Helvellyn

Length 16 kilometres | Highest point 950 metres


Birkhouse Moor 718m, 2355ft, GR 364160
Helvellyn 950m, 3118ft, GR 342151
Lower Man 925m, 3034ft, GR 337155
White Side 863m, 2831ft, GR 338167


The height and the accessibility from both sides has long contributed to the enormous popularity of Helvellyn. It was visited by Thomas Budworth, one of the earliest guidebook writers, in 1792. Dorothy Wordsworth mentions that Coleridge arrived at eleven o’clock one night in August, having walked over Helvellyn. More people climb this mountain than any other in the Lake District so do not expect to find peace and quiet, although strategies such as dawn starts in mid-week may pay off.

Skiddaw and Blencathra from Helvellyn

The Helvellyn range is a massive one, forming a long ridge between Thirlmere and Ullswater. There are numerous ways to the top from east and west, those from the east offering the most dramatic scenery, the cirque containing Red Tarn being the finest in the Lake District. Thousands reach the summit from all directions in summer; in winter Striding Edge covered with ice and snow makes a fine mountaineering excursion for those suitably experienced and equipped.

Helvellyn summit ridge
Helvellyn summit ridge

The ascent by the NE ridge of Birkhouse Moor is unfrequented until it joins the standard route by Mires Beck and there are outstanding views throughout. The scramble up Swirral Edge on firm clean rock is delightful and the descent is by a well-graded path.

Start from the car park in Glenridding. Leave the main road by the track to the campsite on the south side of Glenridding Beck. Turn left at a T, signposted to Helvellyn by Mires Beck, then go straight on at the second junction. After a ladder-stile turn right towards Greenside and after 120 metres go left up a steep grassy slope to reach a good path. Turn right and almost immediately find a place to start going up the ridge. There is no path, but it is easy to choose a way up grassy ramps between rocky outcrops. A cairn is reached on the apparent top of Birkhouse Moor, the ridge flattening out before joining the Mires Beck path and rising on to the tru top (3.5km, 558m, 1Hr 50min).

Striding Edge
Striding Edge

Continue walking along the ridge. When the Hole-in-the-Wall (now a stile) is reached there is a choice of ways by either Striding Edge or Swirral Edge. For the latter, which is recommended as less crowded and less eroded, turn right and follow the path across the outlet of Red Tarn and up to the col between Swirral and Catstycam. At the top turn left to reach the trig point and summit shelter (6.5km, 789m, 3hr).

Helvellyn summit
Helvellyn summit

Follow the edge of the high ground (NW) over Lower Man and then north to White Side. Continue towards Raise (NE) and five minutes later take the right fork which descends to join the main track down from Keppel Cove. At Greenside, cross the footbridge over the beck and take either the lower path near the wall or a higher parallel track. Join the outward route to return to the starting point (15.5km, 5hr 20min).

Coniston and Bowfell from Helvellyn
Coniston and Bowfell from Helvellyn

A circular walk over Hevellyn from the west begins at the United Utilities Swirls car park 1km south of Thirlspot at GR 316169. The route up the side of Helvellyn Gill is exceedingly steep until the top of Browncove Crag. Thereafter the walking is easy over Lower Man and Helvellyn. Continue south past the shelter for about 700 metres where a cairn marks the descent path to Wythburn. Return to Swirls by the forest track (11km, 770m, 4hr 10min).