Stanley Ghyll

We are just home from a lovely long weekend in the Lake District. The original plan was to tick off a few more Wainwrights (my aim of completing them before I’m thirty is looking more wobbly by the week), but the weather had other ideas! Rather than the full day Wainwright bagging expeditions we’d had scheduled in, we ended up doing a few shorter walks, dodging showers and seeking a bit of shelter from the gale force winds. One of these walks was a short stroll down to the waterfall of Stanley Ghyll, a tumbling cascade in the beautiful valley of Eskdale, which I’d never heard of before but which is more than worth a visit.

Plan A for the day was to head to Wasdale and tackle Illgill Head and Whin Rigg. However, 40mph winds and fog made this half day walk significantly less appealing, so we came up with a Plan B for two separate hour long walks. In the morning, we nipped up Hard Knott to bag a Wainwright summit, and in the afternoon we opted for a nice easy low level walk to Stanley Ghyll.

We found this walk in our Pocket Mountains guide for the Lake District. These little guides are so handy and have a mix of low level walks as well as longer, more challenging hikes. The walk to Stanley Ghyll is a beautiful easy stroll of around 2km and took us just over an hour, including plenty of photo stops! A similar, slightly longer walk is available on the National Park website.

The walk is mostly easy going and requiring absolutely no effort until a steeper section when you climb to the top of the gorge. Up until this point in the walk, you walk along enclosed lanes and woodland paths alongside the river, with greenery bursting from everywhere you look, until you reach the falls. When we visited, the lower viewing platform was closed due to a landslip, but climb up through the trees to the top of the gorge and the upper viewing platform gives a fantastic view down over the falls and back along the gorge. The platform itself isn’t for the faint hearted: suspended over a 150m drop, with a grill base which lets you look directly below your feet into the abyss below! Adrenaline seekers will love it, people like me, less so…

We hadn’t really thought about the rest of the walk aside from the waterfall. We were therefore pleasantly surprised when we left the upper viewing platform and were faced with a fantastic landscape of rugged fells, which stays in view for almost the entire walk back to where you park your car. Parking for this walk is free in the National Park car park at Trough House Bridge car park which is a little tricky to find: signs at the end of the lane make it look like a private road entering Dalegarth Campsite, but a short way further along you’ll find the car park.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This is one of those rare Lakeland walks where there’s a decent opportunity to let your dog have a good run around off the lead. The first half of the walk is along an enclosed lane and then through woodland beside a gentle river – an ideal dog walking location if ever there was one. Perfect for zooming and paddling! At the top of the gorge, leads are required due to the steep drops, and we then kept ours on the lead coming back across the open hillside. Other points in favour of this walk are that there are no stiles and no road walking – so maybe this rating should even be a 4.5 star rating!

Where we stayed

Normally when we visit the Lake District we just head over for the day and then drive home at the end of the walk, or at a push, we’ll stay overnight in a pub or B&B. This time though we decided to treat ourselves and booked a stay at Bitt Cottage, a converted chapel in the valley of Eskdale, just on the outskirts of Santon Bridge.

The cottage sleeps four people and is a great base for exploring the Western Lakes. It’s probably one of the roomiest cottages we’ve stayed in, which is always lovely when you have a labrador who doubles as a wrecking ball! Bitt Cottage had everything we needed for a relaxing weekend away, including an open fire and well equipped kitchen. The garden is enormous and enclosed (Coal proof but not Merry proof, so if you have an escape artist, you may want to inspect the walls on arrival to see if you think your dog could jump over).

Dog friendly rating – 4.5/5. I’ve just taken half a point off as we couldn’t let Merry off in the garden, although I think we’d need to stay somewhere with deer proof fencing to be able to do that! The cottage is spacious enough to easily accommodate two larger dogs without it becoming a squeeze, and the laminate flooring in the living room removes the worry of muddy paws. The hall area is carpeted completely with a door mat type material which is ideal for after a muddy walk. There are plenty of little touches around the cottage which make it clear that dogs are very welcome which I loved!

