A diary of a walk by Peter & Jeanne Donaghy, and John & Gillian Laidler during June 2005.
This long distance trail, of anything between 45 and 60 miles, stretches the length of the Cumbrian District of Allerdale, from Seathwaite in the Lake District to Grune Point on the Solway Firth. The precise mileage is difficult to calculate because there are several alternative routes as indicated in Jim Watson’s guide and on the OS maps, which include the possibility of climbing Castle Crag, Catbells and Skiddaw.
However, we decided to take the line of least resistance and keep as far as possible to the course of the River Derwent, and the lake and sea shores we encountered.
This is a really excellent walk through a fascinating variety of land and seascapes. Some of the early stages are well trodden but for the most part it seems to lie forgotten – and hence all the more attractive. It is easy to follow on the OS map and Jim Watson’s book (see below) gives some very useful insights. Therefore all we have attempted to do is indicate the choices we made when faced with alternatives or uncertainties. We did this walk based on our home in Cockermouth, where we were able to return each evening, and using one car or two cars as required.
This diary therefore offers our definitive version of the Allerdale Ramble. The distances indicated below (totalling 47.5 miles) are those we believed we actually walked!
Wednesday – 15 June Seathwaite to Portinscale 11 miles (7 hours)
Raining most of the day.
We left a car at Portinscale, walked to Keswick and caught the 9.27 bus to Seatoller. After walking a mile up the road to Seathwaite, we found the beginning of the Allerdale Ramble in the north-east corner of the farm. Seathwaite has a reputation as being the wettest place in England and the 15 June 2005 seemed to provide ample evidence of this assertion.
We descended over some rocky paths to Thorneythwaite Farm and then crossed Folly Bridge before striking off right to follow the pleasant track alongside the River Derwent. A few hundred yards after Longthwaite Youth Hostel there was a short scramble over rocks where a chain provided support on a short section but otherwise the going was comfortable. After 3.25 hours in which we only covered 4.5 miles we were delighted to arrive in Grange where we enjoyed coffee and scones.
We pushed on as the rain eased slightly, walked past Holy Trinity Church and then left the road a a couple of hundred yards beyond the Borrowdale Gates Hotel. The sign showed we were en route for Lodore but knowing this was on the east side of the lake we kept left at the first significant junction. We made our way through the delights of Manesty Park and Brandelhow Park which provided cover from the rain and bench seating from which to admire Derwentwater. All we had to do was to follow the shoreline and admire the views.
After Hawes End and a short road walk we were back on a pleasant path which took us to the entrance drive to Lingholm. We crossed the road to follow the path and then forked left to climb and then descend steeply to the road that took us back to Portinscale and the car.
(We subsequently realised that had we forked right after the drive to Lingholm we would have had an easy path via Nichol End with its cafe and the the possibility of a launch to Keswick.
Thursday 16 June – Portinscale to Cockermouth 16 miles (9.5 hours)
Raining from the outset and most of the day.
Left a car at Portinscale again. Followed the path alongside the Derwent and the waymarked diversion without any problem. Unfortunately after reaching main road and Dancing Gate we attempted to follow a path from the road to Millbeck into Dodd Wood (as suggested in Jim Watson’s book). However, we climbed and climbed, got hopelessly lost (for 90 minutes!) before having to admit defeat and return to the main road!
We then went along the permissive roadside path and up some steps to continue above the road before encountering the forest road that climbs to pass the osprey viewpoint. The weather was such that even the osprey were sheltering! We followed the welcome signs to the Sawmill Tea Room and were delighted to enjoy some excellent refreshments, rest our weary limbs and dry out a little.
Back to walking again, we crossed the road to take the footpath to the left of the entrance to Mirehouse and continued towards Bassenthwaite Lake and St Bega’s Church. As the path swung right we walked across the field to a waymark sign that lead us through Church Woods and on to a minor road. We turned left and followed the road and the subsequent waymarks, meandering though meadow land with the lake often close by, until we eventually arrived at a main road and turned right towards Armathwaite Hall. A left turn led us down a minor road past Trotters Animal Farm, and along the delightful Buckholme Lonning at end of which we continued ahead on the road to Isel Bridge.
If we’d had any more energy we might have paid another visit to St Michael’s Church, some 200 yards to the left.
