The best ridge walk in Ullswater? It doesn’t have iconic status, but the Fusedale Round is a brilliant high-level loop, says James Forrest.

“To walk upon these fells, to tramp the ridges, to look from their tops across miles of glorious country, is constant delight.” So wrote Alfred Wainwright in 1957 about his time exploring the Far Eastern Fells. One can only presume that – as he wrote these poetic words – he had in mind routes like this one. The Fusedale round is a high-level horseshoe ridge walk that delivers some true Ullswater magic. After all, Old Alf loved this area, describing Ullswater as “that loveliest of lakes, curving gracefully into the far distance”

It has a remote feel to it – quiet, understated and hidden. Yet this valley offers a delightful horseshoe ridge walk. The Fusedale Round bags five Wainwrights – Steel Knotts (Pikeawassa), Wether Hill, Loadpot Hill, Arthur’s Pike and Bonscale Pike – and completes a high-level loop of Fusedale Beck. While the higher peaks of Wether Hill and Loadpot Hill form a broad, grassy plateau of little interest, the smaller fells save the day. Steel Knotts has a statuesque rocky tor of acute sharpness crowning its summit, while Bonscale Pike and Arthur’s Pike serve up first-rate views over “that loveliest of lakes”. Is it the best ridge walk in the Ullswater area? It can’t be far off.

The Fusedale Round: route description

START/FINISH: Small car park at base of Hallin Fell (NY435192, postcode CA10 2NF) | MAPS: OS Explorer OL5 (1:25k), OS Landranger 90 (1:50k), Harvey UltraMap XT40 Lake District East (1:40k) | DISTANCE: 12.1km / 7.5 miles | ASCENT: 712m / 2,336ft | DURATION: 4.5 hours

1. NY435192: Walk south-east through the church car park, pass to the right of the church and take the path ahead up a grassy hump. Fork right, continuing south-east, and descend into a hollow. Cross a path running perpendicular, and climb the steep path ahead aiming south-east towards Birkie Knott. Beyond Birkie Knott the terrain is gentler and grassier, ascending south-east towards the ridgeline. Take a diagonal path to gain the ridge and continue south to the rocky Pikeawassa summit.

Fusedale valley with Steel Knotts to left and Bonscale Pike to the right, and Ullswater in the distance (2)

Fusedale valley with Steel Knotts to left and Bonscale Pike to the right, and Ullswater in the distance. Credit: James Forrest

2. NY440181: Descend south off the summit to a col. Reach a wall and follow it south-south-east briefly. Cross the wall at a gap with a stepping stone stile, turn left and continue south-south-east, now with the wall on your left. Climb over an unnamed hump, drop into a hollow and then climb again, passing to the right of Brownthwaite Crag. Beyond Brownthwaite Crag there is a gentle descent south-east, traversing left in front of and below Gowk Hill. Arrive at the head of Fusedale valley and continue to a wall. Go through a gate and take the small path ahead. Cross a stream and pass to the right of a derelict stone building.

Looking back at Steel Knotts from Brownthwaite Crag

Looking back at Steel Knotts from Brownthwaite Crag. Credit: James Forrest

3. NY446169: Take the path looping right uphill, cross the stream again and turn left. Take the grassy path heading south-east, up Wether Hill’s western flanks. At the 550m contour, the path veers left, ascending a grassy rake to the left of a groove in the hillside. Follow a faint trod east over easy grassy slopes to gain the ridge. Turn left and take a wide path north to the cairned top of Wether Hill. Descend north on a wide track to a col. Pass to the left of a small tarn and climb easily ahead to Loadpot Hill’s trig pillar.

Fusedale Round - Views to a distant Blencathra from Arthur_s Pike

Views to a distant Blencathra from Arthur’s Pike. Credit: James Forrest

4. NY456180: Veer right and head north on a wide grassy track. Ahead is a very long but gentle descent over broad grassy slopes. As you near Arthur’s Pike, veer north-north-west and pick one of the numerous paths to reach the cairned summit. Turn left and head south-south-west, almost back on yourself, towards Bonscale Pike. Traverse the hillside until you reach Swarth Beck, next to an old stone sheepfold. Ford a beck, as you veer right, and ascend the path heading west to the cairned top of Bonscale Pike.

Fusedale round - Walking from Bonscale Pike towards Howtown

Walking from Bonscale Pike towards Howtown. Credit: James Forrest

5. NY453200: Pick up a grassy trod descending gently south and south-south-west towards White Knotts, avoiding the steeper, rockier ground of Swarth Fell. Follow the path as it swings sharply right, descending steeply north-west down a zig-zagging rake. There’s a brief respite in steepness as you head west, before the path turns south-west and descends steeply yet again towards Howtown. Arrive at a stony path next to a wall. Turn left, go under power lines, and veer right through a gate. Pass to the right of Mellguards cottage, veer left at a fingerpost sign through another gate and head south-west. Turn right across a stone bridge over Fusedale Beck, cross a farm road and ascend gently west alongside a wall. Pass below Steel End and follow a path south-west to the base of the Steel Knotts ascent tackled earlier. Veer right and head north-west back to the church and car park.

Further information

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Take Stagecoach’s 508 Penrith-Windermere bus to Pooley Bridge and the Ullswater Steamers boat to Howtown pier.


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