Favourite Walks - Scout Scar

29th August 2014 by

We all have favourite walks and areas. Places we know so well but always seem to draw us back. There is always the chance of some undiscovered view or new quality of light that promises to completely change the way you see your old faithful hill.
For me, over the past couple of years, it has been Scout Scar above Kendal.
It’s not high and it’s not far but it packs a punch. When I say punch, I don’t mean in a Wansfell “But-this-is-only-a-little-hill-above-the-highstreet-how-can-it-be-this-hard!?” sort of way but in terms of the quality and clarity of its views, the variety and character of the landscape and the sheer immediacy of your escape from the world below.

Being perched as it is above the A591, it marks for many the final run into the Lakes; past Kendal and on to Windermere and the crowds of Bowness, Ambleside and further north. Often overlooked in the rush for higher tops and tickable summits, these lowly tops remain relatively tranquil, even at the height of summer bank holidays, while a few miles up the road Fairfield and Loughrigg groan under the weight of Vibram and Gore-tex clad souls.

But it is Scout Scar’s position outside of the national park and away from the higher summits that makes it an ideal option for on the way home after a weekend further north. While the rest of the park languishes under showers and gales, you can smugly look over the intervening valleys and enjoy views east over the Howgills and Yorkshire Dales, south over Morecambe Bay, with the Forest of Bowland looming ever-moodily between. It has long been a local favourite and was even graced by the boots of Wainwright himself for his Outlying Fells guide.

From Kendal, the ascent is never taxing (ideal after a weekend spent on steeper ground!) but instead allows time to enjoy the transition from lush, green pasture land to the sparse beauty of limestone uplands. Stunted hawthorns, purple heather and clumps of bright bracken dot the escarpment, lending a feeling of wildness well beyond what you would expect from the diminutive height and close proximity to Kendal. As you progress further up and over the plateau, a surprise awaits; Scout Scar itself is an impressive limestone edge that extends along much of the length of the hilltop and allows views west to drop away dizzyingly across the beautiful Lythe and Winster valleys and Gummers Howe, above Windermere, beyond.
For those looking for something a little more challenging, the crags below the summit offer a fine crop of short but intense sport routes.

Along from the summit is the imaginatively named Mushroom, a round-topped shelter with a nicely engraved 360 degree mural of the skyline, complete with names of principal summits. From here it is a short walk down to the road and carpark. For those keen for more, a small path leads round the back of the carpark, and takes you across the common and the impossibly twee sounding Gamblesmire Lane (one of the many old bridleways and drover’s tracks the criss-cross the hills.). Follow Gamblesmire Lane back down the hill to Kendal or else press on and be rewarded by views from Cunswick Scar. Cunswick is a small subsidiary summit to the north of Scout Scar that is even quieter than its neighbour, with a large stone cairn to mark the spot. For me, this marks the spot to pause and look out across the panorama of the lakes (providing it’s clear). From Black Combe in the west to the Kentmere fells in the east, this is surely one of the finest views around. Not that the views to any point of the compass aren’t just as arresting but if we’re honest, it’s this spread of peaks that keeps us coming back.From here it is a leisurely amble down through fields and the golf course back to Kendal where tea and cake will fortify you for the drive home!

Detailed route description: Scout Scar is criss-crossed by numerous paths, some official and marked on local maps while others are old love-lines which feet have followed instinctively for generations, there is ample opportunity for exploration. For me the, the best way to enjoy the Scar is from Kendal town centre, heading uphill via Captain French Lane or Gillingate, follow the Brigsteer road up and over the A591, the road then turns left. After a hundred metres or so there is a stile in the wall to the right. Follow the path beyond across the old racecourse and through the wall on the other side. Wind uphill following the broadest path until the incline eases and a large pile of stones marks the path north to the summit. The Scar is grazed by a herd of long-haired Welsh Black cattle which seem friendly enough but it might be worth keeping pooch on a lead. Follow the path past the trig point, through the wall and on to the Mushroom which comes into sight soon enough. From here descend northward and then west to the road, cross it and take the small path right of the carpark. Follow this through a wooded area, past the aerial tower and to fields beyond. Across these to Gamblesmire Lane, if you’ve had enough, descend here back to town or else (much more interesting) carry on with the wall to your left and follow the undulating path to its terminus at Cunswick Scar. Turn around and after 20-30m take the left fork through fields, over the A590 and through the golf course. Pick a path on the other side and wind down the rough ground, following good paths all the way, until you reach the former tram way, now metalled, road down to Queen’s road and then potter down steep cobbled streets and hidden alleys down to Kendal town centre, usually joining Beast Banks (of Tour of Britain fame).

As ever, map and compass and the knowledge of how to use them is essential, even when this close to town. I have had more than one experience of being disorientated and alone on the top of the Scar in thick cloud and rain, especially in low light after work!

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