Outline of Route
Stock Lane Car Park, Grasmere - Town End - How Top - Grey Crag - Alcock Tarn - Forestside - Swan Hotel - Stock Lane Car Park, Grasmere (Grid ref. NY 339072)
Total Distance 3.4 miles, Total Ascent 1050 feet, Equivalent Distance 5.5 miles
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Details of Route
Many of the great views in Lakeland are from the felltops, available only to the hardened fellwalker carrying a day's rations and emergency clothing. Here is one from a much more modest height, available to anyone capable of a Sunday afternoon stroll in the country, yet which still gives that feeling of standing on top of the world.
Turn left exiting the car park and continue along the road leaving Grasmere village behind you. At the Town End mini-roundabout cross the main Keswick/Kendal road (A591) and take the minor road between the Jerwood Centre and Rose Cottage (photo). Pass Dove Cottage (photo) on your left and follow the road uphill to How Top and a road junction (photo). Bear left at this junction along the road signposted "Public footpath to Alcock Tarn" and "no through road for motor vehicles after ½ mile". After a further 70 yards (60 metres) bear left along gravel path signposted "footpath to Alcock Tarn". After a further 160 yards (150 metres) pass through a gate bearing the National Trust emblem, marked Brackenfell, with a small notice by gatepost saying "path to Alcock Tarn". Continue along the path, through an unmarked gate and when a path comes in from the left bear right, uphill. Much of the walk since leaving How Top has been through woods of oak, ash, etc. but after passing a small tarn on the right (photo) the path winds up the open fell with its sparser resident fir and may. There is a good view of Grasmere (lake) from here (photo).
There is a rocky prominence ahead known as Grey Crag (photo) and after passing through a gate with the National Trust emblem and marked Alcock Tarn the path bears to the left of Grey Crag before circling up to its summit. The view from here is magnificent with Windermere visible in the south, Coniston in the southwest, the jagged peaks of the western fells and Grasmere lake and village below, Helm Crag to the northwest, and Skiddaw can be seen through the gap of Dunmail Raise to the north northwest (panorama).
Continue along the path, through a gap in the wall to Alcock Tarn (photo). Pass by the tarn on your right to a gate in the wall (photo). Now walk carefully down the steep rocky path. To the right Greenhead Gill runs down the valley with the shapely summit of Great Rigg at its head (photo). The path leads down towards a conifer wood (Forestside Plantation) (photo) but bypasses it to the right then continues alongside the wall of the conifer plantation, high above Greenhead Gill. Helm Crag is seen ahead, silhouetted on the skyline. Follow the path with the wall on your left, don't be tempted into the wood by the gate, and when the path reaches Greenhead Gill continue along its left bank to a wooden footbridge. Cross the gill by the footbridge, through the gate on the left and down the metalled road. Turn left on reaching the T-junction and continue to the A591 by the Swan Hotel (photo).
Turn left at the A591 and walk alongside it before crossing it at a pedestrian refuge just before Our Lady of the Wayside church (photo). Ignore first footpath on the right which has a metalled surface, continue along the main road to a path signposted "Grasmere village 3/4 mile via millennium bridge". Take this path. Go through a gate and follow the path with a wall then a fence on your right to a kissing gate and five-bar gate. Go through and diagonally right across the field. There are a series of such gates to negotiate along this path, just keep going until you reach the Millenium Bridge with its green-painted supports. Cross the bridge, turn left and follow the path into the churchyard. Exit the curchyard and turn left along road back to the car park. Finally, as you enter the car park, look up to the horizon to spot where you've been - on top of Grey Crag (photo).