Skiddaw Route 3
You’ll avoid the crowds – and explore some wild moorland – if you climb Skiddaw from the back door, recommends Roger Butler.
Bask in northern Lakes tranquility
Skiddaw almost tumbles into the streets of Keswick, and so it’s not surprising that many head straight out of town to climb its graceful but muscular slopes. The classic ‘tourist path’ ascends over dumpy Latrigg before rising steeply to Little Man and then swinging north to the high, stony summit.
This is a popular route, but a longer and more satisfying walk approaches the mountain from its back door. Damp woodland leads the way to the great gulch of Glenderaterra Beck, which cuts between Blencathra and Lonsdale Fell and leads north towards a huge bowl of moorland and the source of the River Caldew. This empty quarter is often referred to as the ‘Back o’Skiddaw’ and its remote hostel, half sheltered by a wind-blown plantation, is often said to be the loneliest house in England.
Plonk yourself down in the heather and allow yourself half an hour to sit back and doze – it’s unlikely anyone will disturb you. From here, an invigorating climb over soft, spongy slopes is an enjoyable way to reach the top of Skiddaw. Make sure you pause to take in the buzzard’s-eye view that stretches to the North Pennines and sweeps over to the border country once known as the ‘Debatable Lands’.
From the summit there’s no escaping the main path back down into Keswick. But by now it should be much quieter, and the sinking sun will send flares of light across the shadows on Derwent Water. Keep going, down past Latrigg, and leave the mountain by its front door next to the babbling River Greta.
Looking north from near Keswick to Little Man, with the grey slopes of Skiddaw beyond.
Carrock Fell in the distance. Skiddaw House Hostel is located by the isolated plantation.