Updated: Oct 1, 2020
I have done many walks in the Lake District over the seventeen years I have lived a thirty minute drive from Windermere, but for some reason this seven mile circular walk, starting and ending in the tiny village of Far Sawrey, on the western side of Lake Windermere, has never before come to my attention. Oh how I wish it had. It is a truly stunning walk, taking in two idyllic tarns, woodlands and rocky crags; the latter affording spectacular views across Lake Windermere.
It is also a great walk for dogs. There was only one small part of the walk in which there were sheep, and Bea, the dog who was boarding with us for the week, needed to be put on lead, and there were no tricky stiles for a large dog to have to try to navigate, as so often can be the case. There is also a dog-friendly hotel with a public bar and beer garden in the village of Far Sawrey, with water bowls provided for a thirsty dog at the end of the walk. And beverages for the thirsty two legged walkers as well, of course.
We started the walk by leaving our car in the pay and display car park next to the ferry on the eastern shore of Lake Windermere, boarding the ferry and crossing as pedestrians ( £1 per person, and no charge for dogs). We spent the ten minute crossing admiring the views down both lengths of the lake , as well as of the yachts and motor boats moored in the marina alongside. Bea took it all in her stride, and was undaunted by our fellow cars, pedestrians and cyclists. It is of course possible to bypass the ferry and drive directly to Far Sawrey, (although it must be said that parking in and around the village is extremely limited) but with the sun shining down on us, taking the ferry, without the car, was a magical way to start the walk and highly recommended.
After disembarking on the western side of the
lake, we followed the signs to Claife Viewing
Station. A fairly steep climb up rather a lot of
steps, it was well worth the effort. Hard as it now is to believe,the Lake District was once
considered to be an unattractive wilderness
and it was not until the first guide book for The Lakes was published in 1778 that a wave of tourism began, with purpose built public viewing stations affording the eager tourists vantage viewpoints of the remarkable landscapes they were discovering. Claife Viewing Station was built in the 1790's, with windows tinted with coloured glass designed to recreate the landscape under different seasonal conditions ( for example, yellow for summer, orange for autumn and dark blue for moonlight). The windows have been recreated by the National Trust with coloured glass slides you can hold and imagine the views the early tourists enjoyed. Bea and I are pictured here posing next to one of the recreated windows.
Used in the 1830's and 40's for parties and dances by wealthy visitors, by the end of the 19th Century the station had fallen out of favour and into disrepair. It is however, well worth a trip, and the views of Lake Windermere from its balustraded platform are quite simply breathtaking.
After having our fill of the views, and a coffee from our flask on the platform, we made our way back down the steps, through Ash Landing Wood and Nature Reserve, and on to Far Sawrey. Clearly sign posted footpaths take you off the main road and across a field, passing in front of Sawrey Knott (holiday apartments), where on a clear day you can see the top of the Old Man of Coniston straight in front of you, before dropping down into the centre of the village. Passing Braithwaite Village Hall on your left, and The Cuckoo Brow Hotel on your right,
you will come to a small lane on the right hand side signposted "public bridleway to Moss Eccles Tarn and Claife Heights." At the end of the lane, cross the cattle grid, and cross a field which has a small brook running alongside you on the left as you walk. It was a hot and
sunny September day, so Bea was glad of a chance to career through the brook and drink the amazingly clear water in order to cool down. Bear left onto a rough track to cross a narrow wooden footbridge which takes you over a ford, and up to a gateway. Go through the gate and follow the rough lane as it climbs first gently, and then a little more steeply. Scattered outcrops of rock appear and the track swings right, with a sign pointing the way.
You will now arrive at the first of the two tarns, Moss Eccles Tarn. This is a lovely spot, as the picture of Bea and I bears testament. Not a cloud in the sky and the sunlight glinting off the water of the tarn. It was such a lovely spot ,in fact, that we decided to settle down with our packed lunch and flask, and spent a tranquil half hour or so drinking in the views, as well as the coffee.
After the picnic was finished Bea had a quick splash about in the tarn, but once she sighted the ducks in the middle of it we decided to head on, as we know from old that Bea and ducks are not always the best combination!
