The Central Fells, Langstrath and Thirlmere

Sketch map will appear here

Behind the Langdale Pikes a long ridge sweeps away to the north, taking in all the high country between Borrowdale and Thirlmere. This ridge pretty much occupies the geographical centre of Lakeland and it might be expected, in the general scheme of things, to contain the highest fells, the best scenery and the most exciting walking country.

Unfortunately this doesn't hold true. The ridge of the Central Fells is actually the lowest in Lakeland, save for a couple of groups of fells on the periphery. It's also a flat, plateau-like area. In consequence it drains badly. The Central Fells ridge actually has more in common with the Pennines than the rest of Lakeland.

If we count High Raise as the parent fell of the Langdale Pikes then the principal summit of the Central Fells is its immediate neighbour to the north, Ullscarf. Ullscarf is a sprawling brute of a hill, a vast moorland plateau of indeterminate topography with a number of minor tops. Some of these tops have the appearance of prominent, shapely hills when seen from the valleys to either side; Armboth Fell, for instance, is regarded as a separate mountain by Wainwright though few others would bother to classify it as such. The flat, peaty ridge continues north over High Tove and High Seat to Bleaberry Fell, a superb viewpoint overlooking Keswick and lower Borrowdale.

If the ridge itself is dull, its flanks are fortunately full of interest and scenic beauty. To the west, on the Borrowdale side, there is a complex of lateral ridges interspersed with side valleys, of which the most celebrated is the little gill rising southeast of Ashness that leads up to the isolated village of Watendlath. Another valley, Greenup, carries the route of the Coast-to-Coast Walk from Grasmere over the ridge into lower Langstrath. Eagle Crag and Sergeant's Crag, technically just "tops" of High Raise, are a splendid sight from Stonethwaite and Langstrath and are also regarded by Wainwright as separate fells. Grange Fell and Great Crag are complex little hill systems in their own right and contain within their bounds far more than their fair share of picturesque tarns and extensive pine and birch woodlands. Langstrath itself, which delineates the High Raise / Ullscarf system to the west and runs northwards to join Borrowdale at Stonethwaite, is surely one of Lakeland's finest valleys.

The area I've described as the central fells also includes Thirlmere itself, a feature that is arguably Lakeland's most central body of water. It languishes in obscurity, however, because there is no habitation on its shores. Thirlmere is reserved as a reservoir for Manchester's water supply; there are no visitor facilities, no watersports, and few roadside viewpoints. The best view of Thirlmere is seen from Raven Crag, a northeastern limb of High Tove and quite a giddy climb. The area finally includes High Rigg, an area of hill country east of the main Keswick-Ambleside road but west of St John's in the Vale, and therefore topographically an offshoot of High Tove.

Gallery Index

Watendlath, High Tove and Bleaberry Fell, 31st July 1992

A walk from Rosthwaite, via Watendlath, along the Central Fells ridge

Grange Fell, 25th May 1986

A half day walk on this modest but complex fell at the head of Derwentwater

Wild camp in Langstrathdale, 7th June 1989

Breakfast after a night under canvas at Tray Dub

Eagle Crag, Sergeant's Crag and Thunacar Knott, 28th July 1992

A walk in which I "mopped up" some of the satellite tops of High Raise
Raven Crag, 2nd May 1993

An ascent of this isolated summit above Thirlmere

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This page last updated 6th April 2006