The Bannisdale Horseshoe

Sheep and lamb on the Bannisdale Horseshoe
Sheep and lamb on the Bannisdale Horseshoe

The Bannisdale Horseshoe Route Introduction

The Bannisdale Horseshoe is a classic route featured in Alfred Wainwright’s Outlying Fells of Lakeland. The hike takes in 9 tops on the far eastern edge 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 20th June 2020. These were Outlier numbers 29 to 37 of 116 for Nic. Here, she explains how you can bag these outlying fells too.

The Bannisdale Horseshoe Route Stats

Fells: Whiteside Pike (397m), Todd Fell (401m), Capplebarrow (513m), nameless summit 1819′ (554m), a nameless summit 1771′ (541m), Long Crag (493m), White Howe (530m), nameless summit 1736′ (528m) and Lamb Pasture (367m)

Total Distance: 17.9km / 11.12miles

Total Ascent: 410m / 1,345ft

Approx Walk Time: 5.5 hours

Grid Reference Start: NY 531001

The Bannisdale Horseshoe Route Report

The Lead Up to the Bannisdale Horseshoe

The previous week we had walked Black Combe, White Combe and Stoupdale Head in the south west of the Lake District National Park on our quest to hike the Outlying Fells of Lakeland.

Today James and I were meeting our good friend Liz, a nurse who lives over the border in Yorkshire.

There is limited parking for the Bannisdale Horseshoe but we managed to park near Plough Farm.

The Ascent

To start, we walked south-east down the road before turning right towards Mosergh Farm.

Just before we reached the farm we turned right again to follow a track which was lined by dry stone walls on either side.

Walled track at the beginning of the Bannisdale Horseshoe
Walled track at the beginning of the Bannisdale Horseshoe

The wide track was easy to follow. Its end marks the start of the open access land and a series of faint paths lead uphill through grass and bracken towards the summit of Whiteside Pike.

Approaching Whiteside Pike, the first summit of the Bannisdale Horseshoe
Approaching Whiteside Pike, the first summit of the Bannisdale Horseshoe

The summit cairn of Whiteside Pike was visible from quite a distance due to its height.

Views close to the summit of Whiteside Pike
Views close to the summit of Whiteside Pike

A short steep section at the very end enabled us to access the highest point of the fell, we looked back to a gorgeous view of Brunt Knott.

The Summit – Whiteside Pike

Whiteside Pike - one of Wainwright's Outlying Fells on the Bannisdale Horseshoe
Whiteside Pike – one of Wainwright’s Outlying Fells on the Bannisdale Horseshoe

On the summit of Whiteside Pike was a columnar cairn which was higher than my shoulder. A very impressive stack indeed.

As we left the summit of Whiteside Pike, we looked ahead towards Todd Fell, our second peak on the Bannisdale Horseshoe. We could see Todd Fell on the left and Capplebarrow on the right, separated by a wall.

Todd Fell and Capplebarrow from the descent of Whiteside Pike
Todd Fell and Capplebarrow from the descent of Whiteside Pike

There was a stone stile in the wall at the bottom between Whiteside Pike and Todd Fell.

The Summit – Todd Fell

We headed north-west making a beeline for the summit of Todd Fell.

Views from the summit of Todd Fell
Views from the summit of Todd Fell

The summit was marked by two very small rocks that could be easily missed.

Giggles on Todd Fell summit
Giggles on Todd Fell summit

We started a debate amongst ourselves trying to identify the high fells in the distance, beyond the picturesque Long Sleddale Valley. There was one that looked very much like Great Gable, but from this angle it looked suspiciously far away from the Scafells. But none of us could think of an alternative!

Views from the summit of Todd Fell
Views from the summit of Todd Fell

The Summit – Capplebarrow

We mused over the Great Gable conundrum as we made our way off Todd Fell, aiming for a ladder stile in the wall that separated us from Capplebarrow.

Stile on the way between Todd Fell and Capplebarrow
Stile on the way between Todd Fell and Capplebarrow

After crossing the stile we hiked onwards and upwards, through a gate which looked like a new addition.

Gate on the ascent of Capplebarrow
Gate on the ascent of Capplebarrow

By the time we reached the summit of Capplebarrow we were certain we could see Great Gable and made a note to check the map properly when we got home.

Views from the summit of Capplebarrow on the Bannisdale Horseshoe
Views from the summit of Capplebarrow on the Bannisdale Horseshoe

From Capplebarrow we followed the long fence on towards the next summit of the Bannisdale Horseshoe.

