot without leaving any trace of me being there apart from a fruit and nut chocolate bar wrapper. I’m joking!!

I know today is going to be a long day; I knew that when I went through the planning stages, but I’m an experienced long-distance walker and I know my capabilities so it shouldn’t be a problem for me. But anyone with me who doesn’t think they can manage the 25 miles or so, please be honest with yourself and split the day accordingly. The website shows alternative options. For those of you still with me and warming up to the challenge that lies ahead, let’s get going.

I managed to sneak through the sleepy little village of Dockray without waking the residents, and once again just using paper maps made my way down to Aira Force. One of the advantages of all the rain I had encountered so far was seeing the waterfall in full spate, and I have to say the new viewing platforms are excellent. I would have stayed a bit longer but you’ve guessed it, it was raining again.

No problems today with following the route down into Patterdale, where I stopped at 11:45am for a nice coffee and scone at the Patterdale Hotel. The rain also decided to stop as well so that was an added bonus, but no hanging about we have another 12 miles or so to Troutbeck.

Are you still with me or have you stayed for another scone?

Off we go again.

A lovely route this one, easily followed using the maps provided on the website but, like I said earlier, if you want to use a GPS device do so. A relatively easy walk this morning out of Patterdale, before making my way via Hartsop towards “The Knott”. Do you remember earlier when I said there had been an advantage of the recent heavy rain? Well, this advantage was soon forgotten when I reached the tip of Hayeswater, to find that crossing the stepping stones coincided with very wet feet.

Climbing up to The Knott was a short but steep climb before turning right along High Street and a very pleasant flat walk for just over two miles, before starting the descent to Troutbeck village and a very nice meal and a drink at The Queens Head Hotel.

Once again there are no camping facilities in the village so a discreet wild camp on Wansfell was my bed for the night.”

Wednesday 26th July 2023
Day 5
Troutbeck to Coniston – 22 miles

“I enjoyed yesterday so much I have decided to link another two days together, but like I have said, that is my preference and anyone not wanting to do that can easily split their day.

Come on then, let’s move on we’ve another 22 miles or so to do. Trust me though, the first part to Grasmere is a straight forward relatively flat route.

After a night on the fells, it was a nice easy walk into Ambleside where I once again stocked up with provisions at the local Tesco store. I don’t know what it is with these Lakeland shops but they only seem to keep family size bars of chocolate!

Leaving Ambleside it’s just a case of taking an easily-followed path into Grasmere, where I was going to stop for a coffee but it was so busy with tourists I just continued on and had my break a mile or so further along the route.

From Grasmere, the climb up and down Dow Bank is another place where you have to be careful. The descent especially is steep in places and can get quite slippery, so take your time and do like I did and have a little break at Chapel Stile. I was lucky to come across a “home baked cake stall” where there was a variety of cake slices for the very reasonable price of £1.50. You are asked to put the money into an honesty box. Please do! Otherwise it is a service that will be stopped. Just a bit further on there was a garden with a cool box with cans of pop and bottled water. So for £2.50 I had cake and coke; try getting that in Grasmere! Many thanks for those providing the service.

After leaving Chapel Stile the walk becomes a bit more rugged through woodland and then after leaving Low Tilberthwaite, the climb above Tilberthwaite Gill and along Hole Rake is well worth the effort. Well it would have been if the rain hadn’t decided to pour from the high heavens and stay all the way into Coniston.

Despite the rain, it has been a very enjoyable day with totally different types of terrain, and it is what makes hiking such a good hobby. You never get two days the same. You sometimes don’t even get two hours the same.

I made my way into Coniston where I had booked a camping pitch at the “Coniston Sports and Social Centre”. It costs £12.50 per night, a very flat site as you pitch your tent around the side of the sports field. I pitched the tent as quickly as possible because the rain that had started at 4pm, was to stay with me all through the night and well into tomorrow.”

Thursday 27th July 2023
Day 6
Coniston to Seathwaite – 12 miles

“I witnessed a night of torrential rain, which had started at 4pm yesterday and has not stopped at all; it was still raining at 7:30am, which meant that I got very little sleep and everything is absolutely soaked (apart from the chocolate which I ate to save it from a watery grave).

In my original plan, I had thought that I would use this as a rest day and continue the walk on the Friday and Saturday. However, there was little point in staying in a wet tent all day and the forecast for the next few days was for even more rain. One of the benefits of fitting a rest day into your walking plan, if you can, is that it allows you some flexibility to make changes. This is what I did, and I decided to do the next three days as per the website itinerary.

Anyone who feels that they don’t want to continue along with me for the next part of the route, please feel free to make yourself a nice hot cuppa and stay in the warm; it doesn’t make you a bad person.

