“To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace.”Milan Kundera
Nowhere is this more true than in the aptly named Eden Valley. Skirting the Lake District National Park, the Eden Valley is home to a glorious abundance of countryside, and is somewhere I’d been dying to explore for months. We finally headed over for a walk up Dufton Pike just before Christmas and my very high expectations were massively exceeded by this outstanding short walk up a small but very impressive hill. The dusting of snow across the tops made for a wonderful adventure in our own winter wonderland.
The walk starts from the charming village of Dufton, not far from Appleby-in-Westmorland. The circular route we followed was from our Cicerone guide to the Eden valley, which is excellent, but you can find a similar walk online on Walking Britain. The walk is about 5 miles, and while the hill may look imposing from the village green at the start, there’s not that much effort required to get to the top!
There is a small car park with facilities in Dufton. And I do mean small (at least in comparison to the national park car parks you come across in the Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland). This car park was full when we arrived so we parked on the village green opposite the Stag Inn. There was plenty of free parking here, and it afforded us our first glance of our target, rising majestically behind the pub!
As I mentioned earlier, this walk is not particularly difficult, either navigationally or in terms or elevation. The only steep sections are relatively short sections as you near the summit and again on your descent. Or maybe it just felt steeper as the compacted snow had frozen and turned the path into a ski slope!
The paths generally didn’t seem too bad, although once we got past a certain point they were invisible under the snow. There was one horrendously muddy section of the Pennine way near the start which made us very glad we had sturdy waterproof boots on! That being said the rest of the tracks were pretty level and well surfaced – as much as you can expect in the countryside anyway!
One thing I learned very early on in my hiking days is that a small hill doesn’t necessarily mean small views. The views on this walk were absolutely unparalleled, and while a blanket of fog on the summit meant we didn’t get the full shebang panorama the book promised, we managed to glimpse all of the different aspects on different sections of the walk.
At the start of the walk, the views are mainly focussed on the surrounding countryside and neighbouring Murton Pike. As your ascent steepens, you get views across the Eden Valley to the Lakeland fells, before cresting the summit ridge to see the Pennine chain continuing into the distance. Not to forget my favourite view of the whole walk, the glimpse of a snowy Great Rundale, gained by a simple glance over your shoulder on the descent of Dufton Pike.
I really, really enjoyed this walk, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to grab a few hours of peace and tranquility in a stunning part of the world. I was surprised by how few walkers we encountered – Dufton itself was pretty busy when we set off, however, there are quite a few walks (including High Cup Nick) which start from here, which possibly accounts for how empty the slopes of Dufton Pike were. That being said even in Dufton itself it was nowhere near as busy as hotpots like the Lakes and certain places in the Dales can get!
Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. I was a bit unsure of the dog friendly rating to give this one. There are enclosed tracks where you can let your dog off, but you also pass through fields with livestock (we saw sheep and horses) where your dog should be under close control, preferably on a lead. On the hill itself we didn’t see any livestock but this can’t be taken for granted. This walk was blissfully stile free, with only one stile crossing required, and this was the type inset into a dry stone wall which is easier to manage with dogs. There are bins in Dufton where you can dispose of any poos. You also pass through a farmyard near the beginning of the walk so make sure your dog is on a lead here – you wouldn’t like it if people let their dogs run around your garden!
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