High Doat, Castle Crag and Borrowdale

Walk date – 10th December 2022

Distance – 4.5 miles

Weather – mostly sunny with intermittent cloud, no breeze, very cold


The very cold and calm spell continues so we drove over to Seatoller to spend a morning in the lovely area of Borrowdale. This is a delightful walk, especially in today’s weather conditions, and there is such a variety of routes to choose from that you can be spoiled for choice. Whichever route is taken the surrounding scenery is wonderful and today’s weather provided the icing on the cake, quite literally, bearing in mind the frosty conditions and all the snow flurries covering the surrounding fells. As we drove past the Glaramara hotel to drive the final few yards to the car park a very large walking group, consisting of about thirty to forty people of all ages, appeared from the hotel grounds and began heading in the same direction as us. By the time we had parked up the leading walkers came trooping past the car and made their way past us, up the path from the car park and then onto the main path, all heading in the same direction that we were planning to take. We began to wonder how much of an impact such a large group would have on the walk we were planning but as things turned out it had no impact at all because we never saw the group again. Made us wonder where they were heading, Honister perhaps?


Seatoller – High Doat – Cumbria Way – Castle Crag – Lingy Bank – Longthwaite – Johnny Wood – Seatoller

The path leading from the car park at Seatoller up to the main path we were heading for. Every stone was rimed with frost making it very difficult to gain any sort of firm footing. Micro-spikes were brought into action.

On the main path now and a view along Borrowdale with the distinctive points of Low Saddle and High Saddle on Coldbarrow Fell clear to see on the right skyline. There’s some cloud around and every so often some of it drifts across the sun, this was taken during one of those moments. Wiping the mist from my specs every time I took a photo became part of the job description today. Warm breath landing on cold lenses is an occupational hazard!

We turned off up the hill when we came to this little beck. J is already on his way, its too chilly to stand around for long.

Its a steep climb up towards the Scots Pines to the next path we’ll follow but its quite a short climb and we are soon back on the level again. Without the spikes getting up here would have been very trying, the grass was very icy and gaining a firm footing up here would have been very difficult.

Rosthwaite Fell or Bessyboot, call it what you will, as seen from the top of the short steep climb …..

….. followed by a view looking towards a very cold looking upper Borrowdale from the same spot.

We followed the path around to this gate and then turned right, where J is standing, for the path to High Doat. Keeping straight ahead on the path from the gate will eventually lead you over to the one coming along from Honister and a right turn at that junction will take you over the Cumbria Way path towards Castle Crag.

From the High Doat path we can see a mass of mist creeping over Coldbarrow Fell. Low Saddle is hidden by the mist but High Saddle is clear of it as is Ullscarf on the right skyline.

The sun isn’t high enough at present to bring much in the way of light to upper Borrowdale so it remains in the chiller cabinet for now. The mass of cloud roiling above Great End and Seathwaite Fell at the end of the valley provided some interesting atmospheric effects from time to time.

Still making our way over High Doat with a look back now that more height has been gained. On the left is Base Brown and its alternating stripes of sun and shadow, and on the right skyline is the knobbly top of Grey Knotts. The brown mass between the two is Seatoller Fell.

A longer view along upper Borrowdale where, with a squint of the eyes and a zoom in, you might be able to spot Great Gable to the right of Base Brown. Meanwhile the cloud above us has moved on and we finally get our share of the sunlight. It never fails to surprise me how much of an effect sunlight has, spirits soar and the landscape is suddenly alive with colour.

The view towards the Skiddaw group from High Doat. High Doat seems to be one of those little humps and bumps which are generally ignored. Its not very high and its hardly breathtaking to look at but the views from the top of this little hill are spectacular, today especially. The pale wintry sky, the snow covered Skiddaw group and the inversion over the vale of Keswick contrasting with the sunlit Castle Crag was stunning. This was most definitely the highlight of today’s walk and our eyes were constantly drawn back to it. I did take some other shots while we were up there though so here are a few of them …..

….. to the east across Borrowdale is King’s How and Grange Fell. On the distant skyline behind Grange Fell is High Seat (Watendlath) …..

….. to the west is High Doat’s nearest neighbour, High Scawdel …..

….. further along to the north of High Scawdel is High Spy where a wisp of cloud just happened to drift by …..

….. to the south west are Base Brown, followed by Great Gable with Green Gable just below it, with Grey Knotts on the extreme right …..

….. and moving the camera a little to the left brings Great End and Seathwaite Fell into the picture. I couldn’t go any further left than that as the sun was so bright at the time. In summary High Doat offers walkers some wonderful views in return for very little effort.

