LOOKING like a herd of sleeping elephants (according to Mr Wainwright) the Howgill hills are large and rounded, writes JOHN EDMONDSON. This challenging walk visits six of their summits. It’s a linear walk from Cautley to Sedbergh and makes use of the Western Dales Community bus service. The walk begins with a steep climb to the summit of Yarlside but after that it is relatively easy going.

From May to September the bus to Cautley goes from the Dalesman Country Inn, Sedbergh at 11.15am on Sundays and 9.45am on Fridays. The walk starts from the Cross Keys Inn at Cautley (grid reference SD 698 969, postcode LA10 5NE).


Distance: 9 miles and 3,000 feet of ascent

Time: 5 hours

Terrain: grassy fell paths starting with steep slopes

Map: OS Explorer OL19


1 Situated at the base of Cautley Spout, the Cross Keys is a 16th Century building that was originally a farmhouse known as High Haygarth until the early 1800s when it became the Cross Keys. In 1902 the liquor licence was removed so it became a temperance inn and in 1949 it was left to the National Trust, to be held as an unlicensed inn. From the end of the lay-by next to the inn join the footpath signed Cautley Spout. Descend the steps and cross over the River Rawthey then turn right. Where Narthwaite Farm appears ahead turn left and climb steeply up the shoulder of Ben End. Views of Cautley Spout appear to the left. The name Cautley is derived from cald leah meaning a cold woodland clearing. The Spout is a series of four waterfalls where Red Gill Beck tumbles over the edge of Cautley Crags into a wide glacial corrie. The longest drop measures 250 feet and the total fall is 600 feet. Continue ascending to the top of Yarlside at 2,096 feet.

2 Enjoy splendid views of both the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. Although in Cumbria, the Howgills are part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Continue in the same direction down the ridge, heading towards the U-shape valley of Bowderdale with its meandering beck. Cross the beck and head up to the left along a footpath on the right of the valley. Follow the footpath as it climbs the hillside and bends to the right. A view over the top of Cautley Spout Tongue appears on the left together with a sight of where the walk began. Follow the path as it bends right and then ascend to the summit of The Calf (2,218 feet), the highest point of the walk.

3 Follow the stony track southwards over the top of Calders (2,212 feet) and continue down Rowan Tree Grains. Branch off to the right of the track to visit Arant Haw (1,985 feet). From there, head due south to cross the track then continue to the summit of Crook (1,332 feet).

4 Cut back across the fell and bear left onto the main track to the summit of Winder (1,552 feet). After a final look at fine views of the distant Lake District fells to the west and the hills to the south, make your way back downhill eastwards and join a main footpath. Turn right then follow this path down to Sedbergh.

NB: restrictions on space mean that this article provides a general summary of the route. It is advisable for anyone who plans to follow the walk to take a copy of the relevant Ordnance Survey map.