We continued on the track, on the eastern edge of the tarn, climbing at a gradual gradient. Through another gate and we had arrived at the second Tarn, Wise Een Tarn. This was an even lovelier spot than the last. The Lake District Fells and Peaks, including the Langdale Pikes, provide an amazing backdrop to the tarn. We could have happily stayed looking at the view all day, but unfortunately this was the one part of the walk with sheep, and Bea needed to be put on lead, so we reluctantly resumed the walk. Leaving the tarn behind us, the track climbed into the woods, affording us, and especially a panting Bea, some welcome shade.
Through the woods and we emerged into sunshine again. Bea and I had fun playing agility games on tree stumps, boulders and fallen trees.
Keeping to the track at the other side of the woods you will see a television mast in front of you, which provides a useful landmark to head towards. Keep to the track. Ignore the bridleway signposted off to the left. The track will descend until it swings sharp left. As it does so, there is a narrow gravelled footpath going off to the right. Take this path and continue along it until you reach the end of a forestry road. Bear right, following the small yellow footpath markers which will take you up into the trees, heading for Three Dubs Crags. This is a rough, uneven path which climbs steeply.
At the top you will come to a viewpoint, with some rocks to sit on. Out comes the flask again! This would once have afforded great views of Lake Windermere, but the trees are now very tall, and only mere glimpses can be had. It is still a pleasant place to sit awhile, especially after the rough cllmb to get there!
The path then descends, crosses a boardwalk, (pictured left) and meets a forestry road. Turn right onto this road, with a small tarn on your right. After 100 yards or so, there is a footpath off to the left into the trees, signposted Far Sawrey 2 miles., as demonstrated by Bea below.
The path climbs gently through the trees. Just ten yards or so after the crest of the rise turn right onto a path which climbs more steeply. It is easy to miss this turning as it does not at first glimpse look to be much of a path, and it is not signposted. At the top of the immediate rise bear left and out in the open, and bear right up to the trig point on High Blind How, Claife Heights, the highest point on the walk. Again, the trees have sadly obscured the view of the lake but it is still a lovely spot.
Descend from the trig point, through the bracken and into the woods, to join a much wider path where you turn left. Bear right past a yellow marker to cross a footbridge. The path is now signposted to Sawrey and the ferry. After climbing steeply for a short distance you will reach High Pate Crag.
This was the highlight of the walk for me. There are fantastic views to your right of the Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and the Langdale Pikes and ahead of you a stretch of Lake Windermere, Morecambe Bay, Heysham and beyond. You guessed it, another place to sit and absorb the views and eek out one final cup of coffee each from the flask, with Bea settled down happily at our feet. So happily, in fact, that after a while we realised she had actually fallen asleep!
Allthough it seemed a shame to wake her, we needed to press on. The path swings left and descends, with yellow markers again guiding the way. Just above a stone wall you reach a track at a signpost. Turn right and the path drops steeply down through Low Pate Crag. At the base of the Crag turn right and follow the track for quite a while. Through gates, along the edge of a field, past a boggy little puddle of a tarn until you eventually reach the bridleway between Bell Grange and Far Sawrey.
Turn right, signposted Far Sawrey. You will gradually descend into the village, arriving directly opposite Braithwaite Village Hall. Turn right on to the main road, and walk the short distance to the Cuckoo Brow Hotel, if, like us, you have worked up a thirst for something cold and refreshing in the beer garden. Bea had another nap under the table until we were ready to leave. We then retraced our steps, back up to Sawrey Knotts and down the hill to Ash Landing Woods, Claife Viewing Station and the ferry.
The ferry conveniently arrived within minutes.This was the time we welcomed not being in the car,as the queue for vehicles was extremely long and many would be disappointed, having to wait for the
next ferry to arrive. We and Bea however strolled straight on and enjoyed the views of the return journey back to the eastern shore. Tempted by a cafe selling ice creams we found a spot to enjoy them down by the marina and had one last lingering viewing session of the lake. Bea seemed most interested in the general activity on the boats, (although maybe not quite as interested as she had been in our icecreams!)
This walk has been added to my top ten list of walks I have enjoyed in the Lake District, and of course there are many to choose from. I honestly cannot wait to re-tread this route. Perhaps next month, on a fine, crisp autumn day, or later still, with perhaps a smattering of snow on the Lakeland peaks. It is definitely one to recommend, and I am sure that you, and your dog, will enjoy it. We certainly did.
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