Walking in the Howgill Fells

If you enjoy quiet walks in the hills, away from the sort of crowds you get in the Lake District, but still want to achieve high and remote walks, then you should consider the Howgill Fells.

These are the rolling green giants you see to your right as you speed along the M6, northwards between J37 and J38 – I’ve been admiring these hills for as long as I’ve been driving that motorway, which is almost 30 years. Originally it was disconnected admiration, just the respect of a beautiful landscape, often wreathed in cloud or dusted with snow, in their brown winter drab or their gorgeous green summer coats.

The Howgill Fells

From the car you can see paths climbing the hills, heading into the interior of the district, sprinkled with the little white dots of sheep, or the much fewer black dots of the elusive fell ponies which wander the grass-covered slopes.

Unlike many of the Lake District slopes, the Howgills are pretty much clear of bracken, which makes for open hills and open access to almost any slope you like. Some are far too steep to climb of course, one or two are far too craggy and dangerous, but there is a lot of free walking to be done here.

Part of the range falls inside the Yorkshire Dales National Park, but the majority of the area spills out to the north and is mostly ignored because of this I think. The area is bounded to the south and the east by the A683 Sedbergh to Kirkby Stephen road and to the west by a little minor lane call Howgill Lane, part of which is an old Roman Road. To the north the A685 makes a logical border, from the M6 junction to about Ravenstonedale. Inside this is some of the best grassland walking in England.

Looking down into Carlin Gill

The Landscape

As I’ve already said, the Howgills are mostly green and grassy. They are also almost completely free of boundary walls. These features add to the feeling of wildness and remoteness that I get when I walk these fells.

A wintery Yarlside

If you’re used to walking in the Lake District you will also notice the absence of summit shelters and the typical large cairns that you find in that populous hill range. Stones are few and far between on the Howgills and if a summit has a cairn (especially a large one) you can bet the building materials have been dragged from far and wide to make it.

The relative lack of walkers means that even though the fells are grassy and often wet, they don’t suffer unduly from erosion. You’re going to get your feet wet at times, for sure, but you don’t find the preponderance of bogs that you sometimes come across in the Dales and Lakes.

The region, although mostly comprised of rolling green hills, has a surprisingly diverse landscape, once you begin to explore. There are several very impressive waterfalls, lovely hidden valleys with rocky beck-side paths, a few towering crags and an abundance of high, lofty and airy paths.

The hugely impressive Cautley Spout

The Fells

There are 19 recognised fells inside the border I specified above and by recognised I mean they are contained within the UK Hill Walking Register. There are 2 Marilyns, 5 Hewitts and 7 Nuttalls, as well as a number of Deweys and HuMPs.

  1. Arant Haw
  2. Bram Rigg Top (Nutt)
  3. Bush Howe (Nutt)
  4. Calders (Hew, Nutt)
  5. Fell Head (Hew, Nutt)
  6. Green Bell (Trig)
  7. Hand Lake
  8. Harter Fell
  9. Hazelgill Knott
  10. Hooksey
  11. Kensgriff
  12. Linghaw
  13. Randygill Top (Hew, Nutt)
  14. Simon’s Seat
  15. The Calf (Trig, Mar, Hew, Nutt)
  16. Uldale Head
  17. Wandale Hill
  18. West Fell
  19. Yarlside (Mar, Hew, Nutt)

The highest point is found on The Calf, often windy and inhospitable with just one face of the trig point for shelter if the weather is bad, but the views can be astonishing when the weather is clear; Pillar, over 30 miles, away can be seen and Pen-y-Ghent in the Dales, almost 20 miles distant.

A misty fellside path

Trig Points

For the trig-baggers amongst us, there are four Ordnance Survey Triangulation Pillars to be found in the Howgills.

  1. TP3475 – Green Bell
  2. TP4812 – Middleton
  3. TP6361 – The Calf
  4. TP6962 – Winder Hill

Parking

I have heard some people raise doubts about the lack of available car parking for reaching parts of the Howgills, but I must say I’ve never had a problem finding places to safely leave the car and I’ve now visited all points in the region. I will identify the places I’ve used in the past, with the hills that can be gained from them, below.

1. Howgill Lane, beside the church (SD 63395 95032). There is room for about three or four cars here, just inside the gate off Howgill Lane. This gives good access to the ring of fells around The Calf, including; Linghaw, Fell Head, Bush Howe, The Calf, Bram Rigg Top, Calders, Arant Haw and the trig point on Winder. See this walk for a route

Parking by the church in Howgill Lane

2. Carlingill Bridge (SD 62417 99560). Again, room for maybe three or four cars, using laybys on the minor lane Fairmile Road. This provides access to the north western most fells; Linghaw, Uldale Head, Hand Lake, Simon’s Seat, Fell Head and the trig point at Middleton. It also gives access to Carlin Gill and the waterfalls of Black Force and The Spout.

