Enjoy the best Buttermere has to offer with this super circuit taking in Red Pike and High Stile before finishing off with Haystack and a beautiful walk along the banks of Buttermere. With super 360-degree panoramic views this walk provides for a long day out on the mountains.
With the last of the summer slowly ebbing away I took full advantage of the great September weather to take on a super hike of the South Western fells of Buttermere. Although it was sunny it was time to get the winter clothing on to get used of wearing them after months of lightweight fell walking throughout the summer.
High Stile was the focus of my attention and with the forecast looking good I decided on a route that would take in Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag before finally hitting Haystacks and then finishing with a long descent back to Buttermere via the north eastern shore.
Before I begin, this is a demanding route and it will take you the best part of a full day to complete, so I would only attempt this walk in the summer months with plenty of sunlight hours. The ascent of Red Pike from Buttermere is 755 metres of hard walking and it is by no means easy. Prepare for a testing but amazing day on one of the best fells I have been on to date.
Starting from the Fish Restaurant in Buttermere follow the path to the left which will lead towards the Northern end of the lake. There is now a choice of two paths to take, both will lead you to Burtness Wood, it is just that one is a little longer and will take you over Scale Bridge. I chose the bridge but have since done it via the shore path and there is not much to choose to be honest.
Once on the South Western shore of Buttermere there is a path that will lead you up through a dense wooded area of Burtness Wood. The path is very visible and as you start to climb the steps you will soon realise the ascent is not gradual but a steep climb and it has caught me out both times given it will get you sweating no matter how fit you are. The climb through the wood eventually brings you out to a wooden fence.
Pass through the gate and stone steps will gradually wind their way up the side of Old Burtness towards Sourmilk Gill. The climb again is demanding but the views that start to open up, more than compensate for the effort. The beautiful sight of Buttermere and Crummock Water start to appear behind you and it is very pleasing to the eye. The path eventually runs alongside the left of Sourmilk Gill as you continue your ascent upwards.
Around the 500 metre mark the land will open up and level out, giving you a short-lived respite whilst you head towards Bleaberry Tarn with a backdrop of Chapel Crags towering over the tarn. The tarn which is sandwiched in between High Stile and Dodd is a place of peace and tranquillity and a good resting point before starting your ascent of Red Pike. Look to the right of the tarn and you will see a staircase of steps and my first thought was “oh no” but it is a steady climb and one you can take a rest from by a short detour across to the summit of Dodd.
The steps will lead you to the Saddle below Red Pike, before disappearing into scree which can be difficult to get a good footing. Imagine walking up an escalator the wrong way and you will have an idea what to expect. I kept to the right of the scree which made it a little easier under foot and a better grip. You will now be faced with a short scramble through the channel cut through the red rock which is not to difficult. Once through this you head on a curved right to the summit and shelter of Red Pike.
On my visit I could see the Isle of Man and Dumfries & Galloway across the Solway Firth. Further beyond the Isle of Man I could just make out Northern Island. I received a message on my phone welcoming me to the Isle of Man which I found amusing. In good weather which I had, the panoramic views across Lakeland and the coast were some of the best I have witnessed on my travels and it really kept me busy visually.
From Red Pike it is now time to make your way to the summit of High Stile to the South East. The route is well marked with cairns and markers and you can follow the ridge across the top of Chapel Crags and you gradually ascend to around 800 meters. The path winds its way around the ridge or you can keep a little more to the right if it makes you feel safer. There are a few up climbs through boulder fields and crags before you finally reach the summit of High Stile.
From the summit the views South East towards Haystacks and Great Gable beyond are absolutely stunning and really make this walk enjoyable. From the summit it can be a little disorientating of where to head next given the path continues North East. To make your way to the next summit which will be High Crag, head South from High Stile towards Eagle Crag where you will follow the path as it winds its way past Comb Crags offering you great glimpses of Buttermere below. The path skirts close to the ridge edge at times so caution is needed.
Eventually you will reach High Crag with the Ennerdale below you to the right and Haystacks to your diagonal left and the distinctive Grate Gable beyond. The descent of High Crag via Gamlin End is a mix of steps and scree, which can be tricky and harsh on one’s feet. Take your time here and descend safely. Once down you will pass Seat before coming to the plateau and crossroads of Scarth Gap Pass.
At the crossroads you will head straight across and begin your ascent of Haystacks, which provides a few easy scrambles on the way up. There is a marked path but you can make your own route to the summit if needed. Intuition tells you where you need to be heading. The summit of haystacks can be a little confusing given there looks to be two summits. I do not think it matters which one you choose they are both the same hight and similar.
The summit of Haystacks will give you a great view of the route you have just taken from down from High Crag and it can be deceiving just how steep the descent was. You will also have great views of Buttermere, Great Gable and Pillar in the distance. I will reiterate again that the views throughout this route are amazing and just savouring the moment is what it is all about for me. After a chill and drink on Haystacks it was now time to move on and make my descent down past Innominate Tarn (Wainwrights’ ashes laid to rest here) towards the disused quarry and Dubs Bothy.
The descent is easy and there are various paths which should lead you to the same place of Blackbeck Tarn and Green Crags. One part of the descent will open up a great view of Buttermere near Black Beck. This is the ultimate selfie spot.
Once you reach Dubs Bothy take the path West with the stream to your left and this will be a gradual descent which curves around underneath Striddle Crag on Fleetwith Pike. The views of Buttermere from here are amazing and will eventually lead you to Warnscale Bottom. Whilst coming down from Haystacks I bumped into two lads resting, we got talking and it came to light we were all from the same town and all knew the same people.
We walked the last part of the route together before I left them at Gatesgarth Farm Car Park. From this point you will now have to walk the road before picking up the North Eastern shore path of Buttermere. You could if you wished take the opposite shore via Peggy’s Bridge. But to be fair you will have tired feet by now and will want the shortest route back to Buttermere.
The path back to Buttermere along the shore again provides some amazing scenery and you can look up to your left and admire the ridge walk you have come across. There is a well-known tunnel you have to pass through which is quite novel or I found it to be. Eventually the path runs through fields and past the farm before reaching the Fish Restaurant to complete the walk.
One of the best walks I have done on my travels, and I have since done a shorter version on New Year’s Day 2020 which was just as good but a little more technical. This walk is now in my top 10 walks.