Wetherlam, Swirl How and Great Carrs, a circular walk

A fabulous circular walk starting from the Tilberthwaite Valley. Best done in this direction so as to enjoy the ascent of Wetherlam Edge, great views in all directions and much interest on the walk.

Technical sheet
No. 3716998
A Coniston (Cumbria) walk posted on 01/08/20 by Alwayswiththehills. Update : 20/11/20
Calculated time Calculated time: 6h00[?]
Distance Distance : 8.09mi
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 2661ft
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 2664ft
Highest point Highest point : 2585ft
Lowest point Lowest point : 469ft
Average Difficulty : Average
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Area Area : Lake District
Location Location : Coniston (Cumbria)
Starting point Starting point : N 54.399745° / W 3.069871°
Download : -
Wetherlam, Swirl How, Great Carrs and Wet Side Edge Langdale Pikes Langdale Pikes Little Langdale


Park at Low Tilberthwaite. Good free parking but it can be popular so please park sensibly in order to make the best use of the spaces available.

(D/A) From the parking place take the steps on the left (signpost) up and through the slate spoil heaps. On the way you will pass the entrance to a low square cave and entrances into the abandoned Tilberthwaite slate quarries.

(1) Take a bit of time to explore the cave and slate quarry, on a dry day you might see a few climbers here. When you are done continue ascending to a fork in the path.

(2) At the fork, take the right hand path which is flat at first. It contours through fir trees above Yewdale Beck, low down on your right, before dropping down some slate steps to cross the beck via a bridge. Then ascend, pass through a gate and come out at a junction with another path.

(3) Turn left and follow the old miners track. If you have dogs or young children take care as the drop into Tilberthwaite Gill on the left is sheer and hidden by the undergrowth. You will see Crook Beck on the far left bank of the gill and will then arrive at another fork in the path.

(4) Take the right hand path which ascends gently. This is the best way to get around Dry Cove Bottom, which is a bog. You will pass the remains of some old mine buildings on the left. You will also see old mine levels, shafts and caves, many of which have been fenced off. Do not explore these they are fenced off because it is dangerous to enter but you can imagine the industry that once took place here.
The path ascends steadily, contouring the cove up onto the flanks of Birk Man Fell where you will be rewarded with a great view across to the Langdale Pikes. You will be able to see your descent on the grassy ridge on the opposite side of the Greenburn Valley. You will then arrive at Birk Bell Hawse with Wetherlam Edge rising above you.

(5) Take the path up the broad, rocky spur. There will be sections where you will need to use your hands for balance and there are sections where the path splits. Look out for a few small cairns to show the way. (Whilst this is not as steep sided as the Striding or Sharp Edges you will still need to take care, particularly if the rock is wet) The path will ease off in angle towards the top, before passing over a few more rocks to reach the summit of Wetherlam.

(6) Take care in the path you follow off the summit, particularly if you are in mist, as you do not want to be heading south. If you follow a faint path in a westerly direction it will curve around to the right and join the obvious path to Swirl Hawse, contouring the hillside with Black Sails on your left. The path will then descend to Swirl Hawse, which is a good place to have a snack before tackling the ascent of Swirl How.

(7) From Swirl Hawse follow the path up the Prison Band, again there are a few sections where you will have to use your hands for balance but it is easier than the ascent of Wetherlam Edge. There are great views of the Coniston Fells to the south and Morecambe Bay. Arrive at the summit of Swirl How

(8) Follow the path gently downwards and curving to the right to follow the edge of Broad Slack. This give great views down the Greenburn valley towards Little Langdale. If you look over the edge you will see the wreckage of a Halifax Bomber lying among the scree and then you will pass the remains of the undercarriage and a memorial plaque to the crew who crashed here in 1944. Make the short ascent up to the rocky summit of great Carrs.

(9) From Great Carrs follow the path in a northerly direction descending gently to the prominent rocky outcrop of Hell Gill Pike.

(10) Now follow the path to descend Wet Side Edge. The path becomes more grassy and easier underfoot, although there are some parts which can be boggy but these are easily avoided. (make sure you do not stray down to Wrynose Pass on the left) The descent of the ridge is easy, look across to the side of Wetherlam to see more mine levels on the fellside above the Greenburn mine workings. You will see a prominent dry stone wall descending the fell to the Greenburn Beck, this is an important navigational help.
The path with pass Rough Crags and will drop to the right of the ridge, heading towards the Greenburn Beck. As it passes into sheep pasture the path becomes fainter and the fellside becomes wetter, particularly after rain. It is easy to lose the path among the boggy sections and sheep tracks.
The wall on the far side of the beck is your point to aim for, as the path will descend to the continuation of this wall on this side of the beck. If you lose the path (as we did) you will still come to the wall where there is a gate. Do not go through the gate but instead, turn right and follow the wall to where it bends left and drops down to the beck. Cross the beck via a wooden bridge and go up to the track to the Greenburn mine.

