Standing tall at the head of Ennerdale is Great Borne. Its south western slopes fall to Ennerdale Water in a series of knolls, firstly Brown How and then Bowness Knott below which a car park sits - the furthest place you may drive a car unless going to the youth hostel at Gillerthwaite or the field centre. Accessing the fells on the ridge to the north of the water is often barred by forestry and fencing. It is largely at the two ends and just east of Gillerthwaite where there is a gap in the trees where walkers will find steep access. This walk is the shortest practical over the two most northern of Wainwright's Western Fells: Great Borne and Starling Dodd. Other summits include Herdus, Gale Fell, and Little Dodd which make for a good outing.
This walk does not include Bowness Knott as the natural onward journey climbing Rake Beck turns into a wet slippery scramble that is surprisingly awkward. Better to save the Knott as a short excursion of its own.
The descent from the ridge at Little Dodd is quite steep and largely pathless. The slope southwards may be walked down anywhere in the vicinity however tongues of boulder scree may make for an uncomfortable descent. Heather also makes for a differently unpleasant descent. So we find a shallow gully which whilst easy to navigate is likely to be slippery in the wet. Care, and not rushing, is required as it would be easy to slip and it's a long bumpy way down to the forest.
Roads to the small car park below Bowness Knott are narrow and twisting, the nearer you get the narrower they become. Watch out for the occasional bus, or tractor. You will need to get there early at holiday times to get a space.
This walk takes you to the top of the following hills: Starling Dodd, Little Dodd (Ennerdale), Herdus, Great Borne, and Gale Fell; and includes 2 Wainwrights, 5 Birketts, 2 Hewitts, 2 Nuttalls, and 1 HuMP.
If you need accommodation we have details of 14 properties offering rooms near the start of this walk. Here are some examples:
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
From the car park below Bowness Knott return back along the road for 300m (330 yards) to where it swings left. On the corner, before the bridge over Rake Beck, cross the stile to the right, mesh dog flap beside, and then keep left along the bank of the beck. As the intake wall on the other bank bears away, bear left and cross Rake Beck following a path above the wall. Climbing gently so far, the path is often overrun with bracken. It gradually bears rightwards away from the wall. Just past a gate in the wall bear right onto a narrower path climbing steeply to join the eastern ridge of Herdus.
Reaching the ridgeline coming down, the bracken finishes, and at a small cairn turn right to climb the grassy ridge. Numerous sheep trails cross the path, and sometimes it seems the path zigzags using them. Keep on up the ridge.
After some false summits, the gradient eases, and a small collection of stones appears. This is not the summit cairn. Continue on the path along the edge of the crags and after another 100m (110 yards) or so the small cairn on Herdus comes into view.
The summit of Great Borne is now approximately east. You could try to take a direct line across a mossy area which looks quite inviting, but beware it gets quite boggy.
It is easier to continue ahead on the path dropping down a little, cross the head of Rake Beck, and join the path coming up alongside it.
Reaching the path, bear left following it through small crags and over little rocky steps. The, so far, clear and easily followed path gradually fades, but just keep heading for the high ground. At the summit of Great Borne you will find a trig point and windshelter.
Bear right from the summit of Great Borne, and drop to the left a little to pick up the path alongside a fence. Ahead on the skyline is the High Stile ridge with Red Pike the guardian of this end. Starling Dodd is the grassy rounded bump in the way.
Follow the fence down to a corner and bear left along it. Leave the well worn path and keep alongside the fence to visit Gale Fell summit at the next fence corner. There isn't much to mark its summit, just the fence. Turn right and rejoin the well worn path. Don't cross the fence but continue alongside, and follow the path ahead as the fence bears away.
Climb steeply to the two close together summit cairns of Starling Dodd - one of which is made of many old rusting fence posts.
Continue on from the twin summit cairns of Starling Dodd. Notice the small bump in the depression before the climb to Red Pike. This is Little Dodd, and is a critical marker for the descent through the otherwise impenetrable Ennerdale forest.
In the bottom of the depression unseen from Starling Dodd is a small tarn on this otherwise dry ridge. As the path then starts to climb again to the north of Little Dodd, bear right to climb the pathless grass slope.
The summit is of Little Dodd graced by another cairn of old fence posts.
Turn right from the cairn on Little Dodd to head roughly south. Spotting occasional old fence posts over to the right, bear right slightly to join them as they start dropping down. A gap in the forest plantations should appear below, this is where to aim for as that is the only way through for some distance. Drop into the gully that appears, feel free to descend along the edges of it through heather if it's easier. Just head for that gap in the trees a long way below.
Approaching the trees bracken returns thick and deep. Descending the gully you end up at the fence corner, keep to the left of the fence heading into the gap. Follow alongside the fence. A gate on the right is padlocked so is not an easy way onto a forest track. Continue descending and bear left slightly to a gate and stile crossing a fence barring the way. The path is wider the other side and continues to drop through the gap. Bear right at the bottom to exit through a gate under the trees onto the main gravelled 'Ennerdale track'.
Turn right and follow the track all the way back to the Bowness Knott car park.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|Steeple, Scoat Fell, Haycock, and Caw Fell from Ennerdale||30m (33 yards) away|
|Ennerdale Water||2.4km (1.5 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