Borrowdale from Castle Crag
Borrowdale from Castle Crag

The walk from Rosthwaite to Castle Crag is one of the most popular routes in the Lake District, and with good reason. The route passes through magnificent scenery, following the course of the River Derwent, and the views from the top of the crag are wonderful in good weather. Add to this the fact that the final ascent to the summit of the Crag is short, though steep, and you have a recipe for one of the best and most accessible short walks in the National Park.

There's even a splash of history to enjoy, for the trail passes through old slate mining works, with spoil heaps of jagged slate that generations of walkers have piled into strange slate sculptures beside the route.

The walk starts at the National Trust car pay and display park in Rosthwaite (NY257148), which is free to Trust members. The Honister bus service through Borrowdale also stops at the beginning of the trail.

The trail runs beside the River Derwent
The trail runs beside the River Derwent

The route is well signposted from the start. From the car park turn right along the lane, past the village hall, then turn past the Yew Tree Farm tea room and follow the path past the farmyard. You find yourself hemmed in by low stone walls on either side. When we last took this walk we saw a farmer training a sheepdog in the field over the wall. It was fascinating to watch the dog respond to every signal the farmer made and how it herded the sheep.

The trail carries on fairly straight until you come to the River Derwent. Do not take the ford across the river, but turn right to follow the river bank. Carry on beside the river until you come to New Bridge, a beautiful single arch stone bridge over the Derwent.

Bear right on the far bank, pass through a gate, and follow the trail beside the river. After a few hundred yards you come to a small, wooded hillock. Bear left and pass through a gate. Here the trail changes to a stone pitched path and begins to climb.

New Bridge
New Bridge

You pass a small stone shelter on your left. The trail zigzags back and forth as it climbs, before going through a stone wall and emerging on a clear hilltop. Here you come to a ladder stile.

Over the stile, the route climbs again. This is the most interesting part of the walk, for you begin to pass through slate spoil heaps. The route zigzags back and forth through huge cairns of spoil, with the jagged slate pieces creating bizarre formations, sticking out at all angles. Some of the stones have been arranged by walkers into stone circles and other strange shapes. It's like going through a grotesque otherworldly landscape.

Now you pass a war memorial cut into an exposed rock face. The memorial commemorates 11 men of Borrowdale who died during WWI. At the top of the list is 2nd Lieutenant John Hamer, who died in action in 1918. Castle Crag was given to the National Trust in memory of Lieutenant Hamer.

Slate spoil heaps near the summit
Slate spoil heaps near the summit

The final section of the trail zigzags again and climbs steeply to the exposed summit. If the weather is clear you can get fabulous views north over Grange to Derwent Water. When you've finished enjoying the view simply retrace your steps to Rosthwaite.

The walk to the top of Castle Crag and back is approximately 2.8 miles (about 4.5km) and should take 1 hour and 15 minutes, depending on how long you stop at the top and how many times you pause to enjoy the wonderful views. The peak of Castle Crag is at 890 feet.

More Photos

About Castle Crag
Address: Rosthwaite, Cumbria, England
Attraction Type: Countryside - Walk
Location: The trail starts at the National Trust car park in Rosthwaite (NY256148)
Location map
OS: NY249159
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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