Loughrigg Fell - Why Go?
The Lake District should require little introduction. It might only have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017, but this cluster of Cumbrian mountains, broken up by deep blue lakes, has been attracting tourists and walkers for hundreds of years.
William Wordsworth, the great Romantic poet who was born on the north-western edge of what is now the Lake District National Park in 1770, is arguably the most famous visitor. Many of his best-loved verses, including the seminal I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, were inspired by his extensive walks around the Lakes.
Yet Wordsworth is far from the only artist to have drawn inspiration from this landscape. There are his contemporaries Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey, of course, but also Beatrix Potter, Hemingway and, more recently, Ian McEwan - all of whom set sections of their work here.
If you want a dose of the scenery that these and other artists celebrate, but you don’t fancy an eight-hour slog, then the Loughrigg Terrace walk is the walk for you. Loughrigg Fell is well-known for offering impressive views despite its relatively modest height: it's only 335 metres above sea-level. Because that's a shade over 1,000 feet, Loughrigg Fell counts as a Wainwright, but only just - it's one of the shortest of the peaks featured in Alfred Wainwright's famous Pictoral Guide to the Lakeland Fells.
From the summit of Loughrigg Fell, you'll get a great view of Rydal Water and Grasmere, the two lakes that flank the fell. You'll also get a stunning view over Windemere, England's largest lake, a few miles away to the south. The Loughrigg Terrace Walk is the classic route, looping around the edge of the mountain on an old bridleway.
Loughrigg Fell - What to Expect
Loughrigg is an incredibly popular fell, being within walking distance of the villages of Ambleside, Grasmere and Langdale. It's also a very accessible hill walk - the classic Loughrigg walk is only around five kilometres long, and should take around three hours to complete. Much of the route runs along a bridleway, the path is always easy to find, and there are often stone steps on the steeper sections. The total altitude gain is around 300 metres from start to finish.
Having said that, although this is definitely family friendly, it is not to be underestimated – there are some challenging, if short, uphill sections. On a hot, sunny day, you can reasonably expect the Loughrigg Fell walk to be one of the more crowded routes in the Lake District. Off the beaten track, this ain't.
In winter, there's nothing that will tax well-prepared walkers. But as always when hiking in the mountains, make sure you've got a decent daypack, a bottle of water, plenty of extra layers and a proper waterproof jacket. A decent pair of walking boots is obviously a must too.
Loughrigg Fell, Terrace Walk - The Route, Part 1
There's more than one car park you can start from, but the White Moss car park, on the A591 next to Rydal Water, is easily reachable both from Ambleside and from Grasmere. An initial wander through woods and over a foot bridge is particularly tranquil in summer, but soon you’re climbing up onto the terrace itself.
Emerging abruptly above the treeline, you’re presented with a sublime view over Grasmere Lake that shows you exactly why Wordsworth was moved to poetry. If it's clear, you'll be able to see all the way up to a great cleft in the fells - the Pass of Dunmail Raise.
Thankfully, the path is fairly flat at this point, which is good as it's often tricky to keep your eyes from being drawn to the view, rather than looking at where you’re putting your feet!
Presently a left turn leads very steeply up the north-west flank of the mountain, and after a couple of false summits, to the top. You'll know you've reached the real summit of Loughrigg fell because there's a trig point at the top.
Consider what time you want to eat your lunch before taking this path, as 30 minutes through Intake Wood will bring you to Loughrigg Tarn; the combination of still water and distant mountains always improves a sandwich.
Whichever route you take, the final approaches to the summit trig point will reveal breathtaking panoramas, including iconic Lake District landmarks such as the Langdale Pikes and the vast expanse of Windermere stretching away southwards.
Loughrigg Fell, Terrace Walk - The Route, Part 2
There are various options for the descent from the summit, including looping down to the tarn, if you haven’t come up that way, or dropping down towards the town of Ambleside before skirting the bottom of the fell along the River Rothay. The latter will add an hour or so.
An alternative route starts from the Pelter Bridge car park just outside Rydal, and it's easy to loop back towards this. If you're heading back to White Moss, you need to walk a few miles further, but you can do most of this route on an easy path that runs the opposite side of Rydal water from the road, so it's not at all unpleasant.
You can also, of course, approach Loughrigg Fell from Ambleside, to the East of the summit. The tourist information centre in the middle of town is a great place to start, and they'll be able to supply you with maps explaining the route. If you're staying to the West near Grasmere, and fancy a longer walk, you can park your car in the Red Bank Road car park and walk all the way to Loughrigg fell from Grasmere too.
Whichever Loughrigg Fell walk you chose, this peak provides a great introduction to hill walking in the Lake District. It's an easy afternoon out, but with all the excitement of the higher mountains.