Whin Rigg

Published 3 July 2012. Last updated 7 November 2019

Summit cairn/shelter on Whin Rigg

Eskdale is one of those beautiful places that if it were just a bit closer to Ambleside or Keswick, it would be absolutely heaving. It it’s tucked away in the south west of the Lake District, off the beaten track, makes it even better. It has some lovely fells. The day before I’d taken in Green Crag and Harter Fell. And today’s plan was to visit two more delightful fells overlooking Wast Water, starting with Whin Rigg.

I don’t exactly know why, but right from the outset of planning my first Eskdale trip, Whin Rigg was right up there on my hit list as a fell I just had to do. That and it’s neighbour, Illgill Head. If I didn’t manage to do them both, it seemed like I would have failed somehow.

Why Whin Rigg had this hold over me, I couldn’t quite work out. It’s not like I’d even heard of it before, nor was it rated as one of those “top fells” lists that people do. But something about Wainwright’s hand drawn maps of the route just told me I had to go there.

Unlike most of Wainwright’s Eskdale walks, the ascent of Whin Rigg doesn’t start from the tiny village of boot, but two and a half miles down the road at Eskdale Green.

“The easiest thing to do is get the Ratty up to Iroton Road the walk up through the forest,” I’d been told by a local in the pub the night before.

And he’s right. It easier that way, and as long as you don’t mind waiting for the first train at 10:30, it’s the perfect way to do it. Unfortunately I’d woken early and was ready to head off at 8:30, so instead I had to make do with walking down the enchanting riverside path to Eskdale Green instead.

Birds were tweeting merrily as I picked up AW’s recommended path, setting off into Forestry Commission owned woodland on a track endearingly named “Giggle Alley” and a short way on I arrived a bridge over the River Mitre. A picturesque spot and a perfect place to rest, well until the midges drove me back on to the bridleway that weaved its way gently uphill in a way that made you think it was dancing through the trees.

The upper part of the forest was described as a “young plantation” by Wainwright in 1959 but times had changed; the ground now showing the scars of forestry. Information signs told those passing by that it was part of a plab to make the forest boundary less harsh at the top of the fell, and maybe in twenty years time it will. Once the bare tree stumps and churned earth have gone anyway.

Never Wasdale, seen from Irton Fell
Never Wasdale, seen from Irton Fell

Then, on top of Irton Fell, the forest was left behind and the path turned up a ridge that the walker just needed to follow to the summit of Whin Rigg, along the grassy paths, and past the granite ravine that is the head of Greathall Gill; the ravine looking for all intents and purposes like a giant had hit the fell top with a chisel and carved out a chunk of rock.

The path started getting steeper; the views of the Irish Sea and Wasdale Fells fine. And then, plop! A cairn on the top! Celebration!

Oh. No. Not just yet. A false summit. Confound these stones for being so. A few more metres to go then; the true summit marked by a giant cairn-cum-shelter.

In front, Illgill Head stood waiting; the mighty bulk of Scafel looming behind. Harter Fell and Green Crag to the south.

And take a few steps to the side, just that little closer to the edge, that my friend is the mighty Wast Water, a long, narrow lake glistening perfectly in the June sun.

Placing my pack on the ground I went off to enjoy an amazing view. Something had called out to me from the pages of Wainwright and told me to visit. And I felt more than happy that it had.

Next time: Illgill Head

A panoramic view from Whin Rigg with Illgill Head in the centre
A wide view from Whin Rigg with Illgill Head in the centre


Jeff Knox

21 October 2018 at 10:24 pm

It’s not the North Sea it’s the Irish sea

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

22 October 2018 at 10:34 pm

Jeff – didn’t you know the Lake District had been moved to the east coast?

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