A short walk to Orrest Head, Windermere

Plaque at Orrest Head, WindermereThere are several places around Windermere to enjoy short walks with great views of the lake. As I’ve formed something of an addiction to short walks recently, for my latest post on the blog I thought I’d share another of my favourites, the walk to Orrest Head.

You can either make this a short walk to the summit itself (officially it’s a 20-minute walk, although it’s quite steep in places so most would agree it takes a bit longer), returning along the same route, or a longer circular walk which extends to surrounding countryside and woodland. There are a few recommended routes taking in Orrest Head, both online and in local guidebooks.

Orrest Head is particularly well known as Alfred Wainwright’s first taste of walking in the Lake District, and his experience of this small fell inspired him to carry on exploring the entire area, eventually creating his famous guidebooks.

You can begin this walk from the heart of Windermere itself by heading towards Windermere Railway Station, and crossing the busy main road at the pedestrian crossing next to the Windermere Hotel. The hotel was built to encourage the area’s very first tourists to visit here on the new railway. To the left-hand side of the hotel a sign points you in the right direction, and from here you follow a narrow tarmacked lane that winds its way steadily uphill through woodland and a series of hairpins, until you reach a clearing at the lane’s end.

Sign up to Orrest Head

Bench and Orrest Head sign
Aren’t I good to you?! We haven’t even started the walk and I’ve found you a bench already!
Follow the green arrow here and keep to the right-hand side of this sign post
View over Windermere village
A lovely view over Windermere village on your way up

The walk to Orrest Head

Walk to Orrest Head
The ‘hairpin’ bends
Orrest Head walk clearing
The end of the road, where the walk meets the woodland
More benches. This is a good walk!

Once in the clearing, follow the rough surface up through the trees, until you reach a gravelled path (with more benches still). This leads to a kissing gate, beyond which you’ll come to a last steep rocky scramble to the summit.

View from the Orrest Head walk
There are small tantilizing views all the way along this walk
The kissing gate on the Orrest Head walk
The kissing gate
The last scramble (which could be tricky for some, especially nearer the top)

The rocky steps to the top of Orrest HeadThe views from the summit extend along Windermere to the north and south, and the scenery looking east is equally beautiful.

From the Orrest Head summit
From the summit
The plaque at Orrest Head
The plaque at Orrest Head

Benches on Orrest HeadFrom the summit of Orrest Head

Looking south from Orrest Head
Looking south towards Bowness-on-Windermere

From here there are ways to extend the walk over this picturesque countryside, so seek out a guide if you enjoy a longer hike.

The views further east from Orrest HeadThe views East from Orrest HeadThe idea of negotiating the rocky scramble back down didn’t particularly appeal, but an arrow on a nearby wooden stake pointed to a more gentle grassy slope which led down to a narrow stony path following a stone wall back to the kissing gate. I haven’t seen it mentioned in the guides, but it was definitely my preferred option!

Looking south from Orrest Head
Looking south from Orrest Head

Orrest Head

The walk back down from Orrest Head

The view from the path behind the wall
The view from the path behind the wall

Because of its proximity to the railway and bus station, the walk to Orrest Head is particularly handy if you’re travelling to or within the Lake District by train or public transport. And if you like to conclude a walk with a nice cup of tea or something equally thirst-quenching, there are cafés and pubs of every description in Windermere village, including some with outdoor seating which are very popular on a sunny afternoon!

Please note: As always, none of my blog posts are intended to be full route descriptions, so if you like the sound of this walk, do make sure you find full details of the route in a suitable guidebook first. And although this is a short walk, I would still highly recommend that you wear sturdy walking boots, as the route is very uneven in places – particularly the rocky scramble just before the summit.

Have you a favourite walk of your own in the Windermere area? Share your recommendations with others reading the blog by leaving a comment below – it’s always lovely to hear from you!


  1. If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to read about another beautiful walk looking over the south of Windermere, the walk to Gummer’s How: https://lakedistrictgems.co.uk/2017/10/27/gummers-how-walk/

  2. Henry Roberts

    I have walked this route a few times, and although it perhaps lacks in height, I believe the views from the top are amongst the best in the Lake District.

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