The Warnscale Head bothy (sometimes referred to as "the room with a view") is a rustic little mountain shelter with outstanding views down the valley to Buttermere. It is believed to have been originally built as a quarry workers cottage in the 1750s. After a long period of dereliction (150 years or so) it has - over the last few decades - been restored, maintained, and improved largely by volunteers. It is now an unlocked free-to-use bothy in a dramatic location, for all to enjoy.
I've stayed in the bothy with a few friends on two occasions, once was before a new stove and sleeping benches were fitted in 2016 and once was in 2019. On both occasions I've walked in (and back out) from across the mountains to the south. Wasdale makes a particularly good starting point in my opinion but there are lots of routes that can make use of an overnight stay at the Warnscale Head bothy.
If you are planning a visit it is well worth considering that you might not be the only ones, so be prepared to share or have a good plan B. On both my visits (weekends in winter) we were not completely alone. The first time saw a couple of weary mountaineers clatter in from out of the cold late at night - very pleased to see we'd still got the fire going and that there was room to sleep on the floor. The second time involved two groups of two, both with eyes on the bothy. The first group (a young couple) had already made plans to stay at the nearby Dubs Hut (a larger bothy closer to the Honister Pass) but had headed over to Warnscale Head to have a look and say hello - they may well have choosen the Warnscale if it hadn't already have been occupied. The second group of two women were well equipped for a wild camp in a small tent but joined us in the bothy for food and whiskey.
All in all the Warnscale Head bothy is a great little place with bags of character, stunning views, and is ideal for small groups (two or three people works well) looking for an adventurous overnighter. For further information on it's location, size and features please read on below.
In the pictures are my friends Andy, Al, Steve and Dave and the two visitors we had the pleasure to meet on our second stay. Thanks for a couple of great trips, guys.
Pictured here is a little known mountain shelter we'd set out to find on one of our trips. Although we were excited to have found it, we were disappointed to find it was waterlogged and not large enough for our needs (not even close!). Although a long walk away, the Warnscale Head bothy became a much better option.
Location of the Warnscale Head bothy
Grid reference: NY 205 133
Location description: It's located just a little bit south of Fleetwith Pike on the slopes next to Warnscale Beck (South-west of Buttermere, Cumbria, UK).
Recommended map: Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000) – The English Lakes North-western area (OL4).
Note: On older maps (approx from 2010 and before) a tiny rectangular structure marking the bothy can just about be picked out. On up to date versions the rectangular structure is slightly clearer. Be careful not to get the bothy confused with the nearby Dubs Huts, a much larger bothy closer to the Honister Pass.
Useful info about the Warnscale Head bothy
- The bothy isn’t easy to find if approached from behind as its slate roof is well camouflaged against the surrounding rocks - finding it for the first time in the dark or in reduced visibility weather conditions is notoriously difficult.
- It is situated on a steep rocky hillside with no vehicular access.
- The bothy is available courtesy of it's private owner and is maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association.
- It is not connected to water but is surrounded by mountain streams (within short walks).
- It has no electricity
- Heating is via a log burning stove (fitted by volunteers in 2016). Previously it had an open fire that didn't draw particularly well.
- The roof structure was rebuilt in 1985 (using new oak timbers and mainly original slates) and has been maintained ever since. You can hear the wind through the cracks but on both of my visits it was watertight.
- There are no toilet facilities (just a small spade).
- On my second visit there was a small mouse on the loose in the night (I personally never saw it but did hear something). Keep food in secure containers.
- There is no fuel locally so carry in anything you might need.
- There is no insulation so the building will cool down very rapidly after the log burner goes out.
- There is no way of reserving a place at the bothy so be prepared to share or have a good plan B.
- There are two small windows (one opens, one is fixed) and one low door. The window at the front with the great view (black and white image above) is what gives the bothy it's nickname "the room with a view". During daylight hours it can still be quite dark inside the bothy if the door is shut.
- The bothy has one room (approx 3.2 x 3.4 meters) with no internal walls. It has wooden sleeping benches across two of the walls which replaced the rough dry-stone benches that were across three of the walls until 2016. It is arguable as to how many people can sleep on the benches. If you are prepared to overlap slightly (or are well below average adult height) then two per bench (four total) is okay. On my second visit, there were three of us and we opted to go with one on each bench and one on the floor (well volunteered, Andy) to maximise space. On my previous visit, there were four of us plus two late-night arrivals - this was definitely survivable but felt overcrowded when it came to packing up and trying to cook in the morning.
- If you are new to visiting the Lake District here is a bit of the local lingo: beck (stream), dale (valley), gill (gorge), tarn (lake) and thwaite (clearing).
- Please leave the bothy and surrounding area in the same or better condition than you found it.
The Bothy Code (Mountain Bothies Association)
The bothies maintained by the MBA are available by courtesy of the owners. Please respect this privilege. Please record your visit in the Bothy Log-Book.
Respect other users: Please leave the bothy clean and tidy with dry kindling for the next visitors. Make other visitors welcome and be considerate to other users.
Respect the bothy: Tell us about any accidental damage. Don’t leave graffiti or vandalise the bothy. Please take out all rubbish which you can’t burn. Avoid burying rubbish; this pollutes the environment. Please don’t leave perishable food as this attracts vermin. Guard against fire risk and ensure the fire is out before you leave. Make sure the doors and windows are properly closed when you leave.
Respect the surroundings: If there is no toilet at the bothy please bury human waste out of sight. Use the spade provided, keep well away from the water supply and never use the vicinity of the bothy as a toilet. Never cut live wood or damage estate property. Use fuel sparingly.
Respect agreement with the estate: Please observe any restrictions on the use of the bothy, for example during stag stalking or at lambing time. Please remember bothies are available for short stays only. The owner’s permission must be obtained if you intend an extended stay.
Respect the restriction on numbers: Because of overcrowding and lack of facilities, large groups (6 or more) should not use a bothy. Bothies are not available for commercial groups.