Hiking Pico Ruivo – Pico Areeiro (Arieiro) with kids

Hiking Pico Ruivo from Areeiro (Arieiro) is by far the most challenging and gruelling hike we have ever completed. Don’t be deceived by the start height from Areerio of 1818m and the end height at Ruivo of 1862m  because around the central peak of Torres, the height drops significantly and you have steps climbing 300m in under a kilometre. The complete walk includes six ascents totalling around 1000m in all.

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The sunset from Pico Areeiro

Getting to pico Ariero

Getting to Pico Areeiro (which is also sometimes spelled Arieiro) is easy and there is a steep road leading from either Santana or Funchal. My understanding is that there isn’t a bus service up here but that you can get a taxi for under 10 euros from Funcal. There is ample parking, quite frequent mini-bus tours for those wanting to take selfies and there’s a cafe and shop selling the general tourist tatt as well.

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The road that leads up to Areeiro

it’s winter time….

THERE IS NO CAFE-SHOP AT PICO RUIVO IN THE WINTER

We bribed our children, yeh yeh terrible I know, that we’d stop for food or a drink at Pico Ruivo. So imagine our horror and their protestations when we reached Ruivo to find all the buildings closed! In typical Madeiran style there’s no notices or anything explaining why or when they’ll re-open. Lesson learnt for us! Smack on the wrists and no more ‘positive behavioural reinforcements’ lol.

Apparently in summer they only sell water and sandwiches but still, it’s better than nothing!

Starting the walk

Walking through the archway between the cafe and the tatt shop, you’ll see the ‘Golf Ball’; a NATO radar installation. To the left is where the walk starts. You’ll see the wooden signs.

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The ‘Golf Ball’ and the wooden signs.

Starting the hike

As we started hiking the skies were blue, the birds were chirping and the sun was warming my back.

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The view from the golf ball

We knew it was going to be a steep walk just from the descriptions we’d read and looking down we could see the steepness of the pathway within the first few minutes. The cloud was apparent but given the speed it was travelling at we thought it might pass.

It didn’t for a very long time.

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Looking down from Areeiro to the track

We rounded the corner and descended into the abyss (see photo below)! Slight exaggeration maybe but it does look like something out of a horror movie. The temperature dropped by about 10 degrees C and visibility dropped significantly.

I look back at these photos and think how mad we must have been but I’d do it all again tomorrow! It’s a phenomenal hike and I’m really proud that we did it as a family. I have since read blogs recommending this walk only for over 10’s but our 6 and 8 year old managed this wonderfully with not one complaint!

Pico Ruivo
The view as we descended the peaks walk.

The three peaks

Although this walk links the major peaks of Arieiro and Ruivo, it circumnavigates the second highest peak of Madeira; Pico das Torres (1,853m). Phew, thank goodness we didn’t have to contend with that one too.

The two peaks, 4,300ft of ascent are equivalent to Ben Nevis but with extraordinary drops on all sides.

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One of the drops

Are you prepared?

Nothing could have prepared me for the pathways cut into cliff faces, the tunnels carved through towers of rock, the flights of steps cut into sheer crags whilst avoiding the rock slides and fallen wire rails and trying to admire the view as well.

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Paths cut into rock sides with sheer drops
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A choice rock fall 🙂
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Doorways cut into basalt rock
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A tunnel through the rock

Rock slides

It was our plan to walk the eastern route on the way there and the western route on the return however the eastern route was closed due to rock falls.  That’s not to say that the western route doesn’t have it’s far share of rock falls too.

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One of numerous rock falls on the western path.

Some of the tunnels

The western route has a number of tunnels. From memory about four. They vary in length from a few metres to one which I think is 500m and one even has a bend in it.  You’ll need a torch and not to forget a decent pair of sturdy boots and a head for heights!

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One of the shorter tunnels
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A tunnel carved into the rock
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An open air tunnel
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A short tunnel
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I think this was 500m long? Maybe wrong

 

Animal life

Flora and fauna on this hike is bountiful. Plenty of birds and insects to keep you occupied not to mention the flowers, mosses and grasses.

Birds such as the “Freira da Madeira” (Zino’s Petrel), the “Tentilhão da Madeira” (Madeira Chaffinch), the Bis Bis, the “Melro Preto” (Blackbird), the “Perdiz Comum” (Common Partridge) and the “Pintarroxo Comum” (Common Linnet) have their habitat at Pico Ruivo.

