Guide to walking the Wainwrights

The 214 Wainwright fells offer a rewarding challenge in the Lake District for hiking enthusiasts. Discover 5 of our favourite Wainwright walks and our top tips to get started bagging Wainwrights.

The Wainwrights are a popular group of Lakeland Fells that can be walked individually, or conquered in full, for an achievable challenge that will enable you to explore more of the incredible Lake District National Park.

Having completed all the Wainwrights in 2022, Montane Social Media Manager Steph Robinson’s Wainwrights challenge set her on a path that would positively change her life forever. Discover Steph’s Wainwrights journey, including her favourite Wainwright fells…

Steph's Wainwright Journey

Hiking for me is the ultimate escape. If ever I have a bad week, immersing myself into nature instantly boosts my mood and endorphin levels for the coming week. I’ve never regretted spending a day out in the fells.  

I was introduced to the Lake District Wainwright walks only a couple of weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic was announced; my friend's dad took us  for a hike up (arguably one of the more technical Wainwrights) Pavey Ark via Jacks Rake. I instantly fell in love. The adrenaline, the element of risk, the accomplishment, it was such a buzz! Soon after, the lockdown was announced and socialising was forbidden, but I didn’t let that stop me from going solo. Luckily I lived and worked in Cumbria so I was surrounded by unlimited mountains and trails. With only one hike under my belt and very little knowledge and adequate kit, I was feeling spontaneous and decided to google the highest mountains in the Lake District, this is when my journey to completing all 214 Wainwrights began.  

Once the lockdown guidelines allowed travelling, I was ready for my first adventure. I remember spending hours researching, comparing routes, weather forecasts, ensuring I had everything I needed in my pack and preparing for any scenario. There was a mixture of both nerves and excitement whilst driving to the first hike starting point location. What if I get lost? What if I hurt myself? What if something happens to me and I’m alone? These were just a few of the thoughts that went through my head.  

It was an early start, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky or a drop of wind. Starting in Seathwaite, my first challenge was to reach the summit of Great Gable, a 899m Wainwright and the 7th highest in the Lake District. I began navigating through an offline map and followed the path through the beautiful valley of Seathwaite, where these huge mountains surrounded me.

I felt tiny in comparison and a little intimidated. After a couple of hours of experiencing various terrain and passing a couple of other fell walkers, I successfully made it to the summit and was greeted by 360° mountain layer views for as far as my eyes could see. I spent some time taking in the scenery and feeling on top of the world, the mountains didn’t feel as intimidating now. I soon began my accent down and successfully ‘bagged’ my first solo Wainwright. 2 years later I found myself on the opposite peak and tapping my final Wainwright – ‘Great End’, which was quite fitting.  

This solo adventure took me on a journey of self-discovery. I began documenting my weekend adventures on Instagram and quickly accrued over 10,000 followers. Fast forward 3 years, I now have over 125,000 followers and even moved back to the North East and changed my career to work in Social Media at Montane! It's amazing how one decision can change the path you’re on.  

Blencathra | Guide to walking the Wainwrights

What are the Wainwrights?

The Wainwrights are a group of 214 peaks in the Lake District, all offering a different challenge. The Wainwrights are named after Alfred Wainwright, a British fell walker who fell in love with the Lake District. He was best known for his seven-volume pictorial guidebooks to the 214 Lakeland Fells, Many people follow in Alfred's footsteps by challenging themselves to ‘bag’ each Wainwright and complete all 214. The record for the quickest round is currently set at 5 days, 12 hours and 14 minutes! 

After almost 70 years since his guides were released, Alfred Wainwright's influence and legacy on the Lake District fells continues. The popularity of the Wainwrights has grown over recent years and many people have completed all 214, there’s no time limit on this challenge with many people taking a few years, to a lifetime, to complete.  


A classic choice but for me the ultimate Wainwright has to be Helvellyn. Standing at 950m tall and the third highest fell in the Lake District, it offers a bit of everything: views, height, a decent challenge and multiple routes to the summit, meaning it’s accessible.  

If you’re feeling brave then you can scramble over Striding Edge; one of the most famous ridgelines in the UK. A thrilling grade 1 scramble which takes you almost directly to the summit of Helvellyn where you’re greeted with panoramic mountain views, before descending down Swirral Edge, another ridgeline. This particular route has been at the top of my favourite hikes list since my Wainwright journey began. I personally love the element of risk, and the adrenaline from scrambling is nothing short of thrilling! There’s plenty of other routes to the summit if the exposure isn’t your cup of tea though. In my opinion, the least technical route to the summit is from Thirlmere Swirls car park, it’s a steep hike but less exposure and no scrambling is required.  

