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Ennerdale to Rosthwaite (High Route)

Hiking route · Lake District
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  • Katrina from Macs Adventure out testing the route in 2019
    Katrina from Macs Adventure out testing the route in 2019
    Photo: Macs Adventure, Macs Adventure
m 1000 800 600 400 200 25 20 15 10 5 km Wainwright's Words - Haystacks Haystacks Honnister Slate Mine High/Low Path … Rosthwaite
This is the high route option for those who are feeling adventurous, which begins pleasantly beside Ennerdale Water before a challenging climb up and along 4 mountain peaks, eventually dropping into the quaint villages of the Borrowdale Valley.
Distance 25.3 km
10:00 h
1,107 m
1,126 m
807 m
83 m

The first section of today’s walk is tranquil and flat, hugging the shore of Ennerdale Water. This is the quiet before the storm, soon you will head up to those lofty mountain peaks that tower above!

This route reaches four mountain peaks, starting with a challenging climb up to Red Pike (752 metres), from where you can follow narrow ridgelines to reach the peaks of High Stile (807 metres) and High Crag (744 metres). The drama unfurls before your eyes with every step rewarded with fresh glimpses to distant peaks, new valleys and cascading waterfalls. There’s a steep, thigh-burning descent on loose scree from High Crag before a rocky (almost a scramble) climb up to Haystacks (598 metres), the final mountain of the day.

The hike passes old slate mining infrastructure and quarries, including the Honister Slate Mining Visitor Centre where you can learn more and even enter a mine, before dropping into the quaint villages of Seatoller, Longthwaite and Rosthwaite, that comprise the Borrowdale Valley.

This is the high route alternative to the coast to coast trail which demands nearly 1,000 metres of total ascent. We have also prepared Wainright’s ‘low route’ which is 2.5km shorter and only 600 metres of ascent. This takes around 2 hours less and might be preferable if you wish to conserve your energy for future days. The high route is featureless in places, and requires a basic rock scrambling ability; if bad weather is forecast, either low visibility or heavy rain, please ensure you taking the low route. A good website to check the forecast is the Mountain Weather Information Service:  

To take the low route, continue straight after 9.2 kilometres ignoring the left turn.

Author’s recommendation

Drop into the Honister Slate Visitor Centre to enter a real mine. If you're feeling adventurous there is a via Ferrata which allows you to climb your way through it!
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Macs Adventure
Update: May 25, 2022
Highest point
807 m
Lowest point
83 m

Track types

Show elevation profile

Rest stops

Attached Cafe to Honister Slate Mine

Safety information

The high route is featureless in places, and requires a basic rock scrambling ability; if bad weather is forecast, either low visibility or heavy rain, please ensure you take the low route instead. A good website to check the forecast is the Mountain Weather Information Service: 

There are steep drops and exposed edges throughout the walk today. Be sure to stick to the path to avoid these.

The section along the mountain tops can be featureless. It is important to read the instructions and check the map regularly to ensure you stay on the correct path. If visibility is poor and the weather is bad then we recommend taking the low route.

The climb up Haystacks is quite rocky and requires a basic scrambling ability. Bear in mind the rocks may be slippery when wet.

The descent from High Crag is steep and on a scree slope. Bear in mind these rocks are loose as you place your feet. Walking poles will be of assistance here.

There are a few stretches where you must walk on the road as there is no pavement or verge. Walk on the right side facing the oncoming traffic unless there is a right-hand turn, in which case you should cross to the outside edge to allow drivers the maximum chance to see you.

There are lots of river crossings in today’s walk. There are always stepping stones available but these may be slippery.


Tips and hints

Points of Interest

Honister Slate Visitor’s Centre

Slate mining has been an important industry in this area, dating back to the 1700s, and indeed today you will pass much of the infrastructure including a walk along a disused tramway. To really understand the area and its history you can go into the Honister Slate Visitor’s Centre, which runs daily tours into the mines. If you have enough energy and a head for heights, you can even tackle a via Ferrata (climbing) route to explore the mines. There is also a café where you can get snacks or drink.

More information available here:


Food and Drink

It is 20 kilometres before you reach the Honister Slate Mine and the attached café which is the first opportunity to get food or drink. There is another café, The Flock In, in Rosthwaite where you finish the trail, and a few pubs/B&B’s which serve evening meals.

