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Travel bucket list idea:

Walk up Scafell Pike

Last updated: 26 March, 2024

This is the big one: the highest point in England at 978m, and the one everyone wants to tick off on their bucket list. Granted, compared to some of the world’s great mountains, it’s a tiddler, but don’t underestimate the challenge of Scafell Pike: it feels high, exposed and extremely windswept, and it requires a steep, tiring slog to reach the top. But on a clear day in good weather, there’s no finer feeling than to stand on England’s rooftop.

There are a number of different ways to the summit, including an excellent trail across from Borrowdale, but the classic (and shortest) route starts in Wasdale Head, at the head of the deep, dark lake of Wastwater. From here, it ascends up Lingmell Gill, climbs past Brown Tongue and Hollow Stones, then turns at Lingmell Col for the final steep, tiring push to the summit.

While you’re there

The wonderful Wasdale Head Inn is an essential stop. Ritson’s Bar is another classic hikers’ hangout, dotted with hill-walking and mountaineering memorabilia, and often packed with tired walkers at the end of the day. It serves good grub and brews its own ales, too.

The tiny church of St Olaf’s at Wasdale Head is rumoured to have been built with timber beams salvaged from a Viking longship.

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around
Duration: Full day

Getting there & doing it

There is a large car-park at Wasdale Head that offers plenty of parking, but arrive early on busy days to ensure a spot. Bring the usual supplies, food and water, proper boots and wet weather gear, as conditions can change fast on Scafell Pike, and the summit is very exposed in high winds. Do be aware that the trail beyond Lingmell Col is marked by cairns which can be very hard to follow in fog.

The useful website at Walk Up Scafell Pike has good descriptions of the various possible routes, including the one from Wasdale. The main route from Wasdale is the one that most people take, so you almost certainly won’t have it to yourself. Or you could choose to approach it via one of the lesser-trodden routes, such as the one via Lingmell or over from Borrowdale.

When to do it

The trail is open year-round, but this is definitely not one to do in mid-winter unless you know what you’re doing. There’s snow (often heavy) on the fells between November and February.

On a busy summer’s day – especially if the weather is fine – there will be a steady procession of walkers on the trail, and you may well find the summit disappointingly crowded.

March, April, May and June are all ideal months to tackle it, as are September and October. It’s best done on a clear day, so check the forecast thoroughly before setting out – but be prepared for crowds.