Dovedale is set amongst the Eastern Fells at the foot of Kirkstone Pass and hidden from casual view from the road by High Hartsop Dodd. Folk on the Fairfield Horseshoe have no inkling of the drama just over to the side. Rugged, dark, cliffs have an ominous presence at its head. What stories could the Priest's Hole tell from history - this has to be the Lakes most well known 'secret cave'. The letter box entrance high on the crag has a low wall to keep out the worst of the elements. A box within contains a visitors' book.
The fells surrounding the dale are not the highest or most famous, yet they deserve more of an accolade as the views are stunning. Climbing steeply right from the start the views initially framed by trees, then on a small knoll open out to the village of Hartsop and High Street. Once on the ridge of Hartsop Above How across Deepdale is St Sunday Crag leading to Fairfield. The long ridgeline narrows approaching the summit with the small cairn commanding an airy position. So far the walk is usually very quiet, few people visit these fells. Climbing to Hart Crag you mingle with folk on the Horseshoe. A short descent through boulders and a gentle climb alongside a broken wall brings you to the summit of Dove Crag. Shortly afterwards you leave the route of the Horseshoe to descend to Little Hart Crag. This curious little craggy bump is situated just above Scandale Pass, with excellent views southwards all the way down to the outskirts of Ambleside. Northwards is the gentle descent to High Hartsop Dodd. A small collection of stones marks the accepted summit, being the last bump on the ridge before the descent steepens and above the wall.
The descent of the nose of High Hartsop Dodd has something of a reputation. It's a bit steep. Variously described as horrendous, horrible, and 'blimey that was tough'. We didn't think it was as bad as perhaps suggested. On a dry day it was straightforward, the path often zigzags quite easily with only the way the ground drops away rapidly does it make you feel vulnerable. It seemed to us that this wasn't an awkward descent as others that get barely a mention.
Finishing along the track from Hartsop Hall, Brothers Water is a great place for a paddle - humans and dogs alike!
The walk starts at the Brothers Water car park, beside Cow Bridge at the northern foot of Kirkstone Pass, where there is parking for perhaps a couple of dozen cars split either side of the bridge.
This walk takes you to the top of the following hills: Little Hart Crag, High Hartsop Dodd, Hartsop Above How, Hart Crag, Gale Crag, and Dove Crag; and includes 5 Wainwrights, 6 Birketts, 3 Hewitts, and 3 Nuttalls.
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
Go through the gate beside Cow Bridge to the track to Hartsop Hall. Do not race off along it but immediately bear right onto a narrow path climbing steeply through the bracken and birch coppice. It makes a poor attempt at zigzags. Go through two gates and eventually above the trees the path takes a slightly easier traverse along the fellside whilst still climbing towards the ridgeline.
Follow below the wall for a while then cross at a ladder stile - it has reasonably deep treads but is quite steep. On the other side bear left to continue along the ridgeline path.
The first real bump on the ridge is Gale Crag and then a pleasant walk along Hoggill Brow, before the narrow knotted top of Hartsop above How is reached.
It is thought the summit is a grassy bit before the cleft that splits the summit ridge, but the accepted summit is marked by a small cairn on the far knott.
Continue over the summit of Hartsop above How and down along the ridge as it widens again. Cross a boggy and peat hag strewn depression, and climb again. Beware of bypassing the rocky knotts to the left side and ending up on a narrow path into Houndshope Cove. The view across the cove is to Dove Crag and the Priest's Hole.
Keep left of the ridgeline crags, then bear slightly right to climb a short tongue of easy rocky scree.
Hart Crag now lies only another 100m (110 yards) and slightly left. A large cairn sits on the rocky summit.
Continue bearing left from the summit, descend through the boulder field to reach a broken wall. Follow to the left of the wall remains now heading south east to Dove Crag. Some small puddles in the depression may retain water for a while after rain.
Keep next to the wall and at the top of the gentle climb bear left to the obvious cairn atop rocks. This is Dove Crag summit.
