Illgill Head

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Illgill Head
Illgill Head. - - 536989.jpg
Range: Lake District Southern Fells
Summit: 1,998 feet NY169049
54°25’58"N, 3°16’57"W

Illgill Head is a fell in the Lake District, in Cumberland. It is known more commonly as the northern portion of the Wastwater Screes.

Illgill Fell stands along the south-east shore of Wastwater (the deepest lake in south of the Highlands), and its summit is at 1,998 feet above sea level.


The panorama of the Wastwater Screes across Wastwater is one of the most famous and awe-inspiring views in the land. The poet Norman Nicholson described the Screes as "like the inverted arches of a Gothic Cathedral".

The title Wastwater Screes applies to the scree-covered north-western fellside which plunges dramatically down into Wastwater. This also includes Illgill Head's neighbour Whin Rigg, the continuation of the ridge to the south-west. The scree slope continues beneath the lake to a depth of 259 feet. The screes were formed as a result of ice and weathering erosion on the rocks.

Geologically, Illgill Head and Whin Rigg are part of the Borrowdale Volcanic Group, typical for the southern-western area of the Lake District.

In marked contrast to the north-western slope, the opposite flank of the fell, which descends to Burnmoor Tarn and Miterdale is much gentler and covered in heather and bracken.


The summit area has outcropping tuff, lapilli-tuff and breccia of the Lingmell Formation amid the drift deposits. The crags atop the screes reveal the plagioclase-phyric andesite lavas of the Birker Fell Formation.[1]


The summit is a flat sheepwalk, giving no clue to the drama of the Screes. North-west from the cairn the grassy plateau gradually tilts, until a few yards away it simply disappears over the brink.

Illgill Head is a fine viewpoint for Wasdale Head, the surrounding fells all appearing as they soar up from the dalehead. Nearer views, with care, are possible down the Screes themselves.


Illgill Head is commonly ascended from Wasdale Head over the north-eastern shoulder of the fell, skirting the edge of the Screes. There is also an ascent from Boot in Eskdale either over Whin Rigg or directly by way of Burnmoor Tarn.

A lakeside path along the south-eastern shore of Wastwater starts at Wasdale Head Hall and continues through the boulder field with exhilarating close-up views of the Screes.

Wide image of the Wasdale screes, Illgill Head in the centre, Whin Rigg on the right.


  • Wainwright, Alfred: A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, Book Four — The Southern Fells (1960)
  1. British Geological Survey: 1:50,000 series maps, England & Wales Sheet 38: BGS (1998)