It might be beneficial to arrange a packed lunch in Ennerdale.


Ennerdale Bridge (106 m)
OS Grid
NY 06940 15806
54.528956, -3.439496
54°31'44.2"N 3°26'22.2"W
30U 471557 6042465
Show on Map


Rosthwaite, Village Hall and Car Park

Turn-by-turn directions

*** To help you follow this section with confidence we have provided full written turn by turns to aid you on your walk from Ennerdale to Rosthwaite (High Route). Whilst, the first 9 kilometres of the walk is a stroll along Ennerdale Water - when you make the switch onto the high route, it can become featureless and trickier to navigate so we strongly suggest that you always follow the GPS tracks in the Macs Adventure smartphone app to ensure you have a safe, enjoyable and problem-free day.  The daily maps can also be printed from the web version of the app should you wish to take paper copies with you. ***


0.00km – Start on Ennerdale Bridge, facing downstream. TURN RIGHT to walk towards the telephone box and postbox. After 60 metres TURN RIGHT following the sign to Ennerdale Water, passing a primary school on your left. Walk on the right-hand side facing the oncoming traffic.

0.37km – TURN RIGHT to walk onto the signposted permissive footpath that runs just parallel to the road on your left.

0.82km – As the footpath bears left to meet the road, TURN RIGHT then TURN RIGHT again to follow the signpost to Ennerdale Water, 1 mile away.

1.30km – BEAR LEFT, then after 300 metres BEAR RIGHT, at both junctions choosing to remain on the paved road. After another 400 metres, CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON over a bridge.

2.00km – As the road becomes gravel CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON towards the lake directly ahead and passing the car park on your left.

2.30km – As the path forks BEAR RIGHT to follow the path along the south side of Ennerdale Water, crossing over a bridge after 100 metres and walking with the lake on your left. If it has rained heavily recently, it is advisable to bear left at this fork and follow the north side, as the south side can become a stream.

3.70km – BEAR RIGHT as the path forks to climb uphill over Robin Hood’s Chair. This section is a little exposed and scrambly but very short. The path continues over a few sections of loose scree and uses stepping stones to cross several becks; bear in mind these may be slippery, but in general, the path is easy to follow.

5.00km – There is a wider steam to cross in the forested section and then CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON through a gatekeeping the lake on your left.

6.50km – As you reach the end of the lake, CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON through a gate. Continue across a bridge and then a vague grassy path with dry-wall on your right; After 600 metres pass through a gate and then TURN RIGHT following a yellow arrow and keeping a wire fence, drywall and tree plantation on your right.

7.30km – After crossing a gate TURN LEFT to walk on the gravel road between two fields. After 400 metres cross a bridge over the river and immediately TURN RIGHT along the tree-lined gravel road.

8.50km – CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON ignoring Lower Gillerthwaite Field Centre below on your right. After 300 metres CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON ignoring the path that bears left uphill, opposite the Youth Hostel.

9.20km – As you reach a wooden vehicle gate and wooden pedestrian footpath gate on the gravel road, BEAR LEFT to pass through a metal gate and into an open field. After 20 metres you will cross over a stream and then head uphill on a muddy path towards the remains of a stone pen, which you will pass on your left. You are walking uphill in a narrow open field between two sections of woodland. IMPORTANT - This is the start of the High Route - if you are unfortunate to be walking on a day with poor visibility or bad weather then we strongly suggest you switch and take the low route. This route can also be found on the Macs App.

9.60km – CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON through the gate. This area is featureless, but you might be able to see a vague grassy path snaking uphill towards the saddle between two mountains, with a stream cascading through it. Cairns are infrequent and very small, so in low visibility be sure to check the map regularly to ensure you are still following the vague grassy path.

10.10km – The path will approach the stream and there may be side paths that cross it. Wainright was very clear that you shouldn’t cross too early, because you will end up on a dangerous section of scree, so CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON keeping the river on your right. On a clear day, you will be able to see a large cairn ahead.

