First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
The Lyth Valley was seething with moisture, in the air and on the meadows. The River Lyth ran within the confines of its banks, but only just. The hills were wet and misted. There had been rain over South Cumbria – a lot of it – and there was going to be a lot more.
It wasn’t really the morning to leave the light and warmth of the Lyth Valley Inn, if any morning ever is. But we thought we saw a chink of better weather in the offing, and plunged out waterproofed to the nines.
The upland of Whitbarrow, walled with ramparts of pale grey crags, rises between the valleys of Lyth and Winster. You can get up there from the cart road that curves round the northern snout of Whitbarrow. The limestone cobbles of the old track were skiddy this morning, and carpeted with black and gold hazel leaves. The view over the stone walls was of lumpy green sheep pastures patched with bracken the colour of damp fox fur.
Past Fell Edge Farm the track began to rise, snaking to and fro among the outcrops until it slipped over the top by way of a wall stile. Up here the wind blew strong and cold from the north-west. A patch of sea in Morecambe Bay gleamed like tarnished silver under a momentary smear of sunlight.
Whitbarrow’s broad back was dotted with clumps of low-growing juniper. A pinch of the hard green berries released savours of gin that clung to the fingers. We sniffed the damp wind and the harsh chalky smell of wet limestone. There was a sense of freedom and exhilaration up here on our own, the landscape veiled, the Lakeland mountains shut away from sight in the north but rising like waves in the mind’s eye.
At the cairn on Lord’s Seat we had a wind-whipped moment or two, watching the rain draw a milky sheet across the sea. Off the crags and down a slippery path into the stone-walled pastures at Row, where the ewes all stared as though they had never seen a human being before.
It was just beginning to freckle with rain as we descended the path to the Lyth Valley Inn. That chink of opportunity for a walk had proved just exactly wide enough.
Start: Lyth Valley Inn, Lyth, Kendal, Cumbria LA8 8DB (OS ref SD 453896)
Getting there: M6, Jct 36; A6 towards Kendal; A590 towards Barrow; in 2½ miles, left on A5074 for 3 miles to Lyth Valley Inn. Please park opposite.
Walk (5½ miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL7): Up track opposite Lyth Valley Inn. In 150m fork right; in 250m, right at junction (449895, ‘Whitbarrow’). Follow byway for 1 mile to gate (436895) where byway turns right; keep ahead here (blue arrow). Past Fell Edge Farm path begins to climb, zigzagging up crags to wall at top.
Cross step stile (438886, yellow arrow/YA) onto Whitbarrow upland. Follow discernible path south past silver birch trees, aiming for large round boulder on skyline (437883), then for three conical cairns. Path bears left here (SE) to reach plantation wall (440879). Left along wall for 100m; right over ladder stile; ahead with wall on left for 450m to wall stile (443875; don’t cross yet!), where path trends away right past notice board to reach cairn on Lord’s Seat (442870).
Return to cross wall stile; follow path through trees. In 150m, left (YA) for 700m to gate (448880, YA). Left to go through small wall gate; on for 400m through Township Plantation to go over path crossing (450885, YA). Follow main track through wood, ignoring side turnings, curving gradually left for 300m to meet wall (449888). Follow it left to gate into fields (448888). Follow wall on right down to Row. Through gate (450893); lane down to road; turn right. In 150m, left (452892) up lane to return to Lyth Valley Inn.
Conditions: Paths can be slippery after rain
Lunch/Accommodation: Lyth Valley Inn (01539-568295; lythvalley.com) – really comfortable and friendly; lovely food
Info: Kendal TIC (01539-735891); golakes.co.uk.