Route info: Day 4

Cumbria Way route between Keswick and Caldbeck

Distance: 15 miles/24 km (approx) high level route :  18 miles/30km low level route
890 metres/2,919 ft (approx) high level : 900 metres/2952 feet
Terrain: Road walking and a steep ascent to Gale Road car park followed by narrow and stony paths to Skiddaw House from where you have two options depending on the weather conditions:
High Level Route: Level, valley paths before the ascent alongside Grainsgill Beck – paths can be sketchy here. From Lingy Hut onwards careful navigation (especially if clouds are down) on exposed moorland over and off High Pike. Mainly road walking in to Caldbeck.
Low Level Route: Well graded access track from Skiddaw House followed by paths through fields to Orthwaite. Road walking in the main to Caldbeck apart from a couple of sections on clear tracks and paths on the lower fringes of moorland.
Food and drink:
Ensure you are well stocked with food and drink as there are no eating places until you reach Caldbeck – more information at the foot of this page.
Route grading: The Cumbria Way route between Keswick and Caldbeck offers steep climbs, remote valley trails and some narrow and rocky paths along with exposed moorland makes the High Level Route one to respect. On a good day it is a glorious walk but if the clouds are down and bad weather prevails then you should seriously consider the Low Level Route.
Route map:
To view an online map of the route visit the Route Stages Summary page
My verdict:
If you are in the least bit worried about the weather then always opt for the low level route BUT having said that, the high level route is a fantastic days walking through remote and stunning scenery.

About Keswick
Situated between the bulk of Skiddaw and the gentle beauty of Derwentwater, Keswick is the major centre for tourism in the northern lakes and as such can get very busy. Originally granted its market charter in 1276 by Edward I the market continues to this day and the town offers a wide range of attractions for visitors with a huge amount of outdoor shops so if you need to replace some of your gear this is the place.

Keswick is the first choice for many visitors to the the northern lakes and it is an ideal stop-over place offering a range of things to do should you decide to break your journey here and have a day off from the Cumbria Way. Your options include a launch ride on Lake Derwentwater, a walk up one of the surrounding fells or just enjoying the things that a place like Keswick does best.
Discover more about Keswick

Heading towards Skiddaw House © Dik Stoddart

Day 4: Cumbria Way route between Keswick and Caldbeck

Today is the day you make your choice of high or low level route from Skiddaw House to Caldbeck. Your choice will be dictated to you by the weather and your energy levels. Fit, experienced walkers will have no problem tackling the high-level course of the Cumbria Way over High Pike, while the more cautious walkers might opt for the longer low-level route that skirts the base of the fells.

High level route
Leave the Moot Hall in Keswick and cross the River Derwent before cutting through the Leisure Pool and heading for Spoony Green Lane. This lane crosses the busy A66 and starts to climb up and around the slopes of Latrigg. An improvised car park is reached where many walkers set off to climb Skiddaw having gained some height in the car. Your route however soon leaves the Skiddaw direction and contours to the right around the lower slopes of Lonscale Fell along a rugged path high above the Glenderaterra Valley.

Skiddaw House, a former shepherd’s dwelling, reopened in 2007 as a Youth Hostel, is found beside a clump of trees. The high-level route continues and picks its way across the lower slopes of Great Calva running roughly parallel to the River Caldew. The path becomes a well defined track and brings you out onto a tarmac road. At this point follow Grainsgill Beck and turn left to walk upstream.

On the horizon you will spot what looks like a re-furbished garden shed but in fact this is actually a bothy on Great Lingy Hill which some intrepid souls choose to overnight in. For those planning a more comfortable nights stay simply follow a clear path towards High Pike to reach the highest point on the Cumbria Way at 2157ft/658m and the most northerly Lakeland summit over 2000ft. A trig point, an untidy pile of stones, a cairn, a view indicator and a stone bench adorn the top from where you can look back at the Lakeland Fells, over the Eden Valley to the Northern Pennines as well as the Scottish hills.

Once you have finished resting your legs and admiring the view walk down the grassy hillside, avoiding the mines and joining a farm track leading to a couple of miles of road walking to bring you to Caldbeck.

Low Level Route
Leave Keswick and walk to Skiddaw House in exactly the same way as the high-level route described above. To continue along the low-level route, simply walk northwards from Skiddaw House on the access track passing Whitewater Dash as you start to descend from the fells.

After meeting the road at Peter House Farm either follow the road to Orthwaite or opt for the route through the fields to reach Orthwaite Hall. From here an unavoidable road-walk leads to Longlands where you branch right after crossing Longlands Beck. The path then follows a clear track skirting the lower slopes of Longlands Fell to reach Greenhead. Another stretch along the road leads to Fell Side where a farm track lead to Potts Gill and Nether Row from where a narrow road, track and then path lead finally to Caldbeck.

The low-level route is 3 miles or so longer than the high-level route, but inexperienced walkers will find it easier and will certainly feel safer if their navigation skills are not up to scratch and the weather is bad. However bear in mind that extra miles on road can take it out of your legs as I found when walking the low level option in 2019.

Eating places & shops between Keswick & Caldbeck

Grocery Shops

You had better stock up in Keswick with enough food and drink to get you through to Caldbeck as there are no shops or cafes until you reach Caldbeck!

Keswick – a selection of well stocked grocery shops and a supermarket

Cafes/Bars/Tea Rooms

You had better stock up in Keswick with enough food and drink to get you through to Caldbeck as there are no shops or cafes until you reach Caldbeck!

Keswick – a selection of cafes, tea rooms and bars
Skiddaw House Hostel – at certain times Skiddaw House offers a ‘Honesty Box’ system where you can get a brew and pop your money in a tin. Be warned this facility is not always open.
Kirkland Stores – open 6 days a week offering a selection of food and drinks
You had better stock up in Keswick with enough food and drink to get you through to Caldbeck as there are no shops or cafes until you reach Caldbeck!

Watermill Cafe – open daily for food and drink
The Old Smithy Tea Rooms – Currently undergoing renovations
Oddfellows Arms – Village pub directly in the centre of the village
The Muddy Duck – Operating from a kiosk in Caldbeck whilst awaiting renovation of the Old Smithy Cafe and serving Cumbrian Way walkers with food and drinks. Based behind the Oddfellows Arms pub directly on the walking route