Shap Fells

The Crookdale, Wet Sleddale and Wasdale Horseshoes in One Hike

James Forrest on the summit of Robin Hood
James Forrest on the summit of Robin Hood

Shap Fells Route Introduction

The Shap Fells are blissfully quiet and the Crookdale, Wet Sleddale and Wasdale Horseshoes are classic hill-walking routes featured in Alfred Wainwright’s Outlying Fells of Lakeland. This route mashes the three horseshoes together to take in 10 outlying fells in the far east of the Lake District National Park. This route card is a fantastic option for someone peak bagging the Outlying Fells of Lakeland.

Adventurer Nic walked this route on Saturday 11 July 2020. These were Outlier numbers 53 to 62 of 116 for Nic. Here, she explains how you can bag these outlying fells too.

Shap Fells Route Stats

Fells: High House Bank (495m), Robin Hood (493m), Lord’s Seat (524m), Ulthwaite Rigg (502m), Great Saddle Crag (560m), Sleddale Pike (506m), Wasdale Pike (565m), Great Yarlside (591m), Little Yarlside (516m) and Whatshaw Common (485m).

Total Distance: 19.2km / 11.93miles

Total Ascent: 400m / 1,312ft

Approx Walk Time: 6.5 hours

Grid Reference Start: NY 554061

Shap Fells Route Report

The Lead Up

A few days earlier we’d hiked Green Quarter Fell, a short walk from the Kentmere valley. Now it was time for something a little longer. I’d studied the routes for the Crookdale Horseshoe, Wet Sleddale Horseshoe and Wasdale Horseshoe. These three walks in the Shap Fells were very close together. Consequently, I saw no reason not to combine them into a nice 20km route. We started in a large layby on the A6, just 6 miles south of Shap.

There are three large laybys on this stretch of road so finding a parking space even on a Saturday in July wasn’t problematic.

The Shap Fells Ascent

James and I left our car and walked south down the road briefly. We then peeled off through two large gates to gain access to the hills on a track heading west.

James Forrest passes through another gate
James Forrest passes through another gate

After only 250m on this track we turned left through a gate and followed the path, through farmland and a kissing gate, to cross Crookdale Bridge.

Kissing gate
Kissing gate

It was at this early point in the walk that we noticed a large bird of prey taking off into the air from a fence post before hovering above the ground. A majestic sight.

The trail through farmland
The trail through farmland

We could see our first target – High House Bank in front of us.

The Farm by Crookdale Bridge
The Farm by Crookdale Bridge

Upon crossing Crookdale Bridge we turned right to walk up alongside a derelict wall.

Wall rising steeply up Hazel Bank
Wall rising steeply up Hazel Bank

We soon peeled off away from the wall over pathless ground to head south-west to a more established wall running up the side of Hazel Bank.

View from the ascent
View from the ascent

We followed this wall until there was a gap in it. Crossing it here enabled us to make a beeline for the 495m summit of High House Bank over tussocky ground.

The Summit – High House Bank

At the summit of High House Bank we admired views down to the Borrowdale valley with Borrow Beck running down the centre.

Adventurer Nic on the summit of High House Bank, the first of the Shap Fells we hiked that day in the Lake District
Adventurer Nic on the summit of High House Bank

In the distance, the most noticeable peak was Ill Bell of the Kentmere horseshoe, seen over the top of the fells of the Bannisdale horseshoe.

View from High House Bank
View from High House Bank

The Summit – Robin Hood

James Forrest on the trail to Robin Hood, vast and not another soul around, the Shap Fells are so quiet
The trail to Robin Hood

We left High House Bank to the north-west in the direction of Robin Hood following a small path.

Robin Hood looking towards the Bannisdale Fells
Robin Hood looking towards the Bannisdale Fells

After reaching the summit and posing for the obligatory ‘Robin Hood firing an arrow’ photo, we made swift progress towards Lord’s Seat, our third fell of the day.

Adventurer Nic as Robin Hood on Robin Hood
Adventurer Nic as Robin Hood on Robin Hood

The valley of Crookdale separated us from the fells that we’d walk at the end of the day.