Chaffinches are by far the more common bird but we also saw many partridge.

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Little chaffinch

The common partridge – Perdiz comum

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The common partridge

the path

The path is generally in good condition but it could do with some work in places. There are quite a few areas where the handrail has fallen away and some of the path has eroded.

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Taking a break on the path
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Fallen rocks

The endless steps of doom

We encountered a series of seemingly endless steps climbing 300m in a little under 1km. Descending these is obviously easier than climbing back up them at least you know what to expect the second time.

Some of the steps are metal, these replace steps cut into the rock that disappeared in a rock slide of 2014, but others are cut into the rock and are wet and slippy. Watch you footing here.

All I can remember from this section was how bitterly cold but sweaty I was. This is where I was starting to think ‘What are we doing?’, ‘Why are we doing this? It’s SO COLD!’.  The sheer exertion of all those steps is hard work and boy did I sweat!

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The start of the endless steps
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Rich climbing the steps to Ruivo
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The steps
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The boy climbing the endless steps cut into the rock

seeing Pico ruivo for the first time

At last, relief comes as the top of the stairs is reached and as you round the corner, Pico Ruivo comes into view for the very first time.

This was also the first time the cloud had dispersed and we caught a glimpse of the blue sky and sun.

Suddenly, here, it all seemed worth it. The end was in sight – if not quite obtainable.

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Our very first glimpse of Pico Ruivo

Variable weather

Pico Ruivo is known for it’s terrible, or rather variable, weather.  Even in the summer months the clouds can appear from nowhere. Apparently in the winter it can snow up there but we didn’t see any.

Being above the clouds was for me a massive highlight of the trip. It is something I have long wanted to do and I was so thrilled to have my camera with me – despite its weight and bulk.

It is hard to believe that these photos were taken about 200m apart.

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Our eldest emerging through the clouds
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Just 200m round the corner you have bright blue skies

The dead zone

After emerging through the clouds, we arrived at an area where all of the trees are white. We guessed at the time there might have been fires there and it seems that there were devastating fires in both 2010 and 2012. This area is recovering albeit slowly and whilst the grasses are a luscious shade of green the contrasting white of the trees gives an eerie feel to the area.

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The area we nicknamed the Dead Zone
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Hugs in the Dead Zone

Arriving at the base of Ruivo

Another descent follows the dead zone as views open out onto the valley of the Ribeira Seca. After steadily climbing for a further 1.3km we eventually found a waymarker announcing the summit of Pico Ruivo just 500m away!

At this point on the path you can choose whether to descend down to Achada do Teixera (opens in new tab) which is a simple 2.4km hike back to Santana.

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The pathway bends up to Pico Ruivo
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The signposts

The little white houses

Seeing the little white buildings of Ruivo was tough on the kids who thought they were at least going to get a drink. To find it shut was a bummer and even though we only had 90m left to the summit of Pico Ruivo we ran out of time and I couldn’t make it up there.

I was gutted at the time but we only just made it back up to Pico Aeriro in time for sunset and so I am thankful for Rich insisting we left.  We made it back up to Ruivo another time but the visibility was non-existent.

This is NOT a walk you want to do in the dark!!

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The little white buildings at Ruivo

A few shots from walking back to Aeriro

A little bit of panic started to set in on our way back. It was cold, really cold, and the light was fading fast. We have one member of our team who is exceptionally slow and we had to keep waiting for that person to catch up.

We made the mistake of not hiking together and in future we definitely wouldn’t leave one member to walk alone, slower than the group pace.

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Leaving Ruivo
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Climbing back up to Aeriro from Ruivo
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One of the pathways cut into the rock
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Climbing back through hole in the wall

And then we saw the golf ball

What a huge sense of relief when we saw the Nato radar appear from the clouds and basking in the golden hues of sunset. It’s still about a kilometre from here but we were so thankful to have made it back up before the sun set and we lost the light.

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The golf ball at Aeriro

admiring the view

We made it back to Aeriro just before sunset and I managed to snap these two quickies of Rich and Sophie, our eldest, ascending and admiring the view

The sunset from Aeriro

There was something very deeply moving about that sunset. Maybe because we were physically exhausted and no words can ever explain how relieved we were to make it back, not only in one piece but before we lost the light.

