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The Fairfield Horseshoe is probably the most famous of the classic Lake District rounds - this classic walk takes in all the peaks that surround Rydal. The enclosing ridges are linked together with an ascent of Fairfeld and provide fine high level walking with only the minimum up and down once their crests have been gained. The views are good all round but are best of all from the summit plateau of Fairfield. For this reason and for the trickiness of locating the correct line of descent off the summit it's best doing this walk in clear conditions (if visibility closes in whilst you are on top take a compass bearing as the summit area is featureless and can be disorientating). Most of the Lake District peaks are visible from the top and it's about the best place to view Helvellyn. Close at hand it's worth having a look over the edge of Fairfields north face down into the complex of corries at the head of Deepdale. The ascent route takes in the eastern ridge crossing Low Pike, High Pike, Dove Crag and Hart Crag whilst the descent is down the western ridge over Great Rigg, Heron Pike and Nab Scar (fine views of Rydal and Grasmere) with a return to Ambleside via Rydal Hall.
The terrain is fell side lanes, woodland, steep ridges, high mountain ridges and stony summit plateau.
5 - 6 hours
1. From the mini-roundabout at the North end of Ambleside take the Kirkstone Pass road a few metres South East then turn immediately left on to a lane. Follow this North past Nook End Farm to Low Sweden Bridge. Cross the bridge and climb the zig-zag path as it climbs North up the fellside. This is the base of the eastern arm of the Fairfield Horseshoe. Take the footpath up onto it then follow its crest North over Low Pike and High Pike to Dove Crag.
2. From the summit cairn of Dove Crag Head North West along the main path over the col at the head of Houndshope Cove to the summit of Hart Crag. Continue North West from Hart Crag and cross Link Hause to gain the eastern end of the Fairfield summit plateau. Cross the plateau West to the head of Flinty Grave then North West past the top of the gully to the expansive summit of Fairfield.
3. Descend South from the summit to gain the western arm of the Fairfield Horseshoe and follow its crest to Great Rigg.
4. On the South side of Great Rigg the path splits, take the left fork and continue South down the main ridge to Heron Pike and then Lord Crag. After Lord Crag the crest of the ridge swings South East and starts to steepen towards the view point of Nab Scar. Past Nab Scar the path continues South East and steepens further until it eases just before Rydal is entered.
5. From Rydal take the lane/footpath around the back (North side) of Rydal Hall this leads East, South East then South to join the A591 near Scandale Bridge. Follow the A591 the short distance South East back to Ambleside.