This is how I got on walking Wainwright’s remote Lakeland route. I’ve also included links to my gear list for the walk, a review of all the gear I used, how it performed on the walk and whether I would take it again.
The 194 miles of Wainwright’s remote Lakeland route is one thing, but the 43,582ft of ascent and the remoteness of the route make it a real challenge.
I did alter Wainwright’s route slightly to reduce the road walking and make the route even more remote.
I walked Wainwright’s remote Lakeland walk in April 2021, completing it in 10 days and wild camping every night. I was unsupported and carried everything needed from the start. This was deliberate as I didn’t know if I’d be able to buy supplies or use pubs. Covid-19 restrictions meant a lot of the pubs were still closed, and the route doesn’t pass many shops for resupply.
I chose this walk because it’s remote, so it would be quieter and less walked. I didn’t want to make the Lake District any busier than it already was going to be with the recent lifting of the lockdown. It also was an opportunity to promote the lesser-walked parts, so others can find this solitude. The route took me to parts of the Lake District that I had never thought of exploring, and it was well worth it.
Completing Wainwright’s remote Lakeland walk was also the start of my training for the 3000km Te Araroa walk in New Zealand, which I’m planning to tackle in the next year or so.
What is Wainwright’s remote Lakeland walk?
Wainwright’s remote Lakeland walk is a 312km (194m) route around the quieter and less-walked parts of the Lake District. In total, it has 13,284m (43,582ft) of ascent and a high point of 784m (2,572ft).
Like many great ideas, Wainwright originally came up with the route n a pub, whilst drinking with some friends. It’s circular so it doesn’t matter where you start from, and accommodation options are possible every night. Or, like me, you can wild-camp all the way around, often in spectacular locations.
The route does a full circuit of the more popular parts of the Lake District’s main peaks, passing over some lesser-known and outlying peaks. I changed Wainwright’s route slightly to lessen the road walking and make the walk even more remote. And one evening the weather was too good to follow his route which descend into the valley. Instead I stayed high and climbed over High Street instead, which was my highest point.
How challenging is it?
Wainwright’s remote Lakeland walk is challenging on many levels, requiring good navigation and fitness. It’s best to have done some other long-distance walks before tackling this one.
I walked the route in perfect conditions and missed out about 15 miles and 3000ft of ascent. However, it still took me 10 days of hard walking. I was carrying all my food and gear from the start, though, which would have slowed me down initially.
There is a fair amount of rough pathless walking and high, remote route-finding. This would be extra challenging in bad weather. Many of the ascents and descents are very steep, and also could be tricky in rough weather.
Many times during the walk I found myself comparing it with the challenging Cape Wrath Trail. Wainwright’s Remote Lakeland walk is harder than Wainwright’s Coast to Coast, the West Highland Way and the Pennine Way for instance. I’ve done some challenging walks and this was right up there with the best of them.
Wainwright’s remote Lakeland route would make a great training walk for the Cape Wrath Trail. You’re only missing the Midges but will get a pub everyday.
Whilst looking at the map and planning this walk, some of the route didn’t inspire me. My intention was to change Wainwright’s original route to reduce the road walking and make it more interesting for wild-camping.
But when I set off, I soon realised that Wainwright definitely knew what he was doing. I saw amazing views of the Lake District that I hadn’t expected at all. I’d climb a relatively small hill or turn a corner, and suddenly I’d get an unexpected view and realise the reason for going that way.
The route is extremely varied. I was never bored of the scenery as it was always changing. I walked through some lovely farms and villages, with typical Lakeland buildings and sheep farms. Then I was passing pristine grassy fields of newly-born lambs, and an hour later I could be up on a high ridge with expansive views of the mountains all around. The route also followed woodland paths full of bluebells and circled around a lake.
There is a surprising amount of high-level, exposed walking on the route. However, every day it drops into a valley (or 5) and passes a pub or hotel. Most of these were shut when I walked the route due to Covid-19 restrictions, so I bypassed a number of these sections. Sometimes I chose to stay high because of the good weather, and other times I just wanted to save a few miles of road walking.
I passed two pubs open during early part of the walk, and stopped for meals and a few pints in both. Later I also passed a horse box that had been converted with a pizza oven, so had a surprise pizza. This was especially welcomed as I’d been looking forward to a meal in the pub in the village, but it turned out to be shut.
To save money, I mainly lived on dehydrated meals during the walk, so I really appreciated a meal when I could find one. This shouldn’t be a problem in future as the pubs will all be open. The Lake District does do pubs well; there’s plenty of them.
For the first 6 days, I had views of the sea from my wild camping spots. On one night I was lying in my sleeping bag drinking coffee, watching the sky change colour as the sun set over the Isle of Man. Beautiful.
Most nights I was camped high level, where I found it easy to find a camping spot with great views. Often there wasn’t a soul about. There were only two nights at lower levels where I struggled to find a secluded spot, and it meant I had to walk a few miles more than I would have liked. One particular night I had to walk with my head torch on past 10pm, up past Scales onto a ridge, before finally camping in a lovely spot. All good fun and it definitely added to the challenge! Luckily it was a lovely clear night, walking under a starry sky.
I loved this walk and will probably do it again, probably the other way round just for the challenge and different views. It’s up there with the best wild-camping trips I’ve ever done. I often found myself comparing it to the Cape Wrath Trail and thinking how good the walk was. Best of all I had the remoteness and the challenge but with the added advantage of no midges!
I hope this has given you an insight into Wainwright’s remote Lakeland walk. If you would like to read more about it, please message me and I’ll write a daily account of my walk if there is interest.
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UPDATE: I received this message that may be of interest to you. Thankyou John for taking the time to write it.
I hope you don’t mind me pointing out that Wainwright had already died before the Remote Lakeland Walk was devised and had only a very tenuous link to it. It was indeed first thought of in a pub, the Santon Bridge Inn. At the turn of the century there Eric Robson in the company of David Powell-Thompson and Joss Naylor, was recalling his TV series of Wainwright Walks with the man himself, in particular of his last Lakeland walk with him on Haystacks in appalling weather. Wainwight described to him the view from there, from memory, because there was nothing at all to see in the hill fog. He mentioned that “you should be be able to see Grike in the far west” and Eric Robson said to him that he had never heard of it. AW replied “then you should go there, you’ll have it all to yourself” and the germ of an idea of a walk over remote fells was sown with him.
During the conversation in the bar Eric threw down a challenge to his companions to devise a walk around the outlying summits, starting and finishing for instance in Penrith, and including of course, Grike! David Powell-Thompson duly researched the route with some input from Joss Naylor and walked its length before Eric and he, with a film crew, produced a video of the walk and later a highly entertaining account of their experience in a booklet – After Wainwright. Hope this background information is useful for you.
All the best, John