It was a really beautiful moment and one which we experienced all together. I remember just looking at every one in turn with a little smile and a tear in our eyes and thinking how perfect it was 🙂

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The sunset
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Sunset over Aeriro
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The sunset
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Sunset from Aeriro
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The sunset

Our thoughts on this walk

I can truly say that this is the most exhilarating and awe-inspiring route I have trodden in my life. It was a phenomenal hike. It sapped all my energy, it drove me to tears, it made me smile and it united us as a family. You have to try it!

One member of our party is VERY slow and whilst we completed it in just over six hours, we could have completed it easily in five. Our younger children didn’t complain once (I am just going to ignore our teenager at this moment in time) and they loved the walk.

Half of the map

I used LiveTrekker to map our hike but sadly my phone died three-quarters of the way round. You can see the black and white football marker where it died.  The route is actually 15.5km.

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My failed map

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VIDEO: Hike – Achada Do Teixera to Pico Ruivo. Madeira

Rather than take photos the kids and I decided to video our hike from Achada do Teixera to Pico Ruivo.

PR 1.2 Teixera to Ruivo

The hike (PR1.2) is really, really easy and especially so in comparison to our 15km hike from Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo! The only problem was the wind, the cloud and the visibility.

Silly Us?

As we arrived in the car park, there were other hikers all sat in their cars waiting for the wind to pass. I think we were fairly sure it wasn’t going to pass until we got higher up (and even then it didn’t) so we decided to brave the winds and walk regardless.

According to LiveTrekker we walked 5.5km in 1hr54.

Teixera
Achada do Teixera hike

 

 

 

 

Video

 

 

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Hiking Sao Lourenco with kids. Madeira

Madeira has categorised its more popular hikes with the letters PR…. PR8 is the ‘Ponta de Sao Lourenco’ hike. Walking from car park to the final tip is an undulating but not difficult 9km walk.
Sao Lourenco
The cliffs of Sao Lourenco.
We’ve done this walk twice; once just Emma and the kids and the second time with Rich, the boy and I. The first time we ran out of light to complete it and this is not the type of walk you want to do in the dark! The second time we made it back in time for the sun setting across the rocks.
This is the map of our hike:
Sao Lourenco
I used LiveTrekker to document our trip

 Sao Lourenco

Situated on the very eastern point of the Island there are several walks around here ranging from 1.5km – 9km return.
Don’t be put off by the number of coach tours and tourists in the car park. Many don’t make it off the viewing area and some only make it to the very first peak.
Sao Lourenco
The start of the walk and the very first peak in the distance. It’s about 1.5km round trip to this hill.

parking

There is ample parking for at least fifty cars and it nearly always looks busy – judging from the amount of cars. It is a popular walk but not that popular lol.

The start of the walk

Leaving the car park you can either circumnavigate the cliffs to the right or walk on the pathway to the left. We chose to do both.

On the cliffs to the right are sections where people have built stone towers. It tends to be busy with the ‘selfie-queens’ who then go back to the car park!

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The viewing point next to the car park

Seascapes

Very quickly into the walk, less than 5 minutes, you’ll notice the spectacular scenery. To your right (west) you have the calmness of the south side of the Atlantic and to you left (east) you can see often huge waves battering the coast line. There are frequent rock slides on the eastern side of the walk and you can see the giant boulders having tumbled into the water.

The drop down to the ocean is just a small 50m and often the rope barrier to safeguard you is missing. It is frequently quite windy so do watch your step.

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A seascape of Sao Lourenco

Serentity of the west ocean

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The calm waters to the west
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Calm waters

the rough sea of the east

The sea to the west is really rough and the waves pummel the coast line. There is considerable sea damage to the western side with frequent rockfalls.

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The western coast of Sao Lourenco
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Sao Lourenco’s western coast
 Typically it is on the eastern side of the pathways where the protective railing (if you can call it that) is missing.  Of course, this is the part that is most interesting and you’re tempted to wander off the track to peer down!
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Building stone towers on Sao Lourenco
Sao Lourenco
Trying to overlook a rock slide….

Biodiversity

In this gorgeous but windy zone you can discover and enjoy beautiful samples of unique fauna and flora species. When we went the contrasting greens of the lushious grass and the purples of the newly sprouting flowers were vivid and contrasting.

In comparison to the rest of the island which is full of trees, this part has none. This is due to the semi-arid climate and the WINDS!