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Goathland to Beck Hole

Back in the deep dark days of lockdown, when we weren’t allowed to drive anywhere to go for walks, I made a list of all the places in Yorkshire I wanted to visit when we were finally allowed out again. One of the places near the top of my list was the waterfall Mallyan Spout near the village of Goathland. We spent all summer delaying a trip here because we knew the waterfall was a popular spot for tourists and locals alike and didn’t want to visit when it was absolutely heaving, therefore, a rainy weekend at the end of October seemed to us the perfect time to visit. What we didn’t take into consideration was the sheer amount of rain which had fallen: when we got to the path leading to the waterfall, the river had swallowed the path completely, leaving nothing but a raging torrent of water which neither of us fancied wading through with two water loving dogs. So sadly, we didn’t actually get to see the waterfall, but we still had an enjoyable walk from one the North York Moors’ most famous villages.

We’d originally planned to follow this 3 mile circular route from the North York Moors National Park website, starting from the honeypot village of Goathland, before making our way to Mallyan Spout and back via the hamlet of Beck Hole.

Goathland has been inhabited since the Middle Ages, but became famous in the Victorian period, when visitors flocked to the pretty village to see the waterfall which is easily accessed via a short walk. The return section of the walk takes you along the old railway line which would have brought visitors in from Pickering.

The start of the walk takes you along pavement to reach the Mallyan Spout Hotel, and it is here that you pick up the footpath which leads to the waterfall. The path is uneven underfoot and can be slippery when wet – we can certainly vouch for this!

Once you’ve seen the waterfall (lucky you) you double back on yourself to head towards Beck Hole. The path climbs fairly steeply in places to gain height, following the top of the gorge along enclosed tracks by the edges of fields and woodland. For such a short walk, we were both surprised by how much effort was required!

When you reach Beck Hole, you pick up the path of the old railway line and follow this all the way back to Goathland. After a very soggy walk for the most part, we were both glad to pick up a dry well surfaced track! This section of the walk takes you through mixed woodland and it was lovely to see all the autumn colours, and helped cheer me up about not being able to see the waterfall.

The path brings you out neatly at the back of the North York Moors car park – it’s always a great feeling to turn a corner on a wet and windy walk and all of a sudden see your car waiting for you! This is a large car park with plenty of spaces but I expect it gets very busy in summer. It’s a flat rate of £3.50 to park all day, payment by card or app (Pay By Phone) only. A big plus for the car park is that it also has toilets you can use!

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. Once you leave the pavement, the entirety of this walk is through woodland or on enclosed tracks – ideal for dog owners who want to avoid livestock. There were plenty of places where you could let your dog off the lead – we chose to keep ours on leads as the river was flowing so fast, and then we didn’t want to get ambushed by any pheasants on the woodland sections. We did both comment on what a lovely local dog walk this must be – not too long, no stiles and no livestock. What more could you ask for?!

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The Head of Swaledale

Swaledale is our favourite dale. Wilder, remoter, quieter. It’s our go to choice for a local walk on a weekend. Usually we head to Reeth to walk one of the many footpaths criss-crossing the dramatic swathes of moor littered with the industrial ruins of the lead mining industry, but last weekend we ventured slightly further afield to the village of Keld, the highest village in Swaledale. Most people walking from Keld make a beeline for the famous Swaledale gorge for iconic views and the hay meadows of Muker, however, this time we opted for a walk in the opposite direction.

Keld was first settled by the Vikings and the name Keld comes from the Norse word ‘Kelda’, which means ‘spring’. It’s easy to see why the Vikings chose this place to settle down – the wild hills must have reminded them somewhat of the home they’d left behind.

We found this route in our Cicerone guide for the Northern and Eastern Yorkshire Dales. The route is a circular of around 8.5 miles – we adapted the end to cut off 2 miles and avoid Access Land which has a dog restriction in place. A similar route to the one we followed can be found on the ViewRanger website. It took us just under 3 hours to mooch around at a sedate pace with lots of photo stops: the autumn colours were really starting to come out in force.

We started out on a reasonably bright morning which became more overcast as we progressed, which eventually became a very light drizzle as we got back to the car. This didn’t curtail our enjoyment at all: the views were lovely all the way around and the weather ensured we didn’t see any other walkers at all! Look out for the many waterfalls you will pass: particularly impressive are Kisdon Force and Wain Wath Force.

