Castle Crag
Castle Crag Approx 951' (6.29 FRCC 244)

Wainwright No 22.
Sunday 9th March 2003.

Weather :- Overcast to start, very strong winds on the summit and persistent rain later. Nice and warm in the pub later on!

Accompanied by :- John, Sarah, Mike and Gail.

Total Distance 5 miles there and back, with a quick trip to the Bowder Stone. Total height ascended 700 Feet, time taken 4 Hours.


After our last two outings a change was in order. We had seemed to spend all our time chasing another summit and ended up returning to the car in darkness, sometimes injured and usually worn out. These walks are great in the summer, but with our late starts and the early onset of darkness it was getting to the point of forgetting why we do these walks in the first place, having some fun! Like I said, a change was in order. We had already decided that it was time to do a little one, somewhere where we could spend a bit of time exploring and having a good look around (we are all really just big kid's at heart) . After a quick look through AW's books and reading some magazine articles about Miligan Dalton I knew that I had just the place in mind, another plan B if you will (time to think of another!) AW describes Castle Crag as one of the loveliest square miles in the Lake District. Throw in a trip to the Bowder Stone, Millican Dalton's cave and this was the ideal place to be, especially as Sarah was bringing a new victim, sorry, work colleague along who has had no real experience of fell walking. Our last visit to the McDonalds in Kendal had been such a disaster that a new breakfast establishment was required. As we spend more time in the northern areas of the Lake District we need to find somewhere near Penrith to provide us with the nutrition required for these jaunts.
After all meeting at the M55/M6 junction we set off up the M6, past the Kendal turn off, and straight up to Penrith. After a quick drive around we came across the ideal place, a McDonalds next to the railway station and the castle! I had questioned John on the way up about Gail, Sarah's friend, did she have proper equipment etc. Well she's certainly got a pair of boots he said (this was like saying to someone : "Don't look at his nose", then you find that you can't stop looking!) . At our breakfast spot I had the chance to check these boots out. Well they were certainly boots, but pink ? Gail also had a full set of over trousers and coat, in fact she was already wearing them on the drive up ! Mmm... (Be prepared is a good motto!) For the rest of the journey I joined Sarah and Gail. Gail, it turned out, enjoyed walking but was a bit unsure about the sort of walking that we did. I tried my best to ensure her that the walk today was only a little one and not very high, this was good as she suffers from vertigo sometimes, oops!

