Seathwaite to Sty Head and Grains Gill walk

Roadside parking only at Seathwaite, Borrowdale, CA12 5XJ

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Stockley Bridge in Cumbria, 15th Century packhorse bridge ©

Stockley Bridge in Cumbria, 15th Century packhorse bridge

View approaching Great Gable near Seathwaite Fell © Paul Delaney

View approaching Great Gable near Seathwaite Fell

View of Sprinkling Tarn on Seathwaite Fell © Paul Delaney

View of Sprinkling Tarn on Seathwaite Fell

Route overview

This invigorating walk takes you into the heart of the Lake District hills on an ancient pack horse route. Renowned peaks like Great Gable loom large as you follow the trail through Sty Head Pass, visiting Sty Head Tarn and Sprinkling Tarn (great picnic spots), before returning alongside Grains Gill stream. Enjoy fantastic views on paths restored and maintained as part of the ‘Fix the Fells’ project.

Route details

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

Route map for the Borrowdale - Seathwaite to Sty Head and Grains Gill walk, Cumbria
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Seathwaite farmyard, grid ref: NY235121

  1. Cross Seathwaite farmyard, going through a series of gates. Walk along a streamside gravel track over a small footbridge.

  2. On reaching Stockley Bridge, continue straight ahead and begin climbing up Sty Head Pass on cobbled and stone-pitched paths.

    Show/HideHistory of Stockley Bridge

    This historic packhorse bridge was constructed in 1540, but partially demolished after floods in 1969. Its actually designated as a grade one listed building because there are so few such old bridges in the area. Goods like salt, wool and charcoal were transported by pack animals through the Lakeland valleys on mountain passes like this for centuries.

    Stockley Bridge in Cumbria, 15th Century packhorse bridge ©
  3. Follow this route, which after a short distance becomes a narrow gravel track on more level but still uneven ground. The footbridge over Sty Head Gill appears in front of you.

  4. Cross the bridge then bear left, ascending gently towards Sty Head Tarn. Great Gable rises up to your right.

    Show/HideView of Great Gable

    Majestic view of Great Gable, a favourite Lakeland mountain with walkers, painters and photographers alike.

    View approaching Great Gable near Seathwaite Fell © Paul Delaney
  5. Just above the Tarn you will see a mountain rescue stretcher box. From here walk left across stepping stones and on to another stone-pitched path with some sections of gravel and bedrock. Follow this to Sprinkling Tarn, a pleasant spot to rest for a bite to eat.

    Show/HideSprinkling Tarn

    This beautiful tarn below Great End is a nursery for the vendace; Britains rarest freshwater fish. The vendace is a small fish with a bluish green back and silvery flanks. Its a relic from the last glacial period which only survives in the watercourses that flow into Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite Lake.

    View of Sprinkling Tarn on Seathwaite Fell © Paul Delaney
  6. Leave Sprinkling Tarn and follow the same path as it skirts around the bottom of Great End until meeting Ruddy Gill, a fairly steep stream.

    Show/HideGreat End

    The sheer rock face of Great End rises up beyond the Two Tarns at the head of the Borrowdale Valley. Man has lived in this landscape for thousands of years the remains of Neolithic stone axe factories have been found dotted across the slopes around here.

  7. At Ruddy Gill turn left and cross the stream. Continue straight ahead and you will soon get back onto the path on Grains Gill again. On a clear day there are great views of the Borrowdale valley and Derwent Water from here.

  8. Follow this path downhill, crossing a footbridge on the way. Eventually youll reach a drystone wall. Go through a gate in the wall and look out again for Stockley Bridge ahead. Return to it and then to your start point by the same streamside route you came up.

End: Seathwaite farmyard car park, grid ref: NY235121

In partnership with

Cotswold Outdoor logo © Cotswold Outdoor
  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Hard
  • Distance: 5.5 miles (9km)
  • Time: 4 hours
  • OS Map: Landranger 90; Explorer Ol4
  • Terrain:

    Can be fairly strenuous in all weathers. Sections of this route have recently been levelled with stone and include a few steep rock steps. Good boots and waterproofs needed.

  • How to get here:

    By foot: The Cumbria Way, from Ulverston to Carlisle, passes close to the start of the walk

    By bus: Regular bus service to Seathwaite from Keswick and Buttermere

    By road: From Keswick take the B5289 Borrowdale road; follow this up the valley to Seatoller, turn left and follow a single track road to Seathwaite Farm; car parking is available on the road side

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