(11) There are now three variants to the end of this walk two of these are described in the useful information section.

For this walk turn left along the track and pass over a stile next to a wooden gate, continue along the track to a junction with another track.

(12) Turn right and follow the good track; you will quickly come to a fork in the track where the left branch descends to towards Low Hall Garth and Slater Bridge.

(13) Take the right hand branch in the track which ascends easily, with views over to Hodge Close quarry before descending to High Tilberthwaite farm.

(14) Go through the gate, turn right in the farmyard, pass through a second gate and take the road back to the parking at Low Tilberthwaite.

Waypoints :
D/A : mi 0 - alt. 515ft - Low Tilberthwaite
1 : mi 0.22 - alt. 663ft - Cave and slate quarry
2 : mi 0.34 - alt. 709ft - Fork
3 : mi 0.52 - alt. 892ft - Old miners track
4 : mi 0.7 - alt. 997ft - Ascends
5 : mi 1.69 - alt. 1677ft - Birk Fell Hawse
6 : mi 2.14 - alt. 2464ft - Little Walls
7 : mi 2.83 - alt. 2047ft - Swirl Hawse
8 : mi 3.24 - alt. 2569ft - Swirl How
9 : mi 3.57 - alt. 2513ft - Great Carrs
10 : mi 3.94 - alt. 2238ft - Hell Gill Pike
11 : mi 5.96 - alt. 673ft - Level
12 : mi 6.72 - alt. 469ft - Low Hall Garth and Slater Bridge
13 : mi 6.77 - alt. 476ft - Low Hall Garth and Slater Bridge
14 : mi 7.76 - alt. 522ft - Gate
D/A : mi 8.09 - alt. 512ft - Low Tilberthwaite

Useful Information

You are making the ascent of some high fells. Dress appropriately for the weather, take a waterproof / windproof layer.
Yow will need boots for this walk as the path is rocky on the ascent of Wetherlam Edge and it is boggy underfoot in places.

There are few places to shelter from the wind other than squatting behind a cairn or rocky outcrop.

This walk is best done in the direction described. It can be done in reverse but the ascent of Wetherlam edge is better than the descent, particularly if it is wet or you are doing the walk when the tops are covered in cloud.

Alternative finishes from (11)

A) The shortest distance. From (11) follow the path that runs to the right of the obvious wall mentioned as a navigational aid. It ascends through bracken and over the side of the fell to join the Tilbertwaite road at a farm, just before the parking. This might be the shortest way back but it adds some extra ascent and if the bracken is high and wet you might want to avoid this way.

B) The extra interest; Cathedral Quarry. It is longer and you will need a torch. From (11) follow the route describes to (13). Then take the left hand track down past the climbing hut and past Slater Bridge. Look out for a gate and a ramp on the right leading up onto a platform on the spoil heaps. Go over the stile and up the ramp. Go through the tunnel which emerges in a cave supported by a single, vast column of rock and illuminated by a higher opening. This dramatic location has been used as a film set on a few occasions.
Behind the column of rock is another opening which leads into a section of the quarry that is open to the sky. A short scramble leads up. When you arrive at the top of the scramble, straight ahead of you and down there is another tunnel into the rock. You will need a head torch or torch for this. Enter the tunnel and after a while, it will come to a widening where another branch goes off on the right. This right hand branch ends in a metal fence (do not cross it) so backtrack your steps and go right, this tunnel will bring you out at another raised platform at the end of the Tilberthwaite Valley. Turn left and drop down to the main path/road then turn right. Follow the road/track to High Tilbertwaite Farm (14) IMPORTANT UPDATE 2020. There has been some rockfall in the quarry and the National Trust have taped off the entrance to the tunnel. There are notices warning of the rockfall and until further investigation is made into the stability of the tunnel it is best not to enter. Instead, you can go and look and then scramble back down the way you came or you can follow some steps up and out of the quarry and a path back down to the entrance level.

Cathedral quarry is also included and described in the following walks if you want to see it but not on this walk.

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

The Tilberwaite Valley was heavily quarried for slate. The old quarries are interesting for exploration but take care as some are unstable. The more stable quarries are used by climbers.

Wetherlam was mined for copper and is possibly has the most levels and mine workings of all the Lakeland fells.
As you walk up see if you can count how many different levels you can see.

The views from this walk are stunning, try to do it on a clear day.

Opinions and comments


Global average : 5/5
Number of opinions : 1
Description quality : 5/5
Routemap quality : 5/5
Walk interest : 5/5

on Mon 17 Aug 2020 12:51:01 CEST

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 11/08/20
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

Takes the full 6 hours to do a fairly challenging but rewarding route with great views all the way round. Surprisingly quiet too.

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