Walks in The Lake District
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Circular around Grey Crag, Alcock Tarn and Butter Crag from Grasmere


The walk starts in Grasmere in the Lake District. The walk leaves Grasmere passing by the Wordsworth museum and Dove Cottage before starting to climb up towards Grey Crag. From here it is only a short distance to Alcock Tarn. The grassy areas around the tarn can be a delightful place for a summer picnic, or for simply sitting and admiring the panoramic views of the surrounding fells. From here the walk continues to Butter Crag and then descends down to Greenhead Gill and back into Grasmere.


Parking: Stock Lane car and coach park on the B5287 in Grasmere, 50 metres from its junction with the A591 Ambleside to Keswick road (grid reference NY 339 072).
Directions: Nearest post code for Sat Nav: LA22 9SL - get directions here
Walk distance: 3.5 miles (5.6 Km)
Estimated walk time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Height climbed: 340 metres
Grade: 1-C: A short walk that has rugged terrain and some steep climbs
Peaks / summits: Grey Crag, Butter Crag
Wainwrights: None
Map: Ordnance Survey - Explorer OL7 (The English Lakes - South-eastern Area)
Buy this map from Ordnance Survey
Walk features: Birds, Flowers, Hills or Fells, Pubs, Stream or River, Views, Wildlife
Facilities / refreshments: Many pubs and cafes in Grasmere
Nearest town: Walk starts in Grasmere
Walk Tags: Grasmere, Wordsworth, Dove Cottage, Butter Crag, Alcock Tarn, Grey Crag, Greenhead Gill, White Swan, Wainwright walk, Lake District, lake district walk, Lake district national park


Turn left out of the Stock Lane car and coach park heading away from the centre of Grasmere and cross over a bridge before meeting a roundabout at the junction with the main A591 Ambleside to Keswick road. Take a right at the roundabout and cross over the A591, taking great care when crossing as this road can get very busy. About 10 metres from the roundabout turn left up the lane signed for Wordsworth Trust Dove Cottage and Treasures of Wordsworth Trust. The lane then passes the Wordsworth Museum and Dove Cottage. William Wordsworth lived in Dove Cottage from 1799 until 1808, then rented accommodation in Grasmere for a further five years, before moving into Rydal Mount in 1813, where he lived until his death in 1850. Wordsworth was appointed as poet laureate in 1843 and received over the years many distinguished visitors ranging from Samuel Coleridge to Sir Walter Scott.

Shortly after this, take the left fork in the road, the right-hand fork going down to Dove Cottage tea-rooms, and continue on up the gentle incline. Around a few more bends, and as the lane bends around to the right, there is a sign stating "no through road for motors" and points up the steep hill directly ahead, next to a further sign for Ambleside A591 White Moss to the right. Take the road heading off steeply up hill.

View from path immediately on turning left

Follow this road up the hill for 70 metres, then as the road swings around to the right, take the gravelled track off to the left signed "Alcock Tarn". Continue along this track, until two walls close in on it (there is a green wooden door in the left-hand wall). Just through the gap between the two walls, the path splits in two. The right-hand fork does lead to Alcock Tarn, but easier walking and better views can be had from the left-hand path. Take this left-hand path, and pass immediately through a metal gate, on which there is a silver National Trust sign for "Brackenfell". To the right of this gate there is also a sign for Alcock Tarn. Once through the gate, the path is still gravel and stone underfoot, and starts to wind and climb uphill, mostly under tree cover.

View from the bench

After a few minutes walking, the path passes through a wooden gate, before heading onwards and upwards. A few yards through this gate, there is a bench to the left of the path, the first of many along this walk from where the beautiful panoramic views can be admired. A further 150 metres past the bench, a smaller path leaves the main path to head downhill, ignore this and continue winding up the hillside for a few more minutes where an old fishpond is reached. As the path leaves the pond behind, Helm Crag, Grasmere Common can be seen over and beyond Grasmere. The path continues on upwards, starts to narrow and goes around the left-hand side of a knoll before pulling in to the left-hand side of a wall. As soon as the path gets within a few metres of the wall, it swings away to the left moving away from the wall and heads steeply up hill through the bracken. The path momentarily flattens by a wooden bench and then 20 metres further on passes through a metal gate in the wall, on which there is a silver National Trust sign, labelled Alcock Tarn.

The old fish pond

The view down towards Grasmere

Helm Crag from the bench

Through the gate, the path rises further, revealing evermore panoramic views of all the surrounding mountains and fells. Soon the sound of running water can be heard over to the left. The path closes in on this sound and meets and crosses the stream a few metres past a solitary group of three trees. The path climbs further heading towards Grey Crag, now directly ahead. The path goes around the left-hand side of the crag, but whilst doing so, on one of its many twists and turns, the full length of Windermere can be seen behind in a southerly direction. The path then flattens and turns left heading for a gap in a wall a further 50 metres on.

Alcock Tarn with Great Rigg in the distance

The view back towards Loughrigg

Pass through this gap and follow the path across the final few metres to the tarn. The grassy areas around the tarn can be a delightful place for a summer picnic, or for simply sitting and admiring the awesome views. Continue along the path up the left-hand side of the tarn, then at its northern end, pass over a stile built into a metal gate. The path leads along the right-hand side of Butter Crag with Heron Pike off up to the right. Continuing ahead, straight on in the distance Greenhead Gill can be seen splitting the wide steep slopes, which lead up to Great Rigg (766m).

Path around Butter Crag with Great Rigg in the distance

View across to Greenhead Gill leading up to Great Rigg

View down grassy zigzag back down to Grasmere

The path continues ahead around to the right of another rocky outcrop, before starting its steep descent down towards Greenside Gill. Part way down the descent, the path underfoot becomes more grassy and zigzags down the hillside, keeping to the right of the wall and the trees down below. The path pulls into and bends 90 degrees around the corner of the wall, before continuing its descent slowly closing in on the gill below. Shortly after passing a bench from where the last real views of Grasmere and the fells beyond can be seen, the path pulls into a wall and skirts around the right-hand side of it by means of some man-made steps. The path drops down alongside Greenhead Gill and follows the watercourse downhill, before turning right and crossing the water by means of a wooden footbridge. Immediately over the footbridge, turn left through a wooden gate onto a metalled road. On the far side of this gate is a sign for "Stone Arthur to the left, and Alcock Tarn to the right". Walk down the metalled road, and upon meeting another road turn left and continue on down to its junction with the A591 at the Swan public house.

Butter Crag behind The Swan public house

Helm Crag from The Swan public house

As the lane meets the A591 by The Swan, known by many as The White Swan due to its colour, cross the road and turn left heading towards Ambleside. After about 70 metres, opposite Our Lady of the Wayside Church, a footpath sign points off to the right down between two walls, ignore this and continue for a further 30 metres to another footpath sign. Turn right here (signed Grasmere village ¾ mile via Millennium Bridge), after a further fifty yards pass through a metal gate, then cross further flat fields and through a further 5 more gates before crossing the bridge and entering back into the car park.


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