For forty years I managed to avoid walking up Binsey. It wasn’t a conscious decision – I just didn’t know that Binsey was there! “OK then”, I hear many of you say. “Where’s Binsey?” Good question. There’s a village called Binsey near Oxford, but for the hill called Binsey you have to head north. Binsey stands alone on the northwest edge of the Lake District, like a lonely sentry watching over the Solway Plain towards Scotland.
Looking north towards Scotland isn’t what Binsey does best, though. Binsey does a much better job of providing a viewing platform for the Northern Fells of the Lake District. Being isolated from the mass of the Lake District hills gives the ability, literally, to stand back and admire. Taking centre stage you have the Skiddaw hills. Most hill goers are used to seeing Skiddaw and the Northern Fells from the south, usually from Keswick, so this different aspect is new and unexpected for many.
The constantly expanding view from Binsey to the south does introduce one problem, however. The ability to walk backwards uphill doesn’t come naturally for most of us, so on Binsey there is a constant need to stop and look back, rather than miss something. Looking forward again, the hill looks like a grassy lump, so it’s a bit of a surprise to find that the summit is a rocky ridge that feels higher than a mere 447 metres.
The summit might be less than impressive for those used to higher hills, but Binsey has been of greater importance in the distant past – the stones just to the north of the Trig Point were originally a Bronze Age cairn, set in a commanding position. Continuing over the crest of the summit gives a great view down to Bassenthwaite Lake, and on a good day it’s possible to pick out the Scafell group of hills and Coniston Old Man.
Driving past Binsey on the A591 from Keswick to Bothel, it’s easy to see why the hill doesn’t command a bit more respect – in fact, it’s easy to drive by without even noticing it, which is why I had never really registered that Binsey was there.
The view from our friends garden near Wigton gives a great long distance view towards Skiddaw, which is easy to pick out when caught by the late sun in summer or when snow-covered in winter. But what’s that to the right of Skiddaw? Connie wasn’t in any doubt whatsoever when asked – “That’s Binsey”, she said. And of course she was right, and I’ve been looking at Binsey for years. Sometimes you have to make a bit of effort to see what’s there.
p.s. The walk up Binsey happened a few weeks ago – such is the unassuming nature of the hill that Binsey has been shoved to the back of the queue whilst I’ve been blogging the North Wales trip. So, at last, I’ve done the decent thing.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock