Orrest Head, a Lakeland love story.

Discover the enchanting view of Orrest Head where Alfred Wainwright fell in love with the Lake District.

Richard Gasseling

10/23/20232 min read

The Lake District one of the most popular areas to visit in England. There are many reasons but one of the most popular ones must be for the scenery. If you have never been to the Lake District and you don't know where to start (and even if you have been), then here is my recommendation. But don't take my word for it.

Nobody less then Alfred Wainwright visited this place, and it inspired him to become a very gifted author and illustrator. He wrote the 7 volume, Pictorial guide to the Lakeland Fells (published between 1955 - 1966) which includes descriptions and drawings of 214 walks to Lakeland summits. Now I don't know about you, but I love a bit of that inspiration.

This place is Orrest Head in Windermere. It is modest, it doesn't give you the bragging rights of climbing the highest mountain in Cumbria and England Scafell Pike (978 meter) but that is what I like about it. It is accessible to most people as it doesn't require the skills of a mountaineer or extreme fit hillwalkers. The cost benefit ratio is huge.

How to get there? You can arrive by train at Windermere train station via Kendal. If you arrive by car, you can park at the train station or check out the layby near the Windermere hotel on the A591. The Orrest Head walk starts near the train station, to the left from the Windermere hotel. It is sign posted.

It is a 3.5 KM round trip and 120-meter ascent which takes you to the highest point at 238 meter above sea level. The path will take you through Elleray Wood and whilst walking you may find Windermere playing peekaboo. You can take the steeper path and steps or the more gradual gravel path. It takes around 20 minutes to reach the top.

Alfred Wainwright took this route to Orrest Head. Writing in Ex-Fell wanderer he remembers his first dramatic view of the Lake District.

"We emerged from the shadows of the trees and were on a bare headland and, as though a curtain had dramatically been torn aside beheld a truly magnificent view". He continues. "It was a moment of magic, a revelation so unexpected that I stood transfixed, unable to believe my eyes".

Standing at Orrest Head you can only imagine how Alfred Wainwright felt. Overwhelmed, breath taken, mesmerised etc. It is not often you can visit a place where you can feel someone's first love. This place certainly inspires.

Alfred Wainwright continued working as a treasurer for nearby Kendal council throughout his life. He spent most if not all of his spare time walking the fells (local name for mountains). He was obsessed with the Lakeland scenery and to a far lesser degree with his first wife. Not sure if the bad marriage drove him to walking or the walking resulted in a bad marriage. Regardless, Wainwright's love affair with the Lakeland fells was here to stay. If you need some escapism or inspiration yourself, Orrest Head is the perfect place. You may even end up "doing all 214 Wainwrights".

a couple of benches sitting next to each other
a couple of benches sitting next to each other