Walla Crag to Ashness Bridge walk
From this walk over Derwent Water, the ‘Jewel of the Lake District’, the views are magnificent at every season.
Enjoy the timeless beauty of Ashness Bridge
Ashness Bridge, with the lake and the mass of Skiddaw as a backdrop, is a classic and a favourite since the time of pioneering photographers, the Abraham brothers.
Car park at Great Wood, grid ref: NY271214
From Great Wood car park, with the main road behind you and the cliff of Walla Crag rising up in front of you, take the small path that passes the picnic table out of the top-left corner of the parking area. Continue in this direction for about ½ mile (0.8km), rising steadily through the woods. (Note: the car park location, correctly detailed on the map featured, differs from the location indicated on the OS map, which is incorrect.)
After crossing a couple of small streams, the woods give way to fields on your left and views over Keswick to Bassenthwaite Lake and Skiddaw.
Land of the lakes
After the Ice Ages, Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite formed one lake. Silt, carried down into the lake by the River Greta from the east and Newlands Beck from the west, gradually created marshes that separated the lakes. They became one again during the floods of 2005 and 2009. The settlements are mainly on little rounded hills in the lowlands, like the ones that form the islands in the lake. Across the lake, beyond Rampsholme Island (Norse for wild garlic) and St Herbert's Island (the home of a revered Celtic Christian hermit), rises the ridge of Catbells (the lair of the wildcat), another wonderful scenic walk.
The paths cross to form a T-junction. At this point, turn right (signposted Castlerigg and Walla Crag), following the path with the deep valley of Brockle Beck to your left.
Crossing the beck at the wooden footbridge, follow the track up to the gate and turn right along the tarmac lane. At the fork below Rakefoot Farm, bear right towards another footbridge, re-crossing the beck.
After crossing the beck the route becomes a stony track rising through a gate, towards more open ground, with a wall to your right.
At the end of the wall, take the greener track straight ahead, still along the side of Brockle Beck, rather than the eroded path that goes off alongside the wall to the right.
Follow this green track (wet in places) towards an isolated tree on the skyline, then bear left towards the summit of Walla Crag as it comes into view.
Cross the wall at the stile and bear left towards the pile of stones and the summit. A rocky platform ahead opens up stunning views. When leaving, with the lake behind you, head downhill to your right into the top of Lady's Rake, where another stile re-crosses the wall. Lady's Rake is a narrow cleft in the face of Walla Crag. This was the perilous route said to have been taken by the Countess of Derwent Water from Lord's Island (one of seven islands on Derwent Water) directly below, to evade pursuers after the capture of her husband for his part in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.
Walla Crag overlooks Derwent Water, and on a clear day, beyond Bassenthwaite Lake, you can see the Solway Firth and hills of Galloway in Scotland. Keswick lies in the vale to the right. Walla Crag is an edge of the Borrowdale series of volcanic rocks that form the rugged scenery of the Jaws of Borrowdale and the central Lake District fells to the south, in contrast to the more rounded outlines of the Skiddaw Slates to the north.
At a pile of stones just below the stile, take the track to the left that arcs across the moorland, rather than the one that heads downhill to your right. Bear right across the heads of the streams of Cat Gill, and eventually you will see the track heading straight for the white buildings of Ashness Farm in the distance. High on the approach to Ashness, there are views into the Jaws of Borrowdale. The marshlands, where the head of the lake is being filled in by the River Derwent, show a fine example of a birds-foot delta; like the Mississippi, but on a smaller scale.
Cross Barrow Beck at the wooden footbridge, then turn right downhill to the famous viewpoint of Ashness Bridge.
Ashness Bridge is an ancient packhorse bridge on the road from Borrowdale to Watendlath. The delightful secluded hamlet of Watendlath was the home of Judith Paris in Hugh Walpole's Rogue Herries chronicles.
After taking your photos, head down the road a little way to a signpost on your right, indicating the route back to Great Wood. After the first gate, keep to the lower path rather than the one to your right rising up the hill. (Continuing down the road will bring you to the main road, a bus stop and the landing stage for boat launches back to Keswick.)
As you approach Great Wood, the path rises at a wall to cross a footbridge over Cat Gill. Continue ahead and down to the car park. A path across the road from the car park leads to Calf Close Bay and the lakeshore path to Keswick, a further 1.5 miles (2.5km) away.
Car park at Great Wood, grid ref: NY271214
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