We eventually made our way down from High Doat, crossed the stile and back onto the Cumbria Way route. This shot looking back at High Doat after we crossed the stile shows an unassuming and modest little hill which doesn’t appear to have very much going for it, but once on the top there’s a very different kettle of fish on offer. Worth going out of one’s way for on a day like today.

From the stile crossing we made our way towards Castle Crag along the Cumbria Way. The bridge in the photo crosses Scaleclose Gill and looking ahead we can see no walkers along any of the paths. In summer, by now, we would have exchanged greetings with dozens of folk but today, so far, we have seen no-one.

That ribbon of mist behind Great Crag is still hanging around although both Low and High Saddle are now visible.

Sunlight once again on King’s How and Grange Fell.

Looking back to High Doat which punches well above its weight in the views department.

Lots of becks and bridge crossings along this route, some of the bridges look to have been recently installed. A splash of sunlight lands on the lower slopes of High Spy …..

….. and a little further along Castle Crag gets the same treatment. The air quality is good today so all manner of little details can be identified. A zoom in will reveal the zig-zag route up the slate ‘staircase’ on the old spoil heap.

Another burst of sunlight brightens up the bracken clad slopes of High Scawdel and gives them a rich caramel colour …..

….. and does exactly the same on Castle Crag.

The icy path up to the top of Castle Crag can be seen over on the right but the eye is drawn towards the spectacular cloud activity above the Skiddaw group. The warmth of the sun on their damp slopes was creating quite a sight as the moisture condensed into rising clouds and eventually evaporated.

We took to the path up to Castle Crag, which has its awkward bits for those of us not in possession of long legs, so J, as usual, arrives at the stile before me. No, we didn’t cross the stile he’s just ‘posing’.

The craggy slopes of Low Scawdel were glowing in the bright morning light, so close it felt as though you could just reach out and touch them. There is a very steep drop between here and there however as the Cumbria Way makes its way down Broadslack Gill far below us.

We picked our way carefully up the zig-zag path of loose slate to the top of the spoil heap where I took a look back at our route so far. Great End is on the middle of the skyline. There’s a bit of sun ‘interference’ on the left of the shot but apart from that the shot didn’t turn out too badly.

A quick look into the quarry area before we made the short climb to the top of Castle Crag …..

….. and here we are at the memorial where lots of poppy crosses were still in place following the Remembrance Day gathering in November. While we were here we were joined by a solo walker so we had our first exchange of greetings of the day. He also remarked on the spikes we were wearing, he wasn’t wearing any and was probably wishing that he had been. They were essential wear today with the ground so hard and icy. Here’s a couple of shots I took from the top …..

….. the river Derwent below us, passing through Grange on its way to Derwentwater with the Skiddaw group in the distance. Still plenty of cloud activity going on over there …..

….. followed by a look over towards King’s How and Grange Fell.

Time to tackle the ‘tinkly’ slate path down the spoil heap again. This shot shows the view from the top, its not difficult its just a bit slithery with all the loose slate lying about. Once at the bottom we went back over the stile and took the downhill path just on the other side of the wall to begin the walk back to Seatoller.

High Scawdel right in front of us as we descend the grassy path.

Borrowdale still looking very chilly as we descend over Lingy Bank …..

….. but things brightened up again a little further down. We met a few more walkers coming up as we descended so perhaps they had been waiting for the day to warm up before setting out for the short walk up to Castle Crag from Rosthwaite.

Back alongside the river now as we reach New Bridge …..

….. and enjoy the lovely riverside walk back to Seatoller on a very sparkly winter morning.

Passing by the stepping stones across the river, its a chilly looking scene despite the sunlight.

Making our way along the very frosty path close to the river.

We arrive at Longthwaite which is quite close to the YHA buildings more or less behind me. It didn’t look as though many people were staying at the YHA, with only one car parked up there.

Walking through Johnny Wood now with sunlight streaming through the bare trees and highlighting all the frosted grasses and bushes. Very crispy underfoot all the way through the woods.

For some reason Sam Cooke’s song Chain Gang sprang to mind at this point.

We’re almost at the end of Johnny Wood now so we’re not too far away from journey’s end at this point. I thought a shot of J walking along the sunlit path would make a good photo but he unexpectedly turned around just as I took the shot so the ‘walking’ shot’ turned into a ‘still’ shot.

The gate at the top of the slope leading back into the Seatoller car park so we’ve come full circle and back to where we started. This morning’s icy rime on the stones, which prompted us to put on the spikes, has melted away so they were now superfluous to requirements but we left them on anyway. It wasn’t worth the bother over such a short distance. We decided earlier on to wait until we were back in the comfort of the car to get the soup and sandwiches out and, as its just gone one o’clock, we seemed to have timed things just right. A picnic in the car will round off a lovely little walk very nicely, as will the obligatory cuppa when we get back home.