Kirkstone Pass

Kirkstone Pass – A592 :


South Lakes

Kirkstone Pass. The Struggle, leaving Ambleside. Photo by Mathew Emmott

Kirkstone Pass with an altitude of 1,489 feet is the Lake District’s highest pass that is open to motor traffic. It connects Ambleside in the Rothay Valley to Patterdale in the Ullswater valley – the A592 road. There is another route from Troutbeck, which joins the Ambleside road at the Kirkstone Pass Inn.


In places, the gradient is 1 in 4. Brothers Water provides a picturesque view on the descent to Patterdale.


The Kirkstone Pass Inn stands close to the summit of the pass. Formerly an important coaching inn, it now caters primarily for tourists. It is the third highest public house in England.


Kirkstone Pass and quarry. The struggle, from Ambleside, bottom right, and
the road from Troutbeck centre right, meeting at the Kirkstone Pass Inn.
Photo by Simon Ledingham.

Near the top of the pass is Kirkstone Quarry (below), where rock extraction and architectural stone production took place over 500m above sea level. Further production facilities for bespoke items such as work surfaces, head office and trade showroom were located at Skelwith Bridge near Ambleside.


The main materials mined were green and blue-black slate. The former, a unique composition of volcanic material layered down some 450 million years ago, is found only in relatively small deposits within the Lake District. Intense compression led to metamorphosis into a dense and highly durable rock with great lateral strength. The latter took on a much more common geological formation, being an accumulation of dense and deeply compressed sedimentary material formed some years after the volcanic period, deep in the rifts of the earth’s surface.


Kirkstone Quarry. Photo by Simon Ledingham.

In 2012 Kirkstone Quarry went into administration with the loss of 39 highly skilled and, locally, much prized jobs. In recent years such local quarries have faced intense competition from cheap imported stone from India, South America and China. Today Honister Slate Mine on Honister Pass, Borrowdale, is also fighting for survival with the aid of their tourism business, including plans for a large zip wire. Their future and that of some of the last mining in the Lake District is now threatened by Lake District National Park planners’ and the ever vocal ‘Friends of the Lake District’s objections.

Grid Ref : NY 401079

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