Bowderdale and the Calf

The Howgill Fells offer excellent walking with few other people sharing the landscape. This walk follows Bowderdale deep into the area before climbing steadily to the highest point in this group of fells. The return route offers grandstand views as you follow a lofty ridge back to the start.

Technical sheet
No. 293022
A Orton (Cumbria)-1 walk posted on 04/07/16 by Walking Britain. Update : 09/03/21
Calculated time Calculated time: 6h20[?]
Distance Distance : 10.7mi
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 1578ft
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 1552ft
Highest point Highest point : 2208ft
Lowest point Lowest point : 764ft
Difficult Difficulty : Difficult
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Area Area : Yorkshire Dales
Location Location : Orton (Cumbria)-1
Starting point Starting point : N 54.435973° / W 2.498392°
Download : -
Return route, looking back toward the Calf View from near The Calf


(A)The start is the hamlet of Bowderdale which lies a few miles along the A685 east of Tebay (M6 Junction 38). Turn onto the lane and follow to the hamlet. There is limited parking (grid ref. NY677046) just over the bridge on the right hand side. Please note there is a sign requesting you not to park beyond a certain point. Please respect this request. After parking walk west up the lane to reach a signed bridleway on your left. Follow this rough track soon getting great views ahead into the mouth of Bowderdale. The ridge used for the return lies to the right of the valley. The track continues past through two gates and continues in open country with a wall on your left. Follow this wall and where it curves left leave the track (grid ref. NY669035) and follow the path which starts to descend. It is likely that you will see few people and you will have this beautiful place to yourself.

(1)Little description is required and all you need to do is follow the clear path up Bowderdale. After the initial descent, the path levels out before gently climbing into the hills. Ahead the view is dominated by the steep slopes of Yarlside. Reaching an indistinct path junction at grid reference SD678988, the climb starts in earnest. Don't worry if you miss this junction as it is quite indistinct but lies almost alongside the summit of Yarlside.

(2)From this point the path climbs more steeply across the fellside. Height is soon gained and the view improves dramatically with Whernside and Baugh Fell amongst the many summits that come into view towards the southeast. The ascent starts to ease and you reach small tarn (grid ref. SD671974). Take note as this is the key to the descent route. It will have become apparent by this stage the complex network of ridges and valleys that make up the Howgills and should the cloud come down this small tarn provides an essential landmark in what can be a featureless landscape.

(3)To reach the summit of the Calf, continue on the main path as it turns southwest to reach the trig point. The view is good with a grand panorama of hills through 360 degrees although the flattish nature of the summit area does detract a little from the view. Having enjoyed the summit, return to the small tarn noted on the outward route. Bear half left off the main path used for the ascent and follow a broad grassy track. Do check you are on the right ridge before committing yourself to the descent. The track descends quite steeply for a short section with the onward ridge laid out before you. You also have a superb view ranging from the Lakeland Fells to the left through Cross Fell to the high ground east of Kirkby Stephen to your right. The first un-named summit has a spot height of 556 metres and this is quickly followed by an easy ascent of Hazelgill Knott.

(4)Down to another col, and then along the undulating ridge of West Fell. Where there is a choice of tracks then use the one to the right. In poor weather another check of your position needs to be made on the summit of West Fell where there is a danger of following the wrong track heading northwest over Langdale Knott. The final descent starts here and trends generally in a northerly direction. The track leads you back to the wall where you started the valley section of the route. All that remains is to retrace your steps back to the start.(A)

Waypoints :
D/A : mi 0 - alt. 768ft - Bowerdale
1 : mi 0.9 - alt. 1060ft - Leave track and follow path downhill
2 : mi 3.95 - alt. 1316ft - Begin steep ascent at junction
3 : mi 5.09 - alt. 2178ft - Continue past small tarn
4 : mi 7.35 - alt. 1837ft - Continue over Hazelgill Knott
D/A : mi 10.7 - alt. 764ft - Bowerdale

Useful Information

This excursion into the Howgill Fells offers some fine scenery and excellent walking. However do not underestimate the Howgills as in poor visibility they offer considerable navigational challenges with a complex series of interconnecting ridges and deep valleys. This route has been described with the outward valley section completed first followed by a descent along the ridge. This was chosen because strong southerly winds would have made the ridge ascent hard going. In good still conditions the route is probably best undertaken in reverse by first doing the ascent up the ridge and then returning down the valley.

