Honister Pass
The western slope of Honister Pass
One of the most scenic and most popular Lakeland routes, the road over the Honister Pass follows the route travelled by Victorian sightseers on circular day trips from Keswick. The B5289 road climbs from Borrowdale to a height of 1167 feet, before plunging down a precipitous 4:1 grade to fetch up at Buttermere far below.

Honister Slate Mine

A historic slate works is located at the summit of the Pass, beside a youth hostel that has proved very popular with hill walkers, and a National Trust car park allows visitors to alight and savour the fabulous views. Visitors can tour the mine workings and see slate being split using traditional methods and buy small slate items from the shop. This is an extremely popular stop for Lake District tours, and it is rare to see the parking lot beside the slate mine without one or two tour buses parked there.

The slate from Honister is a striking shade of green and is used for roofing, as well as walls and flooring. The earliest workings here date from 1688 when the miners had to lead packhorses laden with slate all the way to Ravenglass on the coast for shipment. The most famous user of Honister slate was Sir Christopher Wren, who made use of the distinctive material for his designs at Kensington Palace in London.

From the slate works paths lead towards Haystacks and Indomitable Tarn, a walk made famous by Alfred Wainwright in his guides to Lake District walks. The trail leads past disused slate quarries, where decaying mine buildings make rather sad viewing amid the spoil heaps of stone. The route gives wonderful views west over Gatesgarth and Buttermere.

At the eastern end of the path is the hamlet of Seatoller, with a quirky local museum of local life.


The western slope of the route is more open, and there are several places to pull off the road and savour the glorious scenery. This being the Lake District it isn't always sunshine and blue skies, however. Our family's experience of the Honister Pass is mixed; every time I've been there its been wonderful weather and a delight to photograph.

My wife and son, however, tell a different story, for they once hiked up from Buttermere to Seatoller, and the western slope of the pass was so windy that they were literally forced to get down on hands and knees and crawl up the Pass. Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes!