If you're staying in Ambleside or Grasmere, and looking for a half day walk then Loughrigg Fell is a great bet.
This 6 mile (10km) loop walk can be accessed from the centre of either town, and offers a tour through the greatest hits of the Lake District: beautiful woodland, craggy fells, stunning views and lots of those quintessential dry stone walls.
It’s a great walk if you want some lovely views and a taste of the fells without too much exertion or scrambling that often comes with many of the larger summits.
If that hasn’t sold you in, then we’ll let Alfred do the work.
“No ascent is more repaying for the small labour involved in visiting its many cairns, for Loughrigg has delightful grassy paths, a series of pleasant surprises along the traverse of the summits, several charmings vistas and magnificent views.
Alfred Wainwright, A Pictorial Guide to the Central Fells (Book Three)
Loughrigg Fell Height & Difficulty
Although the walk to the top of Loughrigg Fell isn’t too difficult, the loop version is fairly long and undulating. We chose to do the loop as we always prefer taking in new scenery, rather than retracing steps.
The climb to the fell top is approximately 360m, if you take in the whole six mile loop the total elevation gained is 434m. The whole walk took us just under three hours (largely because we loved stopping and taking in the views).
Whilst we think most people can do this trail, you’d need to be prepared for a few steep sections and has some possible severe winds at the summit! Despite a gorgeous temperature in Ambleside, on the summit we were almost blown off our feet!
The Wainwright Routes
It’s clear that Wainwright loved Loughrigg Fell. He goes into intricate detail about this fell across 16 pages, in a huge amount of detail.
“this fell has a wealth of interests and delights, and for many people who now find pleasure in walking over the greater mountains it served as an introduction and inspiration. Everybody likes Loughrigg.”
Alfred Wainwright, A Pictorial Guide to the Central Fells (Book Three)
He writes about six ascents and a ridge, but doesn’t specify which one you should use to descend. Wainwright doesn’t specify which is his favourite, so we decided to go up from Ambleside and go down by Grasmere.
Our hike up Loughrigg Fell
Start Point: Ambleside main car park
As with most Lake District walks there is little to no signage for the majority of the track. We’d advice cacheing a google map to have with you on the walk.
The great thing about many Lake District walks are that they can start from the centre of major towns. We parked up in Ambleside (not the cheapest place at £5 ($7.50 USD) and started walking towards Vicarage Road for the start of the trail.
If you follow the quieter roads, even the start of the walk in Ambleside is pleasant.
Soon the track enters quiet tree lined paths and away from the town. Loughrigg Fell is a relatively short walk and can be done in 2-3 hours, so we decided to start this walk at 4pm and were blessed with some beautiful golden light.
After a kilometre, the track has a short, steep section before leveling out as it comes into the open countryside.
Quickly, the trees disappear and you’re out in the rolling hills and fells that are so recognisable in Lakeland. This is when the walk becomes truly beautiful. It’s always when you seem to lose everybody else.
Despite seeing many people on the paths before the fells, once there we saw no one until the summit.
The track to the false summit
The track undulates for a bit, before taking a sharp right by a small tarn (easily missed as there is also a path straight ahead) where it’s entirely uphill until the summit.
It’s worth stopping to have a look behind you as there are some beautiful views of Windermere behind you.
The track changes between grass and rubble, but isn’t hard to find as it looks like someone’s taken a mower through the bracken and grass!
You’ll soon reach a small plateau which could easily be mistaken for a false summit due to the huge cairn placed at the very top. With one look right, you’ll see there’s a higher place to reach yet.
However, it is a great spot to stop and take in a glimpse of Loughrigg Tarn and Elter Water.
After taking in the view it’s time to head right to the second false summit, a steep and scraggy path upwards! But this will reward you with a view of the true summit.
From here it’s a short stroll to get to the top and there are stunning views of Grasmere and Helm Crag looming behind it. It was incredibly windy at the top on our visit so we couldn’t spend too much time taking it in but on a better day it’s a lovely spot with plenty of rocks around to sit on.
Leaving the summit you’ll soon come to our favourite part of the track where you get endless versions of this view.
Loughrigg Fell offers such incredible views of Grasmere, it might even rival nearby Helm Crag.
Whilst the walk up from Ambleside is interesting and diverse, the view from the Grasmere side is stunning, even though it doesn’t change at all.
The track down has some pretty rough, scrambly patches which require some care, so you’ll have to watch tear you eyes away from the lake. Compared to many other Lake District walks though, it isn’t a bad scramble.
The track soon becomes more stable, made primarily of large, flat rocks. By now you’ve done the hardest part of the walk.
The track back to Ambleside
The track soon takes a sharp right and undulates towards Rydal. The path lined with bracken and with a view of Grasmere Lake to the left is particularly pretty.
One of the interesting places to explore on the way back is a huge cave that appears out of nowhere (to the right of the track, you can’t miss it)!
We’d had a lot of rain during our trip, so the cave was completely underwater (even the stepping stones were only just above water!).
The path soon circles back towards Rydal Lake and follows this until you reach the beautiful area of Rydal itself.
The final stretch from Rydal
The walk back from Rydal to Ambleside is rural England at its best. In the Autumn, it’s even better with various shades of yellow and red to enjoy along the way.
After following the path lined with a dry stone walk and surrounded by beautiful trees, you’ll come out to grassy plains and a river that you follow all the way back to Ambleside.
This is a very leisurely part of the walk, perfect to take slowly and soak it all up. The path is completely flat, and the whole area is so picturesque, even on a cloudy day.
You’ll keep passing beautiful parts of Rydal for the next mile or so before heading into Ambleside town centre once more.
There are loads of excellent cafes and restaurants in Ambleside for an afternoon treat.
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Are you planning a trip to the Lake District? Have you hiked Loughrigg Fell? Let us know in the comments below!