Lakeland walk - Burneside circular

Wild swimming at Gurnal Dub

Wild swimming at Gurnal Dub - Credit: John Lenehan

Burneside straddles the River Kent to the north of Kendal and was suggested to me as a location for a walk by my youngest sister who is a keen wild water swimmer. She had read that Gurnal Dubs was a lovely place to swim, and asked if I could work out a walk that encompassed the tarn. I didn’t want to take a dip, but doing the walk turned out to be a great delight with some pretty spectacular views. 

1. Walk from the church past the Jolly Angler pub, keeping this on the left then turn left into Hall Road (no road sign) and follow this. The pavement on the right becomes tarmac with a low wall on the left. Follow this until across the road a footpath sign can be seen pointing up a track runs that parallel with Hall Road. Take the track and follow this ignoring the stile on the left on the way. At the end of the track, cross a stile to reach a main road and turn right and then first left into Garnett Bridge Road (again, no road sign) and follow this. 

Note: Just before turning up Garnett Bridge Road, look right and there is a house with a ruined Peel Tower. This was a fortified building that was built to protect against raids from the Border Reivers of Scotland who came south to steal cattle and other livestock. 

The Peel Tower was once part of the defence against Border Reivers

The Peel Tower was once part of the defence against Border Reivers - Credit: John Lenehan

2. Just past a track on the left leading to Barnsdale there is a footpath sign and gate on the left, go through the gate. Cross the field and bear diagonally left down towards a stream then keep this on the left and carry on up to a steel gate and a footpath sign. Go through the gate onto a track and turn left then right and follow the concrete track uphill. 

The track leads to a farmyard but do not enter this, keep left and go through a metal gate and, with the building on the right, follow and indistinct footpath. Reach and go through a metal gate and keep straight on as the path goes between hedgerows to and through another metal gate, then keep on and reach a wooden gate leading into the yard of a group of houses. There is a tarmac track on the left with a footpath sign on the wall ahead, take the track and follow this all the way up to join Potter Fell Road, then turn right and follow the road. 

3. Reach a footpath sign pointing left, follow this going through a gate and join a rough track and follow this uphill with a wall on the right until it reaches a gate, go through this and straight uphill keeping the wall on the right to another gate. Go through this to reach a track and turn left then follow the track to a metal gate with a stile next to it, cross the stile and keep on the track.  

The track reaches the large tarn, Gurnal Dubs, and forks, keep left and follow the track as it reaches and passes along the dam wall of the tarn and a boathouse then goes uphill to reach a stile in a wall. Cross this and follow the track steeply downhill to reach a stile in a wall and cross this and turn left with Potter Tarn on the right. 

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Follow the track down to the overflow spillway of the dam and cross the stepping stones, then turn left and follow the track downhill to a stile next to a metal gate and cross this and follow the track down through a gateway and Ghyll Pool on the left to a gate. Go through the gate and keep on the track down to a metal gate and stile with a stream on the left, cross the stile and carry on downhill.  

Note: Gurnal Dubs was once called Fothergill Tarn and used to consist of three separate tarns until the dam was built and the raised water level created a single tarn. This, and the dammed Potter Tarn supplied water to James Cropper papermill. The mill was founded by the Liberal politician James Cropper in 1845. It is a major employer in the South Lakes. 

Walkers on the path at Gurnal Dub

Walkers on the path at Gurnal Dub - Credit: John Lenehan

4. Reach a track junction with a metal gate in front, turn right and go through a wooden gate and follow the narrow rough footpath downhill. Go through a gate stile and pass a barn on the left and go through a double gate, then keep left and follow a narrow road down to a larger road and turn right. 

Keep on the road and pass the buildings of Hagg Foot on the left and at the far end of the buildings turn left to a gate stile. Cross this go down a concrete yard to go behind the buildings then turn right and follow the track down a bridge over the river. Do not cross the bridge, cross the stile on the left just before it and then, with the river on the right, keep on and cross another stile and pass the weir and the apartment buildings of Cowan Head on the far side of the river then climb uphill behind a series of white apartments on this side of the river. 

Cowan Head is a luxury modern residential area but the weir indicates that it once had a more industrial heritage. It was once Cowan Head paper mill that closed in 1981. 

Keep a wall on the right and a metal statue of a golfer to the left. As the wall turns right, follow the path down to the right to reach the river then. with this on the right, keep on following the path through a series of ladder stiles to reach a wooden gate. Go through this and, with a wire fence on the left, follow the path to a metal gate and once through this cross a footbridge to reach a tarmac lane. Turn right towards a bridge over the river but do not cross the bridge, unless you’re able to sample a pint of fine ale from the Handsome Brewery. 

Returning to the route, there is a footpath sign on the left and a gap in a wall; go through the gap and then a gate stile and carry on following the river on the right. 

Go through a gate stile and bear diagonally left away from the river and cross a gate stile, then go diagonally left uphill then right and keep on to a gate stile. Cross this and, at the paper mill fence, turn left and simply follow the path as it goes behind the paper mill buildings then right to eventually reach the footpath on Hall Road. Turn right and go down Hall Road and back to the car. 

Our route, on OS Explorer OL7 The English Lakes South Eastern Area

Our route, on OS Explorer OL7 The English Lakes South Eastern Area - Credit: OS

Compass points 

Start and finish: Burneside is a small village north of Kendal and is easily reached from the main A591 via Hollins Lane. I parked in front of a small white building opposite the church 

Terrain: Pretty easy walking on road, footpaths and tracks although the first part up to Birk Rigg is uphill it is only in the final section it is steep. Good boots and a good day to get the views are a must 

Distance: 7 miles/11.26 km 

Time: 3.5 hours 

Map: OS Explorer OL7 The English Lakes South Eastern Area 

If you are going wild swimming, make sure you take all appropriate safety measures. Let others know where you are going and when you will return, check the water for obstructions and strong currents and don’t spend too long in the water. For more detailed advice, go online to www.wildswimming.co.uk.