Buttermere to Rannerdale walk

Buttermere, nr Cockermouth, CA13 5UZ

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
View looking down on Buttermere secret valley bluebell fields © National Trust

View looking down on Buttermere secret valley bluebell fields

Side view of a Herdwick sheep in the Lake District © Joe Cornish

Side view of a Herdwick sheep in the Lake District

View of Buttermere and Crummock Water © Joe Cornish

View of Buttermere and Crummock Water

Route overview

This exhilarating Lakeland ridge walk climbs from the Buttermere Valley up to the summit of Rannerdale Knotts. Though it’s one of the smaller and more rounded Cumbrian fells, it gives stunning views over three lakes and many high peaks. Our route returns via the shoreline of Crummock Water and Nether How woodland to the pretty little village of Buttermere.

Route details

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

Router map of the Buttermere to Rannerdale walk
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: National Trust car park, grid ref: NY172172

  1. From the starting point at the National Trust car park in Buttermere walk straight across the road to a stile. Cross the stile and follow a narrow grassy track until the path begins to get steeper.

    Show/HideHistory of Rannerdale

    Sometimes known as the Secret Valley, this area is said to be the site of a battle at which native Cumbrians and Norsemen ambushed and defeated Norman armies in the century after they came to Britain in 1066. Rannerdale offers a popular bluebell walk in spring, when the woodland floor becomes an indigo carpet. Local folklore suggests that the bluebells have sprung up from the blood of slain Norman warriors.

    View looking down on Buttermere secret valley bluebell fields © National Trust
  2. As the path steepens, take the left-hand track leading towards the ridge of Rannerdale Knotts. This is a good point to pause and enjoy the view over to Buttermere lake and the surrounding hills, such as High Snockrigg in the east.

    Show/HideHerdwick sheep

    Beatrix Potters beloved Herdwick sheep, for which she won many breeding prizes, can be seen grazing on the fells all year round, with the exception of lambing time when they are moved to the lowlands. Their lambs are born with wool which is almost black; it gradually turns lighter with age.

    Side view of a Herdwick sheep in the Lake District © Joe Cornish
  3. Follow a gentle incline along the ridge to the summit, offering another superb panorama of both Rannerdale (or the secret valley) and Crummock Water. Soon you reach the highest point cairn (wed appreciate it if you didnt add stones to the cairn, paths need stones much more than cairns do!).

    Show/HideThe crooked lake

    Crummock Water is located between the two lakes of Buttermere and Loweswater; all three are owned by us. Crummock literally means crooked, and refers to the lakes shape. The lake is deep, up to 144ft (44m), making it cold and clear, great for taking a boat out on (National Trust rowing boats are available to hire from Wood House, Buttermere).

    View of Buttermere and Crummock Water © Joe Cornish
  4. From the summit, follow the narrow, winding, grassy track to your left downhill towards Crummock Water. The track leads you to a very steep, stone-pitched section. This area can become slippery during wet weather, so take care. When you leave the pitched section follow the track further downhill until it branches left and gently descends towards a road. Cross the road and go through a gate leading to the lakeshore. Walk alongside the lakeshore until you see a gate to your left leading into Nether How woods.

    Show/HideSecret Valley

    Enjoy the view from the Rannerdale Knotts looking down the ridge into the Secret Valley. Crummock Water and Loweswater can be seen in the distance. Loweswater is one of the smallest lakes in the Lake District and has a more gentle and rolling landscape than its neighbours.

  5. Go through the gate and follow the path through the wood. The path briefly leads to the lakeshore again before re-entering the wood. Take a path to your left leading through Nether How wood to a footbridge.

    Show/HideCrummock Water

    Flanked by the steep fellsides of Grasmoor to the east and Melbreak to the west, Crummock is fed by lots of streams, including the beck leading from Scale Force, the highest waterfall in the Lake District, which is 2.5 miles (4km) from Buttermere and a circular 2 hour walk. It's home to lots of wildlife, including the rare Arctic char, a fish closely related to both salmon and trout.

  6. Cross the bridge and follow the path to the right, through the woods until you return to your start point.

    Show/HideWainwrights memorial

    Alfred Wainwright (1907-1991), the author of the Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells, made this area famous with his hand written and hand drawn guides to the lakes. There's a memorial to him at the church in Buttermere village and his ashes were scattered on Haystacks, his favourite mountain in the Lake District.

End: National Trust car park, grid ref: NY172172

In partnership with

Cotswold Outdoor logo © Cotswold Outdoor
  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Distance: 3 miles (4.8km)
  • Time: 2 hours
  • OS Map: Landranger 90; Explorer Ol4
  • Terrain:

    Fairly strenuous route in all weathers; sturdy boots and clothing essential. Mostly on grassy paths, with a steep, stone-pitched descent of Rannerdale Knotts.

  • How to get here:

    By bike: On-road National Cycle Network Route 71, 3 miles (5km) from Buttermere village via B5289

    By bus: Service 77 and 77a, Keswick to Buttermere; service 263, Cockermouth to Buttermere. Request stop National Trust car park, then short walk along quiet road to start of walk

    By car: From Keswick by either Newlands pass or Honister pass, from Cockermouth by B5289 via Lorton

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