The Bob Graham Round is the Lake District’s legendary 24-hour fellrunning challenge. It is a historic and spectacular 61-mile (99 km) clockwise circuit of England’s highest mountains that has become increasingly popular as an epic, multi-day hiking adventure. This is surely one of the greatest experiences to be had in England’s most beloved national park.
Starting and finishing at Keswick Moot Hall, the Round takes you across many of the Lake District’s most iconic peaks, taking in 42 tops in all. Highlights include a full traverse of the Helvellyn range and the ascent of Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain, but the whole route is magnificent, glistening with hillwalking gold. It makes sense to split the hiking into six days to coincide with descents into the valleys, where a range of amenities await you. However, you can make your day hikes shorter and your time in the hills longer by wild camping, which is generally tolerated if you pitch late, depart early and leave no trace.
Don’t let the fact that runners complete this round in less than a day fool you, this is a strenuous itinerary consisting of long days spent on high, exposed and often rough trails. You also have to contend with the Cumbrian weather, with four-seasons-in-a-day a common experience. Waterproofs and warm layers are essential regardless of the time of year, as well as plenty of water and snacks for the longer sections. With this in mind, the Round is suitable for those who have a fair bit of hillwalking nous, but not so as a first taste of Britain’s higher mountains.
The advantage of hiking the Round, rather than running it, is the intimacy you’ll feel with Lakeland’s gorgeous landscapes, as you take the time to enjoy and imbibe every valley, hillside and mountain.
In terms of fellrunning, the Bob Graham Round is the quintessential challenge and it is at the heart of the sport’s unique cultural heritage. The athletes who complete the route in under 24 hours are the crème-de-la-crème of mountain running and will have trained for months, if not years, to emerge victorious. There’s a true sense of community amongst those who have taken on the challenge, with former completionists regularly supporting new attempts.
Though similar circuits of the high Lakeland fells existed before, it was Bob Graham who pioneered the modern route in 1931, finishing in 23 hours and 39 minutes – a record that was to stand for 28 years. In 2018, Kilian Jornet broke Billy Bland’s long standing men’s record with a stunning time of 12 hours and 52 minutes. Beth Pascal set a sensational women’s record of 14 hours and 34 minutes in 2020.
The Bob Graham is best tackled in the summer months, with long daylight hours and no chance of snow and ice hampering progress. The hikers' round is made significantly longer than the runners' round by virtue of the detours to Grasmere and Great Langdale in order to seek lodging and sustenance.
Each valley has a range of accommodation options and campsites, with the exception of the Honister Pass, which only has a youth hostel and should definitely be booked well before your adventure. Advance booking across the route is generally recommended, particularly if you are venturing out during public holidays.
The start point is easily accessed. Keswick is a twenty-minute drive from the M6 motorway and, if travelling on public transport, can be reached from Kendal, Penrith and Carlisle by bus.
For the Charlie Ramsay Round, see here: komoot.com/collection/1079759
For the Paddy Buckley Round, see here: komoot.com/collection/1080334
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