Helm Crag

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Helm Crag
Helm Crag - geograph.org.uk - 875575.jpg
Helm Crag over Bracken Hause
Range: Lake District Central Fells
Summit: 1,329 feet NY327094
54.47548 -3.04007

Helm Crag is a fell in the Lake District, in the Central Fells within Westmorland. It stands to the north of Grasmere. Notwithstanding its modest height of 1,329 feet, it is a famed mountain, standing prominently at the end of a ridge, easily seen from the village, its distinctive shape a charm for many generations. Its distinctive summit rocks provide the alternative name of the fell; 'The Lion and the Lamb', and by this name it has become one of the most recognised of the hills of the Lake District.

Alfred Wainwright wrote of Helm Crag:

The virtues of Helm Crag have not been lauded enough. It gives an exhilarating little climb, a brief essay in real mountaineering, and, in a region where all is beautiful, it makes a notable contribution to the natural charms and attractions of Grasmere.


A rocky ridge curves east and then south east from Calf Crag, passing over Gibson Knott and the depression of Bracken Hause, before ending at Helm Crag where it falls steeply on all sides. To the north and east of the ridge is the Greenburn valley, which joins the Rothay at Helm Side. To the west and south is Easedale Beck, which is also a feeder of the Rothay, the watersmeet being just north of Grasmere village. Helm Crag is generally rough, with particular features being High and Low Raven Crags on the eastern side and White Crag on the southern extremity.

The geology of the fell is complex, but the summit is in an area of outcropping andesite sill.[2] There is no history of mining.

The Summit

Summit and view

The summit is quite distinctive. It has two short parallel ridges running northwest to south east with a hollow in between, the western ridge being the higher. Some distance below the eastern ridge the scene is repeated as, still keeping parallel, a third ridge, ditch and parapet are crossed before the crags are reached. The whole complex initially appears man-made, but is entirely natural. The summit commands views of the Langdale Pikes, Coniston Fells and Eastern Fells.[3][4]

The 'Old Woman playing the Organ' rocks

The Lion and the Lamb

At either end of the highest ridge are the rock outcrops that ensure Helm Crag's fame. Only one can be seen from any point in the surrounding valleys, and they have a variety of names depending upon the profile seen from the particular vantage point. The northwestern outcrop is the true summit of the fell, a tricky little scramble being needed to stand on the top. It is variously called 'The old lady playing the organ' when seen from Mill Gill, 'The howitzer' from the summit of Dunmail Raise and 'The lion and the lamb' or 'The lion couchant' from a point in between. The southern outcrop is prominent from Grasmere and this is the traditional 'Lion and the lamb'.[3]


Helm Crag is normally ascended from Grasmere, though can also be approached from either valley by way of Bracken Hause, or along the ridge from Gibson Knott.[3][4]


  1. A. Wainwright, A Pictorial Guide to the Lake Fells, Book 3, The Central Fells, (London: Frances Lincoln, 2003), Helm Crag p.2 ISBN 0-7112-2456-0
  2. British Geological Survey: 1:50,000 series maps, England & Wales Sheet 38: BGS (1999)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Wainwright, A (1958). A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, Book 3 The Central Fells. Westmorland Gazette. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Mark Richards: The Central Fells: Collins (2003): ISBN 0-00-711365-X