Stoupdale Head and White Combe Walking

This short walk in the little-visited south-western corner of the Lake District is easy to reach as it starts from the A595. It follows Whitecombe Beck up the steep-sided, tranquil, green valley where views improve with every step. From the lonely summit of Stoupdale Head, a wander across the rugged Whitecombe Moss plateau is followed by a smooth descent, broken only by a detour to the stylishly sharp ridge of White Hall Knott. The larger neighbouring hill, Black Combe, stands to the west and blocks views of the nearby Irish Sea, but the endless golden Duddon Sands can be seen stretching away to the south.

Looking south to the Duddon Sands from the cairn on White Combe  © Chris Scaife
Looking south to the Duddon Sands from the cairn on White Combe
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Detailed description

SD1527084685 Set off north up the lane past Ralliss, with a stream to the left and fields to the right. At Whicham Mill, there is a small bridge and a ford, but stay on the track, keeping the stream to the left. As the trees beside the stream come to an end, a gate/stile leads on to the open moor.

SD1518485261 Follow the obvious track up the valley, soon crossing the stream via a wooden footbridge. On both sides the slopes are steep and covered in bracken, with a few rocks here and there higher up. Shortly after passing the site of a disused copper mine, where a stream flows down from the eastern slope, Whitecombe Screes at the head of the valley comes into view.
Heading up the valley towards Whitecombe Head  © Chris Scaife
Heading up the valley towards Whitecombe Head
© Chris Scaife

SD1491186191 Having walked below the jagged rocks of Horse Back, cross the stream via a footbridge - or optional ford if you prefer - and head up to a sharp left-hand bend. Continue uphill on a steady gradient, with a zigzag before Whitecombe Head is reached. The most obvious path at the head of the valley curves left towards Black Combe, but continue north along a faint path, which soon works its way to the right and leads to the highest point. Although the valley was steep-sided, this summit area is really quite flat, with cotton grass, patches of heather and bilberry, and skylarks flying overhead.

SD1515587368 A small white cairn marks the summit of Stoupdale Head. There is a faint path to White Combe from here, but if in doubt just head south across the open moorland and aim for the cairn. From a distance, this looks like a pile of rocks that have been thrown about the place with reckless abandon, but on arrival you'll see that it is a two-chambered stone shelter. A faint path south-east from the cairn soon turns into a steep descent towards the col to the left of White Hall Knott - a steep green slope leading up to a knife-edge. This ridge is of a different character to the rest of the walk and is a worthwhile detour, with its rocky, gorse-strewn southern slope looking down upon Whicham Valley.

SD1554585601 Return along the ridge to the col and join the path heading downhill to the right. After passing through a gate beside a disused pit, turn right along a short section of green lane (not even enough trees to be shown on the OS map) heading down towards the road. Turning left just before the road allows you to walk along the edge of the field to Fox and Goose Cottages, then cross the road and follow the waymarked public footpath back to Beckside.

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