There are 2, 326km of rights of way in the Lake District National Park – the largest National Park in England.
Within this compact mini-mountain resort there are 214 Wainwright walks neatly embedded, along with 16 beautiful jewel lakes, all joined by the constant flow of golden waterfalls and rivers.
Choosing a Lake District walk is like delving into a sparkling jewellery box filled with gems that tantalise and allure and picking which walk is your favourite is neigh-on impossible. Can’t we just have them all! However, on our Facebook page, we asked you that question, in our search for your favourite Wainwright walk – which is your top Wainwright walk?
With 64% of your votes, Helvellyn shines just that bit brighter, pipping Haystacks to the finish. If you’re already au-fait with the Lake District activity of ‘Wainwright bagging’, then you will know that Alfred Wainwright is the author of a seven-volume Pictorial guide to the best walks in the Lake District. The guides detail 214 Wainwright walks, and they are not all selected based on height, making this a great bucket list for walkers of all levels.
So, with our search for your favourite Wainwright walk leading us through beautiful memories of walks on the Wainwright gems of Haystacks and Orrest Head tempting us to the winner, Helvellyn, here we look at some surprising things still to discover about these most wonderful of Lake District gems.
Helvellyn is the third highest peak in the Lake District and often grabs attention as being the favourite. She is also given the most coverage by Wainwright in his first book: The Eastern Fells – 26 pages! But what is it that is so alluring about this huge ridge that separates the north from south Lakes? Well, that is one of the first little-known things, the Helvellyn Range is the greatest area of fells above 2500ft in the region. It slices the northern valleys of Ullswater and Haweswater away from Thirlmere and Windermere, so vast is her power.
The reason that Wainwright gives so much attention to Helvellyn in his guides is because of this sheer grandeur and wealth of possibilities that this mountain offers. The easiest and quickest route to the summit (3117ft) is the 2-mile climb up the western flank, from the Thirlmere side. This route is dreamy for a sunrise experience or during snowy months, there’s some alpine fun to be had. Compared with the likes of Scafell, Helvellyn is relatively easy to get to and William Wordsworth climbed Helvellyn in his 70s!
However, it is the approach from the east, taking in the infamous Striding Edge, that led Wainwright to claim Helvellyn as such an ‘exciting walk’. In fact, he went as far as naming Striding Edge as the first in his top six ‘best places for a fellwalker to be because of their exciting situations (excluding summits’. For this route, catch the Ullswater Steam from Pooley Bridge, disembarking at Glenridding to take on Helvellyn from its exciting eastern side. This is classed as a scramble in parts and is approximately 4-miles to the summit.
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We know that we have some true Wainwright fans amongst us, with Haystacks coming in second place in our search for your favourite Wainwright walk. “Lift your eyes to Haystacks. His Favourite Place”, commands a plaque in the little church in Buttermere, where, from the window, you can cast your gaze out over to Haystacks. And when taking in Wainwright’s argument for this being his favourite of all peaks, so much so that his ashes are scattered at the tarn on the summit as his request, we see why: “for beauty, variety and interesting detail, for sheer fascination and unique individuality, the summit-area of Haystacks is supreme. This is in fact the best fell-top of all”.
Wainwright’s favourite approach was from the Honister Pass. This route is only 2 1/2 miles with a climb of only 1050ft, yet it is the “combination of features, of tarn and tor, of cliff and cove, the labyrinth of corners and recesses, the maze of old sleepwalks and paths, for a design, or lack of design, of singular appeal and absorbing interest. One can forget even a raging toothache on Haystacks”. Now, this is the kind of walk that really is a hidden gem. From the sheer beauty of the Buttermere and Ennerdale Valley’s below, and surrounded by some of the tallest peaks in the Lake District, including Scafell Pike, Pillar and Great Gable, it would be easy to overlook Haystacks. But spend an afternoon in her company and all your worries and stresses will be forgotten. This is our kind of walk.
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As far as runners-up go, this is a walk which locals do run up. This is because it is only a 20-minute walk from Windermere town centre. Yet it rises 784 ft, giving splendid views of Scafell Pike, the Langdales and down onto Lake Windermere with as much, or as little, effort as you choose.
This is a walk with a view. A view that, in fact, changed a young man’s life. Orrest Head was the first walk that a 23-year-old Alfred Wainwright undertook with his cousin in 1930, and resulted in him moving to the Lake District where he spent 13 years crafting his Pictorial Guides. Orrest Head is so low that it didn’t actually make it into the Pictorial Guides, instead featuring in Wainwright’s The Outlying Fells of Lakeland guidebook, published after the seven main guides. Fells that made it into this book are those that can be tackled by a walker, regardless of age or fitness. Wainwright indeed was a pensioner when he published the Orrest Head walk.
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Who’s coming to the Lake District in 2020 to climb these famous Wainwright walks? Book your stay in the Lakes today. Call 015394 88855 or email: [email protected].