Seatoller to Keswick via Castle Crag


This is a linear walk from Seatoller to Keswick. It follows the routes of the Allerdale Ramble and Cumbria Way through the Borrowdale Valley and along the shores of Derwentwater via an ascent of the smallest of all Wainwright Fells, the fascinating Castle Crag. This is a walk with a difference as it is totally linear and takes advantage of the 'Borrowdale Rambler' bus service between Keswick and Seatoller to reach the start of a lengthy but straight forward return walk. At the start of the walk there is an ascent of High Doat which gives a fabulous panorama of the Borrowdale Valley and shows the profile of the 'Jaws of Borrowdale' with Castle Crag as its centre piece. Despite being mostly low level this walk has plenty of varied landscapes and provides eye opening views. The walk finishes in the vibrant Lakeland town of Keswick where there are plenty of places to enjoy food and drink after your walk.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts at the bus station in Keswick at grid reference NY263235. The bus station is sign posted from the main shopping area and can be found by walking north west along Main Street then turning left at the roundabout down the Borrowdale B5289 road.
  2. If you plan to park a car in Keswick you will find that unfortunately the town takes full advantage of its popularity and charges can be fairly steep. You will need to make sure you pay for a minimum of seven hours. There are cheaper car parks and free road parking further out of town if you don't mind walking a little further.
  3. At the bus station you will find information boards with details of services and timetables near the cafe. At the time of writing up this walk the bus service that will take you to Seatoller is the number seventy nine known as the 'Borrowdale Rambler'. This is an hourly service in winter and more frequent in summer. During summer months this is often an open top bus which gives unique elevated views of the beautiful Borrowdale Valley.
  4. The bus will take you on a sight seeing tour through the Borrowdale Valley. Lookout for Walla Crag above Great Wood on the left. You will then pass by the shores of Derwentwater with views across to the far shores under Cat Bells where you will walk on your return journey by foot.
  5. After Derwentwater the bus passes the stunning double arched stone bridge at Grange, an interesting village you will walk through on your way back. After squeezing through Rosthwaite the bus follows the road to the right and pulls in at Seatoller where you need to disembark.
  6. Seatoller is a pretty little hamlet buried in the far corner of Borrowdale. It has some great buildings including the Lake District National Park Barn and the Yew Tree cafe and bar. The latter was originally two cottages built to accommodate German miners who in the 17th century were employed to mine graphite from the surrounding fells, the valuable graphite was used in the making of medicines, dyes, mouldings and pencils that were produced locally.
  7. Find the National Trust car park behind the bus turning point area. Head to the far end of the car park and take the path that heads North East towards Johnny Wood.
  8. After two hundred metres you will reach the edge of Johnny Wood. Here leave the main path into the wood and instead turn left and ascend a path that edges the side of the wood.
  9. This path climbs the slopes of High Doat in an arc following the edge of the wood. After six hundred metres it will reach the small cairn of stones on the summit of High Doat.
  10. From High Doat summit there is a fabulous panorama of the entire Borrowdale Valley. If you look directly north you will also see the jagged toothy profile of Castle Crag and Grange Fell that give the narrowing section of the valley its nickname the 'Jaws of Borrowdale'.
  11. Descend the western slope of High Doat towards Scaleclose Gill. You will eventually reach a well defined footpath at the foot of High Scawdell. This is the popular Allerdale Ramble long distance footpath.
  12. Turn right and head north along the Allerdale Ramble footpath. The path will cross Scaleclose Gill, Tongue Gill and then Lavery Gill then reach the foot of Castle Crag.
  13. To ascend Castle Crag turn right and follow the ascent path until you reach a stile over a slate wall. Cross the stile and you will find yourself at the bottom of a huge slate tip.
  14. Ascend a zig zag path up the slate tip and after a short while you will reach a flat area with a small cairn of stones. The view from this cairn is arguably the best view of Borrowdale you are ever likely to experience.
  15. Behind you are the remains of the old Castle Crag slate mine. From here continue along the obvious path that ascends to the summit where the John Hamer memorial plaque pays tribute to the first world war heroes of the area.
  16. The views from the summit are impressive. On a clear day you can see the mountains of Great Gable, Glaramara, Skiddaw, Blencathra and all the way to Helvellyn. You really do feel like you are stood on a purpose built Lakeland plinth.
  17. Alfred Wainwright wrote of Castle Crag, “If a visitor to Lakeland has only two or three hours to spare, poor fellow, yet desperately wants to reach a summit and take back an enduring memory of the beauty and atmosphere of the district…let him climb Castle Crag.”
  18. To descend from Castle Crag retrace your footsteps down the zig zag path. Cross the stile you crossed over on the way up and descend the path back down to the Allerdale Ramble path.
  19. Turn right and head north along the Allerdale Ramble path towards Dalt Wood. After half a kilometre the path will reach the shores of a bend on the wide and often slow moving River Derwent.
  20. Turn left and head north along what is now the Cumbria Way long distance footpath. The path leaves the river bend and turns into a track then a tarmac road. The road reaches a split, at this split turn right to walk into the quaint slate village of Grange.
  21. Settlements on the site of Grange date back to the 7th century. Sitting on the flood plain of the River Derwent where it reaches Derwentwater. Most noticeable is the 1675 built double arched stone bridge. Take time to look around Grange as it has a a fascinating history that is seen in its many special buildings, and if you fancy a break the tea rooms are just as special.
  22. From Grange village head west along the the road out of the village. The road bends right then heads north passing the Borrowdale Gates hotel. Just under a kilometre after the hotel and metres after Ellers Beck passes under the road there is a gateway on the right. Here turn right to continue along the Cumbria Way.
  23. The path heads across a farmers field then crosses a marsh area on wooden walkways before eventually veering left and reaching the shores of Derwentwater at Great Bay.
  24. The route is now fairly straight forward for as you head north following the route of the Cumbria Way along the western shores of Derwentwater. The path passes through enchanting natural woodland in places and is never more than a few metres from the waters edge.
  25. You will pass the landing stage at Brandlehow Bay. Anyone wishing to shorten the walk and add to the alternative transport experience can do so by taking one of the Keswick Launch Company's regular ferry boats back to Keswick from the pier.
  26. After following the Cumbria Way path along the shores of Derwentwater for three kilometres the route follows a track away from the shores passing Hawse End Outdoor Centre.
  27. After the outdoor centre you will reach a crossroads. Continue over the crossroads and then turn immediately right on the Cumbria Way footpath towards Keswick. This path will take you through a small wood, then over an opening known as The Park. Look out for Buzzards and Kestrels on the telegraph poles in The Park
  28. The path enters another wood and continues along a track heading north behind Lingholm. You will reach a crossroads of paths at the end of a long straight section. Here go straight on and follow the Cumbria Way over Fawe Park.
  29. When you reach a minor road turn right and head north for half a kilometre to reach the small village of Portinscale. Where the road bands to the left in the centre of the village, turn right and follow the road past the Derwentwater Hotel.
  30. At the end of this no through road end road cross the impressive Stormwater Bridge over the Derwentwater outflow. On the other side of the bridge follow the path over flat fields to reach Keswick.
  31. For refreshments after the walk or somewhere to stay the night you can't have finished a walk in a more accommodating town. There are plenty of eating and drinking establishments of all tastes including cosy local ale pubs, modern restaurants, curry houses, fast food outlets, cafes and bakeries. And of course and abundance of outdoor gear shops.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL4 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 89 Map Click to buy Harvey Super Walker Lakeland Central Map Click to buy Harvey Lake District Mountain Map

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.