Today is the day you make your choice of high level route or low
level route from Skiddaw House to Caldbeck. Your choice will be
dictated to you by the weather and your energy levels. Fit, experienced
walkers will have no problem tackling the high-level course of
the Cumbria Way over High Pike, while the more cautious walkers
might opt for the longer low-level route that skirts
the base of the fells.
High level route
Leave the Moot Hall in Keswick and cross the River Derwent before
cutting through the Leisure Pool and heading for Spoony Green
Lane. This lane crosses the busy A66 and starts to climb up and
around the slopes of Latrigg. An improvised car park is reached
where many walkers set off to climb Skiddaw having gained some
height in the car. Your route however soon leaves the Skiddaw
direction and contours to the right around the lower slopes of Lonscale Fell
along a rugged path high above the Glenderaterra Valley.
Skiddaw House, a former shepherd's dwelling, reopened in 2007
as a Youth Hostel, is found beside a clump of trees. The high-level
route continues and picks its way across the lower slopes of Great
Calva running roughly parallel to the River Caldew. The path becomes
a well defined track and brings you out onto a tarmac road. At
this point follow Grainsgill Beck and turn left to walk upstream.
On the horizon you will spot what looks like a re-furbished garden
shed but in fact this is actually a bothy on Great Lingy Hill which
some intrepid souls choose to overnight in. For those planning
a more comfortable nights stay simply follow a clear path towards
High Pike to reach the highest point on the Cumbria Way at 2157ft/658m
and the most northerly Lakeland summit over 2000ft. A trig point,
an untidy pile of stones, a cairn, a view indicator and a stone
bench adorn the top from where you can look back at the Lakeland
Fells, over the Eden Valley to the Northern Pennines as well as
the Scottish hills.
Once you have finished resting your legs and admiring the view
walk down the grassy hillside, avoiding the mines and joining a
farm track leading to a couple of miles of road walking to bring
you to Caldbeck.
Low Level Route
Leave Keswick and walk to Skiddaw House in exactly the same way
as the high-level route described above. To continue along the
low-level route, simply walk northwards from Skiddaw House on the access track
passing Whitewater Dash as you start to descend from the fells.
After meeting the road at Peter House Farm either follow the
road to Orthwaite or opt for the route through the fields to reach
Orthwaite Hall. From here an unavoidable road-walk leads to Longlands
where you branch right after crossing Longlands Beck. The path
then follow a clear track skirting the lower slopes of Longlands
Fell to reach Greenhead. Another stretch along the road leads
to Fell Side where a farm track lead to Potts Gill and Nether
Row from where a narrow road, track and then path lead finally to Caldbeck.
The low-level route is 3 miles or so longer than the
high-level route, but inexperienced walkers will find it easier
and will certainly feel safer if their navigation skills are not
up to scratch and the weather is bad. However bear in mind that extra miles on road can take it out of your legs as I found when walking the low level option in 2019.