 The peninsula is classified as a partial natural reserve. Of the 138 species of plant identified on the peninsula, 31 are exclusive to Madeira.

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Flowers along the walk.
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Sao Lourenco flowers.
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Flowers on the hike.
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Plants growing overlooking the building and final peak.

Undulating pathways of sao lourenco

The pathways are well maintained and nothing too strenuous. You climb a total of 222m and we did the return hike in 3h15.

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Admiring the view
Sao Lourenco
Admiring the cliffs of Sao Lourenco
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Steps set into the rock

curious rock formations

The result of volcanic origin, this part of the island is full of weird and wonderful rock formations. Mainly made of basalt although there are also some limestone sediment formations.
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Rock formations of Sao Lourenco
Sao Lourenco
The cliffs of Sao Lourenco
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Sao Lourenco rock formations

Thin pensinsula

The moderately undulating paths climb fine cliff scenery along the (at times very) thin peninsula. The paths are good condition but whether you get close to the edges is up to you lol.
Sao Lourenco
Imogen on thin pathways with jagged rocks below.
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Thin passage way paths.
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Thin pathways
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The boy approching a thin peninsula

Birds

Along the route you can often see several bird species such as the Berthelot’s Pipit, the Goldfinch, the Common Canary and the Kestrel. More likely though is that you’ll hear them and not be able to spot them. On one bank in particular, you can see the canaries madly fluttering around but they’re too quick to photograph.

The Madeiran lizard, which is the island’s only reptile, is very common here. We saw the one below basking in the sunlight on a rock.

Sao Lourenco
A lizard basking in the sun

Did you spot a sea wolf?

In the sea, you may be lucky enough to spot the world’s rarest seal, known in Madeira as a Sea-wolf (Monachus monachus). We didn’t see one but if you book a trip to the deserted islands, you’re 100% guaranteed a viewing of the colony that live there.

Sardinha Point

The Sardinha house, named after its old owners, is easily identifiable as the only building on the walk. From here, in the summer, you can take the short walk down the port and take a dip! I am told that during the summer it is glorious down there.

The Sardinha house is now a base for Madeiran Natural Park Rangers and who are responsible for maintaining the area.

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Sardinha House on Sao Lourenco
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Sardinha house on Sao Lourenco
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Sardinha swimming point

the final climb

Climbing up past the house is a steep set of steps which leads to the very end of the trail.  It is by far the steepest part of the hike but it is definitely worth the effort.

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Sao Lourenco peak
Sao Lourenco
The final step of steps leading to the final peak
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The penultimate set of steps leading to the peak

 

The view

From here, to the South you can see the Ilhas Desertas (Deserted Islands) and to the North the Porto Santo Islands.

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The deserted islands as seen from Sao Lourenco
Sao Lourenco
Porto Santo faintly glistening on the horizon
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The view over to the two islets
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The view of the lighthouse and islets.

The islets

At the end of the Point there are two islets: the Desembarcadouro Islet and the S. Lourenço Point or Fora Islet. These are inaccessible on foot as they are not connected to a path.

Making it back in time for sunset

Sao Lourenco
The sunset

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The day I hired a friend… and my kids crashed it!

Wansfell Pike

As a special treat to myself, I thought I’d have a bash at walking a big mountain. The only problem is that I don’t necessarily have all the skills to scale a high mountain in The Lake District, especially in winter they can be snowy or icy.

The miracles of google told me about this great company called ‘Adventure Peaks‘ in Cumbria.

What do they do?

They have a number of shops and as well as offering global expeditions and treks, they also offer guided walks in The Lake District.

I had romantic visions of hiking something like Scafell Pike or Blencathra in a peaceful meditation of semi-solitude. It makes me smile just thinking about it however, sadly I wasn’t able to do a big mountain as my available dates didn’t coincide with their walks so I decided to walk Wansfell Pike above Windermere.

Two of our kids really wanted to come and as my husband was around as well it seemed foolish not to turn it into a family walk. After mercilessly teasing me for hiring ‘a friend’ to walk with they decided to hijack my friend!! Oh the irony.

My friend

We were allocated Nathan as a guide and he was lovely. He was great with kids, so much more patient than I am, helpful too in playing pooh sticks with them and pointing out other mountains and things to see.

