Southern Fells

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Coordinates: 54°28′16″N3°08′38″W / 54.471°N 3.144°W / 54.471; -3.144


The Scafells Annotated Scafell range.jpgSlight Side (762 m)Scafell East ButtressEsk Pike or Crag (885 m)Sca Fell (964 m)Mickledore (c. 840 m)South Summit (<978 m)Scafell Pike (978 m)Broad Crag (934 m)Ill Crag (935 m)Great End (910 m)Click hyperlink or button to expand
The Scafells

The Southern Fells are a group of hills in the English Lake District. Including Scafell Pike, the highest peak in England, they occupy a broad area to the south of Great Langdale, Borrowdale and Wasdale. High and rocky towards the centre of the Lake District, the Southern Fells progressively take on a moorland character toward the south-west. In the south-east are the well-known Furness Fells, their heavily quarried flanks rising above Coniston Water.

Partition of the Lakeland fells

The Lake District is a National Park in the north west of the country which, in addition to its lakes, contains a complex range of hills. These are known locally as fells and range from low hills to the highest ground in England. Hundreds of tops exist and many writers have attempted to draw up definitive lists. In doing so the compilers frequently divide the range into smaller areas to aid their description.

The most influential of all such authors was Alfred Wainwright whose Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells series has sold in excess of 2 million copies, [1] being in print continuously since the first volume was published in 1952. Wainwright divided the fells into seven geographical areas, each surrounded by valleys and low passes. While any such division must be arbitrary- and later writers have deviated to a greater or lesser extent from this blueprint- [2] [3] Wainwright's sevenfold division remains the best known partitioning of the fells into 'sub ranges', each with its own characteristics. The Southern Fells are one of these divisions, covered by volume 4 of Wainwright's work. [4]


Of all Wainwright's boundary decisions, the outer perimeter of the Southern Fells is the most often debated. [5] Two ridges continue south west on either side of the Duddon Valley, the longer ending only at the Irish Sea in the terminal height of Black Combe. Wainwright however chose to excise a wide area of fell from his guidebooks, declaring that "south and west from Green Crag the scenery quickly deteriorates. This summit has therefore been taken as the boundary of fellwalking country for the purposes of this book and the territory southwest omitted from the map". [4] He makes similar statements regarding the fells to the south of Dow Crag on the parallel Coniston ridge. The later Fellranger guides [3] mirror part of Wainwright's Southern Fells in the curiously named "Mid-Western Fells" volume, and then all of the fells south from Wrynose and Hardknott Passes to the sea in a further volume, "The Southern Fells". The author, Mark Richards, notes his differences with Wainwright in the introduction. Birkett simply includes everything without comment. [2] Even Wainwright ultimately relented and included the southern extremities in an eighth guidebook, "The Outlying fells of Lakeland" (1974).

The northern boundaries are clear, beginning on the west with Wastwater and rising up beyond the head of Wasdale to Sty Head Pass, the popular walkers' route to Borrowdale. Across the border on this side are Great Gable and the Western Fells. The boundary continues north to Stonethwaite in Borrowdale, before turning sharply south-east along the Langstrath branch of that valley, including the long ridge of Glaramara within the Southern Fells. At the head of Langstrath the perimeter crosses Stake Pass, another pedestrian route, and sweeps eastward down Great Langdale to Windermere. Stake Pass provides the high level link to the Langdale Pikes in the Central Fells. Although falling within the Southern Fells area, Wainwright makes no mention of the low hills between Coniston and Windermere in the Pictorial Guides. These appear, somewhat illogically, within his Outlying Fells volume.


The Southern Fells occupy a broad sector of the circular Lake District massif, trending a little to the west of centre and about 10 miles (16 km) across in either direction. In addition to the perimeter dales, Eskdale and the Duddon Valley provide further subdivision flowing out from the centre of the district.

