Wallowbarrow Gorge via Seathwaite

Wallowbarrow Gorge

A quiet walk up the Wallowbarrow Gorge where the beautiful River Duddon tumbles its way through a narrow gap in the Upper Duddon Valley. At the half way point is the idyllic hamlet of Seathwaite where the warm and welcoming Newfield Inn provides the perfect place to indulge in tasty home made food and refreshing local ales. The walk starts by crossing stepping stones over the River Duddon. These can be tricky to cross when wet or icy, though there is a helpful wire hawser for you to hold. If the river is in spate the walk is circular and can be started at Seathwaite instead. This is a fanastic walk with varying landscape. The terrain is fairly easy for most of the route, though the last leg of the walk through the gorge is quite loose and rough underfoot. This mostly sheltered walk is ideal when the higher fells are shrouded with cloud as it provides plenty to experience in close proximity.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts at the small roadside car park under High Tongue at grid reference SD237977. The car park is next to crags at the high point on the road between Seathwaite and Cockley Beck. There is space for just over a dozen cars.
  2. To reach the car park from the M6. Leave the M6 at junction 36. Head west along the A590 dual carriageway for four miles. Come off at the junction and turn left at the roundabout for the A590 to Barrow. After twenty miles turn right on to the A5092 to Workington and Whitehaven. After six miles this turns into the A595. After another five miles at the Duddon Bridge traffic lights, turn right on to Smithy Lane signposted to Ulpha and Seathwaite. After three miles you will pass through the small hamlet of Ulpha. After another two and a half miles you will pass through Seathwaite. After ascending out of Seathwaite for a mile you will reach the car park.
  3. To reach the car park from the north. Head to Cockley Beck via either the Winnats Pass from Langdale or the Hardknott Pass from Eskdale. At Cockley Bridge turn down the road that crosses the cattle grid, signposted to Broughton via Duddon Valley. Follow this narrow winding road south for three miles and you will reach the car park.
  4. From the car park cross the road and follow a sign posted path that descends through bracken on an obvious route heading to the bottom of the valley where you will come to the stepping stones over the River Duddon.
  5. The stepping stones are known as the Fickle Steps, relating to the small crag above the river in the Dunnerdale Forest. The stones are not that easy to cross, especially when wet or icy and therefore a helpful wire hawser has been installed for walkers to hold.
  6. If when you reach the stepping stones the river is in spate then unfortunately there is no other way to cross the river. In this case you will have to return to the car and drive down to Seathwaite Village and start the walk from there instead.
  7. Once you have crossed the stepping stones to the other side of the river follow the path that ascends in a westerly direction through the Dunnerdale Forest signposted to Grassguards.
  8. As you ascend the path through the forest you will see the huge cliffs of Fickle Crag on your right. The path eventually skirts the crag and the path becomes quite rocky for a short section.
  9. The path eventually levels out and reaches the banks of Grassguards Gill. Follow the path that ascends the right hand side of the gill. After a while you will reach a track at Grassguards that goes fords the river.
  10. At Grassguards cross this wooden footbridge just up from the ford and go through a gate in the wall. Follow a footpath that goes round the back of Grassguards Farm avoiding the farm yard and reaches the track again on the other side of the farm.
  11. Turn right on to the track and follow it south east through farm fields. The fields and the track itself are lined by impressive stone walls. The family who ran the farm here in the middle of the last century had several strong sons in the family, it was there man power that enabled the fields here to be turned into excellent farming land and enabled the building of such unusually tall walls.
  12. Follow the track through the last of the farmers fields and then out onto the open moorland of Rowantree How. The track eventually passes under the craggy Basin Barrow to the right.
  13. After passing Basin Barrow the track passes between Wallowbarrow Crag on the left and Hollin How on the right. The track then descends towards a lovely valley where you will reach the pretty Low Stonythwaite buildings.
  14. Just before the buildings turn left and follow the sign posted path that descends with a stone wall. If you want a short diversion, around ten metres along the path you can ascend a steep path on the left to reach the summit of Wallowbarrow Crag for a unique view over the Duddon Valley.
  15. Continue ascending the path passing Wallowbarrow Crag and Low Crag on the left. The path will eventually cross Rake Beck as it zig zags through Lily Wood. It is well worth turning around and looking back up at the towering Wallowbarrow Crag and Low Crag.
  16. When you reach High Wallowbarrow farm follow the path to the left towards the farm. The path goes through the farm, go through the large gate into the main part of the farm and then turn immediately left through two other gates away from the farm.
  17. The path now heads east towards another wood. Go through the gate into the woodland and follow the track until you reach an impressive stone arch bridge across the River Duddon.
  18. Cross the stone arch bridge and turn right along a path that following the bank of the River Duddon. The path follows the river to the left and eventually reaches a less aesthetically pleasing stone bridge.
  19. Cross this bridge and head through a gate to reach a road. Turn left along the road into Seathwaite where you will find the warm and welcoming Newfield Inn.
  20. Newfield Inn is a 17th century free house. It is a place full of character with exposed beams, a log fire, slate floor and beer garden. Walkers are always welcome and the tasty home made food and refreshing local ales are excellent.
  21. When you finally pull yourself away from the Newfield Inn. Cross the road and follow a sign posted path that heads between two barns. The path heads through a few gates to fields. Cross the final field and head slightly to the left to reach a small footbridge over the Tarn Beck.
  22. Cross the bridge and then head straight on through the woods. You will reach an old dam in the beck. Follow the path left over a marsh field. After the boggy area the path bends slightly right through the woods before reaching the beautiful stone arched bridge over the River Duddon you crossed earlier.
  23. Cross the bridge and turn right heading north along the path that follows the bank of the River Duddon. The river changes from a calm wide slow moving river to a fierce torrent crashing over large boulders. A huge boulder in the River Duddon marks the start of the Wallowbarrow Gorge.
  24. The path rises above the river at the top end of the gorge. Take care along the path here especially when icy or wet as the path gets rough with large rocks, tree roots and loose scree.
  25. The path gets boggy at the highest part of the gorge and then starts to descend. After descending for a few hundred metres the path reaches a small wooden footbridge over Grassguards Gill, at the point where it joins the River Duddon.
  26. Cross the small wooden footbridge and continue along the path to reach the Fickle Steps stepping stones you crossed earlier. Retrace your footsteps back over the stepping stones then ascend the path to the road to reach the car park. For refreshments after the walk you could always return to the Newfield Inn for a more substantial meal in their restaurant.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL6 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 96 Map Click to buy Harvey Super Walker Lakeland South West 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.