Bowfell and Esk Pike

START: Public car-park adjacent to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel of the ODG car park if a guest

LENGTH: 8.8 miles / 14.2 km


START: Grid reference NY286060

MAPS: We always recommended you take a map and compass with you when following a walk route. Available maps are:

BMC – LD 1:40000 XT40 Covers the central lake district.
OS Explorer – 1:25,000 – Sheet OL6
OS Landranger – 1:50,000 – Sheet 90

Maps can be purchased at the ODG if required.

Bowfell and Esk Pike are both included in this Classic Lake district walk from the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Great Langdale. The combination of two great Lakeland fells make this an exceptional walk. The views are superb throughout.

The high fells surrounding Scafell Pike all have their own character. This walk embraces two old favourites, Bowfell and Esk Pike, each having something different to offer the walker. Taking the easiest line of approach the walks begins at the public car-park adjacent to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel or from the Hotel car park if you are staying at the Hotel.

Heading to Stool End farm, you have a section of fairly level ground to get the circulation going before reaching the farm, the public right of way is clearly marked and soon you are starting the uphill hike. The Band is a spur of high ground between wild Oxendale and Mickleden. This is hard going but there are excellent views of the Langdale Pikes and the Crinkle Crags. Surprisingly Bowfell is hidden from view for much of the climb and it is not until you have reached around 1800ft (540m) that it comes into view.

With the first objective clearly in view the climb becomes easier and with the aid of superb path reconstruction you are soon at Three Tarns. This col is a suitable resting place with an excellent view. Eskdale, the Scafells, a retrospective view down the Band into Langdale plus much much more give you plenty to absorb. Suitably rested, the onward ascent continues. Not as bad as it looks, you climb rapidly traversing across the top edge of the Great Slab to reach the summit cairn.

As befits the sixth highest peak in Lakeland, the views are extensive with the Scafells dominating the scene. However do not ignore the rest of Lakeland, which is laid out below you. Away to the east the Helvellyn Massif fills the skyline, whilst nearer to hand are Glaramara and the fells of Borrowdale. Whatever happens don’t rush – you are atop one of the finest viewpoints in the Lakes. The onward route can be clearly seen. From the summit of Bowfell drop down to Ore Gap, either direct or after taking in the northern top of Bowfell. From this col climb easily to the summit of Esk Pike. Another rocky summit it again provides superb views in all directions.

Dropping down to Esk Hause be careful to take the correct path. You need to be heading for Angle Tarn and Mickleden. Satisfied you have made the correct choice enjoy the scenery as you descend to the Tarn. In a wonderful setting below the northern crags of Bowfell it is a great place to cool off and recall the day’s walk. If you have the energy, a quick sprint to the top of nearby Rossett Pike is worth the effort with a great view of Mickleden.

The descent of Rossett Gill is described in many books as a nightmare. What the books don’t tell you is the old pony route is a delightful descent offering a gentle and interesting way down into the broad valley of Mickleden. In places, the path has been flagged and I wonder how many people avoid this way into the mountains based on what they have read about Rossett Gill. Sure enough an ascent or descent of the gill itself is not a pleasant experience but the pony route is superb. All too soon you are wandering along the track back to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel after a wonderful day in the mountains.