An Ancient Route into the Fells

Duration:Full Day

The central fells of the Lake District are criss-crossed by an extensive network of bridleways. These ancient high-level routes provided vital links between valleys and during their heyday would see trains of up to forty horses carrying all manner of goods. One such route, known as the 'coffin' route and linking Wasdale to Eskdale, crosses the dip on the western shoulder of Scafell and provides a handy route into the hills.

Many similar 'coffin' routes exist throughout the Lakes. Sitting in wild isolation at the top of the pass is Burnmoor Tarn. Perched directly above it is the lofty viewpoint of Illgill Head. These two features are easily accessed via the bridleway and make rewarding goals for a walk from Wasdale Head.

Illgill Head and Burnmoor Tarn

Start/Finish: National Trust Car Park, GR NY182074

Distance: 11.6km (7.2 miles)

Time: 4-5 hours

Height Gain: 620 metres

Strenuousness: 2/5

Navigation: 1/5

Technicality: 1/5

Terrain: Woodland, well-graded bridleway, steep fell side, grassy summit, open moorland and mountain tarn.

Maps: OS Landranger 90, OS Explorer OL7, Harvey's Super Walker Lakeland Central (1:25,000), British Mountain Maps Lake District (1:40,000).

  1. Turn left out of the car park and follow the track across the Lingmell Gill Bridge. Take the left fork and follow the bridleway as it skirts the trees below Brackenclose (climbing hut). The bridleway climbs steadily south beside the trees of Fence Wood.

  2. Once past the end of Fence Wood ignore the minor paths to the left and continue up the main bridleway for 300 metres until a path splits off to the right. This is the path for Illgill Head, turn onto it and follow it south west as it climbs steeply up to the summit. To get the best views from Illgill Head's domed summit it is best to wander round a bit, but take care near the crag edges overlooking The Screes and Wast Water.

  3. Re-trace your steps down the path you came up until you are near the bottom and then swing south east to join the bridleway, which can then be followed easily to the tarn. (You can descend in a straight line due east from Illgill Head to reach Burnmoor Tarn, but this is best avoided as the lower slopes are rough and boggy).

  4. Burnmoor Tarn is the third largest tarn in the Lake District. The building on the south shore is Burnmoor Lodge, built as a gamekeepers' lodge in the 19th century. To return to Wasdale Head simply retrace your steps north back down the bridleway.

Further Information

Wasdale is one of the Lake District's most secluded valleys and is home to England's deepest and purest lake (Wastwater), it's highest mountain (Scafell Pike) and it's smallest church (St. Olaf's).

With so much to do in Wasdale it's worth bringing the tent and heading up to the National Trust Campsite at Wasdale Head.

By National Trust

How to get here

Wasdale Head Car Park

Wasdale Head CA20 1

Ordnance Survey OL7
The English Lakes
South Eastern area

NY 186 085

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