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Newlands Horseshoe Walk
Statistics:
Map of the walk
Start:
Chapel Bridge, Little Town
Start (OS ref):
NY233195
Map (1:25,000):
OL4 The English Lakes North Western area
Parking:
Car park to the south of the village near Chapel Bridge
Distance:
8.5 miles (13.7 km)
Time:
5 - 6 hours
Difficulty:
Very Hard with strenuous climbs and descents including one easy scramble from Robinson
Climbing:
1,024 metres
Hazards:
Constant care needed on the scramble down from Robinson
Refreshments:
None
Route:

Elevation profile of the Newlands Horseshoe walk

Summary:

Given a clear day this is possibly the most scenic walk in the North Western area of the Lake District. Whilst the walk never reaches the lofty heights of a Scafell or Helvellyn (the highest point is Dale Head at 753m) the views available are magnificent, particularly to the Skiddaw and Blencathra massifs in the north east. It is a classic horseshoe walk around the beautiful pastoral Newlands valley and although the walk aims for ridges as much as possible it is an undulating circuit with three separate ascents and descents - although most are easy - that is apart the first ascent and last descent which are anything but. The work is worth it though and if you are in this area and the day is set fair then I recommend you take this walk. The awesome views will just blow you away.

The Story of the Walk:

Newlands valley in all its glory
Derwent Water and Keswick seen from Maiden Moor
Newlands valley on a glorious sunny morning
Derwent Water and Keswick seen from Maiden Moor

It was the third day of a five day walking break my pal Steve and I were enjoying in the Lake District during Spring of 2005. Remarkably it was the third rainless day in a row. Even better it was the sunniest start of the break so far and thus after breakfast in our Ambleside digs I directed Steve who was today's driver to make his way north on the A591 towards Keswick. The sun shone brightly on the Lakeland scenery as we drove past Thirlmere, bypassed Keswick and made our access to the Newlands valley at Braithwaite. It was a super feeling looking up to the cloudless sky as Steve negotiated the tight lanes between Braithwaite and our starting point at Little Town. Clouds were not forming today nor likely to when the sun got to work. The views over the Lake District from high up over Newlands were going to be fantastic. And having read about this walk before going for it I knew it was all about the views. And so it proved to be. After a little trouble finding the path when leaving the car park near Chapel Bridge we were on our way.

The path to High Spy from Maiden Moor
It's a tough climb from Dalehead Tarn
The path to High Spy from Maiden Moor
It's a tough climb from Dalehead Tarn to Dale Head

The track took us up a saddle between Cat Bells on our left and Bull Crag on Maiden Moor to our right. It was a tough uphill pull from the start (as the elevation profile shows) and I felt it more than Steve. He headed for a little man made cave halfway up the track and waited there until I reached him. The sun was already doing its work and we both shed a layer of clothing at the cave which I explored. It wasn't a very exciting cave. Just a hole hewn out of the hillside. The views outside were much more exciting and so we climbed onto the saddle and then tracked south past Trap Knotts to Bull Crag. If you are on this section on a good day then I bet you can't stop looking behind you. The views to Derwent Water, Keswick, Skiddaw and Blencathra are the best there are in the Lake District (see 2nd photograph on this report). I will never forget the moment after I stopped hands on knees to catch my breath and turned round. It was utter amazement at the view before my eyes. One of those real WOW moments. Every time I stopped on the heave up to Bull Crag on the crest of Maiden Moor I looked back... again and again and again. I couldn't get enough.

