Five Fabulous Autumn Walks in Cumbria

By Beth Pipe

“The summer sun is fading as the year grows old”

I perhaps shouldn’t start a piece about autumn walks by setting the literary bar quite so high, but Forever Autumn by Justin Hayward captures the season beautifully – I mean, who doesn’t want to kick their way through autumn’s golden gown?

Autumn in Cumbria isn’t just about the beautiful woodlands though – the fells change colour with the bracken turning from luscious green to russet brown, the autumnal tides are higher and the chips on the prom taste sweeter when there’s a chill in the air. Then there are the inversions – a speciality of spring and autumn when the night-time temperatures trap dense fogs in the valleys, leaving the fell tops crystal clear and magical.

Here are five of my favourite autumn walks in the county – all of them lie near or along existing Contours Walking Holiday routes and make for a perfect short diversion - just be sure to pack a camera, as you’ll be wanting to take plenty of pictures!


1. The Langdale Valley.

There are a number of fabulous family walks along the Langdale Valley, and the best part is that they start and end at a rather lovely pub. Park up in the National Trust car park next to the Sticklebarn and head off on a lovely looped walk along the valley floor. The route is broad and easy to follow, with only about 20 metres of road walking in total.

If you fancy something a little more challenging, you can take the clearly marked route up to Stickle Tarn, but don’t come down the way you came; instead, take a short walk across to the Dungeon Gyll and come down that way. It’s steep but easy to follow and offers spectacular views back to Stickle Ghyll.


Or for something completely different (and definitely more strenuous) take a hike to the top of Pike O’Blisco for breathtaking views of the Langdale Pikes in all their autumnal glory.

The woodlands and bracken around the valley create a riot of autumnal colours, and there’ll be a big bowl of homemade soup waiting for you in the pub when you’re done.


2. Grange and Hampsfell


“I watch the birds fly south across the autumn sky...”  See – I’m at it again! But Grange prom and Hampsfell are perfect places to sit and watch migrating birds coming and going along the estuary.

Hampsfell is a small hike with big views. Take a route up through Eggerslack Woods and on to the Hospice at the top. From there, the panoramic views stretch from Skiddaw in the north to Blackpool Tower in the south. If you can resist kicking through the autumnal leaves as you wander through the woods, you might just spot a deer or two.


Once you’re done, head back down into the village, nip into the chippy for a freshly cooked fish supper and take it down to the prom. There you will find plenty of benches to sit and watch the migrating birds coming and going along the estuary as the sun goes down. It's worth checking the tide times too; as the autumnal high tides race in, they push the wading birds closer to the shore and your chippy tea can be enjoyed against a soundtrack of oystercatchers and curlews.


3. Red Screes


If you wake up and the weather outside looks foggy and grey, leap into the car with a hot flask of coffee and a big bag of sarnies and take off for Red Screes - one of the very best places to see an inversion. I always think Red Screes is a bit of a cheat of a fell because you can drive halfway up it, but the views are spectacular.

Wind your way up Kirkstone Pass and park in the car park opposite the Kirkstone Pass Inn (handy for a good meal afterwards). From there, take the signposted footpath at the far end of the car park and follow it all the way up onto the summit (it's very clear the whole way up with stone steps for much of the way, but still be sure to go properly clothed and equipped). By now you should have popped out of the top of the inversion and can enjoy a day of brilliant sunshine and magnificent views, while everyone else blunders around in the fog down below.


If you’re particularly lucky you may even get to see a Broken Spectre, where the sun creates a rainbow around your shadow as it reflects off the nearby clouds.


4. Burns Beck Moss

1212 This is one that most people never see - it's a tiny little tucked-away Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserve, around 5 miles east of Kendal (just south of Killington Reservoir if you're trying to find it on a map, or you could just click here). There's a very short waymarked route around the site which won't take you long at all, but in the autumn it's a good old mish mash of coloured grasses and golden waterlillies.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, grab your map and check out the walks over to the Lune Valley and Killington village – there are superb views of the Howgills, a much underrated group of hills which look particularly pretty when it snows.


This really is a very quiet and out-of-the-way walk, and I can pretty much guarantee you'll have the whole place to yourselves (unless we're there).


5. Wansfell


I absolutely love Wansfell in the autumn - there's just something about the colours there that makes the place special. The route from Town End is such a clear, broad track that you can enjoy the sunset from High Skelghyll (a perfect picnic spot) and still make it safely back to the car (assuming you've taken a torch).

The views from Wansfell will take your breath away; it’s one of the finest fell-spotting spots in Cumbria – from Red Screes to the north, around to the Langdale Pikes and Bow Fell in the west and the Coniston Fells further south – and all with Windermere stretching away below.


There is also an assortment of routes leading directly out of Ambleside to the summit - which means they also lead directly back into Ambleside and the many pubs and restaurants there, should you require some post-hike sustenance. Not that I'm obsessed with food and drink or anything...

Originally published 24/10/16

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