Mountain Journeys

5 Best Walks Starting from Ambleside – Number 4: Fairfield Horseshoe


Nearing the summit of Dove Crag - 5 best walks starting from Ambleside


5 Best Walks Starting from Ambleside – Number 4: Fairfield Horseshoe

Ambleside is well established as the perfect base for a walking or activity holiday. There is so much choice it can be difficult to decide what to do. In this, the fourth in the series ‘5 of the best walks from Ambleside’ which is aimed at showcasing some of the finest walking routes that start from the town, we showcase the high summit of Fairfield.

These are some of our favourite walks and we know all the routes very well. Having lived in Ambleside for 17 years and spent thousands of days on the Lakeland mountains, we have got to know the Lake District rather well.

This route is in contrast to the others as during this day we visit 8 summits over the course of a splendid walk over high mountain terrain. Although not the only horseshoe route starting from Ambleside, this is the most popular choice and it takes in continuously breath-taking scenery. At 16km this is also the longest route in this series and expect it to feel like more than that due to the steep ascents and descents over sometimes rough terrain.

From the centre of Ambleside follow our route number 3 (High Sweden Bridge) as far as High Sweden Bridge. Cross the bridge and ascend the path to reach a wide bridleway, turn rightwards onto this to go uphill and towards the higher mountains.

Occasionally the path is vague and splits, although as the saying goes ‘all roads lead to Rome’ so all these paths lead towards our goal of Fairfield. Craggy ground is negotiated to reach the first summit which is Low Pike (508m). From here onwards the route will generally feel a little easier to follow as there is a dry stone wall that can be used as a navigational handrail. Soon High Pike (656m) is reached and after about another half a kilometre the terrain begins to level out, a little. The broken rocky summit of Dove Crag (792m) comes next, this is a splendid vantage point on a clear day.

Now comes the first descent, thankfully only a short one and now good views towards Fairfield can be enjoyed. A short and rocky re-ascent to Hart Crag (822m) going ever more North-West and onto Link Hause where a wide track leads up to the crowning summit of Fairfield at 873m.

Fairfield summit – this is a wide, expansive plateau with a wild feel. In perfect weather it is a beautiful place and the makeshift stone shelter offers seclusion from any breeze. But when the weather is doing its ‘weathering’ this is a hostile environment and not a place to linger, so let’s get a move on.

Even on a clear day we recommend taking a bearing from the summit, to ensure the correct downward route is followed. This will be almost South and continues in the same direction as the path passes the summit of Great Rigg (766m) and more of the same to pass over Heron Pike North (621m) and Heron Pike (612m).


The paths become more confused again for a while, just keep on that Southerly trajectory and all will be well. Nab Scar is the final summit of the day and doesn’t feel much like a summit as by now you have been descending for quite some time.

Soon the descent becomes considerably steeper as the path turns South-Easterly and leads down to the palatial grandeur of Rydal Hall and Gardens. There is a tea room here and we’d recommend a pit stop.

The homeward route to Ambleside leads in-front of the hall, crossing over Rydal Beck at ‘The Grot’ where joyous waterfalls cascade into tree lined pools. Follow this bridleway all the way back to Ambleside.

Be sure to check back soon for the final instalment of '5 best walks starting from Ambleside'

All that's left is a few pointers for where to eat/drink/stay/ buy resources when visiting Ambleside.

A bite to eat in Ambleside:

Apple Pie

Rattle Ghyll Deli


Liquid refreshments:

The Golden Rule


Where to get hold of a map and guidebooks:

Freds Book Shop


Where to stay:

2 Cambridge Villas


We offer a variety of guided activities in the mountains. Hiking, Rock climbing, Gorge Scrambling, Canyoning, Abseiling, Navigation courses and more




The Broad ridge back to Rydal - 5 best walks starting from Ambleside



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