13 May Loop of Sacramental Cowerdice
Distance – 20.16KM / 12.5 miles
Ascent – 934m / 3064ft
Difficulty – Difficult / Extreme
The routes I am documenting here will all include 6 figure grid references and a GPX file. If you are going to use the GPX on an app or alternative GPS device, please ensure you also have basic map and compass skills so that you can continue following the correct route in your GPS device fails or you need to divert the route for safety reasons.
The routes are categorised into Easy, Difficult, Extreme.
Easy routes have minimal ascent and remain on easy to follow established trails.
Difficult routes require basic map and compassions skills because the trail will not be obvious in places and the ascent may be more intense than Easy routes.
Extreme routes include very steep terrain that should only be negotiated if you are confident and have the relevant experience to tackle that terrain. A map and compassions will be necessary and ascent will be substantial.
Start Point and Parking
This loop starts in Patterdale at grid NY 390 161. Following the A592 from the Pooley Bridge area, you will travel the whole West Bank of Ullswater. Just after Glenridding you will see the southern shaw of Ullswater and enter into Patterdale. Shortly after entering Patterdale you will see a ‘no through road’ sign on the right. Turn right here and then you come to a gate on the left that leads into the playing fields. This car park is run on an honesty box policy, therefore make sure you have £5 to put in the box and contribute to the up keep playing fields.
Loop of Sacramental Cowardice
From the carpark walk back to the A592 and at the T junction turn right. There are good pavements on the left side of the road. After 400 meters at grid NY 394 160 you will arrive at the School. As you look at the building you will see a trail heading across farm land via tracks to the lower contours of Place Fell and the Patterdale Common. As you pass through Side Farm the trail splits off, you want to remain on the lower trail which keeps you close to Goldrill Beck.
At grid NY 404 146 the trail hugs the river with open farm land to the right. You will meet the A592 again and the after crossing you will go through a gate and continue south. The trail stays next to the A592 on your left for 800 meter to grid NY 402 132 where you will pick up the West Bank of Brothers Water.
Continue south along the trail to Hartsop Hall grid NY 398 120. As you pass through the farm land here there are cows and calfs hanging about on the trail for 100 meters or so. At this point I pick the dog up and put him on my shoulders. This prevents the cows from noticing the hound and they keep away. As soon as I put the dog back down the cows become aware and curious, therefore I wait until we are clear of the cows and then I put him back down. Another approach is to send the person, or people, you are hiking / running with forward to distract the cows while the dog passes though, big movements and speaking loud and confidently should do the trick.
At grid NY 389 114 you will reach a foot bridge. Cross the bridge and begin with ascent to Perist Hole. Keep the river and water falls to your right hand side and follow the trail in to the steep valley between Hartsop above How and Stangs.
At Grid NY 386 116 there are some beautiful water falls next to the trail. There are some steep slippery sections here so tread with care as you enjoy watching the water flow.
Continue following the trail to grid NY 382 116 where you will cross the river via a foot bridge. At this point Dove Crag comes into view and priest hole cave can be seen clearly, high up in the Cliff face. Follow the trail for 1 km. The trail swings up to the right hand edge of Dove Crag turning into steps as the terrain gets steeper.
At Houndshope Cove grid NY 375 111 there is a break in slope with a good sized boulder on your right. This boulder is where you turn left and over to Priest Hole. Please note that only confident experienced walkers / runners should attempt to find Priest Hole Cave. The cave is situated in the top third of Dove crag, one miss step or trip at Priest Hole will result in a 200 meter fall into the valley below.
Preist Hole Cave
To access priest hole find the big boulder mentioned above and then turn to face south at which point you should be looking at a side view of Dove Crag, massive cliffs to the left and rolling green slopes to the right.
As you walk towards Dove crag you will start to see a trail. Initially the trail looks like it leads to a scramble. This route up is fine as long as you feel confident scrambling and you feel ok with the exposure at the top of the short scramble. The better route is to look to your right when you reach the scramble section. There is a scree trail that zigzags up and back on its self, then leads you down slightly, then back up and on to the terrace with Priest Hole Cave on your right.
Again be aware that at Priest hole you can feel very secure because you are in cover but there is just air beneath you for about 200 meters and if you fall then there is nothing to break your fall. I cannot stress enough how important it is not to go near the edge. Stay well back and enjoy the views from the cave.
When leaving the cave retrace your footsteps back to the boulder where you can continue on the loop. When looking for Priest hole, if you feel out of your comfort zone and fear is kicking in then stop and do not continue. The loop is beautiful with or without Priest Hold and rather miss it and live to hike another day then make a mistake and miss out on the next adventure.
Once back on the trail next to the boulder continue west to grid NY 369 112. Here you will find a trail junction and a wall infant of you.
Take the right turn on the trail heading north west and up Link House. Then swing to the left heading west for 500 meters to the summit of Fairfield at 873 meters high.
From the summit of Faifield there are 3 trails. In poor visibility Fairfield summit can feel disorientating. Fairfield summit is at grid NY 358 117 (starting grid ref). Take a bearing from the summit grid reference to grid reference NY 354 117 (end grid ref). From the starting grid reference to the ending grid ref the distance is 430 meters heading west. If you follow this bearing off the summit you will be sure to head off Fairfield in the correct direction. With good visibility head west and keep Grisedale Tarn below you on the right.
As Grisdale Tarn gets closer the views down towards Grasmere and over to the Langdales start to unfold to your left. At grid NY 349 117 you will arrive at the switch back on the trail which takes you due north and down along the banks of Grisedale Tarn. At Grid NY 351 121 cross the out flow of Grisdale Tarn on stepping stones and continue north along the coast to coast trail, a very well established trail, into the valley of Grisdale Forest.
The descent through Grisedale Forest along the coast to coast trails 6 km long. At grid NY 355 135 you will arrive at the Ruthwaite Lodge Climbing Hut.
After the climbing hut keep descending the trail towards the north east and look out for Pinnacle Ridge and St Sundays Crag towering over you on the right.
After 500 meters at grid NY 359 138 you will find a foot bridge. Cross the bridge and keep to the right of Grisedale Beck. As you get closer to the road there are a couple of gates to pass through. At grid NY 370 149 you will pass through a gate and find an out building on your left. After passing through the gate look back and check out Striding Edge off to your front right.
Continue north east, descending the trail. Pass Elmhow farm on good farm track until you pass through another two gates brining you to the access road.
Descend the road for 900 meters with a steep drop off to your left looking down into the stunning Grisedale Beck. Towards the bottom of the road you will swing round to the left and the car park you started at will be directly on your right.
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