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by Caroline Nichol

There is no other fell like Haystacks. It is a classic in its own right. Wainwright thought so too and his ashes were scattered there, his final resting place.

Haystacks stands unabashed and unashamed in the midst of a circle of much loftier fells, like a shaggy terrier in the company of foxhounds’, says Wainwright in his Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells – Book 7 The Western Fells.

Great Gable from Haystacks

The route summarized here starts with the ascent from Gatesgarth via Scarth
Gap and involves 1,550 feet of ascent in about 1 and a half miles. The path is steep, very rough in places and should not be attempted in mist or poor visibility. Wainwright gave a stark warning – ‘If you attempt this walk in mist then you had better kneel down and pray for safe deliverance’.

Use the car parking space at Gatesgarth Farm and take the footpath signposted
to Scarth Gap. The path is steep but always clear and there are many cairns to guide you. Eventually you will pass a number of boulders where you might halt
to enjoy the excellent views of Buttermere, Crummock Water and Mellbreak.

After a well-earned rest the path ascends between Low Wax Knott and High
Wax Knott, passing through a gap in the wall seen ahead, towards Scarth Gap which Wainwright describes as ‘…one of the pleasantest of foot passes. Apart
from the sheep passes above a sheepfold, the gradients are gentle and the
views ahead are full of interest. The path is generally good, but it is significant
that the roughest places are those where the zigzags have been butchered by shortcutters’.

From Scarth Gap the rocky path ascends to the summit of Haystacks at 1,900 ft. The route involves some scrambling along the way.

Pillar beyond Haystacks with High Crag and High Stile to the right 

Once the summit is reached any toil is quickly forgotten. Haystacks is a unique fell summit and it is best appreciated if you linger and explore. There are rocky outcrops, crags, screes, heather, three tarns and inspiring views such as High
Crag and Buttermere from the summit tarn for example.

The path continues across the summit and descends towards Innominate Tarn, which has three islands in the middle of it. Alfred Wainwright’s ashes were scattered nearby the tarn. I have sat here many times remembering AW and particularly the TV series ‘Wainwright’s Lakeland’ which also featured Eric Robson, broadcaster and journalist, and Chairman of the Wainwright Society.

By the shore of Innominate Tarn there are marvelous views of Green Gable, Great Gable, Kirk Fell and Pillar. In summer you might also see newts in the clear waters of the tarn.  

Innominate Tarn - looking over to Pillar

The route continues to a third tarn, Blackbeck Tarn, and then past Green Crag towards Warnscale Bottom, passing the waterfalls of Warnscale Beck, and descends, crossing the beck along the way, to eventually reach a grassy path which leads back to the starting point. A wonderful day out.

High Crag from the summit of Haystacks

Photographs courtesy of Sean McMahon of

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