Whitsundale and Clumpstone Hill

From Keld 7.5 miles (12km)

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Some of Upper Swaledale’s most spectacular scenery is revealed during this moderate hill walk. It follows a section of the ‘Coast-to-Coast’ footpath and the views are excellent.

Our starting point is the charming village of Keld, the last settlement of any size in Swaledale. Its name comes from the Norse ‘Kelda’ which means spring or stream, but it was called Appeltrekelde until the late Middle Ages meaning ‘the spring by the apple tree’. The Vikings certainly knew what they were doing when they settled at Keld. It is a perfect refuge, sheltered on all sides by rolling green hills. Nearby there are several waterfalls, including Catrake Force, East Gill Force, Wain Wath Force and the spectacular Kisdon Force.

Our route from Keld crosses the river Swale and climbs past the striking East Gill Force to arrive at East Stonesdale Farm. Two famous footpaths meet here; the Pennine Way heading north to Tan Hill and Scotland; and the Coast-to-Coast has reached its halfway point with 95 of its 190 miles completed.

Wainwath Force and Cotterby Scar
Wain Wath Force and Cotterby Scar

The views from East Stonesdale are outstanding, with the High Seat ridge providing a magnificent backdrop. After passing the pretty Currack Force we continue above the limestone cliff of Cotterby Scar and into the peaceful valley of Whitsundale. The path takes us past the dramatic gorge of Oven Mouth, whose steep crags and sharp cleft provide fine views of Whitsundale Beck. Further on, we pass the narrow gorge at How Edge Scars, where a waterfall plunges steeply through the trees into the beck below. Approaching Ravenseat another attractive waterfall is revealed.

Ravenseat Bridge
Ravenseat Bridge

From Ravenseat we follow the road to Black Howe, where we descend through the fields to Hoggarth Bridge. The large farmhouse of Hoggarths can be seen to the right during the descent. It was rebuilt on this site after the first house had been washed away by flood in 1899. That year a cloudburst on Great Shunner Fell caused large volumes of water to rush down Great Ash Gill behind Hoggarths, which at that time was situated lower down, on the south side of the river Swale. The people in the farmhouse had just enough time to escape through a bedroom window, but when the floodwaters subsided, the house was little more than a ruin.

Leaving Hoggarth Bridge we climb over Clumpstone Hill and drop gently down into Angram. An evening school was held in one of Angram’s cottages during the early nineteenth century. The teacher had to give his lessons with chalk on the flags of the kitchen floor. His pupils, all past childhood, travelled many miles for their ‘bit of learning’. This education was not free; each pupil had to pay a small sum to the teacher.

The road could be followed back to Keld, but our route favours the little valley of Skeb Skeugh Beck. The river Swale flowed through this valley until the end of the last Ice Age. The debris left behind by the melting glacier formed a dam across the valley. The river created a new route, cutting the deep gorge on the eastern side of Kisdon, forming the isolated hill we see today.

After crossing the valley, we join the Pennine Way footpath, which leads back into the village square at Keld.

Download PDF with map and directions

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