Bare in mind that this is one of the most popular walks in the Lakes so on a decent weather day, the car parks and trails can get busy, I’d recommend setting off early to beat the crowds.  

Glenridding Dodd

Glenridding Dodd is a smaller fell that sits quite close to Helvellyn, there’s an option to link this Wainwright in with one of the routes to Helvellyn, or keep it short and sweet with a 3 mile loop from the village of Glenridding. Glenridding Dodd is proof that you don’t have to hike to the highest mountain for stunning views, it’s quite low at 442m but delivers maximum reward for minimum effort. This fell sits at the top of my list for sunrise spots in the Lake District! 


This is the fell that I’ve summited the most as it’s currently the closest to home, so when I’m in need of a solid mountain day, I head for Blencathra! Also known by its alternative name Saddleback, Blencathra is 868m high and was one of Alfred Wainwright’s favourite fells. According to Alfred, “Blencathra is one of the grandest objects in Lakeland. And one of the best known. Seen from the south-west, the popular aspect, the mountain rises steeply and in isolation above the broad green fields of Threlkeld, a feature being the sweeping curve leaping out of the depths to a lofty summit-ridge, where the skyline then proceeds in a succession of waves to a sharp peak before descending, again in a graceful curve, to the valley pastures far to the east.” 

If you’re bagging the Wainwrights then you’ll probably want to tackle the Blencathra Group, a 10 mile horseshoe which ticks off 5 Wainwrights. There’s many other routes, my favourite begins at Scales, taking in Sharp Edge to the summit, another famous exposed ridgeline that requires a grade 1 scramble and in my opinion, more technical than Striding Edge.  

Blencathra | Guide to walking the Wainwrights

Kentmere Round 

Kentmere Round is one of the longer horseshoes in the Lake District with plenty of Wainwrights to tick off (9 in total with an option to add an extra 2), Kentmere gives walkers a big boost towards the 214 total. This hike begins at the small village of Kentmere, although this is one of the more rural walks, it can get quite busy on weekends and parking is very limited so set off early.  

Walking clockwise, you’ll take on 13 miles of good mountain paths, requiring a full day of high-level hiking, but with the epic views that you’ll experience throughout the day, you won’t be rushing to finish. Although not a technical hike, there’s a lot of up and down meaning you’ll total over 1300 meters of elevation, so make sure to pack plenty of food and water.  

Pavey Ark via Jacks Rake

Before I knew what the definition of a Wainwrights was, I had already ticked one off without knowing! As mentioned previously, Pavey Ark via Jacks Rake was the first hike I tackled in the Lake District and the one that started my two year challenge.  

This is an incredible walk that begins at the National Trust New Dungeon Ghyll car park. You’re quickly introduced to a mile of steep steps that will lead you past beautiful waterfalls to Stickle Tarn and the first sight of Jack’s Rake. You’ll walk around the tarn to the beginning of the scramble.  

Possibly one of the more technical scrambles in the Lake District, Jack’s Rake is an exhilarating steep grade 1 scramble that requires some rock climbing and regular use of your arms to pull you up. There are alternative routes to the summit of Pavey Ark, which stands at 700m, so if Jacks Rake doesn’t take your fancy, you can tick off this Wainwright and still enjoy the beautiful Langdale views via a different path.  

Please note that wet weather conditions will make Jacks Rake slippery and potentially dangerous so it’s best saving for a dry day.  

Pavey Ark Jacks Rake | Guide to walking the Wainwrights

Fancy bagging a few Wainwrights then? Here’s my top tips: 

  • Carry necessary equipment including a paper OS map, (I also use the OS app to navigate) compass, headtorch and first aid kit 
  • Wear or carry suitable kit for all weather scenarios; a decent Gore-Tex waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers, warm mid layer and insulated jacket, a solid pair of hiking boots, socks, a beanie and gloves 
  • Carry more than enough food and water. I usually carry 2-3L of water for a summer day hike. One of my best purchases was a hydration pack meaning I can regularly take a drink and stay hydrated without having to stop  
  • You won’t always have phone signal so it’s important to always tell a friend or relative exactly where you’re going and an estimated time you’ll arrive back home  
  • Remember, the mountains will be there next week, if you think it’s unsafe, then it probably is, it’s OK to turn back 

The Lake District offers some incredible hikes and it’s honestly difficult to choose just 5. Each fell offers something different, whether it be views, terrain or height, it doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner, there’s a Wainwright fell suitable for everyone!