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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 10 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Oliver Berry

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.

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.

Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Brimstone Hotel & Spa

Great Langdale, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)[11.3 miles]

The Lakeland version of a deluxe ski lodge, offering supremely plush rooms, a lavish spa and a very private location on a Langdale estate. It’s also adults-only – making this an ideal place for couples looking for a place to pamper themselves.

Official star rating:

Daffodil Hotel

Grasmere, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)[12.6 miles]

A large, lakeside hotel not far from Grasmere, with a variety of rooms to suit all kinds of visitors – families, couples, walkers and weekend breakers will all find a happy home here.

Official star rating:

Forest Side Hotel

Grasmere, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)[12.7 miles]

One of the very best of the Lake District’s boutique hotels, a reinvented country mansion, brimming with wit, style and invention. In prime position for exploring the Lakes..

Official star rating:

The Samling

Windermere, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)[17.4 miles]

A charming, cosy boutique hotel, perched on a private hillside on a 67-acre estate, with an excellent restaurant and grandstand views across Lake Windermere.

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Lake District

Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

Imposing mountains, wild landscapes, tranquil lakes and picturesque towns combine to make the Lake District uniquely beautiful, and one of the best places in Britain for walking, climbing, boating and biking.

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Overview >

Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

Underground tours of Honister Mine

Keswick, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)[6.4 miles]

Venture underground into the dark mines under Honister Pass to discover the history of Lakeland slate mining – and, if you’re feeling brave, tackle an underground climbing expedition.

Best for ages: 3+ | £18

Dove Cottage (& Wordsworth Museum)

Grasmere, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)[12.6 miles]

Take a guided tour around Wordsworth’s charming cottage near Grasmere to get a fascinatingly personal insight into the poet’s life and times – and don’t miss the brilliant museum next door.

Best for ages: 180+ | £12

Rydal Mount

Rydal, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)[14.9 miles]

Wordsworth’s grand family home between Ambleside and Grasmere is an essential stop: it’s full of memorabilia, and offers an intriguing glimpse of the Wordsworth family’s daily life in the Lakes.

Best for ages: 18+ | £5

Other worthwhile experiences near this experience if you have time or interest..

Exterior fo the small shop in Grasmere

Grasmere Gingerbread Shop

Ambleside, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)[12.2 miles]

Sarah Nelson’s gingerbread is an institution in Grasmere: it’s been made to the same recipe since 1854. It’s wonderfully quaint – the frilly outfits worn by the shop staff are something from a bygone age.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free | 3 hours

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Overview >
Pedestrians outside the gift shop and cafe in the Main Street in the centre of Grasmere Village

Grasmere Village

Ambleside, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)[12.2 miles]

The region’s most picturesque and charming village. Grasmere is set on the shores of its eponymous lake and cradled by green fields and fells. William Wordsworth is buried in the churchyard of St Oswald’s – you can see the poet’s tombstone.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free | 3 hours

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Overview >
Close up of the front of the castle

Muncaster Castle

Ravenglass, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)[15.5 miles]

This castle near the Cumbrian coast belongs to the Pennington family, who have owned it for more than 800 years. It’s notoriously haunted, including by a playful spook though to be the original Tom Fool. It also has a hawk and owl centre that stages flying displays.

Best for ages: 8+ | £17 | 3 hours

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