Buttermere - a walk around the lake
OS grid reference NY180-160
Buttermere is one of the prettiest lakes but it’s a very busy spot and it can be impossible to park there on a bank holiday or sunny summer weekend. Best to go through the week if you can when it will be much less crowded.
The lake is one and a half miles long, three quarters of a mile wide and 75 feet deep. There is a footpath running round it’s perimeter and some great walks to the many summits accessible from the village including Haystacks, Red Pike and Fleetwith Pike. In the little Church of St. James there is a stone tablet set into the windowsill as a memorial to Alfred Wainwright, the famous walker and author of guidebooks. The window looks out on his favourite place to walk, Haystacks, where at his wish his ashes were scattered.
You can reach Buttermere from Keswick by either Newlands pass or Honister pass or from Cockermouth by the B5289 via Lorton
There is a LDNP car park is in the centre of the village behind the Bridge Hotel and beside the Fish Hotel at GR NY 172 169. There is also a National Trust car park at GR NY 172 172. Both are pay & display.
If these car parks are full, continue towards Honister Pass where there is a small Pay & Display car park on land opposite Gatesgarth Farm at GR NY 194 150.
What to Shoot
From the LDNP car park you can take the lane down towards the northern shore of the lake. Here you will find the famous ‘lone tree’ which has sadly now lost many of it’s branches, but still makes for an iconic image particularly in the winter months when it’s free of leaves.
A little further on there is an attractive wooden bridge across the falls of Sourmilk Ghyll where you can get slow moving shots of the foaming white water against the red rocks. These are particularly good if the beck is in spate. Here, from the outlet of the lake, there is an opportunity for shots across to Whiteless Pike and there is a fence jutting out into the water that acts as a good lead in line.
A small gate across the bridge takes you along a path through the woodland that roughly parallels the lakeshore. There are great views everywhere along this path across the lake to High Snockrigg or down to Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks.
Turn left at the end of the path to cross Peggy’s Bridge and reach a wall leading to a sheepfold and a gate. Go left through the gate, cross Warnscale Beck and walk out to Gatesgarth Farm (alternate parking spot). You can turn right from the farm a little way up the road to find a footpath leading right into Warnscale Bottom where you will get some dramatic views.
Return to the farm and, after about a quarter of a mile, the road bends left where you leave it for a footpath signposted ‘Buttermere via Lakeshore Path’. The path leads into a field, beyond which it never strays far from the shoreline and continues to a stand of Scots pines near Crag Wood. There are some lovely views here back to ‘The Sentinels’ and the small white bothy which lies on the southern shore of the lake. There are also often a few wooden rowing boats tied up here which make an interesting foreground to the shot.
Soon the path enters the grounds of Hassness, where a rocky path, enclosed by trees, leads to a gate. Here a path has been cut across a crag where it plunges into the lake below, and shortly disappears into a brief, low and damp tunnel. It is difficult to get any images here as there is quite a big drop down to the lake and the shore is heavily wooded.
After you emerge from the tunnel a gate gives access to a gravel path across the wooded pasture of Pike Rigg. The path splits here and you can choose to return to the northern shore to have another crack at that ‘lone tree’ or carry on where a clear path leads on to Syke Farm and an easy walk out to the road just a short way above the Bridge Hotel. Do stop at Skye Farm for an ice cream though as they are home-made on the premises using milk from their own cows and are delicious.
Turn left to return to the car park.