15th July 2007

And now for something completely different - Honister Mine Via Ferrata


Walk Overview
Time 13.00 to 15.00
Duration 2 hr
Distance 3 mile
Ascent 1100 ft
Walking with Jennifer and Andrew & Anne Leaney
Honister Pass - via ferrata - Black Star - Fleetwith Pike - Honister Pass
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre
Car park, Honister Mines

Given the size of the car park (s) here I'm tempted to say you'll find ample parking up here. This isn't always the case though. The popularity of the mine tours and the surrounding fells make this a very busy place indeed.

You have two options here, the mines car park and the national trust car park next to the Youth Hostel. They both cost about the same, so it doesn't really matter which one you try first.


Route Map

We did something a bit different today and became tourists for a couple of hours by taking part in one of the guided Via Ferrata tours on Honister Crag slate mines.

Arriving early for the 1pm tour gave us time to have a look in the shop and take a few pictures outside, before going to pick up our equipment and listening to a short safety talk.


The initial part of the tour took us along an easy going mine road where we got some quite different views of some very familiar fells. Then , , , ,

, , , we got a partial view of the route we'd be taking.

Before reaching the start of the Via Ferrata we had a walk through some of the mines. (none of the pictures I took inside were any good). What we saw was only a tiny fraction of the eleven miles of tunnels dug into the mountain. And when you look at the equipment they use today you wouldn't think this was anything extraordinary, but to think that most of this has been dug out by man power alone; then you begin to realise how awful the lives of these miners must have been.

Back out into the open now and continuing along the walk to the start of the Via Ferrata.



From talking to our guide, it didn't seem as though there was a time limit on the tour. He talked about it taking four hours or more to complete some tours. Obviously the time taken depends on the fitness of the people taking part. The whole experience was very relaxed in the sense that we weren't rushed at all. The guide was more than happy to answer any questions, stand and wait while I took well over 100 photos or offer a helping hand to people who found certain sections a little difficult.

This was one of those don't look down moments, , , but I need to see where I'm putting my feet.


Jennifer concentrating very hard.

The hardest section of the whole route came immediately after the start. Once we'd passed this point it became much easier.


It's incredible to think the Victorians actually built a railway up the side of Honister Crag to transport the slate from the mine entrances down to Stang How where horses then took over the job of hauling this valuable stone. Along the length of the railway the trucks were controlled by three winding drums, where a cable would be attached to the line of trucks, thus allowing them to be lowered to the next winding station in a controlled manor.

The Honister Pass road seen a long way below us.
Despite the exposure on one side, walking up here on a good day like this felt totally safe; even if we weren't attached to the via ferrata. On the other hand, it must have been quite horrendous for the mine workers. As you all know it "occasionally" rains and we "sometimes" experience high winds in the Lake District. I'm sure in those days prior to health and safety policies, procedures Etc the men who worked here would have had no choice but to simply get on with it, regardless of the weather conditions.

Imagine trying concentrate on you footing with the noise from the trucks clattering past, the driving rain soaking you to the skin and the wind trying it's best to pull you from the side of the crag.

Then it was into another tunnel for another steep incline.

And looking back out.

Looking back into the top of the same tunnel. Notice how steep it is.



No uncertainty about the warning this sign is trying get across to people.

Hindscarth and Robinson seen from Black Star (Honister Crag).
Rather than return to the visitor centre straight away, we continued along the ridge as far as Fleetwith Pike and judging by the build up of black clouds that was going to be far enough.

Great Gable looking very clear despite the lack of sunshine.


As we were Heading back to the car park we could see it was already starting to rain in Borrowdale.

David Hall -
Lake District Walks