The walk takes you along every kind of path possible: slippery, well surfaced, grassy and boggy. For a long stretch you follow the Coast to Coast path before reaching your turning point at Ravenseat Farm – the location of the Our Yorkshire Farm TV series. There were no film crews hanging around to give it away and I wonder how many people pass through without guessing they’re walking past a famous farm!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. There are sheep throughout this walk so we kept ours on the lead all the way around – even when there were no sheep, there were plenty of pheasants and grouse hanging around! Aside from this though this is a great choice for a dog walk – your proximity to the river means there are plenty of spots where your dog can have a drink, and nearly all the stiles are easy to get your dog over (there’s just one ladder stile and one squeeze stile that was a bit too narrow for Coal). There are a few sections along quiet roads, but you will be able to hear any traffic coming and get yourself out of the way in plenty of time. After your walk, you’re not far from the dog friendly Tan Hill Inn, which has the rather impressive title of the highest pub in England.

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Humbleton Hillfort

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love a good hillfort trail, and nowhere are they more abundant than in Northumberland’s chronically underrated National Park. We’ve only recently discovered Northumberland’s wilder border country after spending years exploring the coast and more popular area around Hadrian’s Wall: we fully intend to make up for lost time, with plenty of future expeditions planned! We made a start last weekend with a wonderful stay in a glamping pod on the Ford & Etal Estate. On our day of arrival we had a few hours before we could check in so we decided to do the relatively short trail around Humbleton Hillfort to pass the time.

Northumberland is chock-full of hillforts, many of which have way marked trails to guide you around an easy(ish) route with the best views. We have previously hiked both Yeavering Bell and the Breamish Valley Hillforts and loved both of these, so it was a no brainer deciding to call at Humbleton to climb the eponymous hillfort. As well as being the site of an Iron Age settlement, Humbleton Hillfort was the site of a medieval battle between England and Scotland. After a series of successful raids, a Scottish army was returning home when they were cut off by Harry ‘Hotspur’ Percy, the Duke of Northumberland’s son. The Scottish army was decimated, with hundreds of deaths, while the English army was said to suffer just five casualties. It was a strange feeling trying to imagine what those events hundreds of years ago must have been like as we walked up the path to the top of the hill.

Like many of my favourite routes, we found this walk in our Pocket Mountains guide to Northumberland. The walk is a circular of about 4km, and if you don’t have the Pocket Mountains guide, you can see a similar route on the National Park website (although this is a longer route which starts from Wooler rather than Humbleton).

We started the walk from the small hamlet of Humbleton, where there is very limited free parking on a grassy verge near the start of the walk. Heading away from the village, you soon pick up the way marked hillfort trail, which is clearly signed and easy to follow. The gradient on this walk is never horrendously steep but it is certainly enough to get your heart pumping as you near the summit!

The proximity of the this walk to the town of Wooler, and the well sign posted nature of the walk, made me think it might be slightly busier than other walks we’ve done. This wasn’t the case at all, and for most of the walk our only companions were the very fluffy Cheviot sheep who you’ll find most of the way around! We did see one or two other walkers but the overall feeling was one of total peace and quiet.

The views were, as we’ve come to expect from Northumberland, fantastic. Autumn was out in full force with a carpet of orange bracken covering the hillsides, with the distant Cheviots silhouetted in shades of grey and purple. I love Northumberland at all times of year but it’s the place where I’ve had the best crisp autumnal days, with blue skies and clear views for miles.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. There are sheep throughout this walk which limits the possibility of letting your dog off the lead, although there’s a short lane at the end where you might be able to let your dog off. However, there is very little road walking and only one stile that you need to help your dog over, with the rest of the stiles all having gates or dog tunnels to help you avoid hefting a muddy dog over a fence! This walk is the perfect length to tire your dog out without having to be out on an all day trek – but if you’re heading out in summer make sure to take water along for your dog, as drinking spots are limited and you are pretty exposed to the sun out on the hillside (not a problem we had in late October!).

