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back to Wainwright Classics

Great Carrs and Swirl How
by Alex Leach (member 966)

This is a straightforward, and possibly underrated, short walk of about 5 miles
with superb views along the way. A good choice, in my opinion, for the novice or those of us whose fitness is not what it could be.

Pitched path from Three Shire Stone

The start is from Three Shire Stone, at the summit of Wrynose Pass – clearly shown in Book Four of the Pictorial Guides – The Southern Fells. This point is a winding 25 minute drive from Grasmere through some stunning scenery, but bearing in mind the limited roadside parking, don’t take too large a vehicle, and
get there fairly early.

Initially the route heads south up the obvious paved path, the first few yards on easy stepping stones over a small boggy area. The steepness soon eases, and the path goes through a couple of small and simple rock gateways: at the first
one ignore what looks like a path going vertically up the fellside, and keep going straight – you might need to use your hand to steady yourself here. When the path doubles back to the left you are near the ridge of Wet Side Edge, which despite its name is usually bone dry. Wainwright gives a time of 15 minutes for
the direct route to here but it will probably take you a little longer.

The Greenburn Valley and Wetherlam

At this point you might take a short breather by the nearby cairn while looking
over the valley to Cold Pike and Pike O’Blisco with Crinkle Crags behind them,
the route then heads up the obvious path away from the cairn on a gentle gradient following the curve of the escarpment. The route sometimes becomes obscure among the stones but Swirl How is clearly in view on the skyline with Wetherlam further to the left, though the Carrs have to be visited first.

This part of the route is over Hell Gill Pike – a dramatic name for a fairly innocuous piece of fellside. Don’t mistake Little Carrs for Great Carrs – the latter is only a short walk behind the smaller peak over boulders of varying size. The views from the summit are extensive – northwards the Scafell massif looks superb, and Bowfell is well displayed.

Canadian airmen's memorial, with the Scafell massif behind

From Great Carrs it is a simple ten minute walk to Swirl How where the views
are perhaps even finer from its large convex cairn. En-route you will pass the memorial to the Canadian crew of a Halifax bomber which crashed here in 1944 – now only the undercarriage remains. There is a small plateau adjoining the
summit which offers good views over Coniston Water, with Brim Fell and
Coniston Old Man ahead.

If the weather is good the energetic walker can return via Grey Friar, on a clear day the Isle of Man is visible directly over its summit, before you retrace your
steps back to the car.

Brim Fell, Coniston Old Man and Dow Crag from Swirl How summit plateau

back to the Classics Walks index