High Spy : The Lake District

by | Feb 8, 2020 | Go Outside, The Lake District, Walking

Route Information

An out-and-return circular walk

Route Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 13.71 km (8.57 miles)

Route Elevation: 646 m

Route Ascent: 743 m

Route Time: 3-5 hrs

Start and Finish: YHA Borrowdale, Borrowdale, Keswick, Cumbria, CA125XE

Depending on the featured walk and especially in mountainous areas, you may need to Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in to your own pace.


There are toilets at YHA Borrowdale and also a bar serving beverages and cake etc.

Keswick is the nearest town with variety of choices for food and beverages. For more information have a look at the TripAdvisor Website 


Very few hazards along this route

The Urban Ranger Website cannot outline every single hazard on a walk – it’s up to you to be safe and competent, and to be able to read a map and use a compass. Plan your route properly with the latest advice from the AdventureSmart website

Public Transport

Traveline for UK Public Transport

Weather Forecast

MWIS Lake District Mountain Weather


High Spy from Borrowdale via the old slate mines

I was back in one of my favourite areas of the lake district in early November, to take on Sharpe Edge on Blencathra. Although i would love to include that challenge on the site, i just feel it is too advanced for the purpose of this website.

I have always stated that this site is about beautiful scenery and ecotherapy that most people can enjoy as a distraction from wellbeing issues. Although there are easier routes up to the summit of Blencathra on this occasion i chose the most difficult. Maybe in the future i will include the easy route.

After the challenges of Sharp Edge i thought i would do two low level walks given the weather was not great and there was low cloud forecast for 700 metres. Having based myself at YHA Borrowdale i had planned a route that would take me right from my base to the summit and then back again.

At a height of 2,142ft High Spy is a fell in the Lake District that is situated on the ridge that separates the Newlands Valley from Borrowdale, eight kilometres south of Keswick.

This walk starts off from the car park of YHA Borrowdale (Although it is for visitors to the YHA there is ample room to park for the duration of this walk). There is a right of way just to the right of the Clamping Pods that will take you down a leafy path that skirts Johnny Wood. The path will lead you down to a bridge over Scalesclose Gill, once you have crossed the bridge it can be misleading at times given there is no clear path across the inclined field. But basically, walk in an arc shape to the right until you reach the wall which you will cross to a more defined path to your right.

You should be able to see Castle Crag in front of you in the distance, you will walk as if you are heading directly for the crag but just before Tongue Gill you will take a left up a steep inclined fell. If you do not want to climb the fell there are some steps a little further on that will bring you up the side of Tongue Gill to make matters easy. This is now the most demanding part of the walk given its a straight 500m ascent up to Wilson’s Bield.

On the way you will pass through the disused Rigghead Quarries which can be tricky given bad weather as there is a stretch of this like a slate stairway to heaven. Once you have passed the quarries you will return to a grass path until you reach the plateau. Now i was not paying attention and found myself drifting towards Dalehead Tarn because i was too busy looking at Dale Head. Once i realised i had to about turn and head across the boggy plateau towards Miners Crag.

This part again can be tricky trying to find the path to the right of Miner Crag, but once you have found it, there are cairns leading you up to the summit of High Spy. In low cloud this could be very confusing at times, so as long as you stay to the right of Miners Crag you should not have to worry about falling off anything.

The summit of High Spy is very rugged and exposed moorland but to your left in good weather you should have amazing views of Dale Head & Hindscarth. If you look back on the way you have come you should be able to see Great Gable and even Scarfell Pike. From the summit the path is very easy to follow as you will be continuing on to Maiden Moor. There is a limited view to your right, but to your left your eyes will keep wondering and admiring the available views.

From Maiden Moor as you reach Bull Crag should start the see Derwent water come into view and Cat Bells. The views open up now to your right and you should be able to see Grange Fell. This part of the walk is all downwards and when you get to the crossing of paths just before Cat Bells, take the right path towards Hause Gate and follow the winding stone steps all the way down until you come to the lane.

I chose to walk down the lane even though you can walk the right of way past Yewdel Knott. the reason for this is because i wanted to visit the cafe at Grange for a hot chocolate. Unfortunately, when i got there is was closed. To the right of the cafe is a lane that you will take towards Hollows Farm. At the junction towards the farm head left and into Low Hows Wood and then High Hows Wood so Castle Crag is above you to the right.

After passing through the woods you should find yourself walking next to the river so it is on your left. Follow the path which should have fields to your right until you eventually end up back at YHA Borrowdale.

This a nice little tester walk if you fancy something more strenuous in the future and would like to try something higher. It is a great walk in good weather and a walk you can do in poor weather and to top it off, you get some amazing views also. At the disused mines you can stop and look at the tunnels that enter the fell, which is interesting.

Click bottom image for gallery

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