Dove Crag via the Dovedale Valley

8th October 2017

It's been an extremely busy fortnight in between work and house moving duties and I think I've just approached that time to down tools and clear my head. Since around midweek I was wondering where to walk which just goes to show how full my head is with other stuff because this usually comes easy put togeather with the weather watching which predicted that the east of the park would be the brightest.

It was around about midweek when I remembered receiving an email from Brenda who hosts, a few weeks earlier Brenda and her husband John had just walked Dove Crag via the Dovedale valley and had recommended the walk to me despite the damp conditions underfoot that day which then got me thinking 'you know what' that sounds like a corker of a walk and would fit in with my busy schedule with a relatively low mileage of around seven miles but within that distance I would get to take in the wonderful Dovedale valley and maybe also include a long awaited visit to the Priest Hole.

Despite very similar conditions underfoot as Brenda and John had todays walk ranks highly amongst the best five walks of the year, here's how I got on.

Wainwright Guide Book One
The Eastern Fells

-Dove Crag

Here, in small compass, is a tangle of rough country, a maze of steep cliffs, gloomy hollows and curious foothills, gnarled like the knuckles of a clenched fist.


Ascent: 2,583 Feet - 787 Metres
Wainwrights: 3, Dove Crag - Little Hart Crag - High Hartsop Dodd
Weather: A Cloudy Start Turning Brighter Towards The Afternoon. Highs of 15°C Lows of 10°C
Parking: Car Park, Cow Bridge, Near Hartsop
Area: Eastern
Miles: 7
Walking With: On My Own
Ordnance Survey: OL5
Time Taken: 4 Hours 35 Minutes
Route: Cow Bridge - Brothers Water - Hartsop Hall - Dovedale - Houndshope Cove - Priest Hole - Dove Crag - High Bakestones - Bakestones Moss - Little Hart Crag - High Hartsop Dodd - Hartsop Hall - Brothers Water - Cow Bridge

Parking Details and Map
Nearest Post Code: CA11 0NZ
Grid Reference: NY 402 813
Notes: Found between Hartsop and Patterdale Cow Bridge car park is split into two by Goldrill Beck and is owned by the National Trust. The car park gives easy accses to Brothers Water the hamlet and Hartsop and of course a varity of eastern fells and valleys. Parking is free for National Trust Members but charges apply for non members.


Map and Photo Gallery


Hartsop Dodd, Rough Edge and Caudale Moor from Brothers Water 08:10am 10°C

I guess I'm still getting used to driving to Lakeland before sunrise which in time I'll get used too but for those first few weeks when your alarm goes off and it's still dark outside you kinda need that nudge to get out of bed. It must have been by the time I reached the Lancaster turn off before I noticed the sunrise but with so much cloud cover any light struggled to break though but at least the cloud was high which left me feeling optimistic about what I would find once I reached Lakeland. Little droplets of rain were hitting the windscreen as I drove by Kentmere and I could see in the distance that any low cloud was starting to lift from the Coniston and Langdale fells but I would have to wait until I descended Kirkstone Pass before I could see into Dovedale and indeed Dove Crag. By the time I reached the bottom of the pass I was unable to see into Dovedale valley purely because I had to keep my eyes on the road which meant I would have to wait until the last minute to see if todays intended summits are above or below the cloud, but I guess that doesn't matter, I've had a week away and I'm raring to go.

I pulled into the car park at Cow Bridge and tucked the front end of the car facing Goldrill Beck, two other cars looked like they had been there all night, both had parked side on taking the space of four cars, there's no point in hiding it, this really annoys me. The rain had eased away but it was still pretty damp underfoot and the sound of a pretty full Goldrill Beck filled my ears as I kitted up. I'm not sure if we have many 'shorts' days left but I reckon today would have been one of them had I have known how warm it was about to turn out but for now I'll follow the forecasters advice and wear long trousers just in case I'm caught out in any showers. With my car locked I pass through the gate and head towards Brothers Water before dropping down towards the shoreline, even in the low light the surface of the water was so still and I spent a few moments drawing in the morning air while taking in the wonderful views.

Brock Crags, The Knott, Gray Crag and Hartsop Dodd reflecting over Brothers Water.
The leaves are still holding onto their Summer colours but it won't be for long.

Middle Dodd and High Hartsop Dodd from Dovedale.
It was difficult to pull myself away from Brothers Water but I managed it in the end. Despite the trees still holding onto their foliage the track along Brothers Water was littered with leaves which had more than likely been washed down the fell side on the other side of the track. Up ahead is Hartsop Hall which I reach within no time. There's still a few tents pitched in the opposite field at Sykeside with just the odd motorhome too but nothing like it was when I was last here during Summer when all I could smell was the waft of bacon and sausages being cooked on open grills, nope nowt like that at all this morning. I pass through Hartsop Hall and keep right where views of High Hartsop Dodd and Middle Dodd command my view. The bracken had all but shed its colour on High Hartsop Dodd north east ridge with only the leaves from the trees to follow.