Where we stayed

We stayed in a luxury glamping pod at the Cheviot Brewery on the Ford & Etal estate. The pods are newly installed for 2021 and include a living area with a sofa and table/chair, a small kitchen area with a hob, sink and fridge, and two double bunkbeds. In addition to all this, you get a swanky ensuite bathroom with a toilet and shower! The pods face into the woods and are very peaceful – if it had been warmer and drier during our visit I think we would’ve made use of the fire pit and chairs outside to watch the stars for sure! The pods are ideally located for exploration with plenty of walks straight from your doorstep. Additionally, the Cheviot Tap on the site serves pizzas and drinks every Friday and Saturday night – we got a takeaway pizza to take back to our pod and it was delicious! Sam also informs me that the beer was very good (I stuck to cider). And did I mention the friendly alpacas you can feed?

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. The dogs were welcome at the Pod, and at the bar, and the huge choice of footpaths on our doorstep meant that we could’ve taken them for miles of walkies without even needing to get into the car! The pod was a little crowded with the two of us and two dogs (including Coal, who’s tail wags incessantly), but I think for two people and one small or medium sized dog you would fit quite comfortably. It feels a little harsh to only give 4/5 for dog friendliness, but there weren’t any of the extra little touches for dog owners that we’ve found in other places that I’ve rated as a 5/5 dog friendly. Don’t let that put you off visiting with your dog at all though as we had a fabulous weekend with ours!

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Broomhead Reservoir

We had planned to spend my birthday hiking up Kinder Scout but the torrential all-day downpour put a stop to those plans pretty quickly. We worked out that we had about a 90 minute window where we’d be able to walk in the dry: we therefore needed a walk which was close to our B&B and reasonably quick! Fortunately, there are quite a few smaller reservoirs scattered around the Peak District, so we had plenty of choice. We eventually settled on Broomhead Reservoir, a quick walk of about an hour, and only about a fifteen minute drive from our B&B.

We found this walk in our Countryside Dog Walks guide for the Northern Peak District. This is a great little book with 20 shorter walks from around half an hour to just shy of 4 hours: if you’re after longer walks I’d recommend having a look at the Cicerone or Pocket Mountains guides.

The walk itself is an easy to follow circular where you just walk around the edge of the reservoir. You can park for free in a lay-by next to the bridleway where you start the walk – there was plenty of space when we parked here, although the weather forecast was pretty threatening, so it could be busier on sunnier days! Pick up the bridleway and then keep the reservoir on your left for a circular walk of around an hour.

The path along the bridleway is wide, level and well surfaced, which lasts for just shy of half of the circuit. The path then became a bit wilder, with tree roots growing underfoot, and required a bit more clambering from side to side to get from A to B!

This walk was perfect for a nice easy stroll. It took us just under an hour and required next to no effort, as it was flat nearly all the way around. The other bonus was that it is generally well covered by tress, so even when it started spitting towards the end we didn’t get too wet!

Considering that this walk is really not that far from big urban centres like Sheffield, there’s a wonderful feeling of being miles away from it all. When we first arrived we actually spotted two deer crossing the road – I bet this is a fantastic walk to have on your doorstep.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This walk is great for letting your dog have a run around off the lead, as there are no livestock, but you might need to keep your eyes peeled for deer! There are no stiles and only one very short section where you need to cross the road.

We did see a few other dog walkers but they mostly seemed like locals – I can’t imagine many other visitors would have been out and about with the weather forecast as it was! We let Coal off on the bridleway but put him back on when the path was twister and windier as we couldn’t see if there were any other dogs about to pop up around the corner. However if your dog is non-reactive and has solid re-call you could probably keep them off the lead nearly all the way around.

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Stanage Edge

We’ve just arrived home from a wet and windy weekend in the Peak District – that’s two birthdays there in the torrential rain, so maybe next year we’ll go somewhere else! After a quick walk yesterday morning before the rain came down, we had a cosy afternoon in our B&B, before packing up first thing this morning for the drive home. It was blowing an absolute hooley but there were clear blue skies, so we stopped off for a quick walk on our way home, deciding on a short out-and-back walk up to Stanage Edge.

