Classic Lake District Walks – The Fairfield Horseshoe

Classic Lake District Walks – The Fairfield Horseshoe

By Emma Knipe   

on January 5, 2021   5/5 (3)

Classic Lake District Walks – The Fairfield Horseshoe

Further Details

Route Summary:

Classic ridge walk with panoramic views across almost all of the major Lake District fells.

Start and Finish: Ambleside

Distance: 17.3 km

Ascent: 992 m

Time: 6 hours

Timings are approximate and depend on the individual. Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.


There are toilets (20p charge) in Rydal Road Car Park and plenty of cafes, pubs and shops in Ambleside. The Rydal Hall Tea Shop is towards the end of the walk.

Public Transport:

Plenty of buses come and go from Ambleside during the spring and summer including services from Chorley (X8), Kendal (505), Bowness / Windermere (599) and Lancaster (555). After the end of October, services become more limited.

Traveline for UK Public Transport


There are a few very short sections where you will need to use your hands to scramble up. The route can be particularly boggy.

Remember that we cannot outline every single hazard on a walk – it’s up to you to be safe and competent. Read up on Keeping Safe on the Wales Coast Path,  Navigation and the Gear and Equipment you’ll need.

Scafell Pike Guidebooks:

We recommend the The Near Eastern Fells: Walking Guide to the Lake District (Lakeland Fellranger)  guidebook from Cicerone or the usual Wainwright’s Walking Guide to the Lake District Fells Book 1: The Eastern Fells 

Recommended Scafell Pike Maps

Classic Lake District Walks – The Fairfield Horseshoe Ordnance Survey Map and GPX File Download

Download file for GPS

Classic Lake District Walks – The Fairfield Horseshoe

The Fairfield Horseshoe is understandably one of the most popular ridge walks in the Lake District.

It’s a more straight-forward hike than, say the Coledale Round or Newlands Horseshoe and it’s easy to access with the walk starting in Ambleside. Although the majority of the route is fairly straightforward, Fairfield summit is notoriously difficult to navigate, especially in poor weather.

The walk can be completed in either direction, but I would recommend hiking the route anti-clockwise as described below; the scrambles are then done head-on and you can take full advantage of the views over Ryder Water on the way down.

Fairfield Horseshoe Route Description

1. From Rydal Road Car Park in Ambleside, cross the road and turn right. Continue alongside the main road to reach the mini roundabout. Turn left, following the signpost for Kirkstone. Almost immediately, turn sharp left onto Nook Lane.

2. Continue along the lane to reach Nook End Farm. Go through the green gate directly ahead and keep left at the fork.

3. Follow the track through the wooden gate and bear left across the footbridge. Stick to the main, wide gravel path to weave up across the hillside.

4. Don’t forget to look back every now and then at the great views across Windermere.

5. As the route approaches High Sweden Coppice, leave the main track and take the left hand grassy footpath (map reference NY 37615 06196). Continue following the path as it runs alongside the stone wall. The path leapfrogs the wall before reaching Low Brook Crags, which is a short scramble up.

6. The path continues with the stonewall to the left. After a short climb, use the stone stile to cross the wall.

7. Keeping the wall to your right, follow the well-defined path to climb to Low Pike.

8. Continue uphill to reach a wooden gate on the left. Go through the gate and follow the path to High Pike, which is marked with a small pile of stones on the right.

Go through the left hand wooden gate and turn right. Keeping the wall on the right, follow the path through a particularly boggy patch.

9. Go straight across the wooden stile. The path runs close to the wall to reach Dove Crags, which is marked with a pile of rocks to the right.

10. From Dove Crags, bear left, following the remains of a low stone wall. The rocky path, which is very faint in places, runs just left of the wall.

As the path approaches the scattered boulders below Hart Crag summit, cross over the wall and continue uphill. In-between the loose boulders, there is a rocky pathway, marked with a few cairns to help you find the way. The summit is a low-lying pile of stones a metre or two on the left.