Crinkle Crags (left) and Bowfell from Cold Pike Crinkle Crags from Cold Pike.jpg
Crinkle Crags (left) and Bowfell from Cold Pike

In the north, surrounding the head of Eskdale, are the Scafells. Also standing above the valleys of Wasdale, Borrowdale and Great Langdale, this high cirque is open to the south and contains England's highest ground. The range begins on the west with Slight Side before rising to the summits of Scafell, Scafell Pike and Great End. Across the gap of Esk Hause and enclosing the eastern side of Eskdale are Esk Pike, Bowfell and Crinkle Crags. Satellites to this main ridge are Lingmell above Wasdale and the Allen Crags- Glaramara- Rosthwaite Fell ridge jutting deep into Borrowdale. East of Bowfell is Rossett Pike providing the link to the Central Fells. More loosely connected are Illgill Head and Whin Rigg, the fells forming the famous Wastwater Screes.

South from Crinkle Crags, between Eskdale and the Duddon, are Hard Knott, Harter Fell and Green Crag. A second ridge falls south easterly from Crinkles over Cold Pike and Pike O'Blisco, crosses the motor road of Wrynose Pass and then rises to Great Carrs, the first of the Coniston (or Furness) Fells. The remainder of this group comprises Swirl How, Grey Friar, Wetherlam, Brim Fell, Coniston Old Man and Dow Crag, together forming the watershed between Coniston and the Duddon. To the east are the low outliers of Holme Fell and Black Fell.

Illgill Head and the Wastwater Screes Illgill Head screes.jpg
Illgill Head and the Wastwater Screes

Access for walkers

The high Southern Fells can be accessed from many of the principal walking centres of Lakeland, namely the heads of Wasdale, Borrowdale, Langdale and Eskdale. Sty Head, the Stake, Rossett Gill, Grains Gill, Burnmoor Tarn and Esk Hause provide pedestrian links between all of these valleys, many miles apart by road.

The main paths from Seathwaite or Wasdale Head to Scafell Pike, and from Great Langdale up Bowfell are heavily used, as is the 'Tourist Route' up Coniston Old Man. These tops will be busy on almost any day of the year. Away from these famous tops however it is possible to find quieter walking, particularly to the south.

See also

Related Research Articles

Lake District Mountainous region in North West England

The Lake District, also known as the Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous for its lakes, forests and mountains, and its associations with William Wordsworth and other Lake Poets and also with Beatrix Potter and John Ruskin. The Lake District National Park was established in 1951 and covers an area of 2,362 square kilometres (912 sq mi). It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.

Scafell Pike Highest mountain in England

Scafell Pike is the highest and the most prominent mountain in England, at an elevation of 978 metres (3,209 ft) above sea level. It is located in the Lake District National Park, in Cumbria, and is part of the Southern Fells and the Scafell massif.


Scafell is a mountain in the English Lake District, part of the Southern Fells. Its height of 964 metres makes it the second-highest mountain in England after its neighbour Scafell Pike, from which it is separated by Mickledore col.


Bowfell is a pyramid-shaped mountain lying at the heart of the English Lake District, in the Southern Fells area. It is the sixth-highest mountain in the Lake District and one of the most popular of the Lake District fells for walkers. It is listed in Alfred Wainwright's 'best half dozen' Lake District fells.

Great End Mountain in the Lake District, England

Great End is the most northerly mountain in the Scafell chain, in the English Lake District. From the south it is simply a lump continuing this chain. From the north, however, it appears as an immense mountain, with an imposing north face rising above Sprinkling Tarn (lake). This is a popular location for wild camping, and the north face attracts many climbers.

Crinkle Crags

Crinkle Crags is a fell in the English Lake District in the county of Cumbria. It forms part of two major rings of mountains, surrounding the valleys of Great Langdale and Upper Eskdale. The name reflects the fell's physical appearance as its summit ridge is a series of five rises and depressions (crinkles) that are very distinctive from the valley floor. In Old English, cringol means twisted or wrinkled.

