Grey Knotts

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Grey Knotts
Grey Knotts from above the Stonethwaite valley.jpg
Grey Knotts seen from above the Stonethwaite valley
Range: Lake District Western Fells
Summit: 2,287 feet NY217125
54°30’11"N, 3°12’29"W

Grey Knotts is a fell in Cumberland, within the Lake District. It is situated half a mile south of the B5289 road as it crosses the Honister Pass. Grey Knotts may be seen well from mid-Borrowdale as it rises above Seatoller.

Grey Knotts reaches a height of 2,287 feet and is part of a ridge which ascends from the woodland behind Seatoller and continues south-west and then south for two and a half miles to Great Gable.

The fell's name really only applies to the summit rocks, but has been adopted for the entire fell with the high ground in this area, locally known as Seatoller Fell on Ordnance Survey maps.


The Buttermere valley from Grey Knotts

Grey Knotts is accorded a chapter of its on by Wainwright, making it a 'Wainwright' fell. It also qualifies as a 'Nuttall', albeit as a borderline case: it barely has the required 50 feet of topographic prominence to the adjoining higher fell of Brandreth.

All the highlights of Grey Knotts are situated on the eastern (Borrowdale) side of the fell, Raven Crag, known as Gillercombe Buttress to rock climbers. It is a popular area for bouldering, using the large amount of large boulders that have become detached from the main crag. There are also several conventional climbing routes up the main crag. Gillercomb is a fine example of a hanging valley from which issues the stream of Sour Milk Gill, which descends into Borrowdale in a series of picturesque cascades.


The principal rock types are the plagioclase-phyric andesite lavas of the Birker Fell Formation.[1]

Graphite mine

Also on the Borrowdale side of the fell at the upper end of Newhouse Gill at grid reference NY231128 is the site of the former Borrowdale graphite (then called Plumbago) mines. The mine was started in the 16th century by German immigrants; the graphite found was in a very pure form and in those early days was used only for marking sheep. Later, however, graphite was found to be suitable for lining the casting moulds for cannon and musket balls, which caused its value to soar in the 17th century, as England, France and the Dutch Republic built up their armies. The graphite was also used in pencil-making, which in 1790 led to the founding of the Cumberland pencil industry based in Keswick. The mine closed in 1891 after new techniques meant that graphite no longer needed to be so pure, so the Borrowdale mine became uneconomic.


Grey Knotts can be ascended from Seathwaite or Seatoller in Borrowdale or from the top of the Honister Pass. The route from Seathwaite goes up Newhouse Gill thus allowing the walker to inspect the old graphite mines while the path from Seatoller has to use the B5289 road for ⅔ mile before going onto the fell and following a wall for some distance then climbing the northern end of Raven Crag to reach the summit. Grey Knotts is often climbed from the top of the Honister Pass which gives the advantage of starting at a height of 1,167 feet. Walkers often use Grey Knotts as a stepping stone for the ascent of Great Gable from Honister Pass also passing over the adjoining fells of Brandreth and Green Gable on the way.


The top of the fell is dotted with grey tors of rock and two of these give the fell twin tops of equal height, the eastern top has an Ordnance Survey trig point. There are also several small tarns on the summit as well as some fence posts which can be an aid to navigation. The view from the summit is very good with the Buttermere valley well seen to the northwest and the Scafell massif standing out to the south.

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  1. British Geological Survey: 1:50,000 series maps, England & Wales Sheet 29: BGS (1999)