Over Kirskstone Pass


For the past four years I have helped out my friend David Sherwood Johnstone at the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon. This is a two day navigation event in which (mainly) teams of two race over the hills to a mid camp and race back the following day. Its participants do this for fun and universally regard it as a far better activity than clubbing in Manchester. As a non-driver I usually arrange a lift up with one of the other marshals but this year I was already staying in the area at Grange-over-Sands. (Hence last week’s walk to the Hospice on Hampsfell.) Reluctant to travel all the way back to Preston only to be driven back to the venue centre near Patterdale I decided to make my own way by from Windermere having got a lift there from John Griffiths (Founder of www.lancashirewalks.com) 

At the bus stop by Windermere Station I quickly ascertained that there was no bus direct to Patterdale except at weekends and school holidays. This did not come as a complete surprise to me and I had prepared myself for a bit of a walk. The question remained walk from where? Just then the open top service bus Route 555 to Ambleside pulled up. On a bright summer’s morning in July it was a no brainer – I would start the walk from Ambleside. 

The last few weeks this column has featured walks with fine viewpoints. The open topped bus services run by stagecoach through the Lake District is a wonderful way to enjoy the scenery. North of Brockholes the National Park centre there is a particularly fine view across Windermere of the Langdale Pikes. Hint – no point on doing this journey on a wet and windy day. 

Deposited in Ambleside just before noon I set myself the target of reaching the Kirkstone Inn for lunchtime. The Kirkstone Inn is located at the top of the Kirkstone Pass and claims to be at 1480ft Britain’s fourth highest pub.  Below I describe the route in detail but it has to be said that it would be far easier in reverse. 


My plan worked out well and I made lunchtime positioning myself conspicuously outside the Inn in case any marshals or competitors should be passing by to give me a lift to the event centre. Alas no such luck so I headed downhill on a concessionary path that led past the eponymous Kirkstone and descended to Brothers Water. From there it was a matter of joining the Patterdale road and walking round into Deepdale.

Well over 1200 competitors take part in the SLMM and it is a great event to be involved with – even as a lowly marshal. I have a great admiration for the participants who compete at a very high level in a sport that receives  little press attention and no television coverage. So it was no big deal to walk the seven or eight miles across to the event centre but I retain a small sense of achievement when reflecting on the day I crossed Kirkstone Pass the old fashioned way – on foot.


Fact file:

Start: Ambleside Tourist Information Centre LA22 9BS

Finish: The Kirkstone Inn

Distance: 3 miles 5k to Kirkstone Inn

Time: 1 ½ - 2 ½  hours

Summary: With just under  1300ft (400m) of ascent I'll call this strenuous. 

Map: OS OL7 The English Lakes South-eastern area


Map by kind permission of Johnston Press 



From the TIC walk along Rydal Road towards the town centre. After crossing North Road keep ahead  to the corner of the Market Place.


Here turn left onto Stockghyll Lane. Signed for Stock Ghyll Waterfalls


this soon bends to the left and climbs up a leafy lane. After 400yds a sign on the left indicates entrance to the falls.


After wet weather these can be dramatic and even in the height of summer are worth a diversion. The path through the woods leads to a viewing platform below Stock Ghyll Force with its 70ft drop.


From here the path leads back to the lane. Turn left to continue the climb.

Underfoot the walking is easy - a tarmac lane


taking you to Middle Grove


once a farm now holiday lets with breath-taking scenery to the west as you gain height.


At Middle Grove pass the buildings to a gate leading onto a grassy track.


Soon this reaches the bare fellside


and continues to the ruins of High Grove


set in an isolated holt. Keep ahead on the track as it leads across the upper reaches of Stock Ghyll


to reach the road leading up from Ambleside.


Turn right.  


The final part of the walk to the junction with the A592 is labelled "The Struggle" on the OS map and this will give you some idea of gradient.


Just remind yourself there is a friendly inn at jouney's end.