Every Peak District walking guide will include a route up Stanage Edge – our Cicerone guide even has two! We just wanted a quick walk today so we wouldn’t be arriving home too late, so we settled on the linear route detailed in our Countryside Dog Walks guide for the northern Peak District.

Starting from the free car park at Burbage Bridge, the walk is a quick there and back again route. From the car park, cross the road and turn left to pick up the path running alongside the road, following this path across the moor and over rocky ground to reach the trig on Stanage Edge. From here, you can walk further along the ridge, or retrace your steps back to the car park.

When you reach the trig, a view across the valley opens up and is really quite impressive. I thought there would be more people hanging around the trig (the car park was fairly busy and we could see people on the ridge as we approached), but actually we had it all to ourselves. We didn’t stop for long to enjoy it though as it rapidly became apparent that the reason there were no people at the trig was because the wind there was absolutely brutal! I had no idea if you could even see the trig in the photos I’d taken until we got back to the car, as the wind was making my eyes water so much I couldn’t see through the view finder at all. With a two hour drive home ahead of us we beat a hasty retreat back to the warmth of the car.

Considering the amount of rain we’d had the day before, we were pleasantly surprised by the condition of the path. Yes, it was squelchy in places with a few puddles here and there, but nowhere near as wet underfoot as we were expecting. That being said it’s only the first weekend of October, so I’m not sure what it’ll be like once winter truly sets in! There is a short section where you’ll need to clamber over some rocks to get to the top, but this is very short and should be manageable for most people. There are of course the longer rocky ascents used by climbers, but we were quite happy with the normal path!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Due to ground nesting birds on the moor, you should keep your dogs on a lead on this walk. Despite this, it’s not a bad dog walk: as well as enjoying the lovely views you can also enjoy the absence of stiles and not having to walk on the road (as there is a path which runs alongside). There is a big puddle off the side of the path where your dog can cool down if it’s hot, although this may dry up in summer during prolonged dry spells. Both of ours love the opportunity to have a snuffle in the bracken and heather and certainly managed to do plenty of it on this walk – lots of decompression and mental stimulation.

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Misty Skiddaw

Deciding to tick off all the Wainwrights before my 30th birthday seemed like a great idea a year ago when I turned 26. Four years to complete 214 summits – how hard could it be? 12 months and 29 Wainwrights later this challenge is seeming somewhat more ‘challenging’, so we’ve ramped up our efforts and started trying to do walks which tick off more than one or two in a day. We’d been eyeing up Skiddaw for a while, but we were slightly worried about it being one of those walks which have sky rocketed in popularity since lockdown. We therefore wanted a route which a) wasn’t the main route up from Latrigg and b) would take us over as many Wainwrights as we could manage without turning it into an inordinately massive trek.

I’ve recently bought the new book Walking the Wainwrights which has 64 walks to tick off all 214 summits. This therefore seemed a good place to start looking for a route! The book has two routes up Skiddaw, both ticking off multiple Wainwrights, and we opted for an 8.5 mile circular which summited Ullock Pike, Long Side, Carl Side, Skiddaw and Bakestall. A similar route is available on Mud and Routes, though this doesn’t note Long Side as a Wainwright.

There’s free parking in a lay-by close to the start, but it’s worth taking some pennies with you as there are a few honesty boxes for Fix the Fells in the area. The layby is pretty roomy and has room for about 6-7 cars if people park considerately – we got there at about 9am on a Saturday and we were the second car to arrive.

The walk starts with a fairly relentless ascent up Ullock Pike. It’s steep but not unmanageable, and with a few rest breaks when you reach the many false summits you’ll get there in the end only moderately sweaty. The slog did feel relentless and took us nearly two hours – but it does get a lot of your ascent out of the way at the start! There are good views of Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake to admire on your way up, and when you finally reach the summit the path along Long Side Edge is gently undulating and very easy in comparison!

The path is well defined and easy to follow – but when you come off Long Side don’t make the same mistake that we did and head straight up the side of Skiddaw, or you’ll have to retrace your steps in order to tick off Carl Side! The path you want for this summit is a faint grassy path which you pick up almost immediately after finishing the short descent from Long Side. You almost have to turn back on yourself while the main path continues straight ahead so it’s easy to miss.