11. From the summit, return to the path and continue north-west. Take either path at the fork; the paths re-join shortly. The route becomes clearer as the path descends along Link Hause.

12. Bear right and climb across a few short sections of rocks. Continue straight ahead. The path is well defined here and climbs towards Fairfield summit.

13. At the fork, turn right. Fairfield summit is marked with a cairn and shelter. A quick warning that Fairfield summit is wide, rocky and in poor weather the paths can be very difficult find.

14. From the summit, head in a south-east direction, retracing your steps to the fork. Take the right-hand path and follow the wide, grassy footpath along the ridge to Great Rigg.

15. Ignore the faint right-hand path and keep left. Continue following the ridgeway, passing Heron Pike summit on the left. The pathway becomes increasing well-defined (with great views over Rydal Water and Windermere).

16. Cross the stone stile to weave across Nab Scar.

17. Continue into Hart Head Farm and bear right to join the road. Follow the road downhill and take the left-hand turn, marked with a public footpath sign for Ambleside.

18. With the teashop on the left, cross the bridge and bear right to reach a four-way junction. Turn left, following the sign for Ambleside. The wide gravel track runs for just over ¾ of a mile before reaching the road. Carefully cross the road and turn left to return to Ambleside.

We’ll be adding more Lake District Classic Walks to Walk up Scafell Pike in due course including the most scenic and most famous walking routes in the national park. These will include Helvellyn, Blencathra, Skiddaw, Langdale Pikes, High Street and Coniston Old Man – just to name a few!



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Emma Knipe

Based in the Lake District and with frequent trips to Snowdonia, Emma spends most days in the mountains. She splits her time between leading group hikes, volunteering with the National Trust, mountain biking, hiking with the dog and planning the next adventure.

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Welcome to Walk up Scafell Pike

Walk up Scafell Pike is the dedicated on-line guidebook for walking routes up Scafell Pike in the English Lake District, with free walking maps and full guides to all the routes to the summit of England’s highest mountain.

Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England at 978m high and is one of the mountains climbed on the Three Peaks Challenge walk. It’s a formidable mountain that needs respect, with no such thing as an easy route up  the mountain to be had. All the walks and hikes are a challenge, and well worth the effort to reach the roof of England.

The Routes to the Top of Scafell Pike page has an interactive map that shows all the walking routes to the summit of Scafell Pike from Wasdale Head, Scafell Pike from Borrowdale and Scafell Pike from Langdale as well as hotels, campsites and pubs near Scafell Pike (add your Lake District business for free), and there’s a page for each walk that shows the route, parking postcode,  a downloadable file for your GPS device as well as details on the weather for the mountain.

Check out the Frequently Asked Questions page for more Scafell Pike facts such as how long will it take to climb Scafell Pike, where can i start the walk from and other questions.

Main Walking Routes up Scafell Pike

Route Name Starting Point Parking Post Code Distance Ascent Walking Time
Scafell Pike from Wasdale or Wasdale Head Wasdale or Wasdale Head  CA20 1EX (Wasdale Head)  4.2km*  900m*  3-4 hours**
Scafell Pike from Seathwaite, Borrowdale (Corridor Route) Borrowdale  CA12 5XJ  15km (round trip)  1000m  6 hours+
Scafell Pike from Langdale Langdale  LA22 9JY 9km  1130m 4 hours**
Scafell Pike from Hardknott (southern approach) Eskdale Hardknott CA19 1TG – for Boot – then continue up Hardkott Pass to GR NY211 011  17km  1000m  6 hours
Scafell Pike Corridor Route from Wasdale Wasdale or Wasdale Head CA20 1EX (Wasdale Head)  7.8km*  970m*  3-4 hours **

*Distance/Ascent noted is for one way only.

**Time is for one way only, and variable. Very fit walkers can walk up and down in 3-4 hours(depending on the route)and will know their own timings and speed. If in doubt, assume the longest duration for your ascent and add the longest for your descent, depending on route. Add a good half hour or more for the summit stop as well.

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