A gate looking a little worse for wear on the descent of Capplebarrow
A gate looking a little worse for wear on the descent of Capplebarrow

The Nameless Summit – 1819′

It’s quite difficult to work out why Alfred Wainwright went out of his way to include ‘nameless’ summits in his walks for the book – The Outlying Fells of Lakeland. Together with their height, in feet, he lists them under the shared name ‘nameless summit’. There are three of them on the Bannisdale Horseshoe.

Looking backwards we could appreciate the back end of the Bannisdale Horseshoe
Looking backwards we could appreciate the back end of the Bannisdale Horseshoe

As we approached nameless summit 1819′ we looked back to see the two prongs of the horseshoe with Bannisdale valley a chasm between them.

Nameless summit 1819'
Nameless summit 1819′

In the spirit of being able to remember the nameless summits, it seemed fitting that we nicknamed this summit ‘Preston Peak’ after our hiking companion Liz Preston. The view towards Skeggles Water and Green Quarter Fell was lovely.

The Nameless Summit – 1771′

From one nameless summit to another, we marched north towards the next Outlier.

Views approaching the summit of nameless peak 1771'
Views approaching the summit of nameless peak 1771′

The pointy peak of Ill Bell was the most recognisable mountain on the horizon, together with other fells from the Kentmere Horseshoe.

Adventurer Nic on the nameless summit 1771'
Adventurer Nic on the nameless summit 1771′

An old wall led us to the nameless summit 1771′ which we nicknamed Hardy Hill (after my own name).

The Summit – Long Crag

From here we entered bog territory, but found a few rocks to sit and eat lunch on out of the wind.

We continued on hopping over the bog towards the north-east corner of the fell where two walls meet, in order to use the ladder stile. From here we could see the Shap Fells we had yet to hike over to our left.

Liz on the ladder stile close to the summit of Long Crag
Liz on the ladder stile close to the summit of Long Crag

From here we headed up in a south westerly direction to reach the summit of Long Crag.

Approaching the summit of Long Crag
Approaching the summit of Long Crag

We were in good spirits after lunch. After a weather forecast that promised a bit of sunshine, a lot of cloud and a few showers we’d only caught one short shower and were felling buoyant.

Adventurer Nic on the summit of Long Crag
Adventurer Nic on the summit of Long Crag

The Summit – White Howe

We returned to the wall junction and followed the wall to the col between Long Crag and White Howe, before peeling off to approach the summit from the north side.

Following the wall between Long Crag and White Howe
Following the wall between Long Crag and White Howe

White Howe was the only fell on the circuit to have a trig pillar.

Trig pillar on White Howe on the Bannisdale Horseshoe
Trig pillar on White Howe on the Bannisdale Horseshoe

The rain started just as we reached the summit and the mountains in the distance slowly started to disappear into the mist.

Adventurer Nic on the summit of White Howe
Adventurer Nic on the summit of White Howe

The Nameless Summit – 1736′

Leaving White Howe to the south-west, we hopped over a stile and up to next summit, another nameless one! So this third and final nameless summit adopted the nickname Forrest Fell, after James’s surname.

Adventurer Nic on the nameless summit 1736'
Adventurer Nic on the nameless summit 1736′

Forrest Fell was quite an apt nickname as the general area is marked ‘The Forest’ on the map.

View from the nameless summit 1736'
View from the nameless summit 1736′

The Summit – Lamb Pasture

We headed down from the nameless fell in a south-easterly direction.

James and Liz heading towards Lamb Pasture
James and Liz heading towards Lamb Pasture

Soon we could see Lamb Pasture, but we couldn’t summit it until we’d completed the biggest descent of the day so far.

Looking down towards Lamb Pasture
Looking down towards Lamb Pasture

We walked through a gate in the col and noticed a second gate in the corner to the right, so we headed through that in order to avoid having to cross the boundary further up.

Views from Lamb Pasture into Bannisdale Valley
Views from Lamb Pasture into Bannisdale Valley

We made it to the summit and the poor weather had passed once more. The sun was shining and the view down Bannisdale Valley was beautiful.

Adventurer Nic sitting on the summit of Lamb Pasture on the Bannisdale Horseshoe, The Lake District
Adventurer Nic sitting on the summit of Lamb Pasture on the Bannisdale Horseshoe, The Lake District

I took a well earned rest on the small summit cairn.

The Bannisdale Horseshoe Descent

From Lamb Pasture, we descended down to another pair of gates and followed a quad bike trail to main track.

Fox gloves on the Bannisdale Horseshoe descent
Fox gloves on the Bannisdale Horseshoe descent

The foxgloves framed the English countryside scene beautifully.

