A Halloween walk along the corpse road!

By Alan Cleaver


Alan is usually guiding people down the county’s lonnings but this month he’s encouraging Egremont2Day readers to be brave and wander down Loweswater’s Corpse Road. Sounds a bit scary!


The route around Loweswater including the Corpse Road. © Crown copyright 2014 Ordnance Survey Media 089/14

The route around Loweswater including the Corpse Road. © Crown copyright 2014 Ordnance Survey Media 089/14

CORPSE roads conjure up an image of ghosts, boggles or even zombies jumping out and scaring you half to death. But don’t worry, it’s simply the name given to a particular type of country path – and the one at Loweswater is one of the nicest.

Corpse roads – as anyone will tell you – were used to carry coffins or corpses from a village to the mother church in the days before every village church had its own graveyard. But, being a cynical journalist, I’m not too convinced by this oft-repeated legend. It raises too many questions and, at the end of the day, I am still to find any contemporary documentary evidence that details the corpse roads.

That said, you can easily find a dozen or so corpse roads recorded in modern folklore books or village histories and they all make for a good, bracing walk.

Loweswater is one of our local ones and one that offers grand views – and a liquid lunch or dinner at the Kirkstile Inn afterwards.

If the Loweswater corpse road starts anywhere, it is from Fang’s Brow. Stand by the lake at Loweswater and you can clearly see the corpse corpse1road looping around the fell towards this corner of the valley. The presence of a holy well – dedicated to St Ninian – at this location also makes sense in this context: a spot to stop for fresh water and spiritual solace, perhaps even a prayer for the deceased.

The road is wide – a feature that is typical of many of the corpse roads in the county.

Even the height of the road, halfway up the hill, might be seen as a typical feature of corpse roads. That would be one of my cynical journalist’s questions: why didn’t they take the easier route through the valley? But the height does at least offer glorious views of the lake and the surrounding fells.

Loweswater’s curiously shy signpost that can be found near the Kirkstile Inn. It tells you there is no road to the lake to the left, and no way through on the right. But that’s all it tells you! A shame it doesn’t tell you where you can go.

Loweswater’s curiously shy signpost that can be found near the Kirkstile Inn. It tells you there is no road to the lake to the left, and no way through on the right. But that’s all it tells you! A shame it doesn’t tell you where you can go.

If you don’t want to start at Fang’s Brow, then you can park in any of the lay-bys around the lake and walk up through the forest (it’s steep, mind) or do the corpse road in reverse so you have a more gentle ascent.

The path has a slowness and gentleness all of its own, the occasional Herdwick sheep being the only company you are likely to meet. Take a packed lunch to eat when you reach a spot where the trees don’t block the view. I think I’m right in saying that one of the scenes of the film Miss Potter, starring Renee Zellweger, was shot here and it’s easy to understand why.

As the path heads west it gradually descends into the valley. If you were following the corpse road all the way to St Bees then it would take you via Lamplugh – there’s even a large stone (a coffin rest) still existing in one of the gardens.

But for a gentler walk, bear left and come through the farmyard back towards the village. The walk through the village takes you through Maggie’s Lonning; it is now a tarmac road leading to the impossibly small car park. Who was Maggie? No one knows but probably a previous resident of the farm.

In the village you will find the Kirkstile Inn of blessed memory. And have you ever noticed the curious sign post beside it? – it tells you where you can’t go, but not where you can!

Time to stop here for some refreshment before returning to your car via the road on the south side of the lake.

At the end of the lake you can take a footpath back to Fang’s Brow.