Sca Fell Pike – 18km Walk and Wild Swim

This is a walk up England’s highest mountain, with 2 or 3 wild swims thrown in for fun. I’ve seen fell runners jogging it, so if you fancy a hilly run, it’s possible. I used the Ordnance Survey Map 0L6 (The English Lakes, South Western Area) to guide me, I think it would be very tough to find your way without it. The signage en route is non existant once you leave the Eskdale valley.

First, here’s a short film that I made during the trek.

I set off from the Eskdale Camping and Caravanning Club campsite where I was staying for a week (you can see my review of the campsite at the bottom of this page) and drove 5 minutes towards the Hardknott Pass, stopping just past the red phone box at Jubilee Bridge. There’s a free car park here, with space for about 6 cars. Walk along the path beside the phone box, heading for Birk Dub, then Lingcove Bridge.

Just before Lingcove Bridge you reach a swimming spot which is, in my opinion, one of the Lake District’s very best. This part of the River Esk is called Tongue Pot and the place is magical.

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Ok, after this early swim, keep to the right bank of Lingcove Beck, you are heading for the saddle between Bow Fell and Esk Pike, which you’ll reach after 50 minutes by hiking up Yeastyrigg Gill. The path is reasonably easy to follow but steep.

The path onwards to Sca Fell Pike isn’t always easy to see, but it’s so well trodden that you’d have to be very unlucky to miss it. The worst that will happen is that you’ll add a few minutes onto your walk, I reckon, by taking a slightly less direct route. It certainly seemed that from Esk Pike onwards, all paths lead to Sca Fell Pike.

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Once at the summit of Scar Fell Pike you’ll probably find yourself among crowds. It’s a far different experience than most other Lake District summits, which you’ll most likely have to yourself. At the time I reached the top there must have been 50 others, plus their dogs. A chap was playing violin, another the guitar. It was interesting, but far from peaceful.

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I made the most of the mobile phone reception at the summit to call my family; there’s no mobile signal down in Eskdale. Then I headed down, not via the same path but via Broad Strand. I’d heard that Broad Strand was a dangerous route, but this isn’t true at all, it’s a little steep but the path is good and not once did I feel in any danger.

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Between you and Lingcove Bridge (from where you’ll retrace your early morning steps back to the car) there are now some amazing sights. For me, this was the best part of the day. First came the view of Great Moss and the upper River Esk, which you can see below looks more like a Tibetan Plateau than England (the wild camping is good here, I’m told, but at time a little boggy)…

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…and then 2 excellent wild swimming spots, which you’ll find easily if you just follow the path that leads beside the River Esk. The first is at a place marked on the map as Green Crag, and the second is in the pool at the base of the Esk Falls.

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From Esk Falls it’s a half hour walk back to the car.

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