Getting back into walking: Buttermere

Hilary Tomlinson By Hilary Tomlinson

After suffering knee injuries, Hilary Tomlinson is optimistic about getting back into hiking. She starts here with a picturesque stroll around Buttermere Valley.

Vista across Buttermere

Well after a very frustrating 4 months, I finally managed to pull on my walking boots and get out into the countryside that I love. At the end of October having completed Great Gable as my 100th Wainwright I took what I thought would be a gentle stroll up Black Fell behind the beautiful Tarn Hows.

After an uneventful “up” my knees started objecting strenuously to my attempts to walk back down. It transpired that I had seriously overdone things. So after lots of rest (which becomes somewhat tiring when you’re itching to get out) and a lot of massage I decided I had to test my knees.

Lake at Buttermere

So here I am in mid-March trying to get back to my beloved Lake District. I always find the drive along the A66 from Penrith so inspiring.

The views of the fells on the horizon as we pass Great Mell Fell on the left and the looming hulk of Blencathra on the right act as my gateway. Beyond on the far horizon are the north western fells that dominate the skyline above Derwentwater. Cat Bells, Causey Pike, Eel Crag and Grizedale Pike being easy to pick out with their distinctive shapes. The further we drive in and Skiddaw looms massive as the vista stretches towards the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake.

This always feels like a second home for me and I swell with just a little pride that every fell that I see I have now conquered with the exception of Great Dodd which I am hoping to manage later this year, hopefully as part of a much longer trek across the top of the Helvellyn range. But that’s for another day.

Hilary by the lake at Buttermere Valley

Back to the present and nothing to overdo things just a meander around Buttermere. This is a magnificent walk at any time but after a prolonged lay-off it was so rewarding. I think the Buttermere Valley is one of the best in the Lakes.

Stuart has no doubts at all – he finds it breathtaking. And again I sit with a little pride soaking up the beautiful vista, knowing that I’ve managed all of the fells surrounding the top end of this delightful valley (though it’s taken me over 30 years to get to the tops of my 102 Wainwrights!) Melbreak in the distance overlooking Crummock Water is another on this year’s to do list.

But for now the weather was as good as I could have hoped for (given the long snowy winter that doesn’t seem to want to let go). We set of from Gatesgarth Farm and head in a clockwise direction under the brooding slopes of Fleetwith Pike and Wainwright’s favourite mountain, Haystacks.

Hilary stopping for a bite to eat by the lake at Buttermere Valley

It’s a slightly overcast day with a reasonably strong, cold easterly wind but there are a few intrepid souls climbing up towards Haystacks. It will very cold on top and not particularly pleasant so I’m quite content with the shore walk today. This little lake with a distance of just under 5 miles for a full circuit is a joy and well within the capabilities of all.

For young children there’s lots of opportunities to throw stones into the lake. There are two pretty waterfalls and the added adventure of the short tunnel to pass through on the far side of the lake. Add to this ice cream stops at either end of the lake and this can be a perfect family outing even for little ones.

As we reach the far end of the lake near Buttermere village we stop for a picnic by the lakeside to take in the majesty of the fells that surround this gorgeous valley.

Vista across Buttermere

It’s a heart-warming stroll and we carry on back on the other side pausing for a few photo’s, taking in the tunnel where drips always seems to find the gap between the collar of whatever you’re wearing and your exposed neck.

So we head back over the Honister Pass with a feeling of contentment that we’ve started to make progress for another year of hiking.

Hilary Tomlinson By Hilary Tomlinson


Hilary is a determined, cheerful walker who meets personal challenges with a smile.

Find out more about Hilary Tomlinson here.