Scafell Pikes Route

Recommended Maps Ordnance Survey Maps:

Outdoor Leisure Map 6 - South Western Area (1:25,000)

Land Ranger Map 89 - West Cumbria (1:50,000)

Land Ranger Map 90 - Penrith and Keswick (1:50,000)

Total Distance:

17.5 kilometres (10.9 miles)


7 Hours

Maximum Height Achieved :

978 metres (3209 feet)

Total Ascent :

1140 metres (3740 feet)


Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England. The peaks of the Lake District are known as 'fells' from the viking word 'fjell' for mountain. There are in fact several Sca Fells in Cumbria. Sca comes from the Viking 'skali' for shelter and it was natural enough that the mountains which provided shelter from the prevailing weather to the farmsteads in the valley would often be named thus. What is now known as Scafell Pike is actually one of three summits above 3000 feet in a range once referred to simply as the 'Pikes of Scafell'. The Scafell in question here is the neighbouring massive and imposing mountain to the south west, which is connected to scafell Pike by the narrow rock arete of Mickledore. Though this fell is from many aspects even more impressive than England's highest, particularly when its imposing northern cliffs are seen, it is some 50 feet lower than Scafell Pike, and it is the summit of the latter that draws the fell walker from every corner of the district.

The Scafell group is usually described as the hub of a wheel, the wheel being the Lake District and the various mountain ranges and valleys the spokes radiating from this central point. While this is useful as a rough sketch it does not quite give an accurate picture. For one thing it does not take account of the eastern valleys such as Ulswater and the eastern ranges of Helvellyn and High Street. For another, most of the Scafell group is itself more of a spoke than a hub being the dividing range between the valleys of Wasdale and Eskdale. No matter, the image of hub and spoke, mountain and radiating lake-filled valleys, first coined by no lesser Lake District champion than William Wordsworth, is an enduring one and serves to give a handle to a complex geography.

As a result of this hub and spoke arrangement there are several different routes to the summit of Scafell Pike from four different valleys, each with its own unique character and scenery. The main routes are all described below or you can go directly to the individual descriptions using the menu on the left.

Starting Point - Brotherilkeld Car Park

The walk starts at the bottom and west of Hardknott Pass, where there is a Car Park at a settlement known as Brotherilkeld.

Section 1 - Botherilkeld Car Park to Cam Spout

Distance: 4.1 miles (6.5km)

Height Gain: 1244 ft (373m)

Across the road a path leads North a few hundred yards straight through the farmyard of Brotherilkeld Farm. There are footpaths either side of the river Esk so if you want to follow the west bank cross over the footbridge to Taw House farm. The going is easy either side for the first two miles, those on the east bank must cross the beck at Lingcove Bridge unless they wish to ascend Bowfell as well. Lingcove Bridge marks the confluence of the River Esk and Lingcove Beck, follow the River Esk (left hand of the streams), pick up the path around Throstlehow Crag and Scar Lathing. From here the east bank path is straightforward as it steepens, the path on the west bank, below Green Crag, is steep and very narrow. On this section it is well worth turning round every now and again to take in the views down Eskdale with Hard Knott over to the other side of the valley.

After turning left (Westwards) passing under the precipitous cliffs of Scar Lathing (right of the path) the scenery opens up into flat boggy expans of Great Moss with the whole Scafell Range ahead. Pick out the waterfall of Cam Spout, and take a course straight across the valley to where the streams of How Beck and the Esk meet.

Section 2 - Great Moss to Scafell Pike

Distance: 1.8 miles (2.9km)

Height Gain: 568ft (308m)

From How Beck waterfall under Cam Spout turn right (North East) towards Esk Hause for nearly 3/4 of a mile, to the obvious opening of Little Narrowcove, where a large stream descends. Turn left, up Little Narrowcove, which climbs 1600ft between the impressive cliffs of Dow Crag and Ill Crag to reach a scree slope on the final approach to Broad Crag. The path emerges at a small col between Braod Crag and Scafell Pike, and a left turn here leaves you just 400 yards to the summit of England's highest peak. From here, on a good day, the views are truly outstanding with the coasts of Ireland and Wales way over to the west beyond Wastwater.

Section 3 - Scafell Pike to Scafell

Distance: 1 miles (1.6km)

Height Gain: 984ft (300m)

Until recently the route from the summit of Scafell Pike to Scafell would be an exhillerating affair leading down to Mickledore before branching North and West to ascend the Lord's Rake, West Wall Travers and Deep Gill onto Symonds Knott. However, recent earrosion and rock falls makes this a truly hazardous undertaking to be attemped only by experience and well equiped mountaineers.

From the summit of Scafell Pike descend the rough path Southwestwards down to Mickledore then descend SE down the gill to the base of the East Buttress of Scafell (aprox. 320m down the gill) to pick up the Foxes Tarn Path. Follow it Southwestwards up the shallow gully to the tarn, behind which take the pitched path Northwestwards up the scree to the col between Scafell and Symonds Knott. Turn left and make the short pull Southwestwards to Scafell.

Providing the summit is not shrouded in cloud, the views from Scafell are stunning. The summit of Scafell is the only vantage point in the Lakes where Scafell Pike appears to be higher than Scafell Ė from all others Scafell appears to be higher. There will almost certainly be very few other people on the summit of Scafell, the masses have been left behind on Scafell Pike, who will have undertaken the ascent simply for the sake of climbing Englandís highest peak.

Section 4 - Scafell Summit to Slight Side

Distance: 1.1 miles (1.8km)

Height Gain: -663ft (-202m)

The peak of Slight Side to the South is obvious in all but bad visibility though the path isnít always clear. Descend to the South along the edge of the escarpment, passing through rocks and scree, to reach the rough moorland grass. Continue in a basically Southerly direction across the broad, fairly flat moor, with the best views being from the edge of the escarpment to the left. The summit of Slight Side is easily climbed but doesnít offer any views not already seen on the descent from Scafell.

Section 5 - Slight Side to Brotherilkeld

Distance: 2.9 miles (4.6 km)

Height Gain: -2172ft (-662m)

The descent from Slight Side couldn't be much easier, with an obvious wide track following the descending ridge south towards the marshy Quagrigg Moss. Follow the path round the edge of Cowcove and Catcove and gradually descend to Eskdale, emerging at the road a few yards higher up.