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Orrest Head appears on many peoples ‘to-do’ list when they arrive in Windermere, not least because its claim to fame is that this is where a certain AW Wainwright stood atop and fell in love with the Lake District, and Windermere glistening in the valley below.

“It was a moment of magic, a revelation that changed my life.” AW Wainwright

AW Wainwrights first view of Windermere from Orrest Head

If a place can suffer from being ‘over loved’ then Orrest Head is one of them.   For years the footpath teams have toiled away, repairing and replacing the paths, clearing gullies and drains, and ensuring a safe enjoyable visit to this special viewpoint.   Over 60,000 people visit each year, and if not managed, the erosion on and around the summit would get worse with the ground being washed away by heavy rain.

The pathway to this stunning panoramic viewpoint is just across the road from Windermere station, but the nature of the walk-up means that not everyone can get to see it.

The view from Orrest Head (credit Mark Gilligan)

The Lake District National Park’s ‘Miles without Stiles’ team took on the task in 2021 of repairing and improving this pathway, and it has recently reopened, aiming to help more people enjoy the fine views from Orrest Head summit, and improving the access for people and families who can’t climb stiles or steps.  Perhaps wheelchairs, buggies or simply using a walking stick or assistance tool.

We took a lunchtime walk up both path options to the summit where we discovered:

  • Improved signposting on the way up and in Elleray Wood, and we hear there will be more information about the view, local history, and the natural environment.
  • New level paths with easier gradients, with two options to get to the summit, both with more level paths. (Please note it is still a fairly steep climb, with some steps on the path through the woods) One of the paths now snakes around so you can miss out on the natural ‘steps’ around the tree roots – this is the route market with the disabled icon at the fingerpost.  It is still quite steep!
  • New seating on the summit made by local blacksmith artist Chris Brammall of CB Arts Ltd, named The Orrest Head Compass.

Orrest Head Compass by Chris Bramhall/ CB Arts. (credit of Lake District National Park)

  • Some of the older benches have been repurposed and new seating will be created on the route up, so you can take a breather and enjoy all the different views. This will have a more organic design, inspired by the branches and roots of the trees in Elleray Wood.
  • There are plans for an all-terrain mobility scooter which will be available in Windermere and some new seating on the ‘terrace’ area just by the kissing gate.
  • The Gruffalo is still in the woodland to be enjoyed by everyone!
  • As is the beautiful slate topograph at the top which points out the amazing vista of the fells beyond.
  • Slate topograph on the top of Orrest Head