We crossed the Derwent and follow road to the T- junction, turned right and took the second waymarked gate on the left to climb up the track and bearing right eventually to exit the woods. We turn left to climb to the top of Watch Hill, where we hesitated for a moment in the swirling mist before recognising the way down to Cockermouth. (The two ladies in the party decided to avoid the climb by continuing along the road and they reached Cockermouth just a short time after the intrepid fell walkers!)
Once in Cockermouth, we walked along Main Street, found the sign ‘To River’ and crossed the pedestrian bridge into the memorial gardens and then made our way back home. Wet, tired but very satisfied with our day’s journey. We then drove back to Portinscale to pick up the first car.
Friday 17 June – Cockermouth to Allonby 9.5 miles (6.5 hours)
Today it isn’t raining! But wisely we still put on waterproof trousers and (SUGGEST Boots).
We took two cars and left one in car park just north of Allonby – then drove back home to Cockermouth to set out on the walk.
A familiar walk for us as far as Bridekirk, but we were surprised to discover that the name Bridekirk had been omitted from our version of the Explorer map! We followed the road past St Bridget’s Church until we found the public footpath sign on the right-hand side. However, in view of large herd of cows, calves and a massive bull, we decided to keep on the quiet road as far as Tallentire!
Some nice properties to admire. We kept to the east of the village at first, going against the traffic on the one-way system until we found the exit of the footpath we might have taken had we not been so faint-hearted earlier!
We then followed the road to Main Street. Deliberated for some time about the route from here on! However, followed the public footpath sign a few hundred yards south of the Bush Inn (sadly shut down at the time of our walk) down short lane and then bore right to pick up farm track. Ignored Explorer map indications to Dearham and proceeded in direction of Crosby (Outdoor Leisure map). No problems apart from very overgrown paths but thankfully we were wearing waterproofs!
Enjoyed ginger beers and coffees at Stag Inn at Crosby. Wondered why the locals stared – but perhaps there was a lot of grass sticking to our damp trousers. Then followed road to Crosscannonby (no sign of footpath as shown on map!) past St John the Evangelist’s Church, a small nature reserve and on to the coast.
Easy walking along coastal path. Sun breaking out at last as we sampled Twentyman’s famous ice cream in Allonby before driving home.
Later we felt justified in strolling into the centre of Cockermouth and unwinding with tapas and wine in the relaxing ambience of Junipers.
Saturday 18 June – Allonby to Grune Point 11 miles (7 hours)
Overcast most of the day but sultry (26c).
Left one car at Skinburness and drove the other car back to Allonby Then a straight forward walk along coast. Off on a minor road to Salta for a loop past some interesting properties, through a field and back via Mowbray to the coast and a nature reserve. Learnt about the danger of unexploded bombs and the existence here of 50% of the nation’s natterjack toads!
Wondered northwards through the dunes for several hundred yards before exiting east to find the aptly names Dunes Coffee Shop at Bank Mill. A well-worthwhile visit.
Continued through the dunes and then along the beach where we had to take our shoes and socks off at one time in order to cross a lazy stream. At Silloth Golf Course we opted to take the coastal path, waymarked with Cumbria Coastal Way signs, until eventually we found ourselves in Criffel Street, Silloth. Several routes to choose from around the golf course and then we asked alocal the quickest way to the main street (Criffel Street).
Here the Silloth Vintage Rally had certainly drawn the crowds but we managed to get a refreshing drink at the Balmoral Hotel. We followed the long and at times stepped promenade practically as far as Skinburness and then the pleasant coastal path behind the houses and out towards Grune Point. Here, apart from a short section on the pebbled beach, the clear track meandered through meadowland and gorse bushes until at last we spotted the World War ll Observation shelter (rebuilt in Buddist style- see Jim Watson). We rejoiced to reach the end of the walk. Well almost the end- because we now had to complete our circuit of Grune Point, follow the eastern path back into Skinburness, pass the hotel and pick up car number one to retrace out route back to Cockermouth.
That evening we felt we really deserved our first class meal at the Quince and Medlar!
Four very good days walking through varied landscapes, easy to follow and certainly warmly recommended.
- OS Explorer OL4 The English Lakes North-western area
- OS Leisure 4 The English Lakes North Western area
- OS Landranger 85 Carlisle & Solway Firth, Gretna Green
- Jim Watson, The Cumbria Way and the Allerdale Ramble (Circerone)
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