Skiddaw House is one of Cumbria's
most remote properties, with its own very special atmosphere
and has now re-opened to walkers and cyclists.
The property is 1,550ft above
sea level and over three miles from the nearest road. Walkers
in the area have known about, and often visited, Skiddaw
House for many years. It was built around 1840 and has survived
all that the weather has thrown at it and even attempts
to have it dismantled. Such was the disrepair, following
the January storms of 2003, that plans to re-open the property
were eventually abandoned.
A Skiddaw House Foundation
has now been formed, comprising a group of mainly local
volunteers. The plan was to re-open the house as England's
most remote bunkhouse and publicise it through the Youth
Hostel Association's "Enterprise" network. It
is hoped that the Foundation will be able to achieve charitable
status in order to support the wardens in the upkeep of
The bunkhouse stands on the
Way long distance footpath. Walkers and mountain bikers
who follow the route from Gale Road just outside Keswick,
to Dash Falls above Bassenthwaite, will know the route round
the side of Lonscale Fell all too well.
Skiddaw House features in
numerous guidebooks and Canon
Hardwicke Rawnsley, the Keswick clergyman who was one
of the founders of the National Trust, spoke of walking
up there in 1899 and being well received by the inhabitants
of the shepherd's residence.
Johathan Otley, the legendary
Keswick geologist and weather recorder, also wrote about
Skiddaw House. Hugh Walpole, the author of the Herries chronicles,
even set a murder there.
And more recently, the great Lake
District guide book writer, Alfred
Wainwright, made several mentions of Skiddaw House in
his best selling publications and loved its sense of remotness.
The accommodation at Skiddaw House
can be described as 'basic'. In an era when the youth
hostels movement is upgrading much of its accommodation
to near hotel standards to attract a wider trade, this is
definitely a throwback to times ehn those who walked the
fells didn't expect or demand much in the way of sophistication.
For them, the spartan nature of the walking, heading out
into the roughest, wildest and remotest parts of the Lake
District was the essence.
The house was originally built as
a gamekeepers's residence on Lord Leconfield's shooting
estate, later becoming a shepherd's house. From the late
19th century until 1953 there was almost always a resident
shepherd and family living at Skiddaw House. Pearson Dalton
was the shepherd who walked up there regularly until 1969.
The Leconfield Estate was sold in the late 1950s and the
land around Skiddaw House was bought by farmer Willie Waugh
from Cardewlees near Carlisle. The building was used, until
1986, as two separate houses, one by a couple of local schools
to accommodate pupils on field trips, and the other half
by the Border
A businessman from the south of England,
John Bothamley, aquired the lease to turn Skiddaw House
into a hostel and after a protracted battle with Lake District
planners, including two appeals, permission was eventually
granted from London. Mr Bothamley also mordernised the Carrock
Fell youth hostel which, together with Skiddaw House, became
connected with the YHA, an arrangement which survived foot
and mouth in 2001.
Eventually the lease was offered to
Martin Webster and he, together with his girlfriend, Marie-Pierre
Gaudez, will look after the property.
More information can be found about
Skiddaw House by clicking