Eskdale, Cumbria Human settlement in England

Eskdale is a glacial valley and civil parish in the western Lake District National Park in Cumbria, England. It forms part of the Borough of Copeland, and in 2001 had a population of 264, increasing to 304 at the 2011 Census. One of the Lake District's most popular tourist attractions, the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, runs through the valley, though along with other western valleys of the Lake District, Eskdale is notably quieter during the high summer season than the more accessible eastern areas.

Harter Fell (Eskdale) Fell in the Lake District, Cumbria, England

Harter Fell is a fell in the western part of the English Lake District, located between the Eskdale and Duddon valleys. Its height is 649 m (2128 ft). There are several walking routes to the summit.

Cold Pike Fell in the Lake District, Cumbria, England

Cold Pike is a fell in the English Lake District. It is a satellite of Crinkle Crags and stands above the Upper Duddon Valley.


Whitfell is a hill of 573 metres (1,880 ft) in the southwestern part of the Lake District. It is the highest point between Black Combe and Harter Fell on the broad ridge to the west of the Duddon Valley. Views from the summit include the full length of the Duddon Valley including its estuary; the western side of the Coniston fells; the Eskdale fells including Scafell and Bowfell; much of western Cumbria including the estuary of the Rivers Esk, Mite and Irt; the Isle of Man; as well as the hills to the south culminating in Black Combe.

Esk Pike Fell in the Lake District, Cumbria, England

Esk Pike is a fell in the English Lake District, one of the cirque of hills forming the head of Eskdale.

Pike of Blisco

Pike of Blisco, or Pike o' Blisco, is a mountain in the Lake District in Cumbria, England. Located between the valleys of Great Langdale and Little Langdale, its relative isolation from neighbouring fells together with slopes falling away immediately from the summit in all directions mean it has excellent views: the view of the Langdale Pikes across Great Langdale is particularly arresting.

Dow Crag Fell in the Lake District, Cumbria, England

Dow Crag is a fell in the English Lake District near Coniston, Cumbria. The eastern face is one of the many rock faces in the Lake District used for rock climbing.


Glaramara is a fell in the English Lake District in Cumbria. It is a substantial fell that is part of a long ridge that stretches for over six kilometres from Stonethwaite in Borrowdale up to the important mountain pass of Esk Hause. The summit of Glaramara at 783 m (2,569 ft) is the central point of this ridge, which separates the valleys of Langstrath and Grains Gill. However, the ridge has two additional fells, numerous subsidiary tops and several small tarns making its traverse an appealing and challenging walk.

Allen Crags

Allen Crags is a fell in the English Lake District, it lies in a group of very popular hills and is regarded as part of the Scafell group of fells. It is a hill that is frequently traversed by walkers along its ridge but is seldom climbed as the sole objective.

Rossett Pike

Rossett Pike is a fell in the English Lake District. It is located at the head of Mickleden, one of two tributary valleys of Great Langdale.

Great Carrs Fell in the Lake District, Cumbria, England

Great Carrs is a fell in the English Lake District. It stands above Wrynose Pass in the southern part of the District.

Green Crag

Green Crag is a fell in the English Lake District. It stands between Eskdale and the Duddon valley in the Southern Fells.

The Central Fells are a group of hills in the English Lake District. Reaching their highest point at High Raise, they occupy a broad area to the east of Borrowdale. The Central Fells are generally lower than the surrounding hills, the Lake District's dome-like structure having a slight dip in the middle. The range extends from the boggy ridge between Derwentwater and Thirlmere in the north, to the rock peaks of the Langdale Pikes in the south.


  1. : The Wainwright Society - The Alfred Wainwright Centenary 2007 Archived 2008-12-23 at the Wayback Machine
  2. 1 2 Birkett, Bill: Complete Lakeland Fells: Collins Willow (1994) ISBN   0-00-218406-0
  3. 1 2 Richards, Mark: Lakeland Fellranger series: Collins (2002)ff: Mid-Western Fells ISBN   0-00-711368-4
  4. 1 2 Alfred Wainwright: A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells , Book 4: ISBN   0-7112-2457-9
  5. Dave Hewitt, (ed.); A Bit of Grit on Haystacks (Disley: Millrace, 2004)