PINK boots ! A memorial along side the road
Finally arriving at the Bowder Stone car park we began the ritual of getting ready. It was quite windy here. Gail thought that it was blowing a gale! (no pun intended!) It was windy enough to blow away a car parking ticket that we had just bought, a fun few minutes followed trying to catch the ticket as it blew all over the car park, was it going to be one of those days? Finally ready we set off back along the road towards Grange.
Road kill The bridge at Grange
I took a quick detour to have a quick look at the memorial stone on the opposite side of the road (I have a thing about memorial stones) I soon caught up with the others as they walked along the road. John found a dead mole by the road side and went into detail about it, saying how rare it is to see them. I'm not surprised if the bloody things keep walking across roads in front of traffic!
The first glimpse of Castle Crag from the bridge The path starts behind the Grange Cafe
As we crossed the bridge we got the first glimpse of Castle Crag in the distance. It looked tiny below shoulder of High Spy. There are a couple of cafes in Grange, they had signs welcoming walkers and the menus started to make my mouth water, maybe on the way back! Just after the Grange Cafe a small road leads of to the left, this was the way we took.
Castle Crag getting nearer The start of the path to the campsite and river
This road led to Hollows farm where you need to get permission if you want to camp in the fields near hear. Our way led of to the left along the path towards the river.
Further along the path to the river The old ford at Cowde Dub
This is a great path, once the road up to the abandoned Rigghead Quarry, now it is only used as a footpath along the river Derwent. Gail spent quite a lot of time here trying not to get her feet wet, but gave up in the end.
Gail trying to keep her feet dry! The riverside path
Just after the ford the path splits. To the left is the riverside path towards Rosthwaite whilst to the right Seatoller. We took the Rosthwaite path, well that is Sarah, Gail and myself did. John and Mike decided to climb straight over Low How woods, I think they were bored !
Castle Crag getting nearer Stepping stones along the path
So splitting up we made our separate ways. The path that we took made its way around Low How woods across some stepping stones in a hollow, must be always wet here! As we made our way up we came to the point where the path turned left through a stone wall. With no sign of the other two we had to wait here for them.
The path up from the stepping stones. John and Mike coming out of the woods after their scenic route, Goat Crag behind
After waiting for a few minutes with no sign of them I climbed up a small hillock that gave good views back over Low How woods. Eventually I saw John and Mike appear out of the woods, but from a direction that I was not expecting!
Leaving the wall and starting to gain height The path towards Millican's Cave
Now that we were all together again, we set off to try and find Millican's Cave. After the first real height gain of the day we came across a junction in the path. To the left the path descended towards the river, to the right the path did not seem to lead anywhere obvious, this must be our way then! At first the path was hidden under fallen leaves and was not easy to follow.
Nearing Millican Dalton's cave The first cave
The path soon became clearer as it made its way away from the trees, we could see signs of and old level above us. Rounding the corner a cave appeared in front of us. A bit further along the path and Millican's Cave was there.
Millican Dalton's cave's Don't !! waste words , jump to conclusions"
Now I had quite looked forward to spending some time in these caves but somehow I was disappointed. The entrance to the caves was dripping with water from the fell side above, negotiating this and getting into the cave was an anticlimax. I am not sure what I expected of a cave that someone had lived in all those years ago. At least I was not disappointed when I found his famous words carved into the wall. After a five minute search with a torch I found them right by the entrance to the upper cave, the "attic". There are a lot more words carved into the rock now , but none of them are as elegant or eloquent as the words of Millican Dalton!
Above Millican Dalton's Cave Derwentwater
Now that we had seen Millican's Cave we had a decision to make. According to AW the only way on and off Castle Crag was on the south side. We could make our way back to the riverside path and go around to the south, descend over the north ridge and pick up the old road and then head to the south, or just find our own way up the north side of Castle Crag. We decided to head of and pick up the old road. A path led away from Millican's Cave upwards. It was quite a steep pull up between the trees and soon the old burning feeling returned to the calf muscles!
Tree climbing ! The north side of Castle Crag
As we came out to a clearing in the trees Derwentwater came into view, well some of it did, visibility was quite poor and we could not see the end of it. We came across a tree that had fallen down, the top coming to rest amongst the branches of another tree. This looked too inviting an opportunity to miss and soon John had shed his rucksack and started to try and climb across it! This is just the sort of thing that we have missed out on our last few walks, the time to stop and look around or do something that just takes your fancy! (Like I said, we are all just big kids at heart!) Whilst waiting for John I explained to Gail about our options in reaching the summit. The path down to the old road looked quite steep and slippy to her, she would rather not go down it so the only other choice was straight up. This was fine with us!
The summit is up there somewhere (its actually behind you John!) Which way now ?
After a quick stop for coffee, lunch and hair brushing (Gail has all the necessary equipment for hill walking!) we began the last push up to the summit. The way forward was up the steep northern side. Trees somehow managed to cling onto the side of the crag, underfoot it was all covered in moss and was quite slippy. There are no paths up here, we just tried to find the way of least resistance, great fun!
Sarah in her element! Mike, just getting on with it !
There is no rock to give good hand holds here, instead the only thing that we could hold onto was the roots of the trees that struggled (like us!) to find a solid hold onto the steep slope. If there was any rock it was covered in moss. At one point John had been standing on a moss covered rock, when he lifted his foot up the moss came with it and underneath was nothing but a sight straight down the fell side. He had been resting his foot on a root that stuck out from the fell side that moss had grown over, a couple of inches either way and his foot would have gone straight through the gap that the moss covered. Oops! As we made our way up, Mike who was calmly bringing up the rear, noticed a couple below us. They were trying to follow our tracks but soon gave up and started to descend and find a safer way up!
Gail making easy work after her "moment" with advice from John It was quite steep!
