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.
I recommend you check out my Virtual Tour of Skiddaw which shows the above mentioned structure of the Skiddaw range in 3D.
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.
These routes are shown in 3D in my Virtual Tour of Skiddaw (you will need to download the KML file which runs in the Google Earth browser).
Here are two You Tube Videos. The first has been made by terrybnd (above) and shows an amazing cloud inversion on Skiddaw from 31st December 2008. The second video is by Gordieoliver (below), and shows what it is like paragliding off the Skiddaw summit and flying down to the nearby village of Bassenthwaite.