Weekend walk: Cautley


with Bob Clare of www.lancashirewalks.com

Readers will be reassured to know that the walks published here have been thoroughly tested before they are submitted to the editor. If when checking out a route we stray from the intended path, find ourselves on private property or having to climb a wall then that walk ends up in the recycling bin. The walk described below is an exception. Malcolm had led our party of eight over Kensgriff a less visited fell in the eastern Howgills and down to the saddle before Yarlside. Overnight snow covered its precipitous flanks and being unequipped for snow and ice we were reluctant to test the slopes. (It’s an age thing being happily retired we would like things to stay that way!) Malcolm briefed us on our options. The quickest and dullest way was to go left on a path taking us along the spur of Yarlside back to Narthwaite. The longer detour was to go into Bowderdale thereby circling Yarlside – this added about a mile to our walk. It turned out to be a happy accident so much so I offer it here for readers to consider. I hope you enjoy the route as much as we did.



Walk Facts

Start: Lay-by 50yds to the east of the Cross Keys Inn on A683 Sedbergh – Kirkby Stephen Road LA10 5NE

Distance: 6 miles

Time: 3 – 4 hours

Grade: Strenuous

Maps: OS OL Howgill Fells & Upper Eden Valley


1. Take a footpath signposted in the direction of Cautley Spout that drops down to a footbridge crossing the River Rawthey. In 100yds turn right onto a path that contours below Ben End (a spur of Yarlside) and drops to cross Backside Beck. On the far side a track climbs up to the farmstead of Narthwaite. After entering the yard take a track leading left out into fields. Near a junction of walls bear left to follow a green lane into the impressive valley created by Backside Beck. Go through a metal gate and with a wall on the left keep ahead for 1¼ miles. After passing the ruined farmhouse of Mountain View down in the valley continue to reach open moorland. Pass an enclosure for young trees (young at the time of writing) and at its corner turn left off the track and without benefit of a path descend to the valley bottom and Backside Beck.

2. It is safe to assume that Backside Beck derives its name from geographical terminology rather than anatomical. This back of the beyond location gives an unexpected view of a waterfall to the north-east unnamed on the OS map. Still without the benefit of a defined path the idea now is to ascend Kensgriff. Off path walking is not ideal and in many other upland areas problematic but in the Howgills not too irksome or I wouldn’t be describing it here. Walking becomes easier once on the summit ridge and something of a path takes you to the collection of stones marking the highest point. (574m or 1864ft). Ahead looms Yarlside and there is a path over it – a well-worn one that traverses the steep sided flanks of the fell. After bagging the summit head south-westwards to reach Bowderdale Head. When we checked out the route before Easter there was a fair amount of snow on the face of the fell and discretion being the better part of valour we improvised the alternative described below which circumvents the fell entirely. I commend it here for two merits which I will explain as I come to them. From the saddle between Kensgriff and Yarlside go right once more off a path dropping gently alongside Little Randy Gill to its confluence with Great Randy Gill. As you round the northern tip of Yarlside you enter Bowderdale.

3. Here’s merit number one – escape! In reality you may not be all that far from “the madding crowd” but in this location it will seem like it. Even though we live in one of the most densely populated countries in the world it is easy to get away from “ignoble strife” and drink in silence. After finding a way across Bowderdale Beck turn left on a path leading to the head of the valley. After half a mile close to where Ram’s Gill crosses the path switch sides of the valley. A large cairn marks the spot. The path is less defined than the one you left but it is still a path and it will bring you to Bowderdale Head. Merit number two -the view which because of the approach has been withheld until the moment you arrive at the spot. To the right England’s highest waterfall – Cautley Spout tumbles down a cliff face into the valley 650ft below. The path that descends to the valley is an easy one as is the route back to the car park and the madding crowd.

Walk devised by Malcolm McCulloch.

Bob’s walks are now available as digital guides on the iFootpath website and App (see iFootpath.com)