The views of the Lake District from the top of Orrest Head are stunning. Yet the effort to get up there is truly minimal and great for all standards and families. It was this short climb and the views from the top that gave Alfred Wainwright the idea and inspiration to go discover more of these mountains and fells of the Lake District.
As can be seen in the scenes I got above, the views are spectacular in any direction, trust me. People in the know, of all ages, take the time to spend some minutes up here to get a view of the high fells all around and afar. Even if you are not a mountain trekker, this could be for you if in the area. Saves seeing the mountains from the car or the just the towns. That is how Wainwright started indeed. He came to Windermere on a walking holiday with his cousin in 1930, aged 23….
They decided to take the small wander up Orrest Head and from there he fell in love with not just the view, out over Windermere, but the high fells of lakeland laid out in front of him. This was his first but as we know it was definitely not his last. He has written this about Orrest Head:
our first ascent in Lakeland, our first sight of mountains in tumultuous array across glittering waters, our awakening to beauty
He also described it as:
a fitting finale, too, to a life made happy by fellwandering
The path up is well trodden by many and easily found. In Windermere it is off the A591, opposite the NatWest Bank near the train station. There is a Booths shop here as well as the station so plenty of parking options there. There is a big sign saying path to Orrest Head (no vehicle access to non residents). The sign also gives clues to the short distance to the top, saying 20 minutes.
A lot of the path straight up begins on a lane but soon you can cut through the woods that has a Gruffalo, carved by a local craftsman, to greet you 🙂
Even though you have been walking just 10 minutes or so at this point you are getting close to the summit already. You would not know as such because you amongst the trees of the woodland. Another place to explore to make the walk longer and to give variety to the children you may have with you.
After the woods you pass through a little metal gate and there you are, on the last few steps, out from the treeline and walking up to the summit plateau of Orrest Head.
Wainwright loved the view from the summit and due to the accessibility, so do many others, and as I have said, people of all standards of walking. To enjoy the view and to rest, looking out over the fells, there are a few benches facing in lots of directions. The time taken to get here might not be as per a mountain, but the mountainous views deserve being looked at over a period of time, so why not sit, and relax whilst doing so.
From the summit you really do get a sense of the size of the lake that is Windermere too! The largest lake in England, over 10.5 miles in length. Even from up here above the middle of it you fail to see all the way to each end of it. The busy towns of Windermere and Bowness are below you. These packed towns that are tourist magnets in the holiday season, looking quieter and quaint from high above.
On the other side of the lake the fells rise high all across the horizon but the famous ones are there indeed. From Scafell Pike to Coniston Old Man. From the Langdale Pikes to Great Gable. Memories of standing on top of much of them myself, whilst spotting ideas for new adventures.
Orrest Head may just be a hill at 784 ft (240m) above sea level. But this walk up and down of less than 3 miles, and circular options are available, may be one of your most memorable hills I assure you. Height isn’t everything, experience and feelings are.