It feels something of a cheat to climb Hard Knott from the top of the pass, but Wainwright does suggest it in his Southern Fells book so we're not going to argue. It is still worth following his route as little has changed over the intervening years, and some of the perhaps modern short-cuts cross some very wet boggy areas.
The Eskdale Needle, marked on the OS 25K map, is a rock pinnacle overlooking the Eskdale valley. It is hidden from above by its parent rather plain looking crag. Catch it side on and the pinnacle appears. We'll point out on the walk instructions from where you can see it.
Driving over Hardknott and Wrynose passes is quite an adventure in itself. Some people refuse to no matter how nice the weather, which is a shame as the road goes through some wild and beautiful countryside. In winter they are not gritted, and seldom ploughed, snow can close them for some time. Even without snow a frosty morning, or ice, makes them dangerous. Steep slopes, and even steeper hairpins, especially the one above the Roman fort coming from the Eskdale side, need bags of common sense and first gear!
Very close to the top of the pass on the Wrynose side is a small informal parking area fit for a couple or three cars. Another pull-in on the Eskdale side might manage two cars. Further down the pass extended passing places might fit a car in if you're desperate.
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
From the parking area just below the crest of Hardknott Pass on the Wrynose side, take the path directly behind it skirting the right hand side of Raven Crag with Hardknott Gill just to your right.
Climb quite steeply on grass and rock. After a short climb it becomes something of a gully as the gradient eases. Keep to the left hand side of the increasingly wider, and boggy area. The path fades a little just keep to the edge. Ignore a line of stepping stones to the right. Continue to a small grassy knott at the head of the gill.
Bear right around the front of the knott and pick up a good path again meandering ahead. Keep a lookout down to your left as you cross another short boggy gap as the Eskdale Needle will be seen only briefly low on the Eskdale face of a small otherwise unremarkable crag.
Keep on the path through the knotts, now heading generally north east. You soon head for an outcrop directly in the way, the path bears right at the bottom and climbs easily. Cross the next boggy patch, and you will see the summit cairn almost directly ahead sat on the highest point.
The path meanders around a bit but basically it gets you to the left hand side of the summit cairn's outcrop. Bear right just before the ground starts descending and right again to approach the summit cairn of Hard Knott easily from behind.
Returning to the road at the top of the pass is a simple case of retracing your steps. On our return we went exploring. We thought that the little grassy outcrop at the head of Hardknott Gill where we turned right on the outward journey should be a good viewpoint for the Eskdale Needle. It turned out to be the case. So on your way back climb over the outcrop and bear right, instead of left, for a few metres. The Needle soon comes into view.
Since we were here we also thought a visit to the small cairn on Border End might be worth the view too. It wasn't great as there were too many crags below us to see Hardknott Roman Fort. Still, it's a Birkett so we went to the cairn.
Finish crossing the head of Hardknott Gill and keep ahead to follow a narrow path up through the outcrops. At the top, ahead is one cairn, but the summit lays over to the left. A good path heads that way, over the summit, and then down to the left to rejoin the outward path alongside the Hardknott Gill.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|Hard Knott Roman Fort||1.2km (0.7 miles) away|
|Harter Fell (Eskdale)||1.9km (1.2 miles) away|
|Slight Side from Wha House, Eskdale||3.2km (2.0 miles) away|
|Great Carrs and Grey Friar||4.7km (2.9 miles) away|
|Cold Pike and Pike of Blisco||4.7km (2.9 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