Deciding to tick off all the Wainwrights before my 30th birthday seemed like a great idea a year ago when I turned 26. Four years to complete 214 summits – how hard could it be? 12 months and 29 Wainwrights later this challenge is seeming somewhat more ‘challenging’, so we’ve ramped up our efforts and started trying to do walks which tick off more than one or two in a day. We’d been eyeing up Skiddaw for a while, but we were slightly worried about it being one of those walks which have sky rocketed in popularity since lockdown. We therefore wanted a route which a) wasn’t the main route up from Latrigg and b) would take us over as many Wainwrights as we could manage without turning it into an inordinately massive trek.
I’ve recently bought the new book Walking the Wainwrights which has 64 walks to tick off all 214 summits. This therefore seemed a good place to start looking for a route! The book has two routes up Skiddaw, both ticking off multiple Wainwrights, and we opted for an 8.5 mile circular which summited Ullock Pike, Long Side, Carl Side, Skiddaw and Bakestall. A similar route is available on Mud and Routes, though this doesn’t note Long Side as a Wainwright.
There’s free parking in a lay-by close to the start, but it’s worth taking some pennies with you as there are a few honesty boxes for Fix the Fells in the area. The layby is pretty roomy and has room for about 6-7 cars if people park considerately – we got there at about 9am on a Saturday and we were the second car to arrive.
The walk starts with a fairly relentless ascent up Ullock Pike. It’s steep but not unmanageable, and with a few rest breaks when you reach the many false summits you’ll get there in the end only moderately sweaty. The slog did feel relentless and took us nearly two hours – but it does get a lot of your ascent out of the way at the start! There are good views of Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake to admire on your way up, and when you finally reach the summit the path along Long Side Edge is gently undulating and very easy in comparison!
The path is well defined and easy to follow – but when you come off Long Side don’t make the same mistake that we did and head straight up the side of Skiddaw, or you’ll have to retrace your steps in order to tick off Carl Side! The path you want for this summit is a faint grassy path which you pick up almost immediately after finishing the short descent from Long Side. You almost have to turn back on yourself while the main path continues straight ahead so it’s easy to miss.
We got all the way from the car up Ullock Pike, Long Side, Carl Side and most of the way up Skiddaw and only saw one walker – this is definitely a quiet way up! Carl Side is not an insignificant fell at 746m but after the never ending climb up Ullock Pike it only took us a few minutes to get to the trig. The respite from steep climbing ends as soon as you start making your way up Skiddaw: the fell side is covered in scree which makes hiking hard work, and if I thought the climb up Ullock Pike was steep it pales into insignificance in comparison to Skiddaw. It’s the first time on a walk that my tendons have actually been twinging on the way up a hill and I was seriously questioning whether we’d picked the right route! The mist had come down by this point so we had no idea how far from the top we were – probably a good thing as it meant we only had to worry about the next 20 metres or so at a time!
In next to no time (or slightly longer) we were on the summit plateau. We were really surprised by how quiet it was – we saw a few groups but we’d expected to see far more people. It’s definitely called Misty Skiddaw for a reason – the clear views and blue skies we’d seen on Ullock Pike vanished completely! So there were no views for us until we started our descent in the direction of Bakestall, our final Wainwright of the day. This is probably the section where navigation is trickiest as the path almost completely disappears, but there is a handy fence line which you can follow to keep yourself on track. As we gradually descended the cloud started to lift and we got a good view across to Blencathra, so we decided to stop and have some lunch while we admired the view.
The walk across to Bakestall is a gentle descent for the most part, and when you reach the summit you’ll get a good view across towards Dumfries & Galloway, as well as looking over to Binsey, the Wainwrights’ last northern outpost. On leaving Bakestall the descent steepens and became a little boggy towards the foot of the hill, before re-joining a well surfaced track which follows the Cumbria Way past the pretty waterfall of Whitewater Dash. From here, it’s a level walk of a few miles back to your start point, with the last half a mile or so following a very quiet road (we didn’t see any cars, just a few cyclists). If you do this walk towards the end of September like we did you’ll be able to help yourself to blackberries growing at the side of the road which are plentiful!
Dog friendly rating – 3/5. We kept our dogs on their leads for all of this walk as there were sheep throughout, like many Lake District walks. However, this is still a great walk in comparison to some others, as there are no stiles and relatively little road walking. There is a small tarn at the start of the walk up Carl Side which might offer a paddling opportunity for dogs, but sadly this had completely dried up and there weren’t really any other opportunities for dogs to have a drink, so I was glad we’d taken water for ours. Both of ours had a great time on this walk, especially at the end where they got to snack on blackberries!
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