Wansfell Pike

At 487 metres Wansfell Pike is much smaller than many other mountains I’ve climbed however it offers brilliant views across Windermere, the Troutbeck Valley and all the way out to Morecambe Bay. It is just 1½ miles east of Ambleside and this meant I could park in the town of Ambleside (next to Adventure Peaks shop) and walk up the fell which is part of the ridge of Caudale Moor.

Wansfell Pike
Panoramic view from Wansfell Pike aross to Morecambe Bay.

The route

We opted to start with the steeper incline (on a good path) and end on the quicker descent.  The route was a mixture of grassy paths, reinforced stone paths, quiet lanes and woodland tracks, as well as a few concrete roads. It’s a circular walk of 4.5 miles suitable for children but not for pushchairs or people with mobility problems.

View route map for Wansfell Pike on plotaroute.com

Starting in Ambleside

The walk starts in Ambleside at Old Lake Road just opposite the shop.  Passing Skelghyll Lane, a residential area, and through to the beginning of Skelghyll Woods and the walk.

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The start of Skelghyll woods

Jenkin’s Crag

You can make a slight detour by turning right off the path to Jenkin’s Crag for this view.

Wansfell Pike
The view from Skelghyll woods

Lots of mini water cascades

In most places the path (which was extensively re-built in the late 90s) is wide and stoney with the odd tree root across it. You will cross a number (five?) of little water ways, the one below is Stencher Beck.

Wansfell Pike
Wide and open pathway
Wansfell Pike
Stencher Beck

The Old hunting lodge

The path will lead to what I think is an old hunting lodge although I can’t find any proof of its existence anywhere. There are farms locally so they could just be old out buildings.

After this derelict building you will cross Hol Beck which gushes water over the pathway. Have no fear though, it is unlikely to wash you away and it makes a great stepping stone for kids to jump.

Wansfell Pike
Possibly an old hunting lodge
Wansfell Pike
Crossing Hol Beck
Wansfell Pike
Crossing Hol Beck

Heading north

The path will meet a much wider (vehicle able) path that suddenly breaks to the north (Hundreds Road) and climbs up towards Wansfell Pike.  We met one man and his car on this route. I am not sure if he was a farmer though as he seemed to be counting sheep. It’s not a tarmac road so traffic shouldn’t be an issue.

The pathway starts to climb upwards, steadily and gradually, it isn’t excessively steep and it’s perfect for little legs or an afternoon stroll.

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View towards Skelghyll woods
Wansfell Pike
Hundreds road
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View from Hundreds Road west towards Windermere.
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Nathan and Immy stopping for a break

Finding Slate

Around Windermere 420 million years ago, sedimentary mudstones, sandstones, siltstones and some limestone, formed in the sea.  These were later folded and faulted, pushed up and eroded down to their present levels which stand around the area.

Just besides the road were a collection of different rocks, one of which we think might be slate. We photographed the rocks in a bid to discover more later.  We are still trying to discover what the rock below is?

Wansfell Pike
Not sure what rock this is?
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What we think is slate

Hundreds road

Hundreds road continues to climb north. It becomes slightly more rocky and in places more boggy. Avoid these unless you want wet socks!

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Hundreds Road
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Boggy areas

Discovering a waterfall

I have no idea what this waterfall is called however as we were close to its source, we decided to stop for a drink. The water was wonderfully cold and fresh and Nathan played pooh-sticks with the kids!

One of our kids (the boy) decided (despite begging to come on the walk) to have a sulk and refused to walk very quickly – on the sole basis that he wanted to climb the easy side of the mountain first. Nathan was great with him (whereas I would have walked off and left) and played games with him.

Wansfell Pike
Discovering the waterfall
Wansfell Pike
Playing pooh-sticks
Wansfell Pike
Playing pooh-sticks

Drinking water

Our map told us we were close to the source of the water and as we couldn’t see any dead sheep in it, we drank it.  Never drink any water that isn’t fast flowing or that has a chance to stagnate in any way.

Wansfell Pike
Drinking from the waterfall

Straddling the water

Once you have crossed the waterfall, heading further north you leave Hundreds Road and take a narrow path. the path will eventually fork into a T-Junction and you have the choice as to turn left up towards Wansfell Pike or right towards Troutbeck.  At this point the path becomes more man-made (to prevent erosion) and consists of a flat stone pathway.

