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Hawes to Tan Hill via Great Shunner Fell

Hawes to Tan Hill via Great Shunner Fell

Postby nigheandonn » Tue Apr 30, 2019 2:47 pm

Hewitts included on this walk: Great Shunner Fell

Date walked: 20/04/2019

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Morning in Hawes - I had forgotten to book hostel breakfast the night before, and went out to the Penny Garth cafe instead, which was very pleasant in the sunshine. I would have enjoyed spending more time in Hawes, but as it was I just had a little shopping trip, visiting the two food shops and the chemist to buy lip balm, and leaving museums and ropemakers and so on for another time.

It was already setting out to be an even warmer day than the one before - glorious, but rather relentless for walking in.

The start of this stretch cuts a corner to lead down to a nice bridge, and then wanders on over the fields to Hardraw.

Haylands Bridge

About half of the day is one long hillwalk, up over Great Shunner Fell and down the other side - coming down into Hawes the day before I had seen the parallel hills curving down into the valley.

From Hardraw a track starts climbing up onto the hillside, swinging round a little patch of woodland to climb the main ridge. It's a long slow climb, more than four miles, without many markers at first except signposts for the other paths running off to each side. Once again a road was improbably climbing across the slope of the next hill, with other little slopes in between.

Parallel hills

The good track swung off at the last junction and a grassy path went on - up until now everything had been grassy, but further up it started to be proper peat bog, and a flagged path led across it.

Flagged track

Up here there was at least a change between flatter bits and steeper bits, and the path changing from flags to stones and back again, and the landmarks of the odd stone cairns and pillars marked on the map as beacons

Stony track

The hill doesn't have any of the dramatic crags of other hills around, but it was doing its best to keep a proper Yorkshire outline, with the summit up on its own little steep hill on top of the main bulk of the hill.

The last section was even more peaty, with little hags, but the path was seemed to be keeping most of the traffic, and further on it was flagged again.

The summit rise

The steep climb didn't last long, but it was surprisingly difficult while it lasted - it had been stepped after a fashion, but often with stones which you had to lift your foot up and over to stand on the step beyond, a bit like the drains which trip you up in paths, but far worse.

Awkward steps

There was still a stretch to go on over the top, but the summit once reached was well marked with a cross shelter - it was pretty busy, but I managed to get a side to myself and even some shade to eat my lunch.

Great Shunner Fell summit

It was very mixed company up here - the group on one side of me were trying to find out the football scores and discussing whether their friend should pick them up at Thwaite or Keld, while the other side was 'when we lived in Russia', 'the last day I was in Thailand', 'when I was on a shoot in London' - which in the middle of a grouse moor I misunderstood completely and wondered what there was to shoot in London!

Onward and onward and onward - it was nearly as far down the other side, along more flagged path, although at least it was a bit faster going down.

A long way on

I was heading down towards the little valley which holds Thwaite and Muker, a pretty place with scattered houses and even more scattered barns - even more eagerly because I knew I would pass a tearoom in Thwaite.


It was far too hot for drinking tea, and far too hot for sitting outside, but inside it was a bit cooler, and I could drink cold juice and eat a scone.

The section from Thwaite to Keld was relatively short but surprisingly hard work - I went the wrong way through the houses, picked up the path again, and found myself crossing fields to start a surprisingly steep climb up the side of Kisdon, which if you weren't toiling up it in the blazing heat would be a very pretty place full of barns and walls.

Kisdon and field barns

The path went climbing on round the corner past some old buildings - the views along towards Muker were lovely, and someone was paragliding above the valley.

Steeply uphill

Around another corner I was tucking into the narrower valley which is upper Swaledale - the path was more level here, although never very quick.

Along the hillside

It was a lovely place, with a parallel path winding along the hillside opposite and old buildings scattered about - an old ruined house down on the green fields by the river stood in front of the great gash of Swinner Gill on the other side.