The Stangs, Dove Crag and Hart Crag from Dovedale.
I was completely aware of how much rain had fallen the previous day the thought of which occupied my mind after reading Brenda's report on how boggy hers and John's walk was underfoot, that was until I got my first real view of Dove Crag which kinda stirred the butterflies in my stomach, not only do I have a fantastic, albeit steep climb ahead but it's also clear too.

Dove Crag, The Stangs, Stang Crags, Hunsett Cove and Houndshope Cove from Dovedale.
The walk along the valley floor has been as pleasant as you could hope for with a wide track to follow all the while the sound of a distant Dovedale Beck is drawing nearer and nearer. It's from here I am able to pick out the path (or most of it) which first sweeps steadily to the right of the forestry in the lower foreground before the steep ascent really begins just below Dove Crag, would you believe there's quite a bit of level walking up there too, I guess I'm gonna need it.

Dove Crag seen towering directly above Hunsett Cove.
After crossing Dovedale Beck for the first time back at the valley floor the steady ascent began alongside Dovedale Beck where at times I had no option than to give the path a wide berth if only to avoid the bogs and standing water. Nearby the sound of Dovedale Falls began to dominate my ascent and remained to do so for the duration until I reached a stone wall which ran across the fell side horizontally (see previous photo) it was here, or not long after I would cross Dovedale Beck for the second time via a new wooden bridge, its nails still as shiny as if they had been nailed in yesterday. Here I studied the path mainly because the path that I was to continue on was flowing with water and I could see another path on the other side of the beck which must lead directly into Hunsett Cove, I consult my map and confirm that I keep to the right of the beck even it means walking through flowing water, up ahead the path emerges while on the flank of The Stangs, with Dove Crag and the last push towards its summit.

Dove Crag and Hunsett Cove.
The path climbs steeply to the right shoulder of Dove Crag via a rocky gully seen further right. Those with a keen eye maybe able to spot the Priest Hole in this photo.

Dove Crag above Hunsett Cove.
The new wooden bridge was always in sight behind me and at times it didn't seem to be getting any further away. Two sheep accompanied part of my ascent who just nipped on up ahead until I was within five or six feet away and repeated until they too reached the base of the gully before they disappeared through the bracken and watched as I walked by. I couldn't but help compare my surroundings to those when I was last in Pillar Cove beneath Pillar Rock, there too I was surrounded by flowing water and the dominance of huge rock cliffs above my head, Dove Crag felt very similar and just as appetising.

The vertical cliffs of Dove Crag from Hunsett Cove.

Looking down on Dovedale and Hartsop above How from the Priest Hole, Dove Crag.
The steep pitched staircase path was right up my street and I thoroughly enjoyed the ascent even if it meant a few breathers during which I spotted two walkers emerging from the Priest Hole now directly above my head, they soon disappeared and I wondered their route until I spotted them descending the gully and our paths soon crossed, it was obvious from their kit that they had spent the night at the Priest Hole, they confirmed this and added that their ascent yesterday was awful given how wet it was and that they had company in the cave up until 6:30pm before being left alone for the night. It was cloudy when they woke and they had missed out on the sunrise due to the cloud cover "you heading for the cave" they asked aye I said, a quick visit before the summit, we smiled and bid each other 'enjoy the rest of your day'

The Priest Hole, Dove Crag.
I watched the couple slowly make their descent back into Dovedale, made slower by the greasy rock underfoot which at times caught me out during my own ascent. I had remembered during my last ascent of the Priest Hole with Tim a few years ago the odd scrambly bit and this was playing on my mind mainly because the rock was so wet and greasy. On reaching the top of the gully I could just about make out the roof of the cave and plotted a safe route up and soon joined the last part of the terrace path towards the cave entrance.

Hartsop above How, Birks, Place Fell, Boredale Hause, Angletarn Pikes and Brock Crags from the Priest Hole, Dove Crag.
Despite chatting to the couple earlier I was unsure if I'd find anyone else here but on arrival I found I had the cave to myself by which time the sun was beaming down which I had completely missed due to being occupied in ascent.

You can't leave without leaving an entry in the visitor book.
The cave was just as I had remembered, tidier even with no litter just a thin plastic mat on the cave floor which appears to be some type of base sheet. In the cave I found three visitor books alongside a large box of matches wrapped up inside a see-through plastic bag, all three books were damp so I grabbed the largest and driest of the books, turned to an empty page and set about writing my thoughts down.


Dovedale, The Stangs, Place Fell, Angletarn Pikes and Hartsop above How from the Priest Hole, Dove Crag.

Hart Crag and St Sunday Crag from the col between Dove Crag and Hart Crag.

