Described as one of Britain’s biggest cult films, Withnail and I (made in 1986) sees the main characters “go on holiday by mistake” to Uncle Monty’s cottage, in reality Sleddale Hall.
Follow the road signs to Wet Sleddale Reservoir from the A6 near J39 (M6). From the reservoir car park, follow the obvious footpath skirting above the reservoir, heading west. You’ll soon reach a gate then, after 800m, a ruined stone barn on your right. Pass the barn, keeping left over stepping-stones, then go through a gate and cross a simple plank bridge over a small beck.
Continue across open and very boggy land, following a line of white marker posts towards the distant river, trees and ancient packhorse bridge. The target is easy to see, though often the actual footpath is much less easy to follow, being covered as Monty so aptly puts by “beastly mud and oomska” (might be worth getting fitted with “some good quality rubber boots”). The bridge itself featured in the scene where Withnail fishes with a shotgun.
Sleddale Hall, Crow Cragg in the film, is high above and to the right of the bridge. Follow a steep footpath to the right and zigzag up through the sparse birch trees to emerge below the bank on which Sleddale Hall is perched. Once at the hall, views open up all around you – the triangle of reservoir is cut neatly by the dam, while the whale-back of Shap Fell and the folded crease of Sleddale Beck are all below. The horizon is punctuated by the Corus plant chimneys overlooking the motorway and the industrial scars of Shap’s quarries, but these are small blots on an otherwise undisturbed and beautiful landscape.
The hall is well placed to take advantage of the fine views but the elements have had free rein for many years. Under new ownership, however, the structure has been reroofed in slate and weatherproofed to prevent further deterioration. There is a stile over the wire fence at the back to provide access to the grounds. And plenty of curious film-fans have made the journey to enjoy the ambience.
When you are ready to continue, descend to the large stone barn just below the hall and go through a gate. This well surfaced track leads back eastwards to Sleddale Grange, a collection of working barns, sheepfolds and pens, through several gates and onwards to a metalled road that skirts Green Farm.
Continue along the road past the farm for 500m until you see a newly constructed footbridge crossing the River Lowther. Use this bridge to regain the access road, and head back up to the reservoir car park.
A circular walk round Wet Sleddale on easy paths and well marked tracks except for a short section of indistinct boggy ground marked by white posts. The ground is often wet and muddy and welly boots can be an advantage as the route stays off the higher fells. There is some road walking involved to return to your vehicle.
How to get there
By car: Use the A6 to Shap or the M6 J39 to Shap. Wet Sleddale is reached via an access road (signposted) 400m north of A6/J39 M6 turn-off. Follow the road to the terminus car park at Wet Sleddale Reservoir dam.
By public transport:
It is possible to use a bus to Shap and walk across country using well marked footpaths from Shap village. The nearest train station is either Oxenholme (Kendal) 10 miles south or Penrith 12 miles north.
The Greyhound Hotel
Main Street, Shap CA10 3PW
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL5.
Grid ref: NY 554 114