Castle Crag – An Introduction to the Wainwrights

As most people reading this blog probably won’t know, it was my 26th birthday a few weeks ago, and among the gifts I received were a scratch map and log book to record Wainwrights as I walk them. I decided that my personal goal for the next 4 years will be to tick off all 214 summits – starting with a measly 8 in the bag, as I’ve had a tendency over the last few years to be a lazy walker, and to not bother veering away from the path on horseshoe walks to bag the trig. Oh the regret!

The Wainwrights are 214 of the Lake District’s most beautiful peaks and are a popular challenge for lovers of the Lakeland Fells. You can tackle them in any order and time frame you choose – the current record is 6 days, 6 hours and 5 minutes (I definitely won’t be doing them that fast!). To be counted as a Wainwright, a hill must be one of those mentioned in Alfred Wainwright’s ‘A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells’. There are an additional 116 ‘Outlying Wainwrights’ but I’m not feeling quite that ambitious!

At 298m, Castle Crag is the smallest of the Wainwrights, and is the natural starting point for anyone tackling them in ascent order. It can also be done in a shorter walk of around an hour and a half so seems to be a popular option for introducing children to the Wainwrights – we saw quite a few families on our way up. Don’t be fooled by this humble meterage, as the path is pretty steep in places, and stopping to ‘enjoy the view’ was a common feature for lots of walkers we passed!

The route we followed started from the National Trust car park in Rosthwaite (free for National Trust members) and came from our Pocket Mountains Lake District book. The route could perhaps have been better described as we ended up taking a wrong turn somewhere and turning the circular walk into a linear one (including doing the steepest part of the walk in both directions). If you are looking for a similar short walk there is a linear route available on WalkLakes.

Despite this walk being fairly short we both really enjoyed it. You get fabulous views over Borrowdale on your ascent and get to see a unique part of the Lake District thanks to the scars left by quarrying – we’ve never seen anything quite like it. In particular the bizarre section of path which literally takes you over a spoil heap of slate (pictured below) – it was like walking through the inside of a dry stone wall! For this reason I think Castle Crag is best tackled on a dry day as I can imagine that the slate gets very slippery when wet. The main reason though that this walk will stay with me forever is that I spotted a red squirrel scampering along a tree branch, the first time I’ve ever seen one, and I was thrilled! Sam was adamant it was a grey squirrel with an autumn leaf on it’s head (bitter).

If you look closely you can see people walking up the zig zag path over the slate

We did this walk towards the end of October and the autumn colours were lovely. The walk was pretty busy compared to other Lake District walks we have done, but I suppose that it only to be expected on such an easily accessible walk, and a Wainwright to boot. We did have the summit mostly to ourselves though with only one or two other people up there at the same time. At the top make sure you take a minute to read the memorial dedicated to Lieutenant John Hamer and his companions who died in the First World War. There is a Remembrance Sunday service at the summit of Castle Crag every year and you will likely see some poppies or crosses left over from this service.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. While the dogs loved this walk just as much as we did, like many places in the Lakes there are sheep around, so keep your dog under close control or on a lead. We also saw a few cows lower down but they took no notice of us at all. The main reason I’ve docked points from this walk is the fact that you need to cross two pretty high ladder stiles – tricky even with Merry who can climb them himself and even trickier with Coal who does nothing to help and everything to hinder when you are trying to lift him up and down! It is manageable though, just be prepared to get a bit muddy, or to get a paw in your ear (thanks Coal). There is a section of this walk which passes along the river and both of ours popped in for a drink. Make sure that you pick up any dog poos, especially on the path. The main lane away from the car park actually had quite a lot of poos which had been left right in the middle of the path which left me absolutely fuming as there is a bin right outside the car park!

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