I left the Priest Hole and followed the precarious terrace path back to the col, it was while walking back along the terrace path did I remember the many vertical rocks that had to be negotiated since my previous visit, these can be avoided easily by descending back to the path at the top of the rock gully but the stubborn in me told me that direct was best and so the terrace path, despite its obstacles won.

Fairfield and Hart Crag from the col.

I must admit the feeling of elation was beginning to dawn all over me, partly because of Dovedale and the Priest Hole but mostly because of the sudden amount of light and heat I was now feeling, this was not forecast, and therefore I shall reach for the sunglasses while I can.

It seems like months since I last stood under a warm sun like this, I needed this right now more than anyone would know. The pressures of work and moving house just lifted off me in an instant, you can't bottle this, but it is a remedy.

Dove Crag summit.
I remained at the col and continued to soak it all in, sitting down between a gap in the wall I watched walkers approach Fairfield from Great Rigg, I could have easily strode out onto Hart Crag but instead I sat there and took in the silence.

Looking back on Dove Crag.

From the col I peeled myself from the wall and started the short climb to Dove Crag summit where I had expected to see walkers but found that pleasantly, I had the summit to myself. I'm not one to sit down at summits, it just isn't me but today I did just that, only for a few more moments whilst over looking the High Street fells and to the south, the Coniston and Langdale groups, all cloud free, this was not meant to happen, what a day this is turning out to be.

I left the summit and strode out following the stone wall for a short while, then descended east towards the cairn at High Bakestones, it was here I am passed by two fellows who wave from the path "never expected this" they said, aye, I smiled, me either.

Little Hart Crag and High Hartsop Dodd seen over Bakestones Moss from High Bakestones Cairn.
"It is more than a cairn. It is a work of art, and a lasting memorial to its builder" A.W

Little Hart Crag and High Hartsop Dodd seen over Bakestones Moss.
My plan is to descend from the cairn to the craggy outcrops of rock seen in the centre of Bakestones Moss, from where I'll be able to pick up the path (seen centre left to upper right) before the short ascent onto Little Hart Crag, but before that I must pick myself down onto Bakestones Moss which is trickier that it looks due to the scree and boulder underfoot.

Little Hart Crag is just ahead.

Given the amount of rain that had previously fallen I had expected to be ankle deep whilst crossing Bakestones Moss, especially my 'off the path' route but I was pleasantly surprised to find I made it across without so much as getting my laces wet.

Okay, I think it's definetly time to de-layer so off came the windproof and up went the sleeves.

The commanding view over Black Brow towards Dove Crag, Stang Crags, Hartsop above How and St Sunday Crag from Little Hart Crag.
By the time I reached the summit of Little Hart Crag the cloud overhead was beginning to thicken and I was wondering was all this bright sunshine about to come to an end, well not quite but it was starting to get sporadic.

Dove Crag seen over Stangs enjoying a spell of sunlight.

Looking down on Brothers Water, Place Fell, Angletarn Pikes and Brock Crags from High Hartsop Dodd.
The light continued to fade during the crossing of the High Hartsop Dodd ridge with only the odd bright spell illuminating the surrounding fell side and by now even the summits of Helvellyn and Catstye Cam had succumbed to cloud, so much so I didn't bother to take a photo from the summit cairn, but that all changed by the time I reached the top of the north east ridge where I was met by brilliant warm sunlight.

The view over Kirkstone Pass towards Hartsop Dodd and Caudale Beck.
It was during the descent did I pass a solo woman not far from the shoulder of the summit soon followed by a fellow with his son in tow, all short of breath and taking the ascent in their stride, me I had a bit of a spring in my step probably brought on by all this great sunshine.


Dove Crag, Stand Crags and Hart Crag from Dovedale.

Fabulous views into the Dovedale Valley.
More walkers are passed during those last few hundred feet of descent all of whom in great spirits before passing by the old barn at the foot of High Hartsop Dodd north east ridge, once through the barn I stride through open farmland towards Hartsop Hall passing dozing cattle who don't even batter an eyelid as I pass by. My view into Dovedale valley is the most striking of the day and far below Dove Crag, I spot movement but I can only make out the colours of the walkers jackets.

And to finish back where I started, a view over Brothers Water towards Hartsop Dodd, Rough Edge and Caudale Moor.

The path alongside Brothers Water was quite busy as I started to reflect on what a great morning I had spent on the hill and I was particularly looking forward to closing my walk with lunch besides Goldrill Beck, but first, a re-visit back to Brothers Water which by now is just as busy as the path alongside it with children playing and dogs fetching sticks. By now the midday sun beats down and glimmers over the waters surface and it feels like mother nature is in her own way apologising for the Summer we never really had.
Please click on the banner to take you to Brenda and Johns fantastic wainwrightwalking website.


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