One stormy night in 1739, Francis 'Rogue' Herries brought his family to live in the house his grandfather built in Borrowdale. His son, David, 'woke again to see that all the horses were at a standstill and were gathered about a small stone bridge.' The 'hamlet clustered beyond the bridge' was probably Grange. From there they crossed over a hill to come at last 'into a little valley, as still as a man's hand and bleached under the moon, but guarded by a ring of mountains that seemed to David gigantic.' This is the village of Rosthwaite and the Hazel Bank Hotel sits on the spot where the Herries house stood. However, this house never existed except in the imagination of the novelist Hugh Walpole (1884-1941) and between the covers of the four-volume series he wrote, collectively known as The Herries Chronicle (1930-33).
The Herries family saga
Walpole, one of the best-selling writers of his day, wrote over 50 novels. He bought a house above Derwent Water in 1923 and two years later announced that he was 'pinning all my hopes on two or three Lakes' novels, which will at least do something for this adorable place.' What he eventually produced over a five-year period was a romantic history of a Lake District family from 1730 to 1932. Woven into the Herries' story are the major historic events of the period. The Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 passes nearby in Carlisle, 'Rogue' Herries' son David dies at Uldale as the Bastille falls in 1789 and Judith, his daughter, gives birth to her son Adam in Paris as Napoleon is finally defeated in 1815.'Rogue' Herries, soon notorious in Borrowdale for his wildness, completes his infamy by selling his mistress at a fair. His consuming, unrequited love for Mirabell Starr, a gypsy woman, drives him to wander the country for hundreds of miles in search of her, confirming his reputation as a strange character. Finally at Rosthwaite, after 44 years in Borrowdale, he dies as Judith, the daughter of his old age, is born in 1774. Walpole was once allegedly asked to adjudicate between two rival claimants as to which house in Watendlath Judith had lived in. He supposedly told one of them that not only had she not lived in his house, she had never lived anywhere. There is still a plaque on a farmhouse there, proclaiming the building to be the home of Judith Paris. However, the setting of the books is real enough and Walpole's evocative descriptions enrich the enjoyment of walking through his stones and skies. They capture the essence of this wild and beautiful place and convey the character of many of its inhabitants.
With your back to the parking area in Stonethwaite, turn right and walk down the track to Stonethwaite Bridge. Cross it, go through a gate and turn right onto the bridleway to Grasmere. Go through another gate and, after about 250yds (229m), look for a path off to the left, climbing to the left of a tiny sheepfold. This soon bends left to climb more steeply.
After crossing two stiles, continue steeply uphill on a paved path through oak woods. The path emerges from the trees still climbing. Cross a stile beside Willygrass Gill and follow the path to Dock Tarn.
Keep right at any forks to follow the path around the west side of the tarn. There are some rocky sections but the going isn't difficult. If the lower path is flooded, higher paths to your left lead in the same direction.
At the north end of the tarn the broad path continues above boggy ground in the direction of a gap between two low crags. A view opens up ahead with Ether Knott then the Skiddaw beyond. Be careful not to be lured off course by a faint trail to the right here; keep to the stony path. Just past a small rock pinnacle on the left, Watendlath comes into view and the path descends a rocky staircase to a kissing gate.
Go through the gate, cross the beck and follow the stone path across the bog. Turn right at a grassy junction and descend to a sheep pen.
Continue downhill to go through a kissing gate. Walk beside the stream, cross it and then follow the line of the wall to join a farm track. As a track comes down from the left, keep right to go through a gate and cross the old packhorse bridge into Watendlath.
From Watendlath re-cross the bridge, turn left and, at the fork, bear right to follow the bridleway sign to Rosthwaite. Walk uphill on this well-used route, go through a kissing gate and head downhill, passing a gate on the right and going through another gate, lower down. At the next gate a sign indicates that the path continues to Stonethwaite.
Ignore the sign and instead turn right through the gate in the wall. Cross the surfaced driveway of Hazel Bank Hotel and continue on the public bridleway to Stonethwaite. About 0.8 miles (1.3km) beyond the hotel turn right at a fingerpost to return to the start of the walk.
Bridleways, fairly good paths and some rough walking. Three stiles
Fells, forest, tarns and lakes
Sheep country; keep dogs under control
AA Walker's Map 2 Central Lake District
By telephone box in Stonethwaite. Alternative parking (with public toilets) at National Trust car park in Rosthwaite.
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Cumbria's rugged yet beautiful landscape is best known for the Lake District National Park that sits within its boundaries. It’s famous for Lake Windermere, England’s largest lake, and Derwent Water, ‘Queen of the English Lakes'. This beautiful countryside once inspired William Wordsworth and his home, Dove Cottage, in Grasmere is a popular museum. Another place of literary pilgrimage is Hill Top, home of Beatrix Potter, located near Windermere. Tom Kitten, Samuel Whiskers and Jemima Puddleduck were all created here.
Much of Cumbria is often overlooked in favour of the Lake Distirct. In the south, the Lune Valley remains as lovely as it was when Turner painted it. The coast is also a secret gem. With its wide cobbled streets, spacious green and views of the Solway Firth, Silloth is a fine Victorian seaside resort. Other towns along this coastline include Whitehaven, Workington and Maryport. Carlisle is well worth a look – once a Roman camp, its red-brick cathedral dates back to the early 12th century and its 11th-century castle was built by William Rufus.