Orton Fells, Howgills and Wild Boar Fell Walking

by Dan Bailey - Nov/2011
This route has been read 4,096 times

Taking in three areas that have been added in 2016 (at long last!) to the greatly expanded Yorkshire Dales National Park, this long circuit of the upper Lune Valley watershed gives an excellent weekend's backpacking off the beaten track. Each of the three hill stages has its own distinct character - the extensive limestone pavements of the little-known Orton Fells; the bulging grassy slopes and secretive dales of the northern Howgills, and the impressive escarpment of plateau-topped Wild Boar Fell.

In the northern Howgills, 159 kb
In the northern Howgills
Fetching Map

Detailed description

NY7222904171 Follow the road north through the village. Go right at a junction then shortly left onto a footpath. Cross the A685 and continue north on the path into the little valley of Smardale Gill, a National Nature Reserve that's also got interesting industrial revolution relics. Cross a bridge over the beck, then before reaching the large viaduct marked on the map, cut left on a path over Begin Hill. Path-free ground leads over a grassy shoulder of Crosby Garrett Fell to meet a path west along a shallow valley, leading to a house at Fell Head. Now take the minor road to a junction at Middle Busk. Going off-road again, follow the edge of the high ground roughly west - a drystone wall is a useful guide. There are surprisingly extensive limestone pavements, and wide open views of the Howgills and North Pennines. Reach the trig pillar at the high point of Great Asby Scar, spot height 412m.

NY6469109197 Descend west over open pasture to join a path which heads to the road between the villages of Orton and Raisbeck. Follow a network of little roads and paths (some choice of route)to Gaisgill on the A685. Cross the road to reach the neighbouring hamlet of Longdale.

NY6445205149 The Howgills send out several long ridges and valleys to the north, each providing a possible route into the interior of the range. This is as good as any: From Longdale an old track climbs south onto the boggy lower slopes of the hills. On the map the route soon terminates but on the ground it is obvious a good way further. Stay with the high ground to climb over the summit of Langdale Knott. From the saddle beyond, continue up grassy slopes to gain the steep-sided, round-topped north ridge of The Calf at West Fell. Head south along the crest (clear track) over an ascending series of grassy domed summits terminating at The Calf, the sprawling high point at the heart of the Howgills.

North Pennines from the Howgills, 143 kb
North Pennines from the Howgills
© Dan Bailey -, Mar 2010

SD6672197008 From the trig point backtrack briefly east-northeast to drop into the secretive little valley of Swere Gill. A clear path follows the stream, descending past the impressive waterfall of Cautley Spout (England’s highest, above ground) to reach the sheltered pastures of the valley below. On meeting the River Rawthey go left briefly to a bridge leading to the A683 and the Cross Keys (a temperance inn – no booze, sadly).

SD6974096665 Walk south on the road for a short while, very soon cutting left onto a footpath which climbs through fields to meet a farm track at right angles. Go left on this, traversing around the hillside into the upper valley of the Rawthey. Cross the stream via a bridge in a wooded hollow, then pass Needle House. Turn right off the lane beyond to enter the secluded mini ravine of Needlehouse Gill (not named on all mapping); there's no path, but you might spot the odd cave. Where the gill splits take the right fork, following it upstream onto the broad saddle between Swarth Fell and Wild Boar Fell. Go left (north-ish) for the fairly gentle climb onto Wild boar Fell's extensive summit plateau - an exposed-feeling place in foul weather. The summit trig point and wind break are located near the plateau’s north edge.

Wild Boar Fell - worthy of National Park status?, 164 kb
Wild Boar Fell - worthy of National Park status?
© Dan Bailey

SD7580198787 Head roughly east to meet the plateau escarpment overlooking Mallerstang Valley - a surprisingly spectacular spot. Follow the edge to descend the obvious north ridge, The Nab. Soon reach a well-used footpath which cuts across the ridge. go left onto this to descend roughly east-northeast to the farmland of the upper Lune valley. Once back in civilisation there's a choice of paths or a minor road leading to the A683. Go right on this, and at a corner by a pub take the quiet minor road back into Ravenstonedale.

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This route has been read 4,096 times