Walk Of The Week: High Street, Cumbria

Follow in the Romans' footsteps along Britain's High Street

It has the makings of a riddle: which high street in England has no shops at all? The answer is the hill of that name - High Street, the great eastern outlier of the Lake District fells.

It has the makings of a riddle: which high street in England has no shops at all? The answer is the hill of that name - High Street, the great eastern outlier of the Lake District fells.

The Romans built a road along its crest. They would have been marching at an altitude of more than 2,300ft for mile after mile, as it was the loftiest highway in Roman Britain.

Today High Street is both the name of the old, supposed route between forts by Ambleside and Brougham, near Penrith, and the highest fell it crosses. At 2,700ft high, it is an exhilarating mountain walk. Rather awkward to get to from the honeypot valleys of central Lakeland, it is something of an aficionados' outing, particularly by this route from Mardale.

Except on summer weekends, when a bus operates from Penrith station, the only practical way of getting to the start of the walk at Mardale Head is by car. Minor roads lead from Penrith through the villages of Askham and Bampton to Haweswater reservoir. A lane hugs its eastern shore for five miles, ending at a small car park.

One should not be too prescriptive about walks over High Street and its neighbouring fells. Weather, energy and the length of the day are determining factors. But if you are going for the top, the most enjoyable route is up the airy spine of Rough Crag. Wear boots and carry full waterproofs, warm clothing, food and drink. Take the footpath around the head of the reservoir, cross Mardale Beck and turn right on a path above the reservoir. After a third of a mile, branch up the hillside to the crest of the ridge.

The way ahead could hardly be plainer. Geological time and the glaciers have left a remarkable stairway, two miles long, leading directly to the summit of High Street.

Crags tumble to each side of a worn track, but although you have to scramble up rocky steps there is no sense of exposure. Instead there is a fine aerial view of Blea Water encircled by its dark cliffs. Watch the skies too, for these hills are home to the only golden eagles resident in England.

The summit of High Street, marked by an Ordnance Survey triangulation point, is an anti-climax, an almost flat top with a stone wall along its length. It is also known as Racecourse Hill, from a time when dales folk raced horses along its broad back.

There is one more hill to go: Mardale Ill Bell (2,500ft), almost a mile to the south east. Skirt the cliffs above Blea Water or, in bad visibility, follow the stone wall south to a large cairn where a track branches left. Descend south-east from the summit cairn to Nan Bield Pass where a stone windbreak makes a good place to snack and gaze over Haweswater.

The last leg down to the car park skirts the delectable Small Water. Look out for three igloo-like shelters as you pass the tarn. Low-roofed and solidly built as a refuge from bad weather, they are a reminder that Nan Bield Pass was once a regular thoroughfare for travellers, long before the village of Mardale was drowned so that Manchester might drink.

Approximate distance six miles; total ascent 2,100ft, allow four to five hours. Map: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 scale Outdoor Leisure 5, The English Lakes, North Eastern area; price £6.50.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice
music

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
i100
Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album