We got all the way from the car up Ullock Pike, Long Side, Carl Side and most of the way up Skiddaw and only saw one walker – this is definitely a quiet way up! Carl Side is not an insignificant fell at 746m but after the never ending climb up Ullock Pike it only took us a few minutes to get to the trig. The respite from steep climbing ends as soon as you start making your way up Skiddaw: the fell side is covered in scree which makes hiking hard work, and if I thought the climb up Ullock Pike was steep it pales into insignificance in comparison to Skiddaw. It’s the first time on a walk that my tendons have actually been twinging on the way up a hill and I was seriously questioning whether we’d picked the right route! The mist had come down by this point so we had no idea how far from the top we were – probably a good thing as it meant we only had to worry about the next 20 metres or so at a time!

In next to no time (or slightly longer) we were on the summit plateau. We were really surprised by how quiet it was – we saw a few groups but we’d expected to see far more people. It’s definitely called Misty Skiddaw for a reason – the clear views and blue skies we’d seen on Ullock Pike vanished completely! So there were no views for us until we started our descent in the direction of Bakestall, our final Wainwright of the day. This is probably the section where navigation is trickiest as the path almost completely disappears, but there is a handy fence line which you can follow to keep yourself on track. As we gradually descended the cloud started to lift and we got a good view across to Blencathra, so we decided to stop and have some lunch while we admired the view.

The walk across to Bakestall is a gentle descent for the most part, and when you reach the summit you’ll get a good view across towards Dumfries & Galloway, as well as looking over to Binsey, the Wainwrights’ last northern outpost. On leaving Bakestall the descent steepens and became a little boggy towards the foot of the hill, before re-joining a well surfaced track which follows the Cumbria Way past the pretty waterfall of Whitewater Dash. From here, it’s a level walk of a few miles back to your start point, with the last half a mile or so following a very quiet road (we didn’t see any cars, just a few cyclists). If you do this walk towards the end of September like we did you’ll be able to help yourself to blackberries growing at the side of the road which are plentiful!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. We kept our dogs on their leads for all of this walk as there were sheep throughout, like many Lake District walks. However, this is still a great walk in comparison to some others, as there are no stiles and relatively little road walking. There is a small tarn at the start of the walk up Carl Side which might offer a paddling opportunity for dogs, but sadly this had completely dried up and there weren’t really any other opportunities for dogs to have a drink, so I was glad we’d taken water for ours. Both of ours had a great time on this walk, especially at the end where they got to snack on blackberries!

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Dodd Fell

Last weekend we spent two nights in the Lake District, as Sam was running the Cumbria Way Ultra Marathon, starting from Ulverston and finishing in Carlisle. We went over the day before so that we wouldn’t have to leave home at 3.30am and arrive for the race start totally exhausted! Therefore, we decided to take the opportunity to tick off another Wainwright the day before, something small-ish and not too taxing the day before the race. We settled on Dodd, a heavily wooded Wainwright which is largely covered by a Forestry Commission plantation.

We followed one of the four Forestry Commission walking trails which start from their Dodd Wood car park: the Dodd Summit trail is the most strenuous of these and is around three and a half miles. It took us just over two hours with lots of stopping for photos! The car park is fairly large but was nearly full when we arrived at lunchtime on Friday. Despite this, the trail was extremely quiet, so everyone else must have been on the flatter trails! The car park is a number plate recognition pay when you leave, and you can pay by cash or card. There are toilets in the car park and a tea room where you can get something to eat at the end of your walk. Dodd is also one of the places in the Lake District where you can spot red squirrels – head to one of their feeding stations to increase your chances of spotting one!

Despite only being around three and a half miles, we were surprised by how tough this walk was. While not on the same difficulty scale as huge fells like Skiddaw and Great Gable, the hike up Dodd is a relentless uphill slog which, while not steep, is hard work by the ceaseless nature of the incline. This is made somewhat easier by the fact that the path is broad, level and well surfaced nearly all the way to the top – it only becomes narrower and more uneven once you start to pass out of the trees as you near the summit. On the descent it’s a while before the path becomes broader again, but in next to no time you’re back at the car park and ready to sit down with a cup of tea or an ice cream, depending on the weather!