10.30km – After reaching a big cairn, you will see a big boulder – the biggest on the entire scree slope – just across the stream. This is the ideal place to TURN RIGHT to cross the stream and then immediately TURN LEFT following the path that keeps the stream on its left. The path is mostly well-trodden and several small cairns mark the way.  Be sure to look over your shoulder to observe the views in the Ennerdale Valley behind.

10.70km – As the path leaves the scree and then the heather, it becomes harder to follow. CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON trying to follow the narrow, trodden grassy path, and looking for small cairns. In general, keep heading uphill and you will be heading towards Red Pike summit. In low visibility check the map regularly.

11.50km – Congratulations, you are at the top of Red Pike, the first mountain of today, 755 metres above sea level with fantastic views. If you turn to face the way you climbed up, in good weather you will see Ennerdale Water, slightly ahead and to the right, in the 1 O’clock position. Directly on your left, you should see the craggy rock of High Stile where you are headed next. You need to BEAR LEFT to walk in the 11 O’Clock direction. The slope on your left side falls away steeply towards Buttermere. After 100 metres you will pick up a vague path through a section of scattered rock. Check the map regularly until you find the path.

11.80km – After descending a rocky section you will join the saddle between Red Pike and High Stile, and CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON following the well-established path, walking parallel to the steep craggy slopes which descend to Buttermere on your left. Be careful not to stray too close to the edge.

12.20km – CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON along a loose, rocky section. The metal fence posts on your right are an excellent guide, even in low visibility, as they will take you to the summit, and are far more regular than the cairns. After 300 metres you will reach a big cairn atop a boulder, but this is a false summit, the real summit being a mere 7 metres higher and several hundred metres further on. CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON following the fence posts.

12.60km – As the fence posts make a sharp right-hand turn, CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON following a chain of 3 cairns until you reach the big cairn of High Stile summit after 100 metres. High Stile (807 metres) is the highest point of the Coast to Coast.

12.70km – From the summit of High Stile TURN RIGHT by 90°, to head towards a metal post protruding from a rock, and slightly elevated. You will pass this fence post on your right, where you will immediately pick up a few cairns and a footpath. In good visibility, you should see the narrow ridgeline towards High Crag. Again you can use the fence posts as a superb guide towards the peak. There are several steep drops along this ridgeline, so be careful not to stray too close.

14.40km – The path begins to bear slowly right away from the precipitous drop. BEAR RIGHT, heading uphill towards a fence post stuck in a pile of rocks. From this fence post CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON; you will soon see two lonely metal fence posts which reassure you that you are headed in the right direction. If visibility is good you should see a large S-bend in the river ahead.

14.70km – The path meanders steeply down a scree slope. Bear in mind these rocks are loose and may be slippery; walking poles will be beneficial here. After 300 metres you will pick up some stone steps which are easier to descend on.

15.90km – CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON over the crossroads with Scarf Gap, where there is a large cairn positioned, and with the imposing figure of Haystacks ahead. There are stone steps for you to begin climbing.

16.10km – The stone steps disappear and the remainder of Haystacks is quite rocky. In a couple of places, you may need to use your hands to assist your scrambling. The path is just about obvious enough as you can see where other people have walked and where the vegetation has been cleared between rocks. This section will require extra care when wet as the rocks may be slippery.

16.40km – You will pass a metal post in a rock on your left, and a pond on your right. BEAR RIGHT between these and the path will begin to head downhill on a stony path from Haystacks. After 100 metres BEAR LEFT to follow the path as it curves round.

16.60km – BEAR RIGHT as the path forks, onto the grassy slope heading downhill towards a tarn. After 300 metres this path will meet a wide rocky track. BEAR RIGHT onto this rocky track to pass close to Innominate Tarn on your right. This is where Alfred Wainright’s ashes were scattered; he loved this area.

17.10km – BEAR LEFT to head away from Innominate Tarn on a rocky track downhill.

17.40km – TURN LEFT to cross Black Beck stream, and then start climbing on stone steps on the other side. After 50 metres at the top of the steps CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON along the flatter section, ignoring the sharp right turn. This path will bear right and begin heading uphill after 100 metres.

17.70km – The path forks near a cairn. BEAR LEFT to head downhill on a rocky path, ignoring the grassy right fork which heads uphill. After 400 metres the path forks again atop a flat boulder; BEAR RIGHT onto the rocky path that bends right and downhill towards the big craggy outcrop.