There are lots of little mounds along the way that those with too much energy can climb. The path becomes steeper as you climb towards the summit and you’ll break out into a little sweat but really nothing major.

Wansfell Pike
Straddling the source of the waterfall
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Not quite at the top
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Climbing little mounds
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Heading north towards Wansfell Pike
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Mad-made flat rock pathway
Wansfell Pike
Wansfell Pike

Reaching the summit

From here to the west you can see the Langdales (Bow Fell, Crinkle Crags and the Pike of Blisco), to the North there is the Kirkstone Pass and Fairfield Horseshoe, to the East is High Street and Windermere to the South.

There are some flat rocks to enjoy the view and maybe a quick lunch.  There was a cold wind (in November) but really mild in comparison to what I was expecting.  Your best bet is to wear lots of thin layers that can be removed if necessary.

As one of the smaller Wainwrights it can be busy and even though we went during a school-day, there were a fair number of people up there. It seems to be a popular fell to run as well.

 

Wansfell Pike
Looking further north towards Baystones
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Sitting on the summit
Wansfell Pike
Climbing the summit

Admiring the view

For a walk that requires only a bit of sweat and effort, the views are breathtaking. You have Windermere & Loughrigg to the west, the sea of Morecambe Bay to the south and Troutbeck and Sallows to the east.

Wansfell Pike
Admiring the view
Wansfell Pike
Windermere

It isn’t wansfell

Wansfell Pike (484m) should not be confused with its slightly bigger brother of Wansfell also known as Baystones (487m). The fell’s two summits are linked by a dry stone wall. Although Wansfell Pike is the lower of the two it definitely has the better views.

Wansfell Pike
Wansfell Pike
Wansfell Pike
Wansfell Pike
Wansfell Pike
Wansfell Pike
Wansfell Pike
Wansfell
Wansfell Pike
Wansfell Pike

the descent

The descent back down to Ambleside is much steeper than the ascent and at the beginning there is no flattened, man-made path, just rocks descending. Watch your footing and you’ll be fine.  After a short distance the pathway becomes paved with stones again but is still steep.

 

Wansfell Pike
The start of the descent to Ambleside
Wansfell Pike
Steep, stony path
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The view from the descent
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The start of the stoned pathway on the descent
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The view back up to Wansfell Pike from the descent path
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Ambleside in the valley below with Nathan our guide and the kids
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Imogen on the descent back to Ambleside
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Nathan our guide – I didn’t tell him I was taking this!!
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Rich on the descent

the view over ambleside

Below in the valley is the bustling town of Ambleside. Situated at the north of Windermere it caters well for hikers and has a huge number of outdoor-clothes shops, lots of restaurants, cafes and bakeries as well as pubs and shops. The town dates back to at least the 1600s and is home to the ‘bridge House’ a building that straddles Stock Ghyll. It is estimated to be at least 300 years old.

The path takes you down to a wooden footbridge and down onto Stock ghyll lane.  Wandering down the lane you will soon hear the water from the falls, Stockghyll force.

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Nathan and Zach admiring the view of Ambleside
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Mountain view
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Zach and Nathan
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Imogen descending
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The path climbing up our descent. Imogen and Rich waving

stock ghyll lane

The walk back to Ambleside takes you onto stock ghyll lane, through the woods and turning right you can see the waterfall, stock ghyll force.

Wansfell Pike
Stock ghyll woods
Wansfell Pike
Stock ghyll lane

Stock Ghyll Force

Stock Ghyll Force is a 70 foot waterfall which drains into Windermere.

Wansfell Pike
Stock ghyll force
Wansfell Pike
Stock ghyll woods

stock ghyll park

Stock Ghyll Park is a wooded, relatively flat area encompassing the river.

The river has a heavily industrialised past and used to be nicknamed Rattle Ghyll. Many of the old mill buildings can still be seen along the route back into town, although they’ve now been renovated into houses and apartments. They used to produce bobbins for silk and cotton thread, to process wool so it was warm and tough, as well as grinding corn.

Wansfell Pike
Stock ghyll wier
Wansfell Pike
Stock ghyll river

bridge House

Take a deviation through the town and find the house that straddles the river.

Wansfell Pike
The house over the river

Credits

A big thank you to Nathan from ‘Adventure Peaks‘ for tolerating us for three hours.

Camera: Nikon D800

Lens: Sigma 24-70mm