Open Access walks in Cumbria

The historic new right of Open Access, sometimes known as the 'right to roam', started in the Cumbria in May 2005.  Open Access means that you can walk across miles of spectacular open country that was previously out of bounds to the public. There is over 825 square miles (2100 square kilometres) of open access land in Cumbria alone. The opportunities to explore and discover little known areas and to link up existing footpaths in new ways are endless!

On open access land you are allowed to walk, run, climb, picnic, take photographs, paint, watch wildlife and above all appreciate the stunning landscape. The new rights do not extend to camping, cycling, horse riding, and the driving of any vehicle other than a mobility scooter or buggy.  

Walking on open-access land can be challenging, as you will often be a long way from recognised paths or even obvious landmarks. Stiles and gates may also be few and far between. As a large percentage of the access land is open country, good navigation skills and suitable clothing are essential. Also your access rights can sometimes be restricted for conservation, land management and public safety reasons - this can be checked here.

The county council's Countryside Access team has teamed up with local guidebook writer, Mark Richards, to produce a series of downloadable leaflets to help you explore a variety of open access landscapes in all corners of the county. A compact taster leaflet which encapsulates 6 walks is available from the quick links menu. This work has been supported by a number of partner organisations including the Friends of the Lake District, Cumbria Tourism, Natural England and the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Full photo galleries of all the walks can be found on Mark's web site at

Please take a look through the left hand menu which itemises all the walks. Each page provides a general description and a facility for you to download the route information and map.


Promoting Open Access across Cumbria

View across Geltsdale

Cumbria County Council through funding secured from Natural England have produced an Open Access walks leaflet which promotes all corners of Cumbria. You can download a copy of the leaflet below which encourages you to explore open access land in different environments from the coast of the Solway to the high rolling Howgills. From Geltsdale in the North Pennines to coastal fell above Kirkby in Furness. And from Ambleside nestled within the Lake District National Park to Dent within the Yorkshire Dales. 

Download a copy of the Open Access Walks in Cumbria leaflet (1.27MB)

Enjoying Open Access land on `The Helm` at Oxenholme near Kendal

The Council's Countryside Access Team has teamed up with the Friends of the Lake District to produce a printed leaflet which will help you explore 'The Helm,' an area of Open Access land at Oxenholme near Kendal. Excellent public transport links allow visitors and local people to explore this area which has a fantastic ridgeline providing stunning views across Kendal and the surrounding countryside. Please download a copy using the link below.

Working in conjunction with local guidebook writer, Mark Richards a download leaflet based on the Open Access land at the Helm has been created which adds to our series around Cumbria, please view by following the link below. Photo galleries of all the walks can be found on Mark's website at   

Enjoying Open Access land on the Greystoke Estate

Explore the delights of this historic estate and modern working farm using the extensive network of permissive paths to reach open access land.  Full of natural and historical interest throughout the route, this walk has it all - from picturesque parkland to wild windswept moorland. Situated on the edge of the Lake District, you will be rewarded with stunning panoramas of the Northern Lakeland fells and across the Eden valley to the North Pennines.  Please note that DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED on the permissive paths within the estate.

The total walking distance is 13.2 kilometres (8.2 miles) and you can download the route using the link below.

Enjoying Open Access land at St Bees Head

The leaflet has been designed to complement the continuing work of the 'Colourful Coast Project.' This is an exciting and forward thinking initiative being run along the coast between Whitehaven and St Bees which is supported by the National Trust, Natural England, RSPB and Cumbria County Council. It's an example of how public access and nature conservation can go hand in hand.

St Bees Head is home to a number of hidden gems of nature and history, using the download leaflet below you too can discover them. A variety of walks are highlighted, ranging from 4 to 6.5 miles long between St Bees and Whitehaven which can easily be linked in with public transport.

Please print a copy of the leaflet and step out to enjoy this area along well marked public and permissive rights of way, passing through areas of Open Access land en route. 

Open Access Walks in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The Council's Countryside Access Team has teamed up with local guidebook writer, Mark Richards, to produce a series of downloadable leaflets to help you explore some of the 2137 square kilometres of open access land within Cumbria. 

The first batch of 5 leaflets covers The North Pennines to the north of Hartside Pass.   We hope to expand the series to cover other areas of open access across the county.   Photo galleries of all the walks can be found on Mark's website at

The North Pennines is one of England's most stunning landscapes, comprised of open heather moors and peatlands, attractive dales and hay meadows, tumbling upland rivers, wonderful woods, welcoming communities, intriguing imprints of a mining and industrial past, distinctive birds, animals and plants and much, much more. In recognition of its special qualities the area has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The North Pennines is also a UNESCO European and Global Geopark - highlighting its globally important Earth heritage.

Walk 1 - Cold Fell, distance 10.6 kilometres (6.6 miles)

Marking the northern end of the Pennine Chain, the aptly named Cold Fell is also the most northerly mountain in Cumbria.   Although this route is relatively short, it is a serious undertaking with a steep ascent and descent, coupled with terrain that is usually wet and hard going throughout the year.   Nevertheless it's still a fine walk which is full of interest with excellent views across the Border region.

Walk 2 - Geltsdale, distance 10.3 kilometres (6.4 miles)

A good walk for days when the cloud is low, favouring a lower level circuit of the picturesque Geltsdale without the need to venture too high up.   Discover remnants of the valley's industrial past, whilst savouring the delights of her wildlife and scenery of this now tranquil Valley.

Walk 3 - Talkin Fell, distance 7 kilometres (4.4 miles)

This short walk is ideal for those with a few hours to spare, and serves as a perfect introduction to open access.   The route follows excellent public rights of way, and distinct desire lines once you venture onto the access land.   On a clear day the panorama from the top of Talkin Fell is probably one of the best you'll get for the effort involved in getting there.

Walk 4 - Cardunneth Pike, distance 17.5 kilometres (11 miles)

A classic ridge walk following the spine of Cumrew Fell, taking in two of the best viewpoints in the area.   The route uses low level right of way for the outward journey, with a range of occupational tracks and desire lines tracks being used for the high level return leg.  Part of return leg crosses open access land on a managed grouse moor, over which DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED.

Walk 5 - Thack Moor and Black Fell, distance 16.6 kilometres (10.3 miles)

One of the more serious undertakings, this routes ventures onto the main North Pennine ridge, via the outlying top of Thack Moor.   Tranquillity, solitude and a sense of moorland grandeur is guaranteed on the first section.   A much deserved break at Hartside CafĂ© is recommended, before the return leg to Renwick following public rights of way on good tracks and paths. 

Open Access Links in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Please follow the links below to view Open Access leaflets which have been designed for the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Moorland Visitors Code.