Walk: Hawkshead and Latterbarrow, Cumbria
This small village in the middle of the Lake District National Park is a great base for exploring the surrounding hills, including the modest peak of Latterbarrow
Wainwright described a walk to the summit of Latterbarrow as one “needing little effort yet yielding much delight”.
Set off from the traditional village of Hawkshead – with its whitewashed cottages, cobbled courtyards and quaint alleyways – and experience a wonderful winter’s wander, full of festive spirit, to the crest of this small Lakeland hill.
Hawkshead – derived from the Norse word Houksete, meaning ‘settlement of Haukur’ – was developed by the monks of Furness Abbey as a medieval centre for the wool trade. Even the name of the local sheep breed, Herdwick, comes from Norse – herdvyck translates to ‘sheep’s pasture’.
Begin from the church of St Michael and All Angels – built around 1300 – perched on a mound above the village rooftops. Its unusual interior – of round arcades, thick pillars and framed texts painted on to the whitewashed walls – is just as William Wordsworth knew it when he worshipped here while studying at the village’s Grammar School between 1778-1787.
Drop into The Square to see the Market Hall and a host of fascinating independent retailers, such as The Honeypot deli, filled with preserves, oils, chutneys, meats and other delights from local producers. For extra festive spirit, join the Hawkshead Christmas Fair on the first weekend in December.The Square and the Market Hall have over 50 seasonal craft and food stalls, live music and an atmospheric late-afternoon lantern parade.
Navigate past Hawkshead Relish, where 120 pickles, preserves and relishes are still handmade in small batches.Turn left after the National Trust Shop on to Main Street to find the Beatrix Potter Gallery, once the office for her husband, a solicitor, William Heelis.
To the hill
After the 15th-century Red Lion coaching inn, a signed footpath to Latterbarrow takes you through another courtyard to the B5285, then continues on to Black Beck. Cross the river and turn left, following a good path across open fields to Scar House Lane. Turn left, then soon after, fork right, cutting up to Loanthwaite Lane.
Turn right and climb gently up the hedge-lined lane, enjoying fine views of the Central Fells around Ambleside. Turn left at a junction, then shortly after take a signed path through a gate for the final ascent to Latterbarrow’s summit.
The views are magical, particularly in winter when temperature inversions trap the moisture that has tumbled down the surrounding fells, filling the valleys with white, wispy mist. Look east to see the fells of Ill Bell, High Street, Wansfell Pike and Red Screes, then gaze north to the Central Fells of the Fairfield Horseshoe. Round to the west, the summits of the Langdale Pikes, Bowfell, Wetherlam and the Old Man of Coniston reach for the heavens.
Back on the lane, turn left and drop gently to the quiet hamlet of Colthouse, diverting briefly to one of the oldest Quaker Meeting Houses in the country (1688). Attendees included William Wordsworth, Hardwicke Rawnsley and Beatrix Potter.
Inn for a treat
Cut back to the lane and descend briefly to the B5285. As the road turns left to Newby Bridge, bear right on to Main Street, passing Hawkshead Grammar School, founded in 1585 by the Archbishop of York Edwin Sandys.
Return to the village centre where a number of character-filled inns await, including the Queens Head, Kings Arms, The Sun Inn and The Red Lion. The hostelries offer the perfect opportunity to review your winter wander – and the wise words of Wainwright – with some local beers and food.
Click on the OS map below for an interactive version of the route
Main image ©Simon Whaley