Walking from Dale Head along Hindscarth Edge
Fantastic views of Buttermere from Littledale Edge
Walking from Dale Head along Hindscarth Edge
Fantastic views of Buttermere from Littledale Edge

Eventually I had to leave the ecstatic view behind as passing Bull Crag took it from me. Now there was a walk to resume and what a walk. The next two miles were a delightful easy stroll across the ridge between Maiden Moor and High Spy. We were walking on exposed ground at an altitude of around 600m but it felt lovely and warm. Despite being mid May we walked in brilliant sunshine with little wind. Steve and I could not have hoped for much better. Minimal effort was needed now so we found time to chat, pleasantly so...until, when at High Spy, Steve saw it. "I thought this was a ridge walk?" he exclaimed. "It is" I replied. "That does not look like a ridge to me!?" He was pointing to the drop down to Dalehead Tarn and the steep climb from there to Dale Head top. And it was steep. "I admit it's steep but it is only 200 metres. We've already done twice that" I said reassuringly (it was actually 250m). He grumbled on...but then I love the banter really. Still moaning as we reached the tarn he then shot up the climb. No talking now and I followed counting 100 steps then taking a breather as I do on steep climbs. We were soon up.

The views north from Robinson are staggering
Crummock Water and Loweswater from Robinson
The views north east from Robinson are staggering..
..and the views north west are every bit as good!

During the walk we had walked in solitude. At the cairn on the summit of Dale Head things changed. When we had arrived there was already a couple sat by the cairn having lunch. As we sat to have a drinks break of our own another younger couple arrived. Then straight after them a third couple, this time older and holding hands - perhaps a new relationship? They asked one of the other couples to take a picture of them. Oh love blossoms everywhere. Good on them. Four pairs on the same hill at the same time and the only pair not an item were Steve and I !! What we all did share was the best of days on the Newlands Horseshoe. When we had arrived at Dale Head another aspect of this tremedous walk presented itself. As I mentioned the views to Newlands and beyond had always been with us on the walk. Now there was more. Below us and across to the south was Honister Pass with Haystacks, High Crag, High Stile and Red Pike. we could even see Pillar where we had been two days ago. To the west was Buttermere. The Scafells could be seen too. It was a fantastic mountain spotting moment. After taking our fill of the mountains on offer we moved on to continue our thrilling day. Now we had more ridges to do.

The steep descent from Robinson begins
It's easier to climb Robinson than descend
The steep descent from Robinson begins
It's easier to climb Robinson than descend it

After leaving Dale Head there was a thrilling section along Hindscarth Edge (Hindscarth is a impressive mountain, a central spur in the horseshoe and an option on the walk) and then along Littledale Edge which took us on towards our final mountain, Robinson. Despite the term Edge neither Hindscarth nor Littledale offer any problems - the band is broad. The final section of Littledale Edge also provided us with our third and final climb of the day, a tough little clamber of 170 metres over half a mile. It was a little gasper too and I was grateful for the lunch break at the summit cairn. More sights were provided to us at Robinson. Now we could see Crummock Water and Loweswater on the western edge of the park. While we were eating our lunch two chaps passed us from the opposite direction. The senior walker of the two mentioned the tough ascent of Robinson they had made with some unavoidable scrambles. That was not what Steve wanted to hear! And so after lunch we left Robinson and entered the most exciting phase of the walk. As you can see from the photographs (see above) it was a steep descent and on a couple of occasions we had to shimmy down the mountain on our backsides. It was exciting for me, (not a word Steve would use and he did mention when looking back that he would have never climbed up the route) less so for Steve but never technically difficult though it would not be very risky in poor visibility. Note - I advise caution on the section in such conditions.

Little Town Chapel was once a school house
The path back to Little Town along Low High Snab
Little Town Chapel was once a school house

After the thrills of the scramble from Robinson the walk quickly loses it's mountainous feel as High Snab Bank is reached. The walking is now on grassy slopes and not craggy rocks. Views are still pleasant but with lost height not so extensive. The horseshoe, earlier below us now rose above as we dropped of High Snab Bank to follow a lane to Low High Snab. After the buildings of High Snab the track became tarmac and we continued along the road past Gilbrow Wood to reach Little Town Chapel. As we passed the quaint white building the doors were open and some walkers visiting. We admired the building which according to a notice was previously a school house. I can't imagine it was ever filled to capacity - this is the quietest of valleys. After the chapel we were soon back at the car, our fantastic walk done. If I was to recommend one walk in Newlands then it would have to be this one - a truly remarkable walk.

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