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

Opinions and comments


Global average : 5/5
Number of opinions : 2
Description quality : 5/5
Routemap quality : 5/5
Walk interest : 5/5

on Tue 09 Mar 2021 00:28:33 CET

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 06/03/21
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

A great walk to do with a companion as requires minimal map consultation if visibility is good. The outward and inward paths are nicely trodden with little ambiguity on the ground

Very evident on this walk are the complex series of deep gullies formed by the streams and rivers that rise in these hills along with the high interconnecting ridges. A classic Howgills walk through remote country arriving at The Calf from a northerly direction.

Rating is more medium than difficult to my mind. It's a long walk but not particularly steep or rocky. We chose to follow the path out adjacent to Bowderdale Beck and return via the ridge that runs above the Beck's Bowderdale and Langdale. Although it is possible to reverse the route I think it's more comfortable ascending the steepest aspect above Cautley Spout than making the descent on this path with tired legs.

It was a cold, raw day when we ventured out. The wind was mostly absent but on The Calf it soon snuck into gaps where cuffs and collars didn't quite make a seal with gloves and snoods.The summits were clear but the usual Howgills panorama was obscured by thin grey gauze that never really cleared. The tops and tarns were frozen and so were we after a quick pit stop for soup and a sandwich. One of us regretted going without the thermal longs.

This is the walk to do if you want to get your head around the geography of these lonely folded hills.

on Sun 08 Dec 2019 17:46:03 CET

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 10/11/19
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

I've been spending a long weekend once a year in Kirkby Stephen for the last 3 years and I'm always on the look out for good walks in the area. This particular walk seemed to fit the bill, though a couple of miles longer than I tend to walk ... so I thought I'd give it a go.
I wasn't disappointed. The weather was definitely on my side with clear blue skies for much of the walk, though it was definitely cold. I followed the advice at the end of the route guide and made the ascent up the ridge before returning along the valley. There are a lot of well worn tracks on the hills created by farmers so it's generally an easy route to follow. I'd imagine in low cloud though it would be easy to follow a wrong track or maybe miss one altogether ... so the warning in the guide is certainly warranted. A definite 10/10 from me

Other walks in the area

distance 5.17mi Vertical gain +1703ft Vertical drop -1699ft Durée 3h50 Difficult Difficult
Starting point Starting point in Sedbergh - Cumbria

Cautley Spout, the Calf, Bram Rigg Top, Calders and Great Dummacks are all included in this walk in the Howgill Fells. Starting from Cross Keys, near Sedbergh, the route offers excellent walking within the Yorkshire Dales National Park and visits one of most dramatic locations in these hills.

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This walk climbs to the Calf via Fell Head. Starting from the small hamlet of Howgill, near Sedbergh, this route sees few walkers. Offering good views to the Shap Fells and the higher hills of the Yorkshire Dales, this is a walk for the connoiseur.

distance 6.11mi Vertical gain +387ft Vertical drop -387ft Durée 3h10 Average Average
Starting point Starting point in Kirkby Stephen - Cumbria

A circular walk from the market town of Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria. The route explores the rolling country to the south-west of the town visiting the village of Nateby, before continuing close to Wharton Hall and across Waitby Common back to the start.

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Winder and Arant Haw are two hills included in this delightful walk from Sedbergh. The Howgill Fells are an integral part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park yet they display a unique character. The walking is good, the views superb and the paths quiet. Who could ask for more?

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