***PLEASE NOTE, we are not encouraging people to come to the Lakes right now as the Government’s advice is to ‘Stay at Home’, but when it is safe to do so you will hopefully have lots of information at your fingertips.***
I’m Andy Smith and I’ve lived in the Lake District for over 30 years. I’m a designer and art director and I set my business up here to be close to the lakes and mountains. I often act as a location finder for photoshoots and video shoots and I consider the Lakes to be my playground – I mountain bike, fell run, SUP & hike here. I’m going to take you on a hike that will take you to one of the best views in the Lake District. A bold statement you might say but when you can witness it for yourself, I’m pretty sure you’ll agree.
A little bit of history first.
Thirlmere, at 3.5 miles long, 1.2 mile wide and 158 feet deep, was originally two smaller lakes which were purchased by Manchester City Corporation Waterworks in 1889. The area was dammed and became one vast reservoir. In the process, the settlements of Armboth and Wythburn were submerged, the only remaining building being the little church at Wythburn.
Over 2000 acres of spruce and larch were planted from 1908 onwards and the lake shores are now stunningly beautiful and even give you a feel of being in a Canadian or US National Park.
The lake is now owned by United Utilities and still supplies water to the City of Manchester. There is access at the several lay-bys and car parks along the west road. But today we’re all about the views from Raven Crag which towers above the north shores of the lake.
The hike up.
Raven Crag (1512ft) is a “Wainwright” and this short Lake District circular walk can take in two other distinct tops of well over 1000ft.
Our walk starts at the North end of the lake on the Western shores just by the dam wall. The first road to the dam wall is now closed, so take the second turning left just after you hit the dual carriageway heading towards St. John’s in the Vale. The short road takes you to the far side of the dam wall where there is ample road side parking. Please park responsibly as access is required by farmers, emergency services and locals at all times.
This is a compact little walk, the climbing starts right away at the edge of the road through a deer gate and heads upwards on a narrow path almost immediately into the trees. Quickly the road is forgotten and the adventure begins.
The incredibly steep climb is split into 3 sections each punctuated by a zig-zagging fire road, which incidently is the nicest way to come back down. The first section is fairly groomed and the other two are a little more technical. It’s the steepness that gets the heart pounding but it’s encouraging to know you’re gaining height rapidly. The views all the way up are worth every heart beat.
Behind you is Helvellyn, Stybarrow Dodd and Calfhow Pike, to your left you have the view of the entire lake with incredible views towards Dunmail Raise and Grasmere.
The going is tough but everytime you take a breather, you know you’ll have a view that will leave you speechless.
When you reach the top two deer gates, you’re almost there. Take a deep breath and make your way to the beautifully made wooden steps and wooden platforms that are again reminiscent of Canada as they wind their way up through the spruce and larch trees.
Not long to go now. What you are about to witness will really take your breath away and you’ll quickly forget the climb that brought you here.
As I stated before, this view has to be up there in the top three most incredible views in the Lake District, especially with the higher mountains being topped with snow. Marvel at the tree lined lake with Helvellyn standing proud in the distance and views that go on for miles.
The viewing platform can get busy but there are lots of other places around to enjoy and take in this incredible view in total peace.
Once you’ve taken your pics and selfies, had your picnic and more importantly banked the memory you’ll reluctantly make your way back down the wooden steps to the deer gates. If you want to extend your stay you may want to take a quick loop around Castle Crag and the old Fort before heading down, but please take care, there are some narrow exposed paths to get onto the Crag.
Once complete take the easy going, zig-zagging fire road back to your vehicle. This lengthens the walk and is much less treacherous, especially in the snow and ice and the views all the way down are just as stunning. It also gives you chance to chat about what you’ve just witnessed, how lucky you are to have seen it and see the encouraging stats on your Strava.
Photo credit: Andy Smith