Tucked away between Derwent Water and Buttermere is a delectable group of hills defined by clear ridges and enviable viewpoints. These are the North-Western Fells, and they give some of the most enjoyable walking in the whole National Park.

I have climbed all fifteen Hewitts in the group. They are split in two by the Newlands valley.

Coledale Hause is the fulcrum of the northern group, with five Hewitts on the Buttermere side and six on the Borrowdale. That’s roughly how it worked out for me, as you shall see.

South, there’s a group of four, of which Dale Head is the highest.

Wandope and Crag Hill

Wandope and Crag Hill from Whiteless Pike (with just a peek of Causey Pike)

The Coledale Hause hills

Saturday 3 August 1974. The Grassmoor group from Buttermere, seven miles.

Few memories remain. What I know for certain is that there were four, maybe five of us, work colleagues (Mike, Ray, Geoff, and another Peter I think) who travelled over from Lincoln for a couple of days in the Lakes.

The gpx on the map is therefore a bit conjectural, not least because I’ve guessed the start point, but there are only so many ways you can do this round.

I’ve adopted some of Wainwright’s routes as we would have certainly been using them at the time. But there are two key questions.

First, how to climb Crag Hill from Coledale Hause? I’m guessing we went up the scree rather than the longer route by the beck, which would have involved some back-tracking on the descent. Second, how did we get down from Grasmoor? I’ve assumed Red Gill, “quick and safe” said the great man. It looks a little steep to me these days, but back then, I was 23.

I did take a note of the route though. Whiteside (2359ft) first, then Hopegill Head (2526ft), followed by Crag Hill aka Eel Crag (2753ft) and Wandope (2533ft) before finally Grasmoor (2795ft).

Wednesday 2 August 2017. The Coledale horseshoe, 9½ miles.

This is one of the Lake District’s premier horseshoe routes, covering all the fells – seven Hewitts in all – that enclose the Coledale Beck.

It was alas a grey and scruffy day, with some rain around, and strong winds with dodgy visibility on the tops, but conditions weren’t so bad as to call a halt.

We took the bus to Braithwaite, walked a little way along the road, and went through the gate that climbs the subsidiary hill of Kinn. From there we took the Sleet How ridge to the summit of Grisedale Pike (2595ft).


Adrian on Kinn

From the Pike, the ridge to Hopegill Head (a re-visit, see above) could intermittently be seen curving away to the right, with the intervening top of Hobcarton Crag (2452ft) in the way – it was only when down from the hills later that day that I realised it too was a Hewitt.

Grisedale Pike

Grisedale Pike, Hopegill Head and Hobcarton Crags

These three hills form the ‘out’ of the horseshoe; there’s an unavoidable dip to Coledale Hause, just below 2000ft, before the ‘back’ leg can start. This begins with a prosaic climb – ie not the possible scree of ’74 – to revisit Crag Hill.

However what follows is one of the Lake District’s top ridge walks – I can only imagine the brilliant day out that could be had with any sort of decent visibility. There’s first a steep drop and climb onto Sail (2536ft) before easier ground onto Scar Crags (2205ft). The final hill, Causey Pike (2090ft), may be the lowest of the group, but its distinctive ‘triple notch’ overlooking Derwent Water makes it perhaps the most interesting of them all.

Scar Crags and Causey Pike

Scar Crags and Causey Pike

Alas by now Adrian’s knee was not doing all the things it should, and the descent was to prove a pain in more ways than one. We had a fair little road walk to get to the Hawse End landing stage for the boat back to Keswick, but as if by magic the Rambler bus – I didn’t know it came down these little lanes – made one of its two-hourly sweeps past at just the right time.

Friday 4 August 2017. Whiteless Pike from Buttermere, three miles.

While Adrian took a boat out onto the lake, I had time for a quick bag of Whiteless Pike (2165ft). It hadn’t been on my ’74 round, and otherwise it doesn’t fit into a round, so it might have been a sore thumb on my Hewitts map without an opportunity like this.

It was a breezy day but rather better than the Coledale day had been. I parked up at Buttermere and gambled on a two-hour ticket. Though I made good progress up the clear path, I clearly wasn’t the fastest person on the hill today! Ascending, there were good views all around, but the view over Rannerdale to Crumnock Water and Loweswater was especially fine.

Crumnock Water and Loweswater

Crumnock Water and Loweswater

South of Newlands Pass

Monday 16 October 2023. Dale Head and its neighbours, eight miles.

From Seatoller, where I was staying, this was a linear walk to Buttermere, taking the (seasonal) bus service back. A more classic walk is as a horseshoe, perhaps starting from the shores of Derwentwater with a climb of the popular Cat Bells.

For me the first hill, High Spy (2142ft), lay roughly north, a bit out-and-back. First though was a bit of slate mining heritage at Rigg Head, several derelict buildings, one – named as a climbing hut – becoming derelict, and a spoil tip now thankfully ascended by an engineered rock staircase.

From the hause above the workings, the obvious route stays close to High Spy’s western escarpment, but I would have had to return the same way. Wainwright talks of a cairned path going up the shoulder, so I looked for it; no cairns now, but a thin path, mostly.

The path back to the hause was more involved than I expected and seems to have a number of alternatives. No real problems though, with the target of Dalehead Tarn in clear view. From here a steep pitched path leads nearly to the top of Dale Head (2470ft), the major hill of the group with a cracking view down the Newlands valley and across to the Skiddaw group.

High Spy, with Grasmoor and Crag Hill behind

The cairn on Dale Head, looking down the Newlands Valley

The least interesting hill of the four is surely Hindscarth (2385ft). It’s a bit of a diversion off of the ridge running north-west from Dale Head, with little re-ascent, though apparently the Scope End ridge running down to the valley is a bit of a classic.

Prize for the least interesting name, not just here but pretty much anywhere, probably belongs however to Robinson (2418ft), named for a long-passed landowner. And though there’s a bit more re-ascent than with Hindscarth, it’s an easy gradient, albeit not so easy that a couple of fell-runners breezed up past me as if they were on Easy Street. However, it’s a more interesting top, with a cairn / wind shelter built onto a slab of pure rock and a great view down Crumnock Water.

Getting down would be easy if it weren’t for the damp acres of Buttermere Moss below the fell. Once passed though, there’s a fine zig-zaggy downward path that leads more or less straight to the village of Buttermere itself, with the home-made ice cream of Syke Farm in almost the first building you see. Very fine.

The summit of Robinson, with Crumnock Water beyond

Looking over Buttermere village to the Floutern Pass