We came to a point that involved a big pull up, John had managed it quite easily. Sarah with John's advice had managed it, now it was Gail's turn. After looking at the problem for a few minutes she suddenly started to have a panic attack. I was not able to see her face as I was behind her but I could sense her unease at being here. To the rest of us climbing up this steep slope was great fun, to Gail it had begun to turn into a nightmare! She could not "see" her way upwards and after looking around began to panic. I have total sympathy with this as I have also had my "moments" on the hills. While the others looked on I tried to calm her down. With everyone offering suggestions I tried to get Gail away from the point that she was struggling with and calm her down. After a good few minutes, when she had regained her composure I tried to explain that the summit was only a few minutes away and that in my opinion it was a lot safer to carry on up rather than try to descend back the way we had come. I still don't know whether my words of wisdom calmed Gail down or terrified her into action ! Either way she went back to the point that she had struggled up and quickly made it up without a problem. Now that is courage for you! I was very relieved at this as I really did not fancy going back down this way and if we had I don't think that we would have got up to the summit today at all!
Everyone smiling now that the summit is reached The summit of Castle Crag
After a few more awkward bits that I must admit I struggled with, the summit was there. Coming from this direction the summit was reached very suddenly. We came out from the trees, surprising a family that were sheltering out of the wind behind the summit rock. I think that seeing some people coming up this way was a bit of a shock!
Sarah and Gail at the summit The terrible trio plus one on Castle Crag summit
The summit of Castle Crag is a fantastic place. Steep on all sides, a small summit plateau and a rock "castle" for the actual highest point! It must be one of the finest summits in all of the Lake District, even though it is the lowest of all AW,s 214 summits!. Looking down to the west and the old road the sense of height was awesome! After being sheltered by the bulk of Castle Crag for the last hour from the wind, we now felt the full force of it! It was blowing an absolute gale (no pun intended!) This gave us some fun for a few minutes as we took turns to be be blown around by it!
Looking down to the old roads to Rigghead Quarry Mike
Gail had now fully recovered from her "moment" and now was smiling again. After spending some time looking around and trying to find a view of Derwentwater not obscured by trees it was time to set off back. In fact Gail had recovered so much that she started to join in the usual games that the others play, that is enjoy the walk and take the mick out of me! I do not look like a pixie with my silly hat and red checks !, just ask the others, no, on second thoughts don't ask them ! (notice that the hat is removed for all photo's now!)
John The summit quarry
Descending down the path of the summit you can see how close the old quarry came to totally decapitating the summit! The face of the quarry stops just below the summit and can be accessed from the path. As the level of the quarry entrance is reached there is a small cairn above the spoil heaps. There are fantastic views up to the head of Borrowdale from here.
Rosthwaite and Seatoller Descending the zigzags
From the entrance of the quarry, the path zigzags its way down the spoil heaps. Again the sense of height was very good as we descended towards the col. I thought that descending this way would give Gail a "moment" again, but she took it in her stride.
Further down the spoil heap Looking back up the zigzags up the spoil heaps
The path down the spoil heaps is very well engineered and we made good time down it. I was so taken with the view over to the old road that I was soon left behind whilst I took loads of photo's!
Nearing the Col Maybe not so near!
As the path descended to a hole in the wall, I caught sight of another memorial stone set into the rock above a bench. Wandering over to read the inscription I was taken by the view that this bench would give on a nice summers day, unfortunately by now the forecasted rain was well and truly beating down on us.
Memorial and seat A close up of the memorial to Sir William Hamer
I must admit that I am confused now. The war memorial at the summit states that "Castle Crag was given to the National Trust in memory of John Hamer and the men of Borrowdale" who were killed in the first world war. This memorial states that " The land surrounding the summit of Castle Crag was given to the nation in memory of Sir William Hamer" who died in 1939, by his wife Agnes. You see my point? Once given, can something be given again ? Something to mull over on the way back to the car!
Nearly at the old road Looking back to Castle Crag
As we reached level ground once more and started to walk along the old road I glanced back at the summit. I was reminded of AW's words that described the hand drawn map of Castle Crag and it's surrounding area " The thick line forming a square has a special significance. It encloses one mile of country containing no high mountains, no lake, no famous crag, no tarn, But in the author's humble submission, it encloses the loveliest square mile in Lakeland - the jaws of Borrowdale" It really is that good!
The old road The old road after crossing Broadslack Gill
With the rain now soaking us through it was time to put your head down and just walk. We soon came back to the point where the paths joined by the river. It was now a case of retracing our steps back through Grange and back to the car. I had thought that it would be a nice finish to the walk to pay a visit to the Bowder Stone. Much to the consternation of Gail, we walked straight past the car park and on towards the Bowder Stone! We certainly had the time to do this even if the weather was not helping us out. At the Bowder Stone John and Mike and then later Sarah went up the staircase to the top. Gail and myself sheltered under the overhang. At least the chalk marks made by climbers, or is it boulderers were still dry! Well that was it really, back to the cars and a somewhat futile exercise in trying to dry out and change back into dry clothing in a car park whilst it was raining cats and dogs, Oh the joy's of fell walking!
The Bowder Stone By the coal fire in the Woolpack Inn
After regaining some semblance of dryness (still waiting for sponsorship by waterproof clothing manufacturers!) we headed back to Keswick. Now, when Gail had her "moment" she had said that all she wanted was a log fire and a rug. The Woolpack offered the fire but not the rug! As we were there we had to have a drink didn't we! So the end of the walk ended up in the Woolpack and some quite funny conversation at times! After a couple of drinks we headed back south down the M6. Unfortunately the Highways Agency was up to the old trick of coning off a lane of the motorway around Lancaster. Now I know that they have to rebuild two bridges over the motorway, but why cone off both outside lanes on a busy Sunday night when there was no work going on at all? Oi, Highways Agency! I'm watching you, don't do it again !
Something that I forgot to mention. On the way up we stopped at a BP garage to try and get some Red Noses for the pictures! (John's idea, always one to make a statement! : see Helvellyn by the Edges ) The Keswick BP garage did not sell them so I promised John that I would do something for Comic Relief. So here it is!
John and Mike doing their bit for Comic Relief!  
So that was Castle Crag. AW's lowest peak, but I think that everyone really enjoyed it! The walk was easy, the summit is one of the best, and if you don't want to wander up onto the high fell's, this is the one for you. If you have any worry's about making your own way up just stay with the paths, you won't regret it!
Map from todays walk courtesy of Anquet