Facing an uncertain forecast, Francesca Donovan heads for a low-level exploration of Lingmoor Fell and the iconic scenes in its small shadow.
On a blustery and wet day in the central fells, when your heart is set on scrambles, a cautious but pleasing diversion might send you to Lingmoor Fell (1,530ft/466m) for a low-level, low-stakes adventure. The compact circular makes up in iconic Lakeland scenery what it lacks in elevation. Thanks to Lingmoor’s topographical isolation, your moderate effort will be rewarded with views of the Langdale Pikes. At times, they loom large in the landscape. When they are out of sight, the rolling fields punctuated by pretty tarns and views as far as Windermere will ensure you are not preoccupied with distractions.
The green slate quarrying history here adds a little magic to the route, too. You can stride along the Great Wall of Lingmoor – as the ridge wall is affectionately named – and marvel at Cathedral Caves, the majestic main chamber of the old interlinked quarries looking down over Little Langdale. If you get thirsty on route, the Three Shires Inn is just off course. But continue on, and beyond the small waterfalls along Bleamoss Beck, you can come to rest at the Blea Tarn viewing point. Here, Side Pike and Rakerigg offer a picture-perfect natural frame for the Langdale Pikes. Alternatively, The Old Dungeon Ghyll isn’t far away for a post-walk pint – and Hardknott Pass is something to behold (in low gear). With all this on offer, it’s an undeniably popular area for walkers and photographers alike. You may not find solitude but you will have a spectacularly varied ramble
Words and images: Francesca Donovan
Lingmoor Fell, Cathedral Caves & Blea Tarn: route guide
Start/finish: Blea Tarn National Trust car park (GR: NY295043) | Distance: 9km/5.6 miles | Ascent: 381m/1,250ft | Duration: 3 to 4 hours | Maps: OS Maps Explorer (1:25k) OL6 English Lakes South-Western Area & OL7 English Lakes South-Eastern Area
1. NY295043 From the National Trust car park (which boasts one of the prettiest views in Lakeland from a car park), turn left onto the road and amble over the cattle grid Veer left off the road and begin your ascent of Lingmoor Fell. The path is relatively easy-going with a few rocky sections towards Mart Crag. Pass Birk Knott and skirt the wall all the way to the summit of Lingmoor Fell. But don’t forget to look up from your feet and back the way you came for views over Blea Tarn and towards the Langdale Pikes.
2. NY302046 From the summit, retrace your steps and head SE back over the stile. Here, rejoin the circular walk and follow the lumpy contours over Lingmoor Fell to the east. Navigation is easy and the meandering but clear footpaths allow you the chance to scamper along the ridge wall, lovingly referred to on occasion as ‘the Great Wall of Lingmoor’, admiring the contrast between the Langdale Pikes in the distance and the rubble of disused quarry buildings. As you reach Lingmoor’s east end, head down Bield Crag, where you’ll find soft switchbacks and cairns to guide your way to the road. The views to Wetherlam make for a pretty descent.
3. NY315038 At the road turn right and follow this into Little Langdale. Go straight over at the crossroads and into the farmed fields, keeping to the wall-side path. This is more pleasant walking in lumpy places past Little Langdale Tarn. Next, cross Slater’s Bridge, hop over the stile and turn right. Take the upper path until you reach the National Trust signposting for Cathedral Cave. Enter and explore to your heart’s content.
4. NY313029 Leave the caves the way you came and retrace your steps back to the footpath that leads from Slater Bridge. Continue west along this path passing Low Hall Garth climbing hut. This track is popular for mountain bikers heading from Hardknott Pass. Do feel free to enjoy your gentle ramble and make way for the weary ones on two wheels.
5. NY300031 Cross Fell Foot Bridge and turn left. This portion of the route requires some road walking but it is quiet and picturesque as you skirt around Castle Howe, saying hello to the local Herdwicks. Leave the road veering right and cross Blea Moss in the shadow of Hollin Slack – it can be boggy here. You’ll join a footpath heading north along a wall until you reach Bleamoss Beck and its series of small waterfalls. Continue along the stone steps and go over the stile.
6. NY292042 Take the footpath on the right, which leads to a footbridge over the beck. From this southern Blea Tarn vantage point, you can pause and enjoy the Langdale Pikes pointing to the sky behind Side Pike. On a still day, this provides perfect natural framing for a reflection that makes this spot popular for photographers and swimmers. Ponder your next route up Pike o’ Stickle and then follow the path back to the car park.
Transport: None to start but the Langdale Rambler 516 runs from Windermere to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel
Information: visitlakedistrict.com (01539 822222)
Nearest YHA: Langdale