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Fairfield Horseshoe

  • Difficulty
  • 18km
  • 928m
  • 6-8h
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Any day you can wake up and walk directly from your lodging to the trail is a great one! This wonderful route explores the peaks that surround Ambleside and is a great trip at the Lakes!

Getting there

Head to the Rydal Road (main) car park in Ambleside, just off of the A591 (Rydal Road).


Total Gain: 928m


Type of Hike Loop
Crowd Levels Moderate to High
Route Signage None
Toilets Starting car park
Family Friendly No
Backcountry Campgrounds No
When to Do When Dry, no fog

 Detailed Description

There is something wonderful about waking up, having breakfast and then going on your walk directly from your accommodations. Today is that day, and the walk is a great one!

Start in main car park in northern side of Ambleside, just off Rydal Road. From the car park head north over the bridge and turn left onto Rydal Road, passing a police building. Note the Armmit Museum is across the street just right to the bridge you crossed.

Stay on the left-hand side of the road and after about 10 minutes you cross over a bridge. Cross to the other side of the road and almost immediately go right, through some wrought-iron gates onto a rocky track past park gates lodge on your left.

Follow this track and after 1.45 miles (2.35 km) from the start, take a track that heads off to the right. The path splits almost immediately and this time you go left towards some buildings. Go to the left of the main building towards Rydal Hall, crossing over a river on a substantial stone bridge and continue on a road between a cafe and the rear of Rydal Hall.

You soon come to a steep road and go right uphill. You will pass Rydal Mount, the home of William Wordsworth on your left. Soon after, continue uphill past a path going off to your left. The path you’re on splits quickly – take the left hand path uphill towards a rocky path under a tree towards a gate.

At 1.9 miles (3.05 km) from the start the path heads uphill on stone steps. You will climb a ladder over a stonewall 400 yards later and continue uphill.

At 2.9 miles (4.7 km) from the start you’ll come to a stonewall and take the protruding stone steps over it and then continue uphill.

At 4 miles (6.5 km) from the start the path splits. Go right to go up Heron Pike, which is a great stop for lunch. From here the path is pretty evident, curving in the horseshoe around to your right and coming back down on the hills on the other side of the valley. Your role is to stay on the ridge.

Leaving Heron Pike continue north continue along the ridge eventually going over Great Rigg. This is a lovely ridge-walk for quite some time, and is a pleasure in fine weather.

At 5.6 miles (9 km) from the start you reach Fairfield and a series of stone wind shelters. After taking a break, continue on the path to the right going east across the ridges.

Stay east along the horseshoe and soon turn back towards Ambleside. Along the way you will pass Dove Crag, High Pike and Low Pike, however the views aren’t as spectacular as on the way up.

As you descend the broad ridge you will go along the left hand side of a stonewall. This is an exceptionally well built wall, running most of the way back down to the valley bottom. Along the way you will pass gates on your right, but continue down on the path, with the stonewall on your right. Pay attention – a few areas can get muddy, especially after heavy rains.

As you continue down along the stonewall you’ll notice a path running along the other side of it. We prefer to be on the path that keeps the stonewall on our right. Along the way (roughly 10 miles / 16km from the start) there is a noticeable bog that could be trouble after a lot of wet weather. You may notice a small sign to the left of the route saying deep bog. Stick right close to the stonewall, but your boots may get a bit muddy.

750 yards after the start of the bog, go left and away from the fine stonewall along a clear stony path. 650 yards after this, you’ll reach a track – go right and continue downhill.

In approximately .65 miles (1 km) you come to a stonewall and follow the path left then right. 300 yards later continue on the left, ignoring a path heading off to the right (which goes back to Rydal). Your path crosses a bridge and then passes through a gate.

Soon after, you go through a metal gate and head straight down the road, passing some buildings from the University of Cumbria. When the road splits in three go straight down Nook Lane continuing downhill and straight when another road comes out on the right.

When you come to a bigger road go right and then left at a traffic circle. Across the street is the car park, and there is a bridge just to your left on the other side of the road.

Insider Hints

  • The Old School Room Tea Shop is a pleasant place just beside Rydal Hall.
  • Ambleside is a wonderful town and worth a visit, the area down by the lake is lovely on a sunny summer day.