Arthur’s Pike

Published 23 August 2017

Cairn at the summit of Arthur’s Pike

The wide cairn that marks the summit of Arthur's Pike

For the first of three days spent in the Patterdale area, I set off from Pooley Bridge and headed to the Far Eastern fells for a walk that would take in Bonscale Pike, Loadpot Hill and Wether Hill. But the day started off at Arthur’s Pike, where our tale begins.

Pooley Bridge. I’d never been there before. In fact before I’d planned this particular walk, I had never heard of it. But it turns out this village at the top of Ullswater also a reasonable place to set off on a walk if you want to tackle the northern end of the Lake District’s Far Eastern Fells. And that was exactly my plan, as a way of starting off a three day fell bagging extravaganza in the Patterdale area.

The village seemed a nice enough place, and a great one if you wanted a gift shop. It felt a bit like it was a Grasmere of the northern Lakes, with plenty of facilities for those tourists visiting, but perhaps not that many locals. Tourism probably explains the number of pubs. I counted four of them, all within a few minutes walk of each other, which didn’t seem bad going for a small village. The fanciest of them all the Pooley Bridge Inn, with a grand galleried front and multiple hanging baskets, and I made a mental note to pop back some time during its opening hours to see if its interior matched up with its impressive exterior.

The Pooley Bridge Inn

Pooley Bridge's fantastic looking galleried pub

Part of me wanted to dwell longer in Pooley Bridge. That part of me was influenced by the rain. Although if I’d let that delay my journey, I’d probably never leave. The forecast suggested this wasn’t going to be the finest day to be out on the fells. So instead I wrapped myself up in my waterproof jacket and followed a quiet road out of the village on my way to Arthur’s Pike.

Arthur’s Pike. Now where did that name come from? As it happens, there’s an Arthur’s Round Table in Penrith; a large henge that sits just off the main road. Perhaps from that we are to presume that the legendary king once came to the area and held a meeting in a field. Item one on the agenda? Demanding that the northern terminus of the High Street range be named after him. That seems about as likely as the suggestion that one Robin Hood leant against a large rock a few miles from my house, but stranger things have happened.

At 533m in height, Arthur’s Pike is not a particularly difficult climb especially, if – like I did – you approach from the north. Doing so means you do a gentle, and rather prolonged climb up hill. All I needed to do was follow a follow a wide track, and then turn left at a bench next to signpost pointing me towards Galava, the Roman fort that sits near modern Ambleside.

Signpost pointing the way to Roman forts

Which way is Galava then?

This signpost was a clue that I was near High Street. Not the large fell documented by Wainwright in the Far Eastern Fells (the highest in the Far Eastern Fells), but the track that follows the route of an old Roman Road. The road connects many of the fells in the area, although it was actually built 2,000 years ago to link the Ambleside fort with its neighbour in Penrith.

Not far from the signpost was something even more interesting: a 29m wide stone circle known as The Cockpit. As ever with these things, no one is quite sure why it exists, what it was used for, or where the name came from. But it was a interesting place to admire. Plus I could rest my rucksack on the rocks whilst I delved into my rucksack to finally find my waterproof trousers.

I hadn’t put them on initially, in naive hope that the weather would get better. In fact on the opposite side of Ullswater, viewable from my current location, it did look quite nice. But now I was soaked, and I reluctantly pulled my over-trousers up my legs. Still, at least if I was wearing them, I’d be able to sit on wet grass as much as I liked! Every cloud, and all that.

The Cockpit stone circle

The stone circle that is known as the Cockpit. Very useful for resting your rucksack on.

The Cockpit made use of, I followed the signpost in the direction of Galava and joined High Street. Or at least I hoped I was on High Street. The path was pretty clear initially, but after a mile or so I began to wonder if I’d somehow accidentally taken a side path. To confuse things, I kept checking my GPS location on my phone, only to find that my location didn’t seem to correspond with the location of any footpath on my Ordnance Survey map.

It was only at home a few days later, by checking the GPS location stored on my camera, that I found out I’d never left High Street at all, and that my phone was playing tricks on me. But without that knowledge, I was rather stumped.

I knew that the summit of Arthur’s Pike wasn’t actually on the High Street path, but that somewhere there was a path that would take me there. It was just a case of trying to find it. And I couldn’t. It didn’t seem to be anywhere.

The summit of Arthur’s Pike, seen from High Street Roman Road

Arthur's Pike, seen through the rain and cloud

I could just about see the summit through the cloud, so I left the path and stormed off through the grass. I’d been holding back on doing so as the grass was wet, and who knew how waterlogged it would be, but now I’d had enough. It was time to get on with it. No dilly-dallying allowed.

And that’s what I did, marching across the grass as quickly as possible. I reached the large pile of rocks that marks Arthur’s Pike’s summit in just a few minutes, and just in time for the rain to ease off a little for me to take some photos without water spattering the camera lens. The cloud lifted, and a grand view of the lake of Ullswater was unveiled.

With the sun viewable across the lake, it was a gorgeous view; one that I spent several minutes admiring as I perched on a rock.

It may have taken me two and a half hours to get here from Pooley Bridge. And I may have been rather soggy. But that didn’t matter. Just looking at Ullswater just make made up for it all.

Next time, I head to nearby Bonscale Pike and its stunning towers. You can see all of my photographs from my three days in Patterdale over on flickr.

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