Binsey: Lonely Sentinel of the Northern Lake District

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To quote Alfred Wainwright, "Binsey is the odd man out". Like a sentinel, the hill stands alone, separated from the mass of the Northern Fells by the valley of the River Ellen. It lacks altitude and drama, but in no way lacks interest. Because of its isolated location, Binsey punches well above its weight by providing a superb vantage point for viewing the Northern Fells of the Lake District and the Solway Estuary; to stay with the boxing analogy, Binsey is a contender!

This route follows the most logical way to the summit by following an easy path up the south-east flank of the hill. It is somehow counterintuitive to walk forward whilst looking backward, but this is a useful skill on Binsey – as the path gains altitude, the view behind towards the Northern Fells gets better and better. The hill isn’t really steep enough to justify multiple rest stops, so perhaps the best policy is just to go with the flow and to take frequent halts intentionally, in order to enjoy the view.

The summit is something of a surprise; the ascent seems to indicate a rounded, grassy top, but the reality is a small, rocky ridge. This place has clearly been important in the mists of history, with the remains of an ancient cairn at the summit, but it is the views that surprise the most. The views of the Northern and North-West Fells of the Lake District are impressive enough, but on a good day look for the Scafell group of hills and Coniston Old Man. Having done that, look north to the Solway Estuary with views into the Scottish Border country and Criffel near Dumfries standing out clearly, echoing Binsey on lonely sentry duty.

The summit is also a place with nooks and crannies for picnics and if the breeze from the Irish Sea is on the cool side, there should be ample places to find shelter. When it’s time to go it is easier to return by the ascent path, but this route gives you more for your money by continuing along the broad crest of the summit ridge, before heading down to the west to return to the start point by the fell wall circling the hill.

Binsey, although small, seems to lend itself to idling. There is no sense of pressure to hurry along to the next peak because there isn't one! Instead there is time to mooch about, seeing North Cumbria (and life in general) from a completely different angle.

This is a walk for all the family, with interest for all - even the dog will have a great time. Perfect for an evening outing in summer, a short trip out on the first day of a holiday, a bad weather alternative when the high tops are storm-bound, or just a great walk in its own right.

England - North England - Cumbria - Lake District - North West


Although not very high and isolated from the main bulk of the Lake District fells, Binsey is very much worth the effort as the views are outstanding. The directions are very good and as the writer says the path (I use the word loosely) between WP7 & WP8 is a bit indistinct and the going not so easy, additionally the bracken between WP8 & WP9 was shoulder high in September 2013. Don't be put off however, small is beautiful!

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