The Lake District is known for many things, Wordsworth, gingerbread, Beatrix Potter, but most importantly, Herdwick sheep. You can find Herdwicks roaming the hills of the Lakes in the months of December to April when they spend most of their time grazing on the fells. They are fully equipt to withstand Cumbria’s notorious wild winter weather, at heights of over 3000 feet.
There are numerous Herdwick hotspots in the Cumbrian countryside, perfect for scenic walks where you can be surrounded by fluffy friends. Here are our top 5 walks where you can take in both the beauty of the Lakes and meet some Herdwicks along the way.
Old Man of Coniston
Standing at 2,632ft high, the Old Man of Coniston is the highest point in Cumbria, with views as far as Morecambe Bay and Blackpool Tower. Despite the fell’s dizzying heights, don’t be surprised if you see a flock or two of Herdwicks hanging around. If you’re after a walk where you can see the hills of the Lakes from the literal highest point, the Coniston Circular Walk is the one for you.
Even though the route may be slightly challenging because it involves some climbing, it’ll certainly be worth it for the scenery! En route, you'll get stunning panoramic views of the hills surrounding Coniston, such as Black Combe and The Pennines. This walk covers a distance of 10.5km and will take around 4 hours. After you’ve completed the walk, an ice cream van is often stationed in Walna Scar car park (the recommended place to park for this walk). So you can treat you and your flock to a coffee or ice cream!
Photo Credit / Chandler Media
Photo Credit / Sophie Grieve-Williams
Rosthwaite Circular Walk & Millican Dalton’s Cave
This walk goes past streams, woods and a Herdwick farm! A relaxing jaunt, this route is circular, starting at Rosthwaite, going past Yew Tree Farm, Castle Crag, to Millican Dalton’s cave and then along the b-ewe-tiful Borrowdale Valley riverside. Although this route is flatter, do not fret if you are an avid climber, as you will get the chance to climb the Castle Crag summit along the way.
In 1940, Yew Tree Farm was bought by Beatrix Potter, a famous Herdwick fan who even kept and bred her own award-winning flock. The farm was featured in the 2006 film ‘Miss Potter’, starring Renee Zellweger! Today, Yew Tree Farm is a working farm, still specialising in the breeding of Herdwick sheep, meaning that you can find plenty of them roaming the grounds.
On this route, you’ll see a number of stunning waterfalls and catch views of Gable Crag and Warnscale Beck. Even better, Herdwicks are known to graze around Haystack hill.
The Haystacks Circular walk takes you around the Buttermere Fells. At just under 5 miles long, you should allow yourself 3-4 hours to complete it. Begin your walk at Gatesgrath Car Park, alternatively, you can get the 77 or 77A bus from Keswick, then follow the path towards Warnscale Bottom for around an hour. After this, you'll be taken up to Warnscale Bothy, passing Warnscale Beck. Go around Green Crag, and then finally you will reach Haystacks.
If you're looking for even more of an adventure, there are opportunities to detour along the route. Either to explore the crystal-clear plunge pools or to look around the mysterious Warnscale Head Bothy. A shelter thought to have been originally built in the 1750s by an artist dubbed as the ‘Borrowdale Banksy’.
Photo Credit / Ian Cylkowski
Photo Credit / Ian Cylkowski
Wastwater, Nether Wasdale
If you want to meet some Herdwicks around the Nether Wasdale area, Church Stile Farm is a great place to start. Even better for you avid walkers, there are trails where, not only will you see plenty of Herdwicks, but also beautiful lakes and forestry.
The Church Stile Farm to Wastwater trail takes approximately 2.5 hours and spans a distance of 6.8km. Begin your route at Church Stile Farm, a traditional Lake District farm, home to around 700 Herdwick ewes located at the foot of the Screes mountain range. Then, you’ll walk through Low Wood forest, where you’ll be guaranteed to see plenty of greenery. However, wear sensible footwear as Low Wood is known to get boggy! After this, you’ll arrive at Wastewater Lake, where you’ll see stunning views of the Lake District landscape.
If you fancy a pint or a Sunday roast after your walk, the highly-rated Screes Inn is just 2 minutes away from Church Stile Farm. There are many other great pubs dotted around Nether Wasdale too!
Eskdale is a particularly iconic place for Herdwicks as it is home to the oldest, premier show for Herdwicks, and don’t be surprised if you see a f-ewe of them dotted around the hills nearby!
If you want to go and see the site of the historic show and also, hopefully, catch a glimpse of some Herdwicks, you could take the Eskdale Valley to Boot trail. On this walk, you will wander along the River Esk via the Doctor Bridge and Jubilee Bridge, where you’ll see idyllic views along the Hardknott Pass and Brotherilkeld. The trail is 6.25 miles and will take around 3 hours.
Photo Credit / Ian Cylkowski
Remember to always check the weather before you venture out into The Lakes
The Lake District Weather Line gives daily weather updates to help you plan your trip. They have also released their top 10 tips to stay safe on the fells this winter.
Check out the Weatherline forecast. Where available, check a ground conditions report. Take the advice on board
Choose a route suitable for the conditions, your equipment and your ability. If you are unsure, lower your sights
Do not overestimate your ability, know when to turn back
Carry enough kit to look after yourself if something goes wrong, or the weather changes
Always carry a map and compass – know how to use them. Do not rely on a GPS alone
Take a spare hat and gloves. They will get wet and may blow away
In winter conditions take an ice axe and crampons - know how to use them
Goggles are essential when snow and wind combine
In winter in the snow, wear four-season stiffened boots which are compatible with your crampons
If in doubt – turn back
P.S. All of the above walks are dog-friendly, however, remember if there is livestock roaming free, keep your dog on the lead.
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