English Lake District
OS Map of Skiddaw
If you are planning a walk on the Skiddaw range, the ordnance survey map for this area is The English Lakes: North Western Area (OS Explorer Map Series)
Alfred Wainwright on Skiddaw
Wainwrights Pictorial Guide to the Northern Fells has a 28 page chapter on Skiddaw and chapters on all the other fells in the Skiddaw range (including Skiddaw Little Man). The quotes used in the main text on the right were taken from this book.
Fell Walking on Skiddaw
To view more fell walking gear and equipment suitable for Skiddaw, visit the - Lake District Online Walking Shop.
At 931 meters (3,054 ft) Skiddaw is the fourth highest mountain in the lake district. In addition to its high altitude, the Skiddaw range has a somewhat grand and majestic appearance, emphasized by the surrounding flat valleys which isolate it from other Lakeland fells. Wainwright comments "The summit is buttressed magnificently by a circle of lesser heights, all of them members of the proud Skiddaw family, the whole forming a splendid and complete example of the structure of mountains, especially well seen from all directions because of its isolation" (Wainwright 1962, Skiddaw 2).
To the south of Skiddaw is the flat Vale of Keswick and Derwent Water, across which there are clear unobstructed views of the Skiddaw range. To the west is the head of the Newlands valley and Bassenthwaite Lake, which cut Skiddaw off from the North Western Fells. North of the Skiddaw range there are low rolling hills, and to the east is the upland basin of Skiddaw Forrest, which is boggy open land (no trees as the name suggests) separating Blencathra from Skiddaw.
Skiddaw Summit Ridge. Skiddaw Little Man can also be seen on the left. It is interesting to note that the geology of Skiddaw is fundamentally different to that in other mountainous areas of the Lake District. As Wainwright points out, rather than being of volcanic origin, the soft shale or slate ("Skiddaw Slate" as it is known) is formed from marine deposits, which indicates that Skiddaw is far older than other Lakeland Fells (with the exception of Black Coombe which I understand is also formed from Skiddaw Slate - see Steve Goodier's article in May 09's Cumbria Magazine). Photograph by Ann Bowker
The mountain structure of Skiddaw which Wainwright mentions above, can be described as a network of sloping ridges. The actual summit of Skiddaw itself is a long straight ridge running from north to south with a number of lesser summits along its route. So in addition to the main summit, Skiddaw also has a north top, middle top and south top, some with little difference in height. Wainwright notes that Skiddaw summit "... takes the form of a stony, undulating ridge exceeding 3000 ft throughout its length of almost half a mile and provides a glorious promenade high in the sky where one can enjoy a rare feeling of freedom and escape from a world far below, and, for a time, forgotten "(Wainwright 1962, Skiddaw 22). This main ridge is connected from the south east by Skiddaw Little Man, a shorter ridge with the main summit at 865 meters. From the south west there is the curving ridge that connects Ullock Pike, Longside and Carl Side.
Longside and Ullock Pike ridge. North west ascent to Skiddaw. Photograph by Ann Bowker
Skiddaw Walking Routes
Because Skiddaw does not have the crags, edges and rocky climbs that normally accompany fells over 3000 ft in height, it is a relatively easy summit to reach. The main route from the car park at Latrigg, Keswick, also has a good path all the way up, so navigation is also relatively easy. For this reason, Skiddaw is climbed by many people who are general tourists (although usually with a good level of fitness and sense of adventure).
The main summit ridge of Skiddaw taken from Skiddaw Little Man. Photograph by Ann Bowker
There are also many excellent walks enjoyed by more experienced walkers. There is a fascinating route from Millbeck that ascends a ridge to Carl Side before then going onto the main summit ridge of Skiddaw. The best ridge route, however, starts from the north west of Skiddaw near The Ravenstone Hotel. This takes the walker along the curving ridge that connects Ullock Pike, Longside and Carl Side, before making the ascent to Skiddaw summit. Routes from the north, such as those from starting near Bassenthwaite village, are much quieter and less well known. Routes starting from Skiddaw Forrest in the east are also quieter, giving the walker a sense of being in the wilderness.
Here are two You Tube Videos. The first has been made by terrybnd and shows an amazing cloud inversion on Skiddaw from 31st December 2008. The second video is by Gordieoliver, and shows what it is like paragliding off the Skiddaw summit and flying down to the nearby village of Bassenthwaite. You can see more video's by both film makers by clicking on the video as it plays.
Skiddaw across the vale of Keswick. Alfred Wainwright thought highly of Skiddaw and the view seen from the south. He Writes “There is a classical quality about this view from the south. Skiddaw and its outliers rise magnificently across the wide Vale of Keswick in a beautifully-symmetrical arrangement, as if posed for a family photograph” (Wainwright 1962, Skiddaw 4). Photograph by Ann Bowker
Cloud inversion seen from Skiddaw Little Man summit. Wainwright comments on the fantastic view from this height, “Skiddaw’s Little Man is situated fully one mile from its High Man [ie Skiddaw itself] and forms a distinctive peaked summit with independent routes of ascent and descent, commanding the most magnificent panoramic view of the heart and soul of Lakeland” (Wainwright 1962, Skiddaw Little Man 2). Photograph by Ann Bowker
On Skiddaw summit ridge in snow. Photograph by Ann Bowker
Skiddaw Little Man from Carl Side. Photograph by Ann Bowker
Western ridge of Skiddaw. There is a facinating route from Millbeck going up this ridge to Carl Side, and then onto Skiddaw summit. Photograph by Ann Bowker
Wainwright makes this thoughtful comment about Skiddaw Forrest. "The East slopes of the mountain collectively known as Skiddaw Forrest, dominate the vast upland basin of Caldew Head, a scene more suggestive of a Scottish glen than of Lakeland, a place incredibly wild and desolate and bare, its loneliness accentuated by the solitary dwellings of Skiddaw House, yet strongly appealing and, in certain lights, often strangely beautiful" (Wainwright 1962, Skiddaw 5).
The open wilderness of the Forrest of Skiddaw. There are no trees except those around the area of Skiddaw House Youth Hostel. John Martin the archivist for Skiddaw House tells me these may have been planted between 1880 and 1900. He also mentions that Skiddaw Forrest actually gets its name from the archaic definition of forrest, which apparently means "hunting reserve". Photograph by Ann Bowker
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