Kentmere Horseshoe

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The Kentmere Horseshoe is one of those classic routes that makes a truly satisfying mountain day. A good walk out (nearly 20km and over 1,000 metres of height gain), a soaring ridge with brilliant views, a path once trod by Roman soldiers and six summits. Add a scramble and the challenge of finding a route up steep ground and you have near-perfection. You would be pushed to find a better day.

The walk starts in the lonely (and lovely) valley of Kentmere. The start is really positioned to make a good finish, as you won't want any unnecessary trailing about after a long day on the hills. So, you start with a short walk on one of the quietest roads in the county. Pleasant footpaths then lead to another short stretch of even quieter road, which becomes a track that runs below Rainsborrow Crag. The north-east ridge of Rainsborrow Crag has been described as looking like a Cuillin ridge from a distance; it would also take a leap of imagination. The scramble is little more than a ten-foot wall (three metres) followed by a wander up steep bilberry terraces. It's not exactly a five-star route, but it is one that doesn't see a lot a use, so it is a bit of a route-finding adventure. On a bright sunny day, or under snow, you will find it hard to resist (ice-axe, crampons, experience and possibly a rope are absolutely essential in winter). If however, it's pouring down, or you can't see the route for mist, the scramble is easily avoided by a steep but technically easy ascent by the side of the crag (described in the route).

If scrambling up steep bilberry ledges or grass definitely isn't your thing, you could easily miss out the Rainsborrow Crag section of the route by taking the bridleway from Kentmere Village to Garburn Pass vis Crabtree Brow, then heading north to Yoke. This would add about 1km to the route as described, but would make easier walking. Whichever way you go up, you will arrive on the summit of Yoke. From there to Froswick via Ill Bell is 2km of ridge-walking bliss. Soon after this you briefly join the Roman road, High Street. The summit of the same name could be included by making a slightly longer walk, but my route takes a short cut across to Mardale Ill Bell, followed by a descent to Nan Bield Pass.

The last real ascent of the day leads up to Harter Fell before you start to lose height towards Kentmere Pike, your last summit. From there an easy but interesting descent leads to a bridleway and soon afterwards to your start point.

England - North England - Cumbria - Lake District - South East


Great Views, Hills or Fells, Industrial Archaeology, Lake/Loch
26/06/2014 - Paul Shorrock

Thank you Robert for the kind words, and for the excellent additions to the route description. One of the pleasures of writing for Walking World is the sense of community, and your contribution certainly enhances my original route description. I agree that this is a cracking walk, though I can't take the credit for the views and the drama!

23/06/2014 - Robert Hughes

This is a truly excellent walk though I did take the easier option of ascending via Gaburn Pass. The views of all the main Lakeland ranges are superb - and the peaks of the first ridge are really quite dramatic both whilst on them and as seen from other side of the horseshoe. The directions were excellent and the paths generally very clear. If you are going to go via Gaburn then follow the track left from WM4 until just before the church – there is a signed footpath that takes you off the track and across to a metalled road just beyond the church to the right – follow this until it changes into a stony track that takes you up to the pass. At the pass you can turn right just after the ridge wall and follow the wall or continue on and the turn right joining the main track from Troutbeck. The first option can be wet but is no problem in the summer. Later as you approach WM13 there is now a direct path than cuts off the dogleg – however if you take this you will miss views of the adjacent valley. Finally approaching WM 14 and just before Wray Crag I found myself on a clear path that maintained a more southerly direction – missing the crag and joining the wide track half way between WM14 and the finish. This essentially cut off the last corner with no sign of disadvantage.

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14.3 Miles
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