This Highlight is in a protected area
Please check local regulations for: North Pennines AONB
It’s not often that a summit gets its own name, separate from the fell upon which it stands. Hikes up to Nine Standards Rigg are precisely this though, as the hill you’ll be ascending is actually Hartley Fell. A stone’s throw outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park border, walking up this fell to the extraordinary summit is a popular objective.
The Nine Standards are a group of immense, shapely cairns standing like guardians just to the north of the Hartley Fell’s true summit and trig point. Not only are they better to look at than the summit, their position also offers the best views out, across the undulating, patchwork blanket of Cumbria and the North Pennines.
Hartley Fell is a rambling hill covered in shake holes, hags and sheepfolds. Boggy ground isn’t uncommon as you explore, so sturdy, preferably waterproof boots are useful. It’s easy to begin your ascent from Hartley, although you can easily walk from neighbouring Kirkby Stephen. Follow Ladthwaite Beck or Hartley Beck to reach the fell and begin exploring proper.
You can also begin your walk from the south, leaving your car on the B6270 and being mindful of the shake holes that proliferate over the landscape. No matter where you start, you’ll find a mixture of tracks, trails and pathless sections with the whaleback forms of surrounding fells rising and falling in the distance.
Glimpsing the Nine Standards Rigg is always surprising the first time you see the group, and they pull you onwards, demanding attention. Standing between their columnular forms, look northwards across unfolding, verdant landscape. No one knows their provenance but speculation has it that they were built by the Romans to look like troops from afar.
Kirky Stephen is a good base, with everything you could need. Campsites and villages are liberally scattered around this charming region as well.
At a height of 2,172 feet (662 m), the curious Nine Standards boast superb views over the town of Kirkby Stephen and further afield. The origin of the cairns is a mystery. According to legendary fell walker and hiker Alfred Wainwright, whose Coast to Coast route crosses the fell, the Nine Standards are marked on 18th century maps. Some believe they were constructed by the Romans to look like troops from a distance.
November 14, 2018
Nobody knows the sense of Nine standards ... But they are iconic!
Nobody knows the meaning or benefit of the Nine standards. They are still cult!
May 26, 2016
We tried the ‘easy hike’ highlighted here on Kamoot. I can’t stress enough how inaccurate this hike is, and misleading. It is not an ‘easy hike’, because if you follow the trail provided you’ll spend 50% of your time mucking through marsh land. The area is badly sign posted; we saw one for the coast to coast, and nothing more. This ‘easy’ hike is for intermediates with some experience, definitely not children. We would never have gone had we known what to expect! Having said that, if you can safely climb another way, it is worth it for the view.
August 24, 2021
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