Look to the south east from next to the summit cairn of Dove Crag, the ridge going down from Little Hart Crag to High Hartsop Dodd can be seen below you. A shoulder of ground to your right falls easily down to Bakestones Moss, and then on to the raised bump of Little Hart Crag - this is the key to the way down.
So from the summit cairn on Dove Crag, bear right and continue along the path for 100m (110 yards) or so to a large cairn. Bear away left across largely pathless grass to a good path descending the wide ridge. Old fence posts line the way. At the bottom bear right keeping on the clear path near old fence posts around Bakestone Moss towards Little Hart Crag. After climbing a little, cross the fence and bear left, then right to climb the zigzag path up the near crag.
A small summit cairn sits on the rocky prominence of Little Hart Crag overlooking Scandale to the south.
Continue on the path from Little Hart Crag, down into the gully and then onto the second slightly lower rocky top. Continue again, the path meanders a little then drops down an easy gully onto the grass ridge to High Hartsop Dodd.
The ridge descends gradually, shallow hollows are often boggy, and the path largely avoids the occasional peat hag. It also narrows becoming an fantastic airy promenade. Way below to your right is the Kirkstone road with matchbox cars and vans making their way over the pass. To your left is Dovedale and the ascent ridge of Hartsop above How.
The summit of High Hartsop Dodd is the last bump on the ridge before the wall, and before the path seemingly drops down the abyss. It is marked by a small pile of stones with a superb outlook.
Continue on down the ridge. Go through the gap in the wall, stay on the clear path, and a little later cross the stile. Small dogs may manage to get underneath. Otherwise dogs will have to go over which wasn't too bad as the bar above the top step isn't particularly high. Small rocky steps can be a little awkward as can an occasional slippery gully, but overall the descent passes easily, and rapidly.
Approaching the barn the bracken returns. Pass along the right hand side of the barn going through the gap in the wall to the kissing gate beside the barn. Go through and cross the field keeping to the track. A number of large stones mark the site of an ancient settlement. Cross the bridge, and head towards the barn and buildings. Approaching them bear right to the gate into the area between Hartsop Hall and the barn buildings.
Bear right and then pass the hall to the left and onto the track. Go through a succession of gates to Brothers Water, and back to Cow Bridge to finish this circular walk.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|Rest Dodd and The Nab||0.8km (0.5 miles) away|
|Pasture Beck Round, from Hartsop||0.8km (0.5 miles) away|
|Brock Crags and Angletarn Pikes circular walk from Hartsop||0.8km (0.5 miles) away|
|Around Hayeswater Reservoir||0.8km (0.5 miles) away|
|St Sunday Crag and Grisedale Tarn||2.6km (1.6 miles) away|
|A visit to Place Fell overlooking Ullswater||2.7km (1.6 miles) away|
|Birks and Arnison Crag||2.7km (1.7 miles) away|
|Place Fell and a stroll alongside Ullswater||2.8km (1.8 miles) away|
|Glenridding Dodd||3.9km (2.4 miles) away|
|Lanty's Tarn, Keldas, and Patterdale Circular||3.9km (2.4 miles) away|
|Lanty's Tarn, Birkhouse Moor, Red Tarn, Catstycam||3.9km (2.4 miles) away|
|Helvellyn, The Classic Ridges of Striding and Swirral Edge||3.9km (2.4 miles) away|
|White Side and Raise, from Glenridding||3.9km (2.4 miles) away|
|Glenridding Dodd, Heron Pike and Sheffield Pike||4.0km (2.5 miles) away|
|Greenside Mine and Glenridding Beck Circular Stroll||4.0km (2.5 miles) away|
Unless otherwise stated the text in this walk is the copyright of Hug Solutions Ltd trading as The Hug and the photographs are the copyright of Elizabeth Oldham. Hill data is derived from Database of British and Irish hills which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Maps contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011 and paths © OpenStreetMap Contributors,CC-BY-SA, 2011