Back of Skiddaw
Stats: 30 miles and 4060 feet of ascent
None en route. Lots at Keswick after the ride.
A big, stirring tour of one of Lakeland’s quieter corners. There are sub-Scottish levels of loneliness to be had, in the upper Caldew valley especially.
Start Point: Under no circumstances start from Latrigg car park and deprive yourself of the delightful, swoopy track running down to Briar Rigg. No, start from valley level – get yourself to Keswick so you can feel Skiddaw staring down at you from his full height. I parked opposite the caravan park just off the A66/A591 roundabout. There’s space for two cars without being a nuisance.
1. Cross the A66 with care.
2. Turn left into Brundholme Lane.
3. Turn left into the Skiddaw bridleway, crossing the A66 by a footbridge and hauling up through the trees on a broadly clockwise diagonal up the slopes of Latrigg.
4. Leave the car park by the straight stone wall, heading for Skiddaw, but branch right to take a superb track hugging the true right flank of the Glenderaterra valley. This has the feel of a “Lost World” adventure, right down to some tricky rock steps on slippery rock overlooking a high-consequence declivity.
5. The track reaches Skiddaw House. You can do the loop section either way. Anti-clockwise would probably make more of it rideable, but I did it clockwise to get the swoopy descent past Whitewater Dash, surely the prettiest name for a waterfall ever?
6. The track is good and fast, leading down to the road at Peter House Farm.
7. Turn right, and stick to metalled lanes skirting the Northern Fells.
8. Branch right at Longlands onto the short-lived public way.
9. Keep skirting the fells on tarmac until you reach Fellside Farm.
10. Turn right here, then quickly left onto open fell. After a gentle climb on grass, attain a mine road taking a balcony at around 430m. When you reach the mine workings, descend to Calebreck.
11. Follow tarmac south under the gabbro cliffs of Carrock Fell, then turn tight, also on tarmac, signposted to Swinside.
12. The tarmac gives way to a rough track which gives way to marshy singletrack and you may wish you’d gone the other way round at this point because Skiddaw House is a long time coming.
13. It is possible to vary the return leg but why would you? The shelf round Lonscale Fell is just as dramatic and the woods down to Brundholme Lane offer a fine flourish to end a fine hill day.