Swinner Gill and the river

A little further on was Crackpot Hall, now all cracked up by mining subsistence, although the name probably just means that it was a haunt of crows.

Crackpot Hall

Kisdon is a Marilyn, and I had kind of meant to head up to the summit - I think I saw the place where people turn off, but even if I'd had the energy I didn't have the time.

I decided that I had to make time for the little detour to Keld, though - a tiny place which was once much more, and still has the buildings which used to be two churches and a village reading room.


(It also has the midpoint of the Coast to Coast walk, so since I've now been at the beginning, the middle and the end there doesn't seem any point to me walking it - which is fine, because I don't particularly want to!)

Back at the Pennine Way was a little waterfall - the real waterfall day was still to come, but it was a pretty spot.


It already seemed to have been a very uphill kind of day, and now at 6pm I was setting off on another uphill stretch, which just seemed unfair - starting off with a pull up a green lane, with views back into the valley behind.

Uphill again

Once I was up, though, it wasn't nearly so bad - there was a long stretch which was nearly flat, easy going on grass which felt kind to my feet, and for the first time that day it was cool enough to be really pleasant for walking, so that despite tiredness this suddenly ended up as my favourite part of the day.

It was a pretty lonely place, moors all around, but once again a road from nowhere in particular to nowhere in particular was running up the valley in parallel, and I did walk past one inhabited house, in among the abandoned buildings and the old barns.

Lonely house

A tiny bridge over a tiny stream marked the start of the last steeper climb - I had really thought I would be the last person heading for Tan Hill that evening, but now I could sometimes hear a group shouting behind me, although when I turned round I could never see them.

Little bridge

Tan Hill came suddenly into view when I was still thinking of it as miles away - it was still about half a mile away, but definitely nearby. As I got closer to it I started to meet old tracks - the pub vanished and reappeared again, and I could hear the crowd behind me, who I had thought had turned down to the road, seeing it for the first time.

Tan Hill in sight

I had no idea what to expect from Tan Hill, and that was really exactly what I got. It was mobbed, and the bar seemed to be the only place to check in, although they looked a bit doubtful about that even when I got there - only one man knew about beds, and he had gone off with someone else. But he came back, and took me through a maze of little passages to a bunkroom which seemed to be working on the principle that there was no point washing the sheets until they were all dirty, because although the bed I chose was perfectly clean, others had definitely been slept in!

There was one other person in the room, a guy walking the Pennine Way from north to south, who told me that the next day would be about reservoirs - I told him he would be fine, because his day would be all downhill.

I managed to claim a table outside and went in to order food - they said it would be about 45 minutes, but they were obviously doing their best with the hordes of bikers and campervanners and general wanderers - but by the time I got back outside someone had moved all my stuff and sat down there instead, so I had to go back and say I had no idea where I would be, and spent a relatively peaceful time sitting on the edge of the outside area drinking beer.

45 minutes later I hopefully claimed an end of a table so I could eat, but it took another hungry half hour before my food appeared - by that time I'd managed to get a table of my own, but in so dark a corner that it was hard to see what I was eating. Then something was making a Big Noise outside the bedroom window, but I just had to hope that I was tired enough to sleep through anything, which turned out to be the case.

None of this is really a complaint - all the staff were friendly and doing their best with the bank holiday crowds, but it was definitely an Experience.

(Although it really belongs to the next installment: the next morning I asked the girl serving what kind of eggs came in the breakfast, meaning fried, scrambled... "Umm, it's just ordinary bacon," she said!)
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Re: Hawes to Tan Hill via Great Shunner Fell

Postby regedmunds » Wed May 08, 2019 5:02 pm

Excellent! I've done the same route, but not in hot weather and when I arrived at the Tan Hill pub there was only 4 of us as customers. For me the Great Shunner Fell was just there and had to be done but like you I enjoyed a full day at it.
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Joined: Mar 11, 2019

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