First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Clouds clearing over South Lakeland, a fresh nip in the air, and Wray Castle looking endearingly preposterous, all turrets and bulges, a rich Victorian neo-gothic fantasy.
Below the castle we followed a path through the beechwoods along the shores of Windermere. The lake steamer Swan came past, humming gently and trailing a long silver wake. All was quiet, still and peaceful. No wonder Beatrix Potter, holidaying at Wray Castle and exploring the lakeside woods as a romantic 16-year-old, fell so passionately in love with the Lake District.
A hillside path led up through stone stiles to High Wray, and higher among the birches and alders of Waterson Intake woods where mosses and grasses twinkled with last night’s raindrops.
On up the brackeny flank of Latterbarrow with a breathtaking view opening across Windermere to Ambleside, huddled in white and grey under the green elephantine back of Wansfell. To the northwest, more fells, with the crumpled dark crags of the Langdale Pikes dominating the skyline.
A young family came up to Latterbarrow’s summit obelisk, the little girl racing to be first to touch it, her younger brother bobbing and grinning in Dad’s backpack. Two young walkers in the making, said Mum – they just loved being outside and exploring.
We descended a wide grassy path from the summit and skirted round the foot of Latterbarrow. There were wide views out westward to whitewashed farms on green velvet slopes where belted Galloway cattle grazed, their white belly bands marking them out.
Loanthwaite Lane was edged with hazel and strung with necklaces of dry and wrinkled bryony berries. It led us to the Outgate Inn, a seat in the sunny beer garden and a plate of home-made hotpot.
It was hard to uproot ourselves for the homeward stretch, but we had our reward along the banks of Blelham Tarn. Blackthorns were beginning to powder themselves with white blossom, and a buzzard mewed like a hungry kitten as it circled over the tarn.
Ahead stood the eastern fells, drenched in afternoon sun, every hollow and crag picked out in shadow – a prospect that had us dipping in our Wainwrights in hopes of a walk up there tomorrow.
Start: Wray Castle car park, Ambleside, Cumbria LA22 0JA (OS ref NY 375010)
Getting there: Bus 505 (Ambleside-Coniston) to Outgate.
Road: Wray Castle is signed off B5286 (Ambleside-Hawkshead)
Walk (6¼ miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL7): From car park follow ‘Ferry from Windermere’ to and along lake shore. In ⅔ mile through gate at High Wray Bay (375005); left (‘Bark Barn’). In 100m, right (376004, ‘High Wray’, yellow arrow/YA). At road, left (374000); follow ‘Hawkshead’; in 50m, left (‘High Wray Basecamp’). In ¼ mile right through gate (372995, ‘Chaife’); in 100m, right (YA) on woodland path up to Latterbarrow summit (367991). Grassy path beyond, down to bottom; right (367988, ‘Hawkshead’) for 700m to road (362992). Left, then right along Loanthwaite Lane. In 700m pass farm buildings (357991); right (gate) into walled lane; left (‘Outgate’) across fields (YAs) into wood. Track to road at Outgate (355998). Right past Outgate Inn; in 50m, right (‘Stevney’); on through gate, down bank (YAs) to cross footbridge (358999). Uphill, to stile on right (359998, YA) and driveway beyond. Left; in 250m, left (362999); follow ‘Wray Castle’. In 1¼ miles, cross road (371010); follow signs to Wray Castle.
Lunch/Accommodation: Outgate Inn, Outgate, near Hawkshead LA22 0NQ (01539-436413, robinsonsbrewery.com) – NB closed Sunday evenings, all Monday.
Wray Castle: nationaltrust.org.uk/wray-castle