3. Newbiggin-on-Lune (NY 70452 05232). There are several spots to park along the main street of the village and this gives reasonable access to the northern section of the Howgills either along the rising ridges or through the valleys of Weasdale or Bowderdale. Use this starting point for fells such as Green Bell, West Fell, Hooksey and even Randygill Top, Kensgriff and Yarlside.

4. Cross Keys A683 (SD 69837 96950). There are several road side spaces, just next to the pub on the A683 main road. If you’re using the pub, you can use their car park of course. This gives access to Cautley Spout, a very fine waterfall and also some of the fells already mentioned; The Calf, Bram Rigg Top, Calders and Yarlside being the obvious ones.

5. Handley’s Bridge A683 (SD 70477 97505). Again, road side parking and room for a small number of cars, giving access to Wandale Hill and Harter Fell.

6. Sedbergh. If you prefer a more organised car park, with toilet facilities, then Sedbergh is a good choice. This is right at the south of the region though and access to fells is limited, unless you’re doing a multi-day walk. Arant Haw and The Calf are the usual destinations from Sedbergh.

Parking at Handley’s Bridge

Walks

I’ve got eight walks to share for the Howgills and you can access them using this link:

All my Howgill Fells walks

The only fell these walks don’t visit is Hooksey, which can be most easily visited by including on any walk that goes to Green Bell or Randygill Top.

You can also find a series of excellent walks from Mike Knipe, on the Doodlecat website here:
http://www.doodlecat.com/howgills/index.html

lonewalker

Fell-walker, trig-pointer, peak-bagger, Wainwright-er & Pennine Way author, with a passion for long paths, malt whisky, fast cars & Man City

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9 Responses

  1. Ray Greenhow says:

    A good read & I’ve accessed it for car parks. Thanks for the tips & it will make a change for me forever tramping Lakeland.

  2. Paul says:

    Really good piece, i recently returned from walking in the Howgills, and despite the cold weather the scenery was breathtaking. There are such a variety of walks to choose from too. We used Sedbergh as a base for the walks, its a lovely quiet little town. We spent a couple of nights in the Bull hotel which was ideal for in terms of comfort and affordability. Will definatly retuen to the area and do a few more of the walks listed on here!!

    • lonewalker says:

      Paul

      They are something of a hidden gem aren’t they! Although mostly green and rolling from a distance there is a diversity of landscape that makes them well worth exploring.

      If you do walk some of ‘my’ routes, please let me know how you got on 🙂

      Cheers

  3. canukwalker says:

    The Howgills are real gems and often seem overlooked. Thanks!

    One small addition in terms of long distance walking. The last day of the 90-mile A Dales High Way finishes in grand style with a glorious ridge walk on the Fells. For those who can afford the 6/7 days lead-up to the Howgills on the Dales High Way, I can think of no better way to experience them. Simply sublime.

    • lonewalker says:

      Hi Tim, great to hear from you.
      I love the Howgills because of their emptiness and vast expanses of open space.
      I’ve not done the DHW yet, but its on my list, also on my list is a 2-day wander around the tops and valleys, backpacking for maximum flexibility.
      But first I have to finish the bloody Wainwrights 🙂
      Pennine Way again next year for me I think

      • canukwalker says:

        Stuart, Always terrific to read what Lonewalker has been up to and what plans are in the making. Must say the wild camping idea on the Fells sounds brilliant (and a great way to prepare for the NW of Scotland on your End to End?).

        PW eh. It always beckons and remains our backup for a 2-3 weak walk in April/early May of 2013. Currently leaning towards a Scotland coast-to-coast walk, roughly based on Hamish Brown’s walk of a few decades ago. Have posted a message on the Walking Places forum to see what others think.

  4. MARK TUZYLAK says:

    Thanks For This Piece. I Recently Visited The Howgill Fells To Reach The Calf Summit & Winder Hill For Its Trig Pillar & Have Visited Areas Around Sedbergh Half A Dozen Times Lately… Its Nice To See A Tick List Of Summits & Trigs And You Have Posted Some Lovely Photos. I Will Visit Again Of Course…

    • lonewalker says:

      Thanks Mark, only four trigs make this area a bit thin pickings for you I guess 🙂
      You could probably do Middleton and Green Bell in one long day.
      If you fancy a wander there let me know – I may be persuaded to leave the Wainwrights for a day 🙂

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