Ash Landing and Claife Heights Windermere walk
THIS TRAIL WAS CREATED BEFORE THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS AND MAY NOT REFLECT THE CURRENT SITUATION. PLEASE CHECK THE WRAY CASTLE HOMEPAGE FOR THE MOST UP TO DATE INFORMATION ABOUT VISITING. This elevated walk alongside Lake Windermere's undeveloped western side features a dramatic viewing point at Low Blind How, where a gap in the wall leads to a crag that boasts stunning views of the lake, islands and the Troutbeck fells.
The view provides ample reward for the extra effort required to get here. Dropping back down to the lakeshore for an easy return route you can make a visit to Wray Castle if you have time.
National Trust car park at Ash Landing, grid ref: SD388954
From the Ash Landing car park take the track with a low wooden barrier, leading uphill to the right at the back of the car park. Walk up the track and some stone steps. This leads to a junction with a tall beech tree in front of you and a ruined building (Claife Station) beyond. Turn left along the broad path, which veers right towards the building. Just before the building, turn left and continue uphill until you meet a junction. Turn right (signed to Hawkshead).
Thomas West wrote one of the first guidebooks to the Lakes in 1778. The guide included several viewpoints or 'stations' where people could enjoy the best views of Windermere. Claife Station (1799) was built on the site of Thomas West's first viewing station.
When you reach a wicket gate at a junction with a walled bridleway, turn left (signed to Sawrey) through woodland and pasture. At the crossroads, take the right turn. Follow this, veering right at the top of the ridge.
One of the best places in Lakeland to see wild deer, the Claife Woods is home to both red and roe deer.
Skirting a marsh or pond (depending on the time of year) go through a gate, continuing with a wall on your right and a conifer plantation on your left until you reach a knoll. At the fork, ignore the left turn and carry on to a gate with a step stile. Cross the stile and continue. To your left is High Blind How.
Follow the path through the woodland and eventually bear left uphill, to the top of the ridge. Here you veer right, running parallel to the lake. (Look out for a path off to the right, which leads to a classic view over Windermere.) Continue on the broad path until you reach a junction signed Hawkshead to the left and Belle Grange straight ahead.
Claife Woods is a great place to see red squirrels. We're monitoring squirrel populations and trying to help the reds by providing supplementary feeding stations and controlling the number of grey squirrels.
Take the path straight ahead (following the signs for Belle Grange), following yellow arrows through woodland and bracken beds. Ignore the sharp turn to the right and keep straight on, keeping parallel with the lake. Eventually, you'll drop down and cross a stream. Just beyond this, the path meets a junction signed as a public bridleway.
The Crier of Claife
The Crier of Claife, a particularly noisy ghost, is reputed to be the spirit of a monk whose mission was to rescue fallen women. Alas, he fell in love, was rejected, went mad and died, and has wailed about it ever since. Eventually the crier was exorcised and banished to a small quarry (point 5 on the map).
Turn left here (signed to Hawkshead). The track winds uphill at first, through larch woodland with Grange Beck on the right. After it passes a National Trust sign (to Claife Estate), it levels out. Ignore any side paths until the path crosses a much broader forest track, signed as a bridleway to High Wray.
At the crossroad, turn right. After about 300yd (275m) there's a path to the right, marked with a blue arrow. Follow this through woodland until the path meets a wall and a tall gate. Go through and walk through the conifer plantation, ignoring any side paths leading to the road. Eventually you'll go downhill to another gate. Go through and continue right through birch woodland. Go through another gate and past buildings on the right (National Trust Basecamp). Go straight ahead to join a bigger forest track, turn right and continue over the cattle grid and to the road junction at the bottom of the hill.
At the junction, turn right, walking along the road signed to Wray Castle and Ambleside, through the village of High Wray. Pass the village hall and after about 100yd (90m), where the road veers left, turn right and follow the footpath to the lake. After about 10yd (9m), go through the squeeze stile and little gate in the wall, walk down some steps and down the field, keeping the wall to your left. Go through another wicket gate and follow the field edge down to a step stile in front of a boathouse, on the lake shore.
Cross the stile onto the main lakeside path and turn right to start your return, (or left for the optional Wray Castle section, see Step 10 below). Follow the well-surfaced lakeshore trail, for approximately 3.5 miles (5.6km), passing through Red Nab car park on the way, past the Strawberry Gardens caravan site and back to the start point at Ash Landing car park.
Strawberry (Waterloo) Gardens
On the left of what is now the Strawberry Gardens' caravan site stands a high wall. This used to belong to a kitchen garden which served the Curwen family's 18th-century house on Belle Isle (the largest of Windermere's islands). The gardens' fruit and vegetables were laid out to represent the opposing armies at the Battle of Waterloo.
Optional extra stage - If you have more time you can turn left on the main lakeshore track and visit Wray Castle - a mock Gothic castle built in the 1840s. The castle is open from Easter to end of October every day and has a café and toilets for that well-deserved pit stop. Grounds are open all year. Turn left on the main track and after a short distance look out for a gate on the right with a well-surfaced path that will take you beside the lake and up to the castle in around 5-10 minutes. Retrace your steps back to the main lakeshore track mentioned in 9.
Visit Wray Castle
Wray Castle and grounds, a mock Gothic castle with fantastic views and a fascinating history, take a guided tour if you have the time.
National Trust car park at Ash Landing, grid ref: SD388954
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