950 Metres (3,117 ft)
Third Highest Peak in England
OS Grid NY342151
Helvellyn, (“Yellow Upland” in Cambric) is the third highest mountain in the Lake District. It is the most famous and most climbed and walked of all the Lakeland fells and is the ideal place to experience the majesty of the area.
As Wainwright says “legend and poetry, a lovely name and a lofty altitude combine to encompass Helvellyn in an aura of romance; and thousands of pilgrims, aided by its easy accessibility, are attracted to its summit every year” (Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells - Book One - The Eastern Fells).
The eastern aspect is by far the most picturesque and dramatic, with the summit encircled by Striding Edge and Swirral Edge. Striding Edge is one of the most popular ridge walks in the Lakes, although there is a lower path for those who prefer (recommended in high wind and the wet!). Swirral Edge also provides a dramatic ascent or descent, and leads to Catstyecam.
The summit of Helvellyn is remarkably flat (helped by some Victorian workmen), so flat indeed that in 1926 John Leeming and Bert Hinkler landed a plane on it (and took off again!). This is marked by one of three memorials in the area. The other on the summit commemorates Charles Gough, immortalised by William Wordsworth. Gough died attempting to cross Striding Edge to reach the summit in 1805, and his faithful dog stayed by his body for 3 months until both were discovered. The final memorial is perched incongruously on Striding Edge and commemorates the spot where the unfortunate Mr Dixon plunged off Striding Edge while running with the Ullswater hounds in 1858.
In the natural hollow bordered on three sides by Helvellyn, Striding and Swirral edges lies Red Tarn, which contrary to its name is a splendidly clear glacial pool which looks like an inviting plunge pool from the top in the summer but regularly freezes over in the winter months. Water from the tarn was used to power Greenside mines above Glenridding.
People often asks “who owns Helvellyn”. Well according to the Lake District National Park, the land which covers the western side of Helvellyn leading down to Thirlmere is owned by United Utilities and the land on the eastern side of Helvellyn is owned by the Lake District National Park Authority. So now you know!
It’s a fantastic place and if you’ve never been you should go soon, and if you have been, it’s time to go back!