18.40km – Cross the fast-flowing stream using stepping stones. Once you have crossed, you will see a waterfall over your left shoulder. After 50 metres BEAR RIGHT as the path forks, headed towards the slate quarry. You will begin to see a slate building as you head uphill.

18.60km – As you reach the slate house, TURN RIGHT to head uphill on the wide slate path on the outskirts of the quarry. After 100 metres BEAR LEFT as the path forks, and then at the crossroads after 50 metres CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON onto the narrow path ahead. This very straight path is the old tramway used for the slate mine.

19.30km – CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON at the crossroads. As you begin heading downhill you will see the Honister Slate Mining Museum ahead.

20.00km – TURN LEFT as you reach a wire fence, to descend on rock steps keeping the wire fence on your right.

20.20km – TURN RIGHT onto the wide gravel road to walk towards the museum. BEAR LEFT onto the footpath that heads down to the car park and then crosses the car park to join the road. After 200 metres TURN RIGHT to walk along the paved road headed uphill. Walk on the right-hand side facing the oncoming traffic.

20.80km – As a gravel road joins from the right, TURN LEFT onto a footpath near 5 upright boulders, following a wooden ‘Coast to Coast’ signpost.

21.20km – TURN LEFT as the footpath re-joins the paved road. After 100 metres TURN LEFT again following the ‘Coast to Coast’ sign.

21.70km – This path will lead to two vehicular gates. BEAR RIGHT of these to proceed through a kissing (swing gate). After 300 metres CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON ignoring the left fork towards grange. After 200 metres pass through the copse of trees and continue over a stile, ignoring all side paths.

22.60km - Ignore the left fork. BEAR RIGHT through a gate which might have 'C2C' scratched into it, then immediately BEAR RIGHT on the downhill grassy path. After 20 metres you will see a footpath sign and this path will lead towards Seatoller.

22.90km – Cross through the gate and then TURN LEFT to follow the paved road through Seatoller.

23.30km – After passing through Seatoller TURN LEFT opposite the bus stop and then continue through the car park, leaving on the uphill stony footpath. After 150 metres cross over a stile and then BEAR RIGHT as the path forks to keep the dry-wall on your right.

23.50km – CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON crossing over a stream. After 100 metres TURN RIGHT through a gap in the drywall then continue, ignoring all side paths and gates.

23.80km – BEAR LEFT to follow the path through a gap in the drywall.

24.30km – As the path joins the river there is a rocky section with some chain for you to hold.

24.40km – CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON passing the youth hostel on your left, then BEAR RIGHT passing the car park on your right, the campsite on your left, and crossing over the river using the bridge.

24.70km – After crossing the river, you will pass a holiday cottage on your left. As the road makes a sweeping right turn, TURN LEFT through a gate with a footpath signpost. You will pass between two cottages. There is a second gate after 30 metres.

24.80km – BEAR RIGHT through the gate (which is possibly open) then BEAR LEFT to pass through another gate after 100 metres, to walk parallel with houses on your right.

25.10km – Pass through a gate with a house directly on your right. TURN RIGHT along the gravel road, then TURN LEFT onto the paved road. Follow the paved road as it meanders through Rosthwaite. Ignore all gravel and cobbled side roads, instead of remaining on the paved road.

25.30km – Finish at the car park and visitor centre in Rosthwaite. Why not go for a slice of cake at the nearby café?


*** This is the end of our Ennerdale to Rosthwaite (high) route, Please use your included documentation to find your overnight accommodation. ***


all notes on protected areas


OS Grid
NY 06940 15806
54.528956, -3.439496
54°31'44.2"N 3°26'22.2"W
30U 471557 6042465
Show on Map
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike


Sturdy hiking boots, warm clothes and a waterproof/wind-break layer are all required. The weather can change quickly so be sure to take all equipment even if the weather looks okay. Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of these ascents and descents.

Walking Poles are recommended if you are walking the high route. They will be extremely useful for loose scree sections.

Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.

This walk is isolated with few opportunities to buy food or water so be sure to bring enough with you.

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25.3 km
10:00 h
1,107 m
1,126 m
Highest point
807 m
Lowest point
83 m


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