Anyway here we go. I left Coniston at around 9:30am. It was still pouring down and visibility was very poor. Using my GPS device, more as a safety measure, I continued up along the Coppermines Valley and towards Levers Water reservoir. Then, after skirting the edge of the reservoir, I made my way back down towards Walna Scar Road, which I then continued along eventually coming out on a track at the base of Walna Scar in Dunnerdale. From there it was a couple of miles across soggy fields and woodland (GPS device invaluable on this part as a lot of the tracks are overgrown and hard to see) before arriving wet and worn out at the Newfield Inn in Seathwaite. It was here that I did something that I have very rarely done whilst on challenge walks; I booked a room at the Inn.

Staying at Newfield Inn gave me the chance to dry off all of my stuff and recharge my batteries, both the electrical type and the physical ones. After a nice hot shower and a nice meal I was feeling totally refreshed again.

Even though the weather was terrible today and the views were non-existent, I have to say I enjoyed the experience and once again this is “the walk that keeps on giving”.

After a lovely meal and a couple of beers it was off to bed and a good night sleep.”

Friday 28th July 2023
Day 7
Seathwaite to Boot – 11 miles

“I had a lovely night’s sleep in great accommodation, and a lovely breakfast – well worth the £85. Les and the staff are very friendly and I would certainly recommend staying here if you have time. It may be worth ringing to book though. I just happened to be lucky that there was a vacancy on the day when I arrived; yet another possible advantage of the wet weather.

Would you believe it, the rain has stopped and the sun is again threatening to join me on my penultimate day of walking. If there is anyone else still around stick with me and I’ll have you in Boot in no time.

A relatively easy day walking today in comparison to the last couple of days. Obviously the trees and bracken, once you venture into Dunnerdale Forrest, are quick to wet your clothing. No real problems with route finding today; I managed without the GPS device, once again using the printed route maps from the website. Nice views across Harter Fell on the way. After a bit of a climb to Hardknott Pass and down to the Roman Fort, I was once again treated with nice views across the fells and down into the valley towards Eskdale and ultimately Boot.

I arrived at the National Trust campsite which I had pre booked at a cost of £20 for one night stay. Bearing in mind that I am only backpacking with a small tent I thought it was a bit expensive. The facilities were ok, but if you do decide to do this walk I suggest that you look for cheaper options nearby. Someone did tell me that there is a site near the Woolpack Inn about half a mile or so further back up the road. Never mind I had to stop somewhere.

After setting up the tent and having a hot shower I walked down to the Brook House Hotel, where I had a nice meal and the obligatory beer.

Back at the tent now, the site is quite noisy but I suppose it is more of a family campsite. Hopefully I will get some sleep.”

Saturday 29th July 2023
Day 8
Boot to Ravenglass – 13 miles

“Well, here we are, my last day of the walk. Thank you to those who are still here with me and for putting up with my whinging about the weather and my health and safety awareness reminders.

Oh, one last safety reminder before we set off. There is an estuary to cross at the end and we’re reliant on the tide times. The safe time for crossing today is about 2:30pm, so don’t go trying to cross it before then. We have plenty of time to do these 13 miles, so why don’t we have a leisurely walk and think about the previous 130 miles we have done over the past week. Give a thought to the many highlights and possibly the odd lowlight and we’ll see if we can come up with a favourite day of the walk. You never know we might even agree with each other.

I can’t believe the weather this morning, which is lovely with bright sunshine as I head out of Boot. The stunning views of Gill Force and Stanley Force waterfalls, along with the noise of the cascading falls, made for a very atmospheric mile and a half or so. Leaving the falls behind it is then a gentle walk through fields towards Devoke Water. Seeing the colour of the water and feeling the silence all around me, made me sit and reflect for a few minutes on how good this whole adventure had been, despite of the poor weather.

Anyway enough of this melancholy, I’ve got a walk to finish.

After following the bank of Devoke Water and then across Barnscar, it became a bit boggy and the tracks were a bit hard to find. However, having been given a “heads up” that this might be the case I decided to use my GPS. It was pointless getting lost on my last day. It was then just a question of following a gentle route all the way through to the estuary where, even though I did my best King Canute impression, I still had to wait for the tide to recede.

In my opinion this has been an excellent walk, whether you decide to do it in short stages or as I did as a challenge. It showcases the Lake District at its best and I owe a lot of gratitude to Richard Jennings, for not only developing the route, but for giving me, a complete stranger, the opportunity to possibly be the first person to complete “his” walk in its entirety. I hope that I have repaid his faith in me.

It is only fitting then that I asked Richard to walk with me across the estuary and the final mile to the Market Cross in Ravenglass where the walk ends.

I hope you all enjoyed this adventure as much as I did. Now get yourselves home and plan your own walk.”
John Falcus

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