Dying light through the valley at Buttermere
A tiny figure on the lakeside is dwarfed by the foot of the hills
Inquisitive sheep stand on a hilltop with the valley stretching behind them
A walking trail snakes around the edge of the lake

The forecast for the day was not the most pleasant so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to visit some waterfalls. The day started by driving over the Newlands Pass from Keswick and stopping off at the mighty Moss Force. 

Situated a few hundred metres from the crest of the pass, Moss Force is a 100-metre-high waterfall that dramatically spills over three separate cascades. From the small car park, there are two separate trails that lead to the middle and lower sections of the waterfall.

After the brief stop at Moss Force, we dropped down the other side of the Newlands Pass into the Buttermere Valley.

This verdant valley is, in my opinion, the most beautiful in the entire Lake District and epitomises everything that is special about the region. Within the narrow valley are the two tranquil glacial lakes of Buttermere and Crummock Water which are encircled by an amphitheatre of the High Fells, offering arguably some of the best views in all of the national park.

Adding to the allure of this charming valley is the fact that it is significantly quieter than other regions and there is a plethora of low and high-level hikes to satisfy walkers of all abilities.

As there was a band of low cloud and light rain overhead, we opted to stay low and take a stroll around the shores of Crummock Water to Scale Force, the tallest single-drop waterfall in the Lake District with a height of 170 feet (51.8m).

Chris Knight looks over Crummock Water

Crummock Water

The route was very boggy underfoot but the views across both lakes were magnificent despite the band of low cloud. As well as the views, it was the peaceful nature of the walk which really stood out for me. We barely saw another soul after departing the village and the silent sound of nature filled the valley.

Because Scale Force is set in a very steep-sided narrow gorge with a small 2-metre waterfall at its base, your initial view will be slightly impeded. If you are able, I would recommend scrambling above the first set of falls to fully appreciate the sheer scale and power of this waterfall.

The steep-sided gorge is lined with luscious green moss giving the waterfall a very tropical feel. If it weren’t for the temperature, the waterfall wouldn’t have looked out of place in an Indonesian forest.

In total, the hike was 7km, involved a modest 135m of elevation gain and took just over 2 hours to complete from the National Trust car park just outside of Buttermere. For those who fancy walking a little further, the waterfall can be included into a longer walk around Crummock Water (a 14km loop) or Buttermere Lake. Both lakes are extremely tranquil and would not disappoint, even in the worst of weather.

I would also recommend stopping by the award-winning Croft House Farm Cafe in Buttermere on the way back. Their hot food and barista coffee were very welcoming after a rather damp walk.

Alternative Hike: Fleetwith Pike

For those looking for a walk with a bit more elevation gain, consider hiking up to the summit of Fleetwith Pike. The distinguishing slope at the southern head of the Buttermere Valley offers arguably one of the finest views in the Lake District, especially for those looking for a great sunset location. 

You can reach the summit in one of two ways: from Gatesgarth Farm or the Honister Slate Mine.

The 6km loop starting and finishing at Gatesgarth Farm involves 530m of elevation gain and should take around 2-4 hours. For the sake of your legs, the loop is best tackled in an anti-clockwise fashion, ascending via Warnscale Beck and descending down the steeper Fleetwith Pike. Parking is available for a fee at the farm or is free at the base of the Honister Pass. 

If you wanted an easier option, you could start your hike from the slate mine situated on top of the Honister Pass. To reach the summit, simply follow the wide slate track leading steeply out of the car park and up the hill. The 5km out-and-back hike involves 250m of elevation and should take around 2 hours. 

Spectacular view from the hills looking down the Buttermere Valley at dusk

View down the Buttermere Valley before sunset

Even if you don’t have the time or energy to hike up the summit, I would recommend hiking up a small section of Fleetwith Pike. From Gatesgarth Farm, you can reach a viewpoint, which offers tremendous views down the Buttermere Valley, within 20 minutes via a short but steep 600m hike.  

As I was running short of time and wanted to catch the sunset, this is exactly what I did. Despite a day of overcast weather, I was treated to a spectacular show of light which lit up the Buttermere Valley, making it look like an oil painting. It was a special moment to witness and one in which I could not help but put my camera down, smile and enjoy.

Looking out from Rydal Caves
Read Day 5: Grasmere

Day 5 took me to the gorgeous village of Grasmere. Read on to discover what you can find here.