On a nice day this walk is stunning with views over the coast to Barrow and across the sea to the Isle of Man. It’s about 8 ½miles as described here, including approximately 800m of ascent, but you can shorten or lengthen this by taking one of the alternatives. As with most fell walks in the Lake District, some of the ground can be rough and/or boggy in places. With this walk, I’m largely going to let the pictures tell the story…
What this walk means to me
Alighting from the train at Silecroft, at the end of a journey from London, I walked up Black Combe and continued on down to the fell road across Thwaites Fell, getting a lift to my B&B just below Stoneside Hill. A lovely day with blue skies, it was a great introduction to the south western fells. For me Black Combe is the 215th Wainwright. It’s the fell that calls into question AW’s selection criteria. Why did he overlook the south west part of the Lake District. It’s not just Black Combe. White Maiden too, at 610m and a Nuttall (i.e. officially a mountain), is left out. Black Combe would be the 131st Wainwright by height, ironically just slotting in above Haystacks, AW’s final resting place. Maybe that’s why, and I have a theory that the real reason he wrote the Outlying Fells was not all that guff about being too old to walk the higher fells – it was to assuage his guilt over omitting the south western fells, and Black Combe in particular, from the main books. This glaring omission is one of the reasons I love Black Combe.
Here’s a video of my walk over Black Combe in July 2010 – this also continues the walk north to Eskdale, up to Scafell and back over Hard Knott and Harter Fell.
From Silecroft station (a), walk along the road to join the main A 5093. Cross the fields (b) and then the A595, following the paths across the fields leading to the obvious base of the fell after Cumpstones and Kirkbank.
The path heads up through the bracken (c).
Don’t forget to pause from time to time (d) to look back down at the view of the coast.
The path takes you to just below the summit, and it is a good idea to strike off and climb the last few metres to the south summit (e), and then walk past the tarn to the main summit (f).
Now you have some options. You can simply retrace your steps back to the start. Another alternative is to take the path that curves off to the left and descends over Little Fell (g), and then follows the base of the fell past Whitbeck. But I recommend that you keep the edge of the ridge close on your right and descend gently to look at Whitecombe Screes (h) and head up onto Stoupdale Head (i). From this side you can see Black Combe’s most interesting features – the combes themselves.
Now two descents to the south and east are available – the path down over White Combe (j), followed by a return to the start along the A595; and the path descending Whitecombe Beck (k). Of course you could also take the descent over Little Fell (g) or retrace your route the way you came.
When I did this walk, I carried on the descent north over Swinside Fell, following the fence on my left to pick up my lift where the fence crosses the fell road below Stoneside Hill (l). But this route is boggy in places, and clearly is only really of interest if you want a linear route that takes you away from Silecroft.