Lying beneath the gaze of iconic Lakeland fells, Thirlmere Reservoir is a tranquil body of water often overlooked by tourists and hardened hikers. On its eastern shore looms the mighty Helvellyn ridge while the imposing peak of Raven Crag lies to the west of Thirlmere. Because of its lack of visitors, the 10-mile walk around Thirlmere is one of the Lake District’s more peaceful routes off the beaten track.
This Thirlmere Reservoir walk to Raven Crag leads you among woodlands, pebbly beaches in secluded bays and quiet tracks that rise and fall above the water. As well as boasting dramatic fell scenery, the area is home to red deer and red squirrels that you might catch a glimpse of along the way.
Parking: Thirlmere Parking Area CA12 4TW
Distance: 6 miles
Raven Crag height: 461 metres
Time: 3 – 4 hours
Thirlmere Reservoir Walk
- There are several spots to park along the eastern shore of the water which is also a popular place for anyone wanting to tackle the rugged heights of Helvellyn from Thirlmere. This walk begins from a parking area just a bit further up from Swirls Car Park on the A591 where you can access the reservoir path. As you enter through the gate, you’ll see a large map on your right which shows you other walks around the reservoir.
2. Take the path on your left that leads down to the water’s edge as it passes the stream and a small waterfall.
3. When you reach the shoreline, take the path on your right that winds along an undulating wooded track. The path is narrow in parts but you’ll soon come to a beautiful stony beach where you can walk down to the water’s edge. It’s definitely worth stopping for some photos here as you’ll be blessed with some stunning reflections on a calm, sunny day. A bit further along the knobbly peak of Raven Crag comes into sight on the opposite side of the dam.
4. Make your way back onto the track and follow it all the way along until you reach Thirlmere dam, which lies below Great How. In 1879 the construction of the dam flooded the valley, drowning the villages of Armboth and Wythburn in the process. Owing to its natural beauty, you wouldn’t know that it isn’t Thirlmere Lake until you reach the dam and realise that it is in fact a reservoir. Take a left at the northern end of the valley and follow the causeway road across the dam.
Raven Crag Walk
5. You’ll see the path that winds up through the woodlands on your right where you’ll begin the steep ascent up Raven Crag. Although the route to the summit isn’t particularly long, it is a relentless climb to the top. There are some great spots along the way where you can stop for a breather and soak up the fabulous views across the water to Helvellyn and behind you to Great Dodd, Watsons Dodd, and Stybarrow Dodd.
6. As you walk uphill between the tall pine trees, cross the wide track ahead and continue above the trees on the path that winds up behind the crag face. When you reach a gate where the path starts to flatten out, pass through the gate and follow the track up to your left. Here a series of wooden steps lead you through a wooded area to the summit of Raven Crag. Make sure you look behind you to see Skiddaw in the distance.
7. Follow the path up to your left and you’ll come to a wooden boardwalk which leads you to the Raven Crag viewing platform. The views from the top are phenomenal, taking in the dramatic peaks of Blencathra, the Dodds, High Rigg, Skiddaw and the Helvellyn Range, which peers over the ribbon-like waters of Thirlmere Reservoir.
8. Either return to your car following the same route or take a slight detour up past Dale Head Hall, which brings you out onto the A591 opposite the King’s Head Inn, where you can enjoy a well-earned drink.