Stage 5: Sedburgh to Newbiggin-on-Lune – hiking a Dales High Way
Alex Langfield planned a hike.
October 22, 2020
This is a marvellous traverse of the distinctively rounded, yet steep, Howgill Fells. Once up high you can stride out on excellent trails with little in the way of elevation change. Rambling from summit to summit is relatively straightforward, leaving you to enjoy unbeatable views of Lakeland to the west and the Dales to the east. It’s an ideal hike for those new to hillwalking. Unlike other sections of A Dales High Way, there are no villages to stop off at until you reach the end point, so it’s a good idea to stock up on water and snacks in Sedburgh.
To gain the high Howgill plateau, you’ll first stride out north on a good path that ascends parallel to the tumbling Settlebeck Gill, between the twin humps of Winder and Crook. Lurking behind these is the rounded summit of Arant Haw, which you will skirt to the east (although it’s so close that you may want to bag the true summit whilst you’re at it).
About a mile further north is the first official summit of the day – Calders at 2,216 feet (675m). As you reach the cairn, The Calf emerges amongst the rolling, green waves that lie ahead. This is the day’s high point and, at 2,218 feet (676m), is the loftiest ground in the Howgills. As you might tell from its relative elevation, you’ll have little ascent or descent to contend with as you happily wander from summit to summit.
Legendary hillwalking and Lakeland guide writer Alfred Wainwright described the Howgill’s as being like a ‘herd of sleeping elephants’ by virtue of their many humped backs rising to similar heights. You might think this description apt as you traverse along the spine of the main group, marvelling at their velvety folds and the wide panoramas that are only somewhat curtailed by the flatness of the plateau.
After The Calf, solid paths take you along a long, straight ridge that stretches north for almost four miles (6km), rarely dropping below 1,600 feet (490m). The grassy summits of Hazelgill Knott and West Fell are trodden before a descent to Bowderdale Head, where you’ll cross the A685 and the River Lune in quick succession before making your way east to Newbiggin-on-Lune. If you need to connect back to the Carlisle to Settle line, you can get the S5 bus from Newbiggin to Kirkby Stephen, which takes only ten minutes but only runs a few times a day. For more information, check the bus timetable (cumbria.gov.uk/buses/S5).
October 30, 2020