Arnside Knott and Heathwaite butterfly walk

Arnside, South Cumbria

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Arnside Knott, Cumbria © Joe Cornish

Arnside Knott, Cumbria

Female Scotch Argus butterfly © Matthew Oates (NT)

Female Scotch Argus butterfly

Arnside Knott south slope © Matthew Oates (NT)

Arnside Knott south slope

Pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly © Matthew Oates (NT)

Pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly

High brown fritillary butterfly © National Trust/ Matthew Oates

High brown fritillary butterfly

Route overview

A low limestone hill with grassy glades amongst woodland and scrub, renowned for its butterflies and flowers. In butterfly circles, this is where north meets south, being the southern limit of the UK range of the scotch argus and the northern limit of the high-brown fritillary and gatekeeper. Grayling, dark-green fritillary, green hairstreak, northern brown argus, pearl-bordered and small pearl-bordered fritillaries can also be found here.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Route of the Arnside Knott and Heathwaite butterfly walk in Cumbria
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Arnside Knott car park, grid ref: SD450774

  1. From the Knott car park, head back along the approach lane for a few metres before striking right and up hill, along one of the many scree paths, heading for the toposcope.

    Show/HideButterflies

    From late July to late August you shouldn't need to walk far before you see scotch argus and look for grayling, which often feeds on heather flowers, in the scree and rubble areas. Dark-green and high brown fritillaries will also be seen here from late June to mid August.

    Arnside Knott, Cumbria © Joe Cornish
  2. From the toposcope, head through a gate in the wall, into a wooded part, and then bear left on the main rubble path. The trees will soon give way to flowery glades dominated by blue moor grass. There's a bench on your right, offering vistas over Silverdale. Carry on along this main path, past Councillor Lawson's seat, to the trig point at the far end of the hill.

    Show/HideButterflies and birds

    The glades are superb for fritillary butterflies, scotch argus and the occasional northern brown argus. Look out also for brimstone, purple hairstreak and mounds of the southern wood ant. Look and listen out for buzzard and raven.

    Female Scotch Argus butterfly © Matthew Oates (NT)
  3. From the trig point, walk through the woodland along the upper south-facing slope of the hill. The open areas give brilliant views out over Silverdale. Continue on the main path that runs along the spine of the Knott.

    Show/HideGrayling and fritillaries

    Grayling abounds during July and August on the exposed scree slopes, and fritillaries wander by. Teesdale violet grows (but seldom flowers well) on one grassy bank.

    Arnside Knott south slope © Matthew Oates (NT)
  4. Head downhill, on any of the numerous vague paths through the open grassland, heading for Heathwaite. You'll pick up signs for Heathwaite by the main wall.

    Show/HideButterflies

    The is often the best area for scotch argus, and is also good for all fritillaries. Dark-red Helleborine also occurs, though the flowers are often eaten by deer or rabbits.

    Pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly © Matthew Oates (NT)
  5. Go through the wooden kissing gate in the stone wall, into Heathwaite. Then head slightly uphill, taking the main path on your right into the wood. This path leads through oak woodland to flowery open glades on the summit of Heathwaite hill, and eventually runs out into a level area known aptly as the cowslip field, which offers fantastic views.

    Show/HideButterflies and other wildlife

    The top glades are particularly good for all fritillaries, especially pearl-bordered in spring and high brown in high summer, though the latter flies amongst many similar-looking dark-green fritillaries. Limestone grassland flowers grow here and listen out for marsh tits amongst the oaks.

    High brown fritillary butterfly © National Trust/ Matthew Oates
  6. Return out of the cowslip field and head right, downhill on the main downward path.

    Show/HideButterflies and flowers

    A good area for northern brown argus and green and purple hairstreak butterflies, and for downland flowers such as squinancywort. There are also pockets of limestone heath, with flowering bell heather.

  7. In the bottom corner, turn left and head uphill on the main path. This will return you to the gate leading into Heathwaite. Before this gate is an open flowery area known as the Pig Field, where pigs were run until the late 1970s. It now holds a rich flora.

    Show/HideButterflies and other wildlife

    The hazel scrub is coppiced, primarily to create good breeding conditions for fritillary butterflies, which often abound here. The Pig Field is an important area for butterflies and other insects seeking nectar; knapweed flowers are especially popular.

  8. After the Heathwaite gate, turn left and follow the path by the wall. This leads back to the car park, through woodland with a few small glades.

    Show/HideSpeckled woods

    Look out for speckled woods along the path. This butterfly has only recently colonised this area, but is flourishing.

End: Arnside Knott car park, grid ref: SD450774

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Distance: 2 miles (3.2km)
  • Time: 3 hours to 4 hours
  • OS Map: Outdoor Leisure 7
  • Terrain:

    Circular route. Short, steep ascent and a modest descent of low hill on carboniferous limestone, with scree and rubble. Mud free but very stony. Dogs welcome under control.

  • How to get here:

    By bike: Narrow undulating lanes leading from Arnside station and town

    By train: Arnside, 1 mile

    By car: M6 (J36) then A65 towards Kendal onto B6385 to Milnthorpe then B5782 to Arnside. Follow signs for The Knott from Arnside promenade/centre. Car park at SD450774

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