Fairfield Horseshoe, Ambleside, Lake District


This is one of the most outstanding walks in the English Lake District, and one of our favourites. It is a circular walk from Ambleside of 18km, 940m of ascent, taking about 7 hours, along a mostly obvious path.. After reaching Low Pike the walk follows a gently undulating route around a horseshoe shaped heavily glaciated valley. Ensure that you walk on a sunny day, as the views over the Lakeland fells and Morecambe Bay cannot be missed.

We drove to the Lakes for the day from our home in Manchester,

parking in the main car park at Ambleside (Rydal Road) at 9.30am, costing £8.00 using a card and 20p cash or card for the toilet. We had a late breakfast stop in the conveniently placed Greggs bakery and bought some cakes to provide extra energy with lunch. We sometimes find discovering the start of the walk to be the hardest part. On this occasion leaving at 10am we crossed Rydal Road and went up Smithy Brow by the Golden Rule pub, then left onto Nook Lane. The tarmac road ends at Nook Farm, we went through a green gate marked footpath to Low Sweden Bridge. After crossing the bridge the path turns right, with views to Scandale valley to the East. The path now for most of the day is obvious. We arrived at the first "peak" of the day of Low Pike 507m at 11.15am. Continuing to High Pike 656m at 11.45am along the path that follows the left-hand side of the wall. We passed through a gate in the wall, and continued on the right side of the wall arriving at the top of Dove Crag 792m at 12.15am. We reached Hart Crag 822m at 1pm, following which we sat and ate our lunch. It is was a fairly busy day, and it was lovely to sit and chat to fellow walkers.

Continuing, Helvellyn to the north now comes into view, and the top of Fairfield 873m is reached- the highest peak of the day. It is worth continuing a little further north past the sheep shelters to gain better views northwards. The path had been heading north all morning until this point, but as we are now at the head of the horseshow valley it turns and heads southwards. We continued to Great Rigg 767m at 2.20pm. After climbing to the final summit of the day of Heron Pike 612m, the path now heads down to Nab Scar 455m with more excellent views.

We followed the zig-zag path down until reaching a walled lane and farm, before we arrived at Rydal Mount at 4.45pm. Rydal Mount was the home of one of England's most famous poets William Wordsworth and can be visited. 50m later we turned left at a sign to Ambleside, continuing along a gravel road which passes Rydal Hall tea shop. There are signs for Rydal Hall, the gardens, grot and waterfall can all be visited, and accommodation can be booked. We continued through Rydal Hall sculpture path with sculptures in metal, stone, wood and ceramics. There are a series of waterfalls at Rydal Beck which have been used as HEP over the years. Check out the numerous information boards. On arriving at the main road,(A591 Scandale Bridge) there is a bus stop with buses to Windermere, Kendal and Lancaster etc, We turned left and followed the main road for 1.5 miles back to our car in Ambleside arriving at 5.20pm.

Distance 11.7 miles (19km)

Duration of Walk 7.2 Hours

Elevation 3078 feet (938m)

Average Pace 37 min/mile


We took our time to really enjoy this walk, in superb weather. The views were tremendous-some of the best over mountains, and sea that the UK can offer.

Fairfield summit maybe a tricky place to navigate in the mist, use a compass if necessary.

Wear boots, the only way to go, we wear Lowa boots, originally designed in Germany, and very popular with walkers there. Having worn out previous pairs, with an excess of 1,000 miles walked in them, we are now on our third pair. They are available from Lowa on-line, in Decathlon, and probably other places too.

Check the weather forecast before setting off, as it would be a shame to walk all this way and have no view.

The weather in this area can be changeable so take wet weather clothes, hats, sun hats, map, compass and first aid kit etc. Take a phone charger, especially if using on-line resources. Also take food and drink, as none were available on this trip- until maybe the teashop in Rydal. .

Resources Used

My new favourite thing is ordnance survey maps online. It is £30 for the year and then the App can be downloaded onto a phone. The maps then cover all of England, Wales and Scotland. But ensure you don't end up with a flat battery.

Book -Great Mountain Days in the lake District Cicerone press by Mark Richards. Walk 39

We also subscribe to Trail magazine-we got 50% off ordnance survey maps online. We enjoy reading trail, for new walking routes, kit advice etc.

Websites Used


www.bbc.co.uk/weather We used https://www.mapmywalk.com/ to record the walk.

Useful Websites




Ambleside is a beautiful town, with a very plentiful array of climbing shops, bars, restaurants and accommodation, with a stunning location at the north end of Lake Windermere. There are numerous walks in the area.