Kirkstone Pass

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The Kirkstone Pass Inn
The bottom of The Struggle in Ambleside

Kirkstone Pass is a mountain pass in Westmorland forging a route through some of the wildest fell country of the Lake District, north to south between Ullswater and Ambleside. It reaches an altitude of 1,489 feet.

This is the Lake District's highest pass that is open to motor traffic and it connects Ambleside in the Rothay Valley to Patterdale in the Ullswater Valley - the A592 road. In places, the gradient is 1 in 4. Brotherswater provides a picturesque view, on the descent to Patterdale.

The Kirkstone Pass Inn stands close to the summit of the pass. Formerly an important coaching inn, it now caters primarily for tourists. It is one of the highest public houses in Britain. Here the road divides; the minor road plunging down towards Ambleside, while the A592 takes a slightly gentler course to the Trout Beck and on to Windermere.

Slate quarrying

As well as lead and copper mining, quite a large undertaking of slate mining has been taking place over the years. Pets Quarry, currently being worked by "Kirkstone Green Slate Company" is just before the highest point in the pass, from Ambleside. Caudale slate mine is a few miles further down, on the Ullswater side, and was last worked at the beginning of the 20th century. All adits to the mine are now blocked. Nearby is the Hartsop Hall Lead Mine.


Kirkstone Pass descending to Brotherswater
Kirkstone Pass in winter

The name of the pass is derived from a nearby stone, the Kirkstone, which stands a few yards from the roadside of the A592 leading to Patterdale, several yards from the inn. The stone is so named as its silhouette resembles a church steeple, it is easily spotted coming both ways on the pass. Locally the road from Ambleside up to the Kirkstone Pass Inn is known as The Struggle.

Popular culture

  • In Cue For Treason, the best known novel of the children's writer Geoffrey Trease, much of it set in the Lakes, one character adopts the pseudonym "Kit Kirkstone", taken from the Kirkstone Pass.
  • Witch of the Westmorland by musician Archie Fisher includes the lines "weary by Ullswater, and the misty brake fern way, down through the cleft of the Kirkstone Pass, the winding water lay".

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Kirkstone Pass)