For such a moderately sized fell, the views are nothing short of spectacular. While for a long time at the start you are walking through trees, there is a point where you turn a corner and a magnificent view across Derwentwater opens up in front of you. There’s a bench here so it’s great place to stop for a snack! The views from here and the summit are the reason that Dodd is my favourite Wainwright so far – although it’s only number 29 so there’s time for that to change! In terms of view vs effort though surely this has to be one of the highest ranking walks in the Wainwrights. The clear paths and green arrows also make this an easy walk to navigate around – it’s always nice to not have to squint at a map to try and work out the next path!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Our dogs really enjoyed this walk. The large sections of the walk in the trees are perfect for giving your dog a chance to enjoy some time off the lead – a rarity in the Lake District where there tends to be livestock waiting around every corner. We did pop ours back on their leads after we got onto the open fell side just in case there were sheep around even though we didn’t see any – it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and this was a very short section of the walk overall. The shelter from the trees makes this a great walk whatever the weather: plenty of shade in the sunshine and protection from the elements in winter. There are no stiles on the walk and there is a stream at the start and end where your dog can have a drink – we actually joined ours at the end and had a splash to cool off as we were fairly warm after our climb up the hill!

Where we stayed

We spent a night at the absolutely wonderful Fiddleback Farm near Wigton. I always try and book a large room so there’s enough space for both of us and the dogs and the Family Room I’d booked was huge, with plenty of floor space not taken up by furniture – exactly what we need with a labrador who wags his tails constantly! The entire B&B is beautifully decorated, clean and super comfortable. There’s a hearty cooked breakfast too and the owner was so welcoming and accommodating to our request to be able to come in and out in the small hours! The B&B is in a great location for getting out to tick off the northern Wainwrights too if you’re working through these.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. There were absolutely no issues bringing the dogs with us, with no dog fee which made a lovely change! There was a dog bed, food and water bowl and spare treats and poo bags waiting for us in the room too. The B&B has an enormous lawn where we were welcome to let the dogs have a run around off lead too!

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Stocks Reservoir

Stocks reservoir was a walk picked by Sam during our recent trip to Austwick. Part of a large outdoor adventure destination alongside Gisburn Forest, Stocks reservoir is apparently one of the more popular walks in this part of Lancashire. I say apparently because we really didn’t see that many people! Sited at the head of the Hodder Valley, a circular walk around the reservoir offers the opportunity for a relaxing half day walk, without any strenuous ascents or descents.

The route we found to follow was in our Cicerone guide to the Forest of Bowland and Pendle, however, this is very similar to the way marked reservoir circular trail. The only difference is that the Cicerone guide includes a slight detour up a hill to get views over the Hodder Valley – we actually skipped this part as it required us to walk through a field of cows who were obviously feeling quite energetic!

We parked in the School Lane car park which is normally pay and display, but luckily for us it was free due to the machine being out of order, hurray! To get to the car park follow signs for Gisburn Forest – our Sat Nav tried to send us down someone’s drive about five miles away, so the postcode will only get you so far!

You can pick up the reservoir trail directly from the car park and follow it on footpaths all the way around, which means no road walking (although I think if we’d followed the Cicerone route through the cow field there would’ve been a short section along the road). The paths are clearly defined and well surfaced for nearly all of the walk, and where they aren’t, way markers make it fairly obvious which direction you need to walk in. The walk is very gentle in terms of ascent and descent, although at around six miles it will take you a good few hours to get around. My feet were actually pretty achey by the time we got back to the car, possibly because I’m not used to walking on flat paths for so long!

The views, particularly on the first half of the walk, reinforced my belief that Lancashire is a chronically underrated place to explore the great outdoors. Rolling hills, huge leafy trees and drystone walls abound as the trail takes you away from the reservoir – and returning to the reservoir to complete the circuit is actually pretty boring in comparison!

