Google the ‘Greenburn Horseshoe’ and you’ll invariably find a walk to
the north of Grasmere coming up in the results. It’s a very boggy route
in places, accompanied by traffic noise, and the huge drawback that it
neither begins nor ends at the Three Shires Inn.
By contrast, our own Greenburn Horseshoe not only starts and finishes
at the Three Shires, but the pub remains in view virtually every step
of the way; and we’d venture the opinion that it’s one of the finest
high level walks in Lakeland.
So get packed up and prepared for a big one, as this is a ten mile
hike with 3000 feet of ascent, and well worth every ounce of effort
A gentle and scenic start gets the legs nicely loosened as you set
out from the Three Shires Inn down the lane and across the fields to
Slater Bridge, from where you’ll see the whole route stretched out
Turning right onto the old miners road after Slater Bridge, it’s a
steady hike along a well-made track until you pass through the gate just
below Greenburn Mines. Here, drop down to the right and cross the river
by the footbridge; after which there’s a brutally steep, but mercifully
short, slog straight up the grassy bank in front of you.
At the top of the bank the walking becomes easier, and the path less
distinct, as it climbs through Rough Crags towards High End with
wonderful views back into Little Langdale and across to the majestic
Past High End, the ridge is wide and flat with little or no path
until you meet the well-trodden route where the lightweight folk who
parked at the top of Wrynose Pass join you for the steady climb towards
Wet Side Edge, with staggering views over to the massive bulk of the
Scafell range and out across the Irish Sea, with the mountains of the
Isle of Man perfectly visible on a reasonably clear day.
Wet Side Edge leads on up to the summit of Hell Gill Pike, followed
by Little Carrs and Great Carrs, all affording great views down the
Greenburn valley far below, to Little Langdale Tarn and the Three Shires
Inn a little further beyond.
From Great Carrs the path crosses the saddle known as Top of Broad
Slack (where you’ll find the memorial to the crew of the Halifax bomber
which crashed here in 1944, and which we featured in a previous blog S is for Sugar)
before a short climb to the first of the two well-known summits of the
day, that of Swirl How. At 2631 feet, Swirl How is the high point of the
walk, and a spectacular vantage point from which to enjoy lunch while
surveying the panoramic views in every direction: across the silver
ribbon of Coniston Water towards Morecambe Bay and the Fylde Coast, the
distinctive flat topped mound of Ingleborough over thirty miles away,
and countless Lakeland summits to the east and north. It’s remarkable
how you can sit here in virtual solitude while watching crowds queueing
to touch the cairn on the top of Coniston Old Man, just a mile and a
half to the south.
From Swirl How, descend the steep and craggy, but fairly easy, Prison
Band to the col at Swirl Hawse, before taking a breather ready for the
last climb up to the summit of the surprisingly little-visited peak of
Wetherlam. It’s rocky underfoot but the path is good; steep at first
before levelling out into a gentle approach to the summit, which itself
is nothing more than a wide boulder field, but the views are again
Next comes a steep and cautious descent of Wetherlam Edge. It’s not
in the league of Striding Edge or Sharp Edge, but does still require
care, and soon levels out at Birk Fell Hawse. Now from here you may be
tempted by a path shown on the map which leads directly back down to the
track along the bottom of Greenburn, but resist the temptation because
it’s one of those rights of way which appears on the map but not on the
Instead, take the winding path down Tilberthwaite Gill. Despite being
longer, this route has two distinct advantages: firstly, it actually
exists; and secondly, it’s beautiful beyond description. Almost
instantly the surroundings change from craggy open fell to something
more akin to an Alpine terrace walk, with ancient fir trees and
cascading waterfalls all around.
On reaching the valley floor next to the very pretty farmhouse at Low
Tilberthwaite, all that remains is a steady yomp northwards along the
track through woodland and past old mine workings to the ford in Little
Langdale, then back up the lane to the Three Shires Inn for that
extremely well-earned pint.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The route described here is a high
mountain walk which requires appropriate experience, equipment, and
navigational skills. It should not be undertaken using only this
description as a guide.