Length 10 Kilometres | Highest point 581 metres
Ard Crags 581m (OS map OL4; NY207198)
Knott Rigg 556m (OS map OL4; NY197189)
Ard Crags and Knott Rigg together form the summits of a delightful ridge that separates two routes connecting Buttermere with Newlands valley. One route is, of course, the road over Newlands Hause, whilst the other is the lovely little path that threads its way up the V-shaped valley containing firstly Mill Gill and later Sail Beck.
Begin opposite the Bridge Inn in Buttermere at the bridge over Mill Beck, and take the signposted footpath through woods on the north side of the beck. The path emerges from the woods at a stile in a wall, and here you turn right and follow the path alongside the wall. It is then just a case of following this path up the valley, slowly getting higher and higher above the valley floor. There are ‘false’ paths initially that that tend to drop to the level of the stream, but the general rule is to stay high so that when the path turns sharply into the first deep cut of a side valley you are already about 40m above the valley floor. These diversions to negotiate the side valleys cut by streams flowing from Wandope – there are three of them altogether – make this such an enchanting route and as such holds your interest all the up to the col before the path drops down alongside Rigg Beck to Newlands valley.
The steep flanks of the Knott Rigg-Ard Crags ridge are your companion all the way along this path. In fact the slopes are disconcertingly steep, and one begins to wonder if there is an easy route up from the valley at all. However, shortly after crossing Addacombe Beck, a path that eventually leads up to the col between Scar Crags and Sail branches off to the left at NY199196. Continue along the main path (right) for a further 500m until it is possible to descend easily to the col that separates Buttermere from Newlands valley at NY206200. The summit of Ard Crags lies immediately above you up what is the only weakness in this steep sided valley. Climb easy, but pathless grassy slopes in a south-easterly direction to emerge on the ridge on or near the summit of Ard Crags.
From the summit follow the path along the ridge over a subsidiary top to Knott Rigg. The views on a clear day are fabulous – the ‘diminutive’ height that you are at takes nothing away from the panorama in all directions. In fact the smaller stature of this ridge enhances the views – you feel you are amongst the hills rather than being on top of them and looking down.
From the summit of Knott Rigg continue along the path down the south-west ridge, but instead of continuing all the way to Newlands Hause, branch right on a fainter path which descends quite steeply down a ridge on the north side of Swinside Gill. This subsidiary ridge starts at a height of about 450m when the main ridge begins to drop more steeply. Descend to the valley floor and cross Sail Beck/Mill Gill and climb 20m or so to reach the path you used on the outward journey. If the river proves difficult to cross, keep to its south bank along a rough path which eventually brings you out onto the road into Buttermere at a covered reservoir. All that remains is to seek out appropriate refreshment in Buttermere before strolling along the lakeside back to Birkness.
10 km distance (from Buttermere village), 570m ascent, 3½-4 hours