The Summit – Lord’s Seat

We continued walking north-west on the clear path to Lord’s Seat, making good progress whilst we still had a path to follow.

Adventurer Nic approaching Lord's Seat, part of the Crookdale Horseshoe
Adventurer Nic approaching Lord’s Seat, part of the Crookdale Horseshoe

We knew we wouldn’t have the privilege of an obvious trail when we made our attempt to link the Crookdale Horseshoe to the next two sets of hills.

Adventurer Nic on the summit of Lord's Seat
Adventurer Nic on the summit of Lord’s Seat

It was great to look back from the summit of Lord’s Seat to the fells we’d just hiked, plus we could see Whinfell ridge in the background.

Shap Fells – Linking the Crookdale Horseshoe with the Wet Sleddale Horseshoe

At this point in the walk we left the natural Crookdale Horseshoe in order to link up with the next horseshoe – the Wet Sleddale. This involved leaving the summit of Lord’s Seat to the west, before making our way over lumpy, bumpy, rugged terrain to the north.

James Forrest between Lord's Seat at Ulthwaite Rigg
James Forrest between Lord’s Seat at Ulthwaite Rigg

We stuck to our northern bearing almost all the way to Ulthwaite Rigg. The terrain was often wet, but I managed to keep my feet dry despite a few near misses. We passed a pair of large frogs who were jumping high through the grass.

Two frogs hopping though the grass
Two frogs hopping though the grass

The route led us uphill at first to the saddle between Harrop Pike and Great Yarlside at 560m where we crossed a wire fence, before heading downhill towards Ulthwaite Rigg (502m). This felt quite unnatural at first but there was a slight raise to the summit at the end.

James Forrest descending towards Ulthwaite Rigg, to pick up the Wet Sleddale Horseshoe part of the route
James Forrest descending towards Ulthwaite Rigg, to pick up the Wet Sleddale Horseshoe part of the route

The Summit – Ulthwaite Rigg

James Forrest jumping over boggy ground, which is common on the Shap Fells
James Forrest jumping over boggy ground

The summit of Ulthwaite Rigg is largely protected by a moat of swampy, saturated ground and a bit of bog hopping was required to get to the cairn. Once there, we had our first view of the Wet Sleddale Reservoir.

Adventurer Nic on the summit of Ulthwaite Rigg
Adventurer Nic on the summit of Ulthwaite Rigg

The Summit – Great Saddle Crag

From Ulthwaite Rigg we headed down to the south-east to cross the Sleddale Beck where it forks. We sat on a rock while we ate our lunch before continuing uphill in the direction of Great Saddle Crag. At this point sitting in the valley it struck me how unbelievably quiet it was. Not only had we not seen another hill walker, we hadn’t heard anything other than bird song and the soft sound from the light breeze all day.

After lunch we ascended up alongside the stream before crossing the top of Widepot Sike and up onto the summit of Great Saddle Crag.

James Forrest en route to Great Saddle Crag in the Shap Fells
James Forrest en route to Great Saddle Crag in the Shap Fells

From this point in the walk, there was a notable change from grassy, boggy terrain to bouncy heather.

Adventurer Nic on Great Saddle Crag, the 5th of the Shap Fell we'd hiked that day
Adventurer Nic on Great Saddle Crag

The Summit – Sleddale Pike

We left the summit of Great Saddle Crag and headed off towards Sleddale Pike to the north-east. It was slow going through the heather and there was one wire fence to cross en-route.

Wire fence amongst purple heather en route to Sleddale Pike
Wire fence amongst purple heather en route to Sleddale Pike

We happened across an area where some trees had recently been planted and tree protector guards were in place.

Recently planted trees between Great Saddle Crag and Sleddale Pike
Recently planted trees between Great Saddle Crag and Sleddale Pike

On the summit of Sleddale Pike there was a thick pole in the ground.

Adventurer Nic on the summit of Sleddale Pike - Shap Fells
Adventurer Nic on the summit of Sleddale Pike – Shap Fells

Of all the hills on the Shap Fells route, this top had the best view to Wet Sleddale Reservoir.

