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5 Best horseshoe routes in the Lake District

Nothing beats the satisfaction of a horseshoe route. From the elegance of a round route, getting a big chunk of the elevation out of the way with the first hill and the fact you get a good view all the way around as you stay at a high altitude no wonder they are a favourite of hill goers.

Horseshoes are routes that tend to be two ridges either side of a valley, connected in the middle by a col. There are a number of iconic and lesser known horseshoes in the Lake District, each with their own charm and selling points based on personal preference.

So here then are the 5 best horseshoe routes in the Lake District.

Note: these are not walking guides.

1) Coledale Horseshoe

Grisedale Pike- Hopegill Head- Crag Hill- Sail- Causey Pike- Outerside- Barrow

Starting from Braithwaite, a small village at the head of the valley, this route gives you some of the most stunning views in the Lake District. From views of Skiddaw and Blencathra, the Newlands Fells, Keswick, Derwentwater and over towards the Buttermere fells, the entire route is a feast for the eyes.

With a whole host of fells around it, there is scope to extend or reduce the number of fells you go on. While there are a core group of fells (Grisedale Pike, Crag Hill and Sail), other fells can be added or removed at a whim. This means that this round can stay fresh even after doing it a number of times.

Fell Running

  • Part of the Abraham's Tea Round and Espresso Round

  • A fell race in March covers the Horseshoe

a snowy coledale horseshpe
The Coledale Horseshoe in all its majesty

a fell runner in the snow
Running fown from Crag Fell, towards Grisedale Pike

a fell runner
On Barrow during the SOB Fell Race. Image Credit: Grand Day Out Photography

2) Mosedale Horseshoe

Pillar-Scoat Fell-Steeple-Red Pike-Yewbarrow

Setting off from Wasdale this is an absolute epic route. After ascending Yewbarrow, you are looking over at the rugged sides of the biggest hills in England. The view as you walk between Scoat Fell and Pillar is incredible, rugged and barren, as the fells rise steeply out of the valley floor so far below. 

Like the Coledale Horseshoe, it is easy to extend, adding on Steeple, Kirk Fell Great Gable if you want a longer day out. 

Fell Running:

  • Part of leg 4 of the Bob Graham Round

  • Part of the Ennerdale Fell race

wasdale fells
Pillar and Scoat Fell rising out of the valley. Image Credit: Derek Poulton

mosedale horseshoe in snow
The full Horseshoe rising out of the valley. Image Credit: Derek Poulton

mosedale horseshoe lake district
Yewbarrow (left) with its view of the high fells. Image Credit: Derek Poulton

a fell runner
Running towards Scoat Fell

red pike wasdale
Red Pike. Image Credit: Derek Poulton

3) Newlands Horseshoe

Cat Bells- Maiden Moor- High Spy- Dale Head- Hindscarth- Robinson

Of all the horseshoes, this is probably the one you will find on postcards. And quite rightly so, while the others on this list are majestic in their ruggedness, the Newlands Horseshoe is quite simply a beautiful route. The views over the Lake, the humpback ridge line of Cat Bells, looking to the high fells from Dale Head give you plenty of opportunities to pause and look at the view.

There is no real ability to extend this route unless you were to drop down and re-ascend, defeating the point of the horseshoe.

Fell Running

  • Part of leg 4 of the Bob Graham Round

  • Part of the Abraham's Tea Round

  • A fell race in May covers the Horseshoe

cat bells in the sunset
Cat Bells from Maiden Moor. Image Credit: Derek Poulton

a snowy lake district mountain
Below Dale Head. Image Credit: Derek Poulton

fell runner on cat bells
Running towards Cat Bells

a ridge of mountains in the lake district.
Cat Bells, Maiden Moor and High Spy from Dale Head. Image Credit: Derek Poulton

4) Langdale Horseshoe

Thunacar Knott- Bowfell- Crinkle Crags- Pike of Blisco

Starting at the Old Dungeon Ghyll, this route gives you views of some of the most impressive and unusual looking fells in the Lake District. While the fells are rocky and alien, the landscape below is beautiful with a tapestry of green fields in the valley bottom. Following rivers and waterfalls, this route is absolutely stunning. There is lots of potential to expand this route, adding in Harrison Stickle, Pike of Stickle and Pavey Ark

Alas, it always comes with a sting to the tale. Like Newlands, it is busy but, unlike Newlands, all of the route will be busy. But that's the price you pay with such a beautifully iconic route.

Fell running

  • A fell race in October covers the Horseshoe

langdales in the lake district
Langdale Valley. Image Credit: Derek Poulton

langdale pikes at sunset
Langdale Pikes

lake district mountians in cloud inversion
Bowfell and Crinkle Crags

5) Skiddaw Horseshoe

Ullock Pike- Long Side- Carlside- Skiddaw- Bakestall

The standard and most commonly traversed way up Skiddaw is from Keswick via Latrigg car park, and could generously be described as not the most interesting of walks, as it is essentially, a mindless slog skywards. The Skiddaw horseshoe, on the other hand, avoids the slog up and instead treats you to a fun, full day out, bagging five Wainwrights in the process.

While the summit of Skiddaw will be busy no matter when you go, the rest of the route is relatively quiet. While an interesting route, it lacks the breathtaking views of the others, leaving it fifth on the list.

skiddaw covered in snow
Skiddaw Horseshoe. Image Credit: Derek Poulton

Skiddaw covered in snow
The snow-capped Skiddaw Fells in the background. Image Credit: Derek Poulton

a fell runner in black and white
Running over Carlside

a fell runner on a ridge
Running onto Ullock Pike

So there they are, a list of my favourite 5 horseshoes. There are a number of horseshoes that are not on this list, so feel free to leave a comment if you disagree with the ordering, or have others routes you would add instead.

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