Our Favourite Walks: Grange Fell, Borrowdale

by Harry Ellis

Harry is part of our guiding team.
Meet the Teem

Harry has been guiding with us for the past 4 years and knows many of our returning customers well. He is never more at home than when he is roaming the Lakeland fells or scaling the crags of Borrowdale.

As the 20 year anniversary of my move to the Lakes approaches I struggled to pin down what my favourite walk was. Then as I set out on this walk I realised that this was it! In his Pictorial Guide to the Central Fells, Alfred Wainwright suggests of Grange Fell “here is concentrated the beauty, romance, interest and excitement of the typical Lakeland scene”. It has everything that is best about Borrowdale and of course Borrowdale has everything that is best about Lakeland.

Grange Fell is something of a catch-all term which refers to a whole area of high ground between Grange-in-Borrowdale and the high valley of Watendlath. Our walk takes us to its two main summits, Kings How and Brund Fell.

Beginning at the National Trust Bowderstone car park we find a small gate at the northern end and from here a path leads us through a woodland clearing with a square boulder and on passing a small slate quarry into the open bracken covered fellside. The path curves rightwards and gradually climbs, passing another large boulder, to the low pass into Troutdale.

Grange Fell Harry and Dog
Heading up Grange Fell with a friendly companion

At this point our route turns right at a path junction and begins climbing through the luxurious temperate rainforest of oak up the steep end of Kings How. Gaining height rapidly it is a well made pitched path but can be a bit greasy in the wet so care is required. Surrounded by the carpets of moss and ferns so typical of Borrowdale oak woods the scenes feel positively primeval.

After working up a good head of steam we emerge above the treeline to views of Derwentwater and Skiddaw to the north and the craggy fellsides along the valley. Beyond the path weaves up rightwards as it gains the heathery North ridge of Kings How named after the fell was purchased by the National Trust in memory of King Edward VII. A plaque recording this is easily missed among the rocks and heather.

Soon the top is reached and we are rewarded with the sudden revelation of the upper valley of Borrowdale, England’s highest mountains forming the backdrop to its loveliest valley.

Descending initially South enjoying that view we then turn left into the delightful hummocky rocky land separating Kings How and Brund Fell. Crossing a marshy section and a stile the path begins climbing rightwards passing old sheepfolds, arriving at a junction where we detour left for a short out-and-back to Brund Fell the highest point. The rocky tors of the top are rough stone standing proud of the heather and from the summit views East to Helvellyn sweep south to the Langdale fells and around the Scafells and Gable to Dale Head and north to Bassenthwaite Lake. In August it feels like being on an island in a purple sea of heather.

Retracing our steps to the path junction we turn left and descend gradually towards the broad bright green strath of fields around the pretty white cottages of Rosthwaite. Crossing a curious stile with a gate on top we turn right and arrive at the “Resting stone” a convenient boulder for taking the weight of the pack off the shoulders for a moment. The path descends back into the oak woods and eventually lands back at the valley road.

Borrowdale Harry Grange Fell
Lakeland views from Grange Fell
Bowderstone Borrowdale
The finely balanced Bowderstone
Bowderstone bouldering
Taking on the overhang…with a rucksack on!

We follow the road alongside the River Derwent through ‘the Jaws of Borrowdale’ for a few hundred metres until a path leaves on the right slanting up to pass the famous Bowderstone, an enormous lump of rock balanced in a most unlikely position. It is home of some if Lakeland’s hardest boulder problems and you may see straining aspirants with chalked hands and crash pads below its overhang. For mere mortals a convenient ladder to the top provides an amenable alternative.

A few more minutes along an easy track brings us back to our starting point and completes what, in my opinion is the finest few hours exploration to be found here in this the finest of all valleys.

Of course I may be biased!

If you are interested in a guided walk on this or any other walks, hikes and treks in our ‘Favourite Walks’ series just get in touch with us by email, phone or through our social media pages. contact@thistletrekking.co.uk