Amid the tall, craggy splendours of the Lake District, it’s from the lower hills that you can sometimes, with surprise, discover the finest views.
At 335m in height, Loughrigg Fell doesn’t qualify as a mountain, yet it provides, in miniature, much of what the high peaks offer.
The most convenient starting point for an ascent of this modest hill is from a small roadside car-parking space at the top of Red Bank. Alternative parking can be found beyond YHA Langdale, overlooking Langdale itself.
1. Stairway to summit
A short woodland walk from Red Bank leads you on to Loughrigg Terrace. The climb from here looks quite formidable and very steep, but it is relatively short and eased by a constructed rocky staircase, while the wonderful view over Grasmere can be enjoyed with each pause for breath.
As you approach a shoulder of the hill, Rydal Water, Grasmere’s smaller neighbour, makes its first appearance.
A further steep rise leads to a gentler stretch and a final short climb to the summit trig point.
2. Lake views
The view from here becomes panoramic, extending to the Cumbrian coast, and, while Rydal Water temporarily vanishes, its loss is more than compensated for by the appearances of Windermere, Coniston and Elterwater.
And in the distance to the north, through the gap over Dunmail Raise, you’ll catch a glimpse of Thirlmere.
On traversing the 100 metres to the slightly lower east summit, you lose Elterwater but regain Rydal. I know of no other Lake District peak from which you can see six lakes.
Dropping to the south, the footpath skirts the north shore of a small tarn, in the damp surrounds of which you might find the tiny pincushions of insectivorous sundews. Descending east from here, be careful not to step on the delicate purple flowers of butterwort, which disguise the fact that these plants also survive on a diet of midges, seen as tiny, black dots on the yellow-green leaves.
3. Spring delights
A horizontal stretch now crosses a boggy area, though this is well drained by deep, pond-skater pools and sluggish streams. Flowers to look for here include pink-white bogbean and yellow bog asphodel. You might also spot the occasional frog or lizard.
A final descent brings you to the enormous Rydal Cave, which was once part of a slate quarry. The floor is often flooded but can be crossed using stepping stones.
4. Terrace traipse
The return to Red Bank is along Loughrigg Terrace, which contours above the Grasmere-Rydal Water isthmus. In May, the slope is a carpet of bluebells. In colour contrast, small patches of yellow pimpernel and yellow saxifrage cling to the banks of the streams descending the fell.