The first time I walked to the summit of Red Screes I met a chap. Being rather pleased with myself – a feeling common in those who have climbed a high mountain – I asked him how many times he had climbed Red Screes. “237!” came the improbable reply. It transpired he kept a guesthouse in Windermere and Red Screes represented the nearest high fell he could climb in a morning or afternoon. I am not sure if I will ever climb it 237 times but I have done it a few times since that encounter and have always found it a rewarding fell.
Start: Ambleside Centre LA22 9DB
Distance: 7 ½ miles
Time: 4–5 hours
Grade: Strenuous. For the most part the ascent to the Kirkstone Inn is gradual, from the top of the pass to the summit of Red Screes the climb is one of the steepest in the Lake District.
Maps: OS OL7 The English Lakes South eastern area
1.The trickiest part of route finding on the walk comes at the start locating Stockghyll Lane from the centre of Ambleside. It starts close to the Salutation Hotel and can be joined from Cheapside which is to the right of the White Lion Hotel. Once on it follow it to Stockghyll Woods and then take a path on the left to view Stockghyll Force an impressive 70ft waterfall. This spectacle would have been one Victorians would have been prepared to pay for imagining it to be ‘Little Switzerland’. Having seen it exit the woods at the revolving gate exit which brings you back to the lane. Turn left. From this point to the Kirkstone Road there are no deviations from the line of travel as the way climbs up past farmsteads converted to holiday accommodation in a gradual ascent with superlative views across a wide valley. After Grove Farm which is ¾ mile beyond the Force the lane becomes a track soon leading onto the open fell side. After another ¾ mile the track passes by High Grove a farmstead in an advanced stage of dilapidation. Keep on the track as it swings leftwards to meet Kirkstone Road. Turn right. Even the Ordnance Survey map names the next section of road descriptively as ‘the Struggle’. It leads to the top of the Lake District’s highest motor pass – 1479ft – as well as the country’s third highest public house – the ancient Kirkstone Inn. Pass and inn take their names from a huge boulder just over the brow shaped like a church – ‘kirk’ being an old word for church.
2. The top of the pass offers a natural resting place before starting what comes next. What comes next is a 1000ft of climbing up the steep sided flank of Red Screes which looms above Kirkstone like a giant sentinel. Gird your loins and cross the car park on the left to a wooden gate at its far end. Turn left on a worn path that quickly brings you to the base of the fell. From here a well made path takes you to the summit. The effort is compensated by the sublime scenery and you are given an overview of much of your route. Step by step and with as many pauses as you like keep going until the rocky outcrop of the summit comes into sight. The trig point offers an outstanding viewing platform for most of eastern Lakeland. Because Red screes stands somewhat apart from its neighbours the panorama is uninterrupted.
3. The way to Ambleside could not be simpler. Turn left from the line of your approach that is southwards and pick up a worn path that skirts the edge of a small tarn. Keep on this as it takes you gently down a long broad ridge. After the supreme effort of climbing Red Screes this is your reward with very easy walking underfoot. On the upper part of the fell there is not much by way of feature but after crossing Snarker Moss the path encounters walls with ladders stiles or gates and eventually follows a broad green lane that returns to the Kirkstone Road. Turn right when you reach it. It leads down to Ambleside.
- Walk devised by Andy walker of the Norwest Fellwalking Club.
- Bob’s walks are now available as digital guides on the iFootpath website and App (see iFootpath.com).