We hardly saw any people for the first few hours we were walking, just the odd person every now and again. This did change as we got closer to the car park at the end and we started crossing over with the other walking trails which start from the same place – but it was still very very quiet compared to all of the places we saw on our trip to Cornwall!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. There is a short section at the start of the walk where you walk through the woods and we were able to let the dogs off the lead, which they loved. For the rest of the walk however there are signs up asking for dogs to be kept on a lead due to ground nesting birds (although we saw plenty of dog walkers ignoring this). I think ours would have loved a swim in the reservoir, but the water level was so low that it was too far away for them to be able to go in. There actually wasn’t very much water on this walk so I was glad we’d taken extra along for the dogs to drink. We crossed through fields of both sheep and cows, luckily the cows in the fields we did go in were very chilled and took no interest in us at all! There was no road walking and no stiles on the trail – both excellent points for any dog walker.

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Pendle Hill

Pendle Hill is probably one of the most famous walks in Lancashire. Partly famous for being a cracking walk with fantastic views, but mostly famous for its name: Pendle is synonymous with the Pendle Witches who were condemned in the area in 1612. The walk up the hill even passes along the Pendle Witches Way in places – but that’s a challenge for another day! Pendle Hill is the fourth highest hill in Lancashire – a reasonable accolade, even if it isn’t the highest. We set out with high hopes of a good day out, and we weren’t disappointed…

Even if you haven’t heard of Pendle Hill before, I bet the name Pendle rings a bell. This tiny town in rural Lancashire is the best known example of the European witch craze in England. From the 14th to 17th centuries, thousands of women across Europe were executed for the crime of being a witch, with the craze being particularly wild in France and the Holy Roman Empire (which was made up of large swathes of Europe east of France).

A pedlar was travelling along a road close to Pendle when a young woman tried to buy some pins from him. He refused, continued on his way, and a few minutes later appeared to suffer some kind of stroke. This was the start of a chain of events which led to the trial of twelve women accused of witchcraft, of whom one died in prison, one was found not guilty, and the remaining ten were executed.

I studied the European witch craze at university, and one of the richest sources of information we had to work with was about the Pendle Witches. Therefore I was very excited to actually see the landscape where these people lived! Pendle Hill offers a great vantage point to survey the surrounding countryside: you can see across the Forest of Bowland, Pendle AONB and even as far as the Lakeland fells! I’ve also heard that on a clear day you can see as far as the Blackpool Tower – we didn’t see it, but we only stayed on the summit for about two minutes, as there was a swarm of midges waiting up there for anyone standing still!

There are a few routes up Pendle Hill. The most popular route starts from Barley, so we took an alternative route that we found in our Cicerone guide to The Forest of Bowland and Pendle, which starts from the beautiful village of Downham. There’s a similar route available on Where2Walk.

The walk is a circular route of about six and a half miles. There is a reasonably sized honesty box car park in Downham – it’s not a huge car park, but there were plenty of spaces when we pitched up at 10am on a bank holiday Saturday. It was full though when we got back to the car four hours later!

There are views galore as you make the climb up from Downham. This is a good thing as if you’re as (un)fit as I am you’ll be taking plenty of breaks on your way up! The climb is pretty unrelentingly steep in places but levels out once you pass the large cairn erected as a memorial for the Scouting movement. The path from here is grassy and without noticeable features – we did the walk on a clear day so didn’t have any navigational issues, but I expect it would be very easy to become lost or disoriented if visibility was poor.

We had a bit of a shock when we got to the summit: we’d only seen two men walking a dog on our way up, but when we joined the track coming up from Barley a whole host of people appeared! Joking aside, there were quite a few people around, but nothing like the crowds we’ve seen on mountains like Scafell Pike, Pen Y Fan and the Yorkshire Three Peaks.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. The beginning and end of the walk pass through fields with livestock in so dogs should be on a lead, as well as when you cross onto the Access Land which covers most of Pendle Hill. There’s a short stretch of about 400m along the road, but aside from this, the walk is almost entirely along footpaths.

On the plus side, taking the walk up from Downham was very quiet, and we hardly saw any dogs – great for Coal! There were quite a few streams at the beginning and end that both dogs loved to splash in, and the majority of the walk was stile free, with just a few appearing towards the end of the walk.

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