North Pennine Watershed Walking

This superb long walk treads the high ground from Hartside Pass to Dufton, following the edge of the North Pennine escarpment with views out over the Eden Valley to the Lakeland skyline. To the east the ground rolls into the empty bogs at the heart of the range, the largest expanse of wild land in England. Highlights of the day include Cross Fell, the biggest English hill outside the Lake District, and High Cup, a geological marvel on an epic scale. Look out, there's bogs about - gaiters are a must. For more info on the North Pennines see this UKH article:

On the north side of Cross Fell  © Dan Bailey -
On the north side of Cross Fell
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Detailed description

NY6464941814 From the cafe on Hartside pass climb easily onto Fiend's Fell. Then follow the high ground up the broad spur of Little Knapside Hill to Melmerby Fell, the day's first proper summit.

NY6523738026 Head roughly southeast to cross the Roman road of Maiden Way, then stick with the high ground on Stony Rigg and Green Fell - underfoot there's some rocky ground and plenty of bogs. Traces of path are occasional at best, and there is a plethora of misleading cairns scattered around - most probably relics from the days these hills were mined. The squat summit dome of Cross Fell is a useful guide - if you can see it. On the shoulder below Cross Fell turn left onto a well-trodden trail, then right onto the Pennine Way for a short steep climb through the spongy springs of Crossfell Well. The summit trig point and wind break are located on the high point of a wide and featureless plateau that needs some care in mist.

NY6875934305 Stay with the Pennine Way to descend past occasional man-sized cairns to the col of Tees Head (no prizes for guessing which river is born here; the Tyne also has its origin in this range). Enter the Moor House – Upper Teesdale National Nature Reserve, Britain’s largest terrestrial NNR and a habitat of European importance. The Pennine Way's sandstone flags give dry going onto the dome of Little Dunn Fell. From the next col climb the slightly higher Great Dun Fell - you can't miss the surreal giant golfball radar station on the summit, which is served by the highest tarmac road in Britain (great on a bike ...going down at least). Either take the access road or the Pennine Way to the next saddle. From here the road makes a dive for the Eden Valley; so keep on the Pennine Way to climb onto Knock Fell.

NY7214330255 Here the Pennine Way also makes a dash for the valley, and if you're running out of daylight or don't fancy the challenging leg to come then this is your quickest route down to Dufton. However if adventure is your middle name and you're curious to see just how bad a Pennine bog can get then stick with the high ground: Any pretence at a path soon vanishes in a chaos of pools and peat hags. This is tough stuff, especially in poor weather. Pass just west of Great Rundale Tarn (where there’s a basic shelter for emergencies) and climb to the summit of Backstone Edge (if you can find it). Keep walking on water past Seamore Tarn, Little Rundale Tarn, and others, to finally reach a cairn on Narrowgate Beacon at the edge of a steep slope overlooking the strikingly symmetrical glacial scoop of High Cup. Err left in descent onto the level grassy ground on the edge of High Cup's crumbly dolerite cliffs. 

NY7419026125 It will be a relief to know that you're now reunited with the Pennine Way. This gives an easy descent along the northern rim of High Cup, then passes through the hummocks of an old quarry to join a stony farm track heading down towards Dufton. The pub on the village green is nice.

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