Shap Fells – Linking the Wet Sleddale Horseshoe with the Wasdale Horseshoe

From Sleddale Pike we ventured on over pathless ground south towards Wasdale Pike. We were in the heart of the Shap Fells. This point in the walk marked our departure from the Wet Sleddale horseshoe and the beginning of the Wasdale horseshoe. The distance between the two fells though was negligible, a mere 1km.

James Forrest en route to Wasdale Pike
James Forrest en route to Wasdale Pike

It was as we were approaching Wasdale Pike that we noticed three deer – an adult and two red deer fawns. Naturally, they ran away as we approached but it was lovely to see them effortlessly bounding over the terrain.

Deer on Wasdale Pike
Deer on Wasdale Pike

The Summit – Wasdale Pike

This point in the walk marked the end of the pathless route-finding.

Adventurer Nic on Wasdale Pike, the 7th of the Shap Fells we'd hiked that day
Adventurer Nic on Wasdale Pike

A high level path led from Wasdale Pike to the summit of Great Yarlside. This would mark the highest point of the walk and the third highest of all the Outlying Fells on the list at 591m.

Trail leading away from Wasdale Pike towards Great Yarlside
Trail leading away from Wasdale Pike towards Great Yarlside

The Summit – Great Yarlside

We followed the path alongside a fence up to a corner. Here, the fence met another boundary, just short of the summit of Great Yarlside. We crossed over this and marched the short distance to the summit.

Adventurer Nic on the 3rd highest of Wainwright's Outlying Fells of Lakeland - Great Yarlside
Adventurer Nic on the 3rd highest of Wainwright’s Outlying Fells of Lakeland – Great Yarlside

The Coniston Fells were just visible in the distance.

The old Ordnance Survey trig ring on Great Yarlside
The old Ordnance Survey trig ring on Great Yarlside

We spotted an old trigonometrical survey station in the ground just as we were leaving to head for Little Yarlside along the path to the south-east.

The Summit – Little Yarlside

James Forrest en route to Little Yarlside
James Forrest en route to Little Yarlside

There is some confusion as to whether or not the summit of Little Yarlside is on the left or right side of the wall. Alfred Wainwright himself placed it on the left side, while our hill-bagging app described it as a ‘ground by shallow pit’ on the right hand side of the wall. In all fairness, I don’t think it matters greatly.

Adventurer Nic on Little Yarlside, the 9th of the Shap Fells we hiked that day
Adventurer Nic on Little Yarlside

From this part of the Wasdale Horseshoe we had a good view down to Crookdale Beck. The view to the fells we’d hiked that morning was also lovely.

The Summit – Whatshaw Common

James Forrest heading for Whatshaw Common
James Forrest heading for Whatshaw Common

From the summit of Little Yarlside, we continued on the right side of the wall to a col. It was from there that we continued uphill to the top of Whatshaw Common, our tenth summit of the day.

Adventurer Nic on Whatshaw Common, the tenth of the Shap Fells we hiked that day
Adventurer Nic on Whatshaw Common

Shap Fells Descent

We proceeded to descend to the west alongside a fence and wall. There were paths on either side so we were uncertain which would be best. We picked the right-hand side. In hindsight, the left-hand side would have been better as we had one more boundary to get over towards the bottom which was a tad awkward.

Views on the final descent of the Shap Fells route
Views on the final descent of the Shap Fells route

This returned us to the three gates we’d passed through at the beginning of the walk and we retraced our steps back to the car.

Wrapping Up

I prioritised some family commitments before returning to hike more of Wainwright’s Outlying Fells of Lakeland a week later, starting with the Naddle Horseshoe.

About the Author

Photo of Adventurer Nic on a Loch in the Scottish Highlands

Adventurer Nic is a Munroist, Wainwright ‘Compleator’ and is hiking her local Outlying Fells of Lakeland in the wake of the corona virus pandemic. Let her know what you thought of this post by dropping her a comment.

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