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5 historic walks in the Lake District

PUBLISHED: 00:00 19 June 2019 | UPDATED: 10:11 20 June 2019

A terrace path cuts across the lower slopes of Cat Bells, once heavily mined

A terrace path cuts across the lower slopes of Cat Bells, once heavily mined

vivienne crow

The Lake District is full of surprises - not least the number of its historic sites. Writer, photographer and walks expert Vivienne Crow shares some of her favourite hikes

Hardknott Fort sits on a grassy spur high above EskdaleHardknott Fort sits on a grassy spur high above Eskdale

Hardknott Fort

Hardknott Fort is probably Lakeland's most spectacularly located Roman site. It sits high above Eskdale on a grassy spur that enjoys views across to the Scafell range.

The fort can easily be reached from the bottom of Hardknott Pass. Passing through the south-west gate, you can't fail to be impressed by the thickness of its walls, now nearly 1,900 years old.

Having explored the commandant's house, the headquarters, a pair of granaries and the external bath house, climb to the top of nearby Harter Fell for a bird's eye perspective of the site as well as an impressive view of the high fells ranged around the head of Eskdale.

Looking across the blue expanse of Derwentwater towards SkiddawLooking across the blue expanse of Derwentwater towards Skiddaw

Cat Bells' mines

Gazing across Derwentwater from Keswick at the seemingly perfect fells that form such a photogenic backdrop to the lake's western shore, it's hard to believe that, for centuries, miners tore into the heart of them for their minerals: copper, lead, silver and even gold were among the riches to be found beneath Cat Bells, Maiden Moor and the other fells of the Newlands Valley.

German miners, brought into the country by Elizabeth I in the 16th century, were the first to work the veins on an industrial scale.

Walking the spectacular terrace path along Cat Bells' lower slopes and then returning via a gorgeous lakeshore path, you'll discover the industry's hidden remains.

The purpose of Castlerigg Stone Circle remains a mysteryThe purpose of Castlerigg Stone Circle remains a mystery

Castlerigg Stone Circle

Castlerigg is one of the oldest stone circles in the country, dating back to about 3000BC. Nobody knows what the people of the New Stone Age would have used it for, although various theories have been put forward over the years.

Was it an astronomical observatory? A religious site? Or maybe just a trading centre? Today, its functions are many: from photographers' model and tourism attraction to a place of dawn pilgrimage come the summer solstice later this month.

A gentle, four-mile ramble at the foot of the fells visits the stones, secluded Tewet Tarn, the moorland of Low Rigg and the church of St John's in the Vale.

Looking up into Swindale from near Shap AbbeyLooking up into Swindale from near Shap Abbey

Shap Abbey

A five-mile stroll through rolling countryside on the eastern edge of the national park takes in the picturesque remains of Shap Abbey as well as a tiny chapel in nearby Keld, remote farms, the isolated hamlet of Rosley and other secrets of the tranquil Lowther valley.

Hidden from view in a secluded hollow beside the River Lowther, the abbey was built in the late 12th century by an obscure religious order known as the Premonstratensians, or 'white canons', who sought particularly isolated locations for their abbeys.

Today, a substantial amount of the west tower remains and visitors can also see the foundations of the living quarters and church.

High Dam was built to supply water for Stott Park Bobbin Mill (Picture: Carl Rogers)High Dam was built to supply water for Stott Park Bobbin Mill (Picture: Carl Rogers)

Stott Park bobbin mill

First powered by water and then by steam, the bobbin mill at Stott Park was built in 1835 to supply northern England's booming textile industry. Having been restored by English Heritage, the complicated mass of belts and Victorian machinery is in working order again, and, from April to October, visitors can watch bobbins being made.

Take a walk up to the reservoir at High Dam, constructed to provide water to power the mill's huge waterwheel, and wander the surrounding oak woods that would've been coppiced to supply wood for the bobbins.

The 190m summit of Stott Park Heights enjoys a fine outlook over the gently undulating countryside at the southern tip of Windermere.

Walks with History: Walks through the historic landscape of the Lake DistrictWalks with History: Walks through the historic landscape of the Lake District

The book

All the walks mentioned here are described in full in Vivienne Crow's book, Walks with History: Walks through the historic landscape of the Lake District. Priced £5.99, it includes numbered route directions for 10 walks, OS mapping, colour photographs and fascinating facts about places along the way. (ISBN 978-1-908632-20-3). It is one in a series of 'Top 10 Walks' books published by Northern Eye Books.

The writer

Vivienne Crow is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer, specialising in the outdoors. She has written more than a dozen guides to Cumbria and the Lake District.

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