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Wainwright’s favourite fell, with good reason. A fantastically varied and remote walk, yet accessible and short. 

haystacks-lake-district

Haystacks Walk – Why Go?

The northwestern fells of the Lake District are much less frequented than their more accessible neighbours, much less populated, and have a wild and remote quality. That’s not to say you need to dedicate days to walk here – there is one spectacular fell that can be hiked in half a day and still leave you feeling like you’ve been to the wilderness and back. 

If that’s not enough to convince you, we should also mention Haystacks was Alfred Wainwright’s favourite fell, and his opinion should count! Wainwright dedicated his life to mapping the Lake District and writing stunning guidebooks about the area, so if this fell is a favourite of his, it's for good reason. Haystacks can certainly be counted as one of the best Lake District walks

Haystacks Walk – What to Expect

The occasional scramble up rough ground on the fells and uneven Lake District terrain will demand a pair of lightweight walking boots. A waterproof jacket might be needed in case the weather turns, but otherwise, no specialist gear is required when walking Haystacks.

Make sure you know your route and have checked the weather forecast before heading off. Haystacks has a less intimidating ascent than some of the other Lake District fells, but if you’re planning to spend time in this area, you should know how to stay safe. 

Haystacks Walk – The Route, Part 1

8.9km / 4.5 hours

From the valley floor in Buttermere, Haystacks can look like something from Mordor – spiky and black, and very imposing. Drive up to the Honister Pass car park and it becomes altogether more approachable.

Once you’ve crested the first rise above the Honister visitor centre, all signs of civilization depart, and an amphitheatre of purple-tinged slate, grass and heather, and sheep, opens up before you. In the middle distance are the enormous peaks of Pillar and High Stile and nestled in the middle is your destination – (perhaps) the best fell top in the Lakeland. 

For a short hike, there is a wealth of diversity, from the remnants of quarries, and meandering rivers, to our favourite part of the walk: rounding the back of a rocky buttress you are presented with one of the finest views in England – the peaceful valley of Buttermere. 

Here, the lakes glisten in the sun and you can enjoy picturesque views of Buttermere Crummock where the steep mountainsides of Robinson and Red Pike threaten to close in from both sides.

Haystacks Walk – The Route, Part 2

From here, you cross streams, skirt tarns, and follow the head of the valley around some slightly exposed traverses, which only work to heighten the grandness of the valley below. Near the top, there is the option of some light scrambling which will give the kids yet another facet to their adventure, before reaching the trio of summits. 

The three cairns on top are all worth visiting, as each gives a spectacular variation on the view, whether it’s vistas of Buttermere, the newly revealed Ennerdale stretching seemingly to the sea, or the enormous bulk of Great Gable beyond Innominate Tarn.

As you stand right at the summit of Haystacks, you can enjoy great views out over Crummock Water, Fleetwith Pike will sit on your right-hand side, with the impressive High Crag looming on your left. With so much variety, such unequalled views, and such quick access, we must fully agree with Wainwright. Haystacks is a lesser-known jewel of the Lakes.

If you wish to extend your route from the Haystacks summit and explore the Buttermere valley, the easiest path to follow for your descent is one from Warnscale Beck. You can cross Peggy's Bridge near Gatesgarth Farm and explore the area at your leisure before returning to the car park at Honister Pass. 

Want more? Take a look at our full rundown of the best walks in the Lake District for even more great routes.