The descent of the Bannisdale Horseshoe
The descent of the Bannisdale Horseshoe

We reached the track at the bottom and walked along it to the east for a while before heading south again towards the road, along the right of way next to Thorn Cottage.

Descending down towards the farm
Descending down towards the farm

We walked along the road, which crossed Bannisdale Beck, before turning right onto another footpath.

This trail led us through woodland and out onto farmers fields.

Beautiful fields with a blue sky backdrop towards the end of the Bannisdale Horseshoe
Beautiful fields with a blue sky backdrop towards the end of the Bannisdale Horseshoe

By this time we were roasting hot in the sunshine.

Beautiful fields with a blue sky backdrop towards the end of the Bannisdale Horseshoe
Beautiful fields with a blue sky backdrop towards the end of the Bannisdale Horseshoe

The path exited onto the road where the cars were parked and our 18km Outlying Fell-bagging hike was over. The longest walk in Alfred Wainwright’s book – the Outlying Fells of Lakeland was complete.

Wrapping Up our Bannisdale Horseshoe Hike

What next? We walked Knipescar Common, the 38th hill of Wainwright’s Outlying Fells on our way home.

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.

4 Replies to “The Bannisdale Horseshoe”

  1. Hi Adventurer Nic,
    We very much enjoyed reading your account of walking the Bannisdale horseshoe and appreciate how much work you must put in to maintain your website and to provide so much useful information for fellow walkers. We finished the Wainwrights in 2014 and since then we have done a few of the Outlying Fells while on each of subsequent holidays in the Lakes. The list may not be as popular as the Wainwrights, but it does lead you to parts of Lakeland that you might not otherwise explore. We have very much enjoyed climbing them and are now nearing the end of the quest. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Bannisdale Horseshoe is yet to be done and we are planning to do it either later this year or next. We hope you might be able to give us some advice on the walk and particularly on the approach to Capplebarrow. We see from your photographs of the walk that there is a barbed wire fence that follows the ridge up to Capplebarrow. Looking at his map Wainwright appears to climb the hill with the fence on his right and he marks the position of the summit on this (SW) side of the fence. Was this your route too and is there a gate or stile that gets you on to the NE side of the fence in order to continue the route along to the nameless summits and beyond? We also see from the 25k map that there are fences on the section of the ridge leading to the summit of Capplebarrow that lead off down to Bannisdale and Longsleddale. Can you recall if there are stiles or gates in these fences that allow easy passage?
    Hope you can help,
    Regards,
    Graham and Janet

    1. Hi Graham and Janet, thank you so much for your message. Great to hear that you’re enjoying the Outlying Fells! I was a little baffled by Capplebarrow myself, as in the second edition (2020) of the guidebook, Wainwright’s route after descending Todd Fell is initially on the left of the boundary and then he switches over to the right (and stays on the right all the way to the top of the horseshoe). There have been a series of ladder stiles and new gates installed which make it clear that the farmer/landowner would appreciate walkers sticking to the right side. That said, Wainwright does mark the true Capplebarrow summit as being on the other side of the boundary (on the SW side like you say in your message). From memory, we stayed on the right I can only assume that’s because the left side didn’t look inviting (no stiles/gates) and as the summits were all fairly featureless and the grid references the same regardless of which side of the fence we were on, that was enough for us. I hope that helps! Nic

  2. Hi Adventurer Nic,
    Thanks again for answering our query about the Bannisdale Horseshoe and just letting you know that we completed the Bannisdale Hills on a recent stay in the Lake District. We now have just two Outlying Fells left to do which we hope to climb on a visit to the Lakes next year. The route was more straightforward than Wainwright described mainly because of the new stone stile between Whiteside Pike and Todd Fell and the ladder stile you describe between Todd Fell and the start of the walk up Capplebarrow. A narrow but easily followed walkers’ path exists for much of the walk, an indication perhaps of the increasing popularity of the Outlying Fells and this gives easy progress through most areas of tall grass and bracken on Whiteside Pike and Todd Fell. There is a new fence that crosses Capplebarrow and this is topped with a single strand of wire rather than barbed wire, so there is now easy access to either side of the summit area. Beyond Capplebarrow there is another section of new fence this time topped with barbed wire. This fence separates the walker from the summit cairn on Swinklebank Crag but only by a couple of metres. The barbed wire fence described by Wainwright on the col between White Howe and the Forest now has a stile over it, as described by others, but on our visit this was getting rather rickety and will soon need attention.
    Best of luck with your adventures!
    Regards,
    Graham and Janet

    1. This is brilliant Graham and Janet, I’m so pleased you enjoyed your Bannisdale round! Very best of luck for your final 2 Outlying Fells, Nic

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