Armboth Fell

Published 19 February 2023

A very small cairn sits on a large piece of rock, on the top of Armboth Fell.
A tiny cairn at the top of Armboth Fell

It’s September 2022 and I’m back in the Lake District for another three days of fell bagging in glorious weather. My first day was spent a-wandering round Weatherlam and its near neighbours. After a good nights rest, I was ready to start a walk of epic proportions, visiting four quite spread out Central Fells all in one day. It started with a climb of Raven Crag, before I continued on to Armboth Fell.

From Raven Crag, my next destination was Armboth Fell. This led to an interesting conundrum. See, Armboth Fell and Raven Crag are pretty much on the same ridge. But I was following Wainwright’s walking instructions. Where two fells are on the same ridge, Wainwright provided instructions for what we happed a “ridge route”. How to get between them, But he gave nothing for Armboth Fell and Raven Crag. His only instructions to get to the summits of both fells, assumed you were at the valley floor.

My assumption was that there wasn’t a footpath running from one to the other back in Wainwright’s day. Or anything at all. His description of Raven Crag is of a fell covered in trees, with no paths. There may well have been no way to physically get between the two when he wrote his Pictorial Guide to the Central Fells in the 1950s. But now there’s a very clear forest track running along the top of Raven Crag. So what could I do?

I boiled it down to three options.

1) head back down to the foot of Raven Crag and walk along the road to the lost hamlet of Armboth, then walk up hill again, or

2) follow the clear and present path that existed right here, right now.

The first option would be true to my copy of Wainwright’s book. For this walk, this was a copy of Wainright’s original edition, not the updated second or third editions. But being true to the book had a downside. It would mean going down hill, then back up again.

A path and and a fence next to a stream.
Wandering around the once closed fell top of Raven Crag.

The second option may – or may not – have been in the updated guide books. I didn’t know. But assuming not, I posed myself a question. If Alfred Wainwright was here right now, would he have mentioned the path I could see?

In the end, I decided, yes. He would. So stuff that, going all the way down Raven Crag then coming uphill again.

Now I should declare a third factor. Wainwright’s description of on Armboth Fell was, to be blunt and honest here, not that encouraging. He declared that

“walkers may justifiably consider its ascent a waste of precious time and energy when so many more rewarding climbs are available.”

Ouch.

“Peak baggers and record-chasers may have cause to visit this summit” though, so that was alright. I wasn’t a record chaser, but I was a peak bagger. So I had an excuse to visit the summit. And I also had an excuse not to bother climbing up hill to get to it.

A large lump of rock that Castle Crag Fort was once built on.
Spot the remains of Castle Crag Fort. If you can.

Still, there was, for a good chunk of the way between the two summits, a wide, well made path, and that worked for me. Also there was a signpost just off the trail. It said nothing more than “FOOTPATH” but I assumed it would take me to the remains of Castle Crag Fort. Which it turned out, it did, according to a large wooden sign when I got there. Again, Wainwright had something to say about this.

He said “the average visitor will be sadly disappointed with it.”

I could let that speak for itself and move on, but fear I should describe what I saw. And what I saw was a rocky mound covered in bracken and heather. There may once have been a fort there. But there was no real indicator of how or where.

Still, it wasted a few minutes. Something which I came to regret later in the day, but hey, I didn’t know that yet.


A view of the forest and summit of Raven Crag from Armboth Fell.
Looking back at Raven Crag.

Back in Wainwight’s day, the good burghers of the Manchester Corporation had plastered signs all around saying “trespassers will be prosecuted.” Now Raven Crag is open access land, and anyone’s free to wander about it as much as their heart is content. Whether they actually do is another matter. For once I left the forest track, I found myself on rather wet and boggy ground.

I followed a faint track, suggesting I wasn’t the only mad fool to have wandered this way in recent times. Eventually it joined a faint track that would have been the one I would have followed up from the valley floor. It looked pretty wet and soggy too. And then the fell summit came; some of the bog being replaced by various stones and rocks.

A simple cairn marked the top, and from there I took in the view. Ahead of me, the Helvellyn range. Although cloud was covering it all so I could see next to nothing. Behind me, I could see some other fells. But not much. The scenery was a bit dull and everything was all a little lackluster.

Earlier I’d told my other half I was visiting a fell that Wainwrright said not to bother with. Her words in reply were “Wainwright’s not always right.” It’s a fair comment. His definition of an ideal fell and an ideal walk may not be the same as yours.

But it had to be said, for my money, he was spot on the nose about Armboth Fell. I’d no regrets doing it. I needed to tick it off my list after all. But now I had, I knew I had no real need to ever come back.

Next time: Gibson Knott

Heather on Armboth Fell
The heather of Armboth Fell is one of its few attractions.

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