Helvellyn is one of the most popular walking and hiking locations in the whole of the UK, even being named ‘Britain’s Best Walk’ by walking enthusiast Julia Bradbury on a 2018 ITV show.
But if you fancy tackling the third-highest point in England, you’re going to need to do your research. Here’s your essential walking guide to Helvellyn, including how to get there, how to plan your walk and where to rest your weary feet once the walk is complete.
Where is Helvellyn?
Helvellyn is in the Lake District, the famous National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the North West of England. The mountain itself is part of the Helvellyn range of mountains, which are north of Ambleside and between Ullswater and Thirlmere lakes.
Unlike other popular climbing mountains in the region, such as Scafell Pike - the highest point in England - Helvellyn is a little easier to access. You can start walking up Helvellyn from the surrounding villages of Grasmere, Glenridding or Patterdale, among other access points. The mountain has five ridges, so offers many different routes up to the peak.
Where to park to climb Helvellyn
Helvellyn walks can be started from many different positions surrounding the mountain’s five different ridges, so your parking options depend on the route you plan to take. The main car parks for Helvellyn include Swirls Car Park in Keswick, Wythburn car park (just off the Grasmere to Keswick Road) and a layby in Thirlmere on the western side of the A591. You can also park in the large car park at Glenridding by the Ullswater lake.
Bear in mind that most car parks in this area, and in the Lake District in general, will be Pay and Display - so remember to take some change with you.
How high is Helvellyn?
Helvellyn is around 950m above sea level at its highest point, which of course offers a simply breathtaking view across virtually the whole of the Lake District. On a clear day, it is believed that you can even see across to the hills of south-west Scotland, the Pennines and even the Blackpool Tower.
How long does it take to walk Helvellyn?
The length of your walk will depend on which route you take, your fitness and how long you want to spend gazing at the incredible scenery. However, the shortest route is from Thirlmere and takes around three hours to reach the top, bearing in mind that you’ll also need to leave some time to walk back down again. This relatively easy route is about 3.5km, but there are many others to choose from. For example:
- Striding Edge, a 1.5km steep climb along one of the most famous eastern ridges starting from Hole-in-the-Wall, recommended for experienced climbers
- Swirral Edge, a shorter but equally steep climb from Red Tarn (accessible from Glenridding and Patterdale)
- From Patterdale, a 11.5km walk along a safe, easy path and old pony track up to the south ridge of Helvellyn
- From Grisedale Tarn (accessible from Grasmere or Patterdale), a zigzagging but safe route up the south ridge
- Swirls, the most direct route to the mountain’s peak, described as the ‘modern pedestrian highway’. Approach from the west to zigzag up the fellside above Helvellyn Gill.
For most of the above routes, it takes around three hours to get to the top of Helvellyn. If you’re fit, you can do it in less time, but you may also want to choose longer routes that give you more opportunity to take in the scenery.
What equipment will I need to climb Helvellyn?
Depending on the route you take, Helvellyn can be a potentially dangerous climb. The spectacular ridge walk across Striding Edge can be exposed and hazardous in bad weather conditions, and it can catch novice climbers out. Unless you are a confident and experienced climber, it could be a sensible idea to take an easier route on blustery or very wet days.
If you’re ready for adventure on Helvellyn, it’s time to put together your kit list. Layering is recommended when ascending to around 950m above sea level, especially in autumn or winter. Opt for a thermal underlayer designed to wick away sweat, along with a warm, fleece mid-layer and the best waterproof jacket you can find. Once you’re rain and windproof, you’ll need great quality hiking boots and a spacious yet comfortable rucksack.
You may also want to pack other equipment, such as walking poles if you need them. And don’t forget your first aid kit, mobile phone, emergency food and drink and of course, your camera.
Where to stay near Helvellyn
Helvellyn is ideally located in terms of nearby towns and villages, most of which are easily reachable by road. You can stay in the small, charming village of Glenridding, at the southern end of Ullswater. This location provides easy access to the start of the Helvellyn walk, as well as being a good spot for a holiday.
The small village of Patterdale, very close to Glenridding, is another good option for proximity to Helvellyn. You can also stay in Pooley Bridge, Grasmere, Keswick or Watermillock and drive over to Helvellyn ready to start your hike.