Updated: Apr 9
We adore the Wainwright guides. Or the Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, by Alfred Wainwright, to give them their full name. You can find a full set in the Endymion House snug.
Written by a slightly eccentric civil servant, who worked in Kendal, they are the loveliest guides to all the Lake District fells -- fell being the local word for a mountain. Wainwright, along with most experts in Britain, defined a fell as anything over 1,000 feet, or 305 metres (if you’re being metric, but Wainwright was very much an imperial man.) The pictures in the books are hand-drawn, so too the maps, which does mean you can’t completely rely on them if you are tackling an ambitious walk. But as a starting point, they are brilliant: packed full of necessary information, local colour and great tips as to the different routes you can take.
Even though they were written in the 1950s and 1960s, most of the information is pretty up to date, thanks to a subtle edit undertaken only about a decade ago (that’s the version we have in the snug).
But which fell to tackle first? Well, from Endymion your choices are endless. And the mighty Skiddaw is the obvious choice. But if you have children, especially under the age of 7 or so, that might be ambitious.
Here are some of our favourites that even our youngest son, who tackled his first Wainwright (Arthur’s Seat) aged five, has enjoyed:
This is is a mere 10min drive away, the other side of Keswick. And it is properly, properly steep. But it’s also quite easy, if you are fit: straight up the fell in glorious mossy, woodland. You then emerge at the top to get stupendous views of Skiddaw and Bassenthwaite Lake. With a pair of binoculars (or good eyesight!) you can see Endymion House from the top. It's a white blob in the bottom right of this picture, below!
[NB The walk through the forest is temporarily closed for forestry management until June 2022.]
Castle Crag (950ft)
This is the very lowest of all the Wainwrights, just a fraction under 1,000 feet but Wainwright himself insists it’s a proper fell. And I’m going with him. You can start in the charming village of Grange (NB not Grange over Sands; which is miles and miles away), which is just a ten-minute drive away. The first two-thirds of the walk are lovely and gentle. Then you have a fun, rocky scramble to the top, which our children loved. From there, the view of Derwentwater and Keswick is great. There is also a touching war memorial at the summit.
Dodd Wood (1,647ft)
You can do this straight from Endymion House; no need to drive. Though if you drive and park in the Forestry Commission carpark, it will shorten the walk for anyone with small legs! This is a great circular walk, which isn’t too steep at any point and which you can do in under two hours, with really clear National Trust signposting. Also, there is a great café at the bottom: The Old Sawmill Tearoom. Even better, if you are lucky you can spot the incredible ospreys who nest in Dodd Wood.
Binsey Fell (1,466ft)
A short drive from Endymion House, this is one of the very most Western fells and about as gentle as they come. We have climbed this as a big family group, with a two-year-old managing it (well, some of it; he was on various adults' shoulders for the rest!). Though it is gentle, you get a great views across Buttermere and towards Scotland once you reach the top.
Cat Bells (1,481ft)
Justly considered one of the great Lake Distric walks– you get stunning views of both Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake – for not too much effort. But, as a result, Cat Bells can become pretty crowded on a sunny day or bank holiday. Head out early (or, in summer, wait until late afternoon when the daytrippers have gone home) to ensure it's not too busy.
We recommend driving to the Lingholm Estate carpark, just 10 minutes away from the house, and then walking through the woods to the base of Catbells. The ascent is steep, but fairly easy. The final section to the summit requires a bit of a scramble and fun rock climb. To avoid the crowds on the way down, it's a nice idea to descend via a V-shaped sheep track on the west side (the Newlands Valley side) that you can pick up from the saddle.
At the bottom you pass the building that Beatrix Potter used for Mrs Tiggy-Winkle's house, called Skelgill Farmhouse. At the Lingholm Estate you can visit the walled garden that was the inspiration for Mr McGregor's showdown with Peter Rabbit and enjoy excellent cakes and tea.
One of the lowest of the Wainwrights and one you can do from the door of the house. It is just over two miles there and two miles back. If you were feeling particularly lazy, you could even drive up to the Latrigg carpark from the house, and walk to the summit in less than 15 minutes from there. No need for sturdy walking boots; a rare Wainwright you can do in trainers. Your reward is – if the weather is clear – a lovely view across Keswick to Derwentwater.