Castle Crag from Seatoller - the scenic route
Climbing Castle Crag from Seatoller starts with a bit of a climb, then follows a rolling contour route giving you great views right down the valley. This is definitely the civilized way to climb Castle Crag.
War Memorial Mountain
Castle Crag was given to the National Trust as a memorial after the First World War by the family of 2nd Lieutenant John Hamer. The memorial is dedicated to the memory of Hamer and 'the men of Borrowdale' who lost their lives in the war, and whose names are listed on the stone tablet.
Seatoller National Trust car park, CA12 5XN
Leave the car park through the gate at the far corner. Follow the track and take the left hand fork. At the stream, turn left climbing towards a line of 4 scots pine trees. At the trees turn right joining the main track then follow the track as it curves left through the gate. Follow the track through the next two gates and through a small coppice of trees to a place where the path crosses a stream.
Between two coppices, the path crosses a stream. At the stream turn hard right and walk straight up the hill towards a gate in the wall above you. Go through the gate turn right along the wall. You have now joined the old mine road that was used for Honister slate mine, and which hugs the contours high up on the flank of the fell. You'll stay on this track now all the way to Castle Crag.
Square Boulder view point
As you reach a square boulder to the side of the track, just the right size for a sit down and a cuppa, you'll catch your first view down the valley. Castle Crag is like a pointed tooth in the centre of the view, Kings How is to its right and Skiddaw Little Man, right at the far end of Derwent Water is to its left.
The footbridge across Tongue Gill is a big landmark on the way - this is the biggest gill the path crosses before Castle Crag. If you need to, there is an option just before and just after the gill to take a shortcut down to the hamlet of Rosthwaite (the huddle of white houses round a small green hill). However if you're keen to carry on to Castle Crag, simply continue along the track until at the cusp of the brow you get your first glimpse of the lake of Derwent Water.
G&T time anyone?
In the steep crags on the uphill side of the track you can see juniper bushes growing (gin and tonic, anyone?). The juniper and the gnarled trees can succeed in growing here because the terrain is too steep even for Herdwick sheep so the saplings don't get grazed off before they can get started. The scrub vegetation provides vital habitat for native upland birds and insects, many of which are rare or threatened.
Just over the brow when you get your first sight of Derwent Water, take a little 'sheep track' path that forks off to the right. It skirts round the base of a crag then follows the fence to a ladder stile. Climb the ladder stile and turn right to join the main path up to the top of Castle Crag. (you don't have to use the 'sheep track' path, but it avoids losing height)
War Memorial Mountain
Castle Crag was given to the National Trust as a war memorial after the First World War by the family of 2nd Lieutenant John Hamer. Hamer was killed in acton in March 1918, and the memorial is dedicated to him and 'the men of Borrowdale' whose names are listed on the stone tablet.
Retrace your steps to descend Castle Crag, but don't go back over the ladder stile, instead follow the main path down the hill. Once you're into the woods, take the right hand fork over the footbridge. Where the path reaches the river, follow the path signposted 'Rosthwaite 1¾ miles'. You're now on the return leg of the walk, heading back towards the car park.
Caring for our rivers
We're working with the people who live and work in Borrowdale to help protect the river Derwent. Healthy rivers have gravels for fish to spawn, clean water that supports populations of insects that in turn feed the local populations of fish and birds. Rivers also need the ability to meander naturally if they are to stay healthy. Without this our natural rivers can become sterile, artificially straightened canals that don't support our native wildlife species and can even exacerbate flooding downstream in towns and villages by speeding up the water.
You'll come across a fork in the path heading up to the right, signposted to Millican Dalton's Cave. You can add this in and return to this point (it's not far and it's well worth a look), or you can continue straight on following the signpost to Rosthwaite.
Millican Dalton's Cave
Millican Dalton, the self-styled 'Professor of Adventure' lived in this cave each summer for nearly 50 years in the first half of the 20th Century. He made his living as a mountain guide, and sailed his home-made raft into Keswick for coffee and cigarettes. In the upper 'sleeping' cave you can still see words he carved on the wall: 'Don't waste words jump to conclusions'.
When you get to the packhorse bridge over the river, ignore the stone bridge (unless your feet have had enough and you want to catch the bus back to the car from Rosthwaite). Continue straight ahead over the wooden footbridge, and keep on the path beside the river, past the stepping stones until you get to the YHA hostel at Longthwaite.
Our friends at the YHA hostel have a licensed bar and a proper coffee machine and serves refreshments to walkers, with benches outside by the river. It's a great place to stop to replenish your energy. Or, in the hamlet of Rosthwaite, the Flock Inn is a café run by National Trust farm tenants at Nook Farm.
From the hostel at Longthwaite, follow the path along the river back towards Seatoller. There's an exciting scrambly bit where a chain's been attached to the rock to give you a helping hand, but if you take it steady it's less daunting than it looks. The path then leads you round the bottom of Johnny Wood, along the wall and all the way back to the car park at Seatoller.
The woodland at Johnny Wood gets so much rain each year it classifies as temperate rainforest. If you look up into the trees, you'll see ferns growing in the crooks of branches where little pools of water naturally gather. In fact the oak woods in Borrowdale have one of the most important assemblages of mosses, lichens, ferns and liverworts in northern Europe. That's why we work so hard to keep them special for future generations.
Seatoller National Trust car park, CA12 5XN
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