OS Grid ref: NY 23599 30988
Lat/Long: 54.668152, -03.186112
Today is the Autumnal Equinox and the official start of
Autumn. The drive north along the M6 was mist all the way with a
strong SW wind. I was expecting similar conditions as I reached
the small parking area by the road at High Side off the A591
north of Keswick. I was surprised to see several vehicles
already parked as I usually don't see anyone at 8am. I set off
heading SE up the field towards the gate higher up and saw my
first person of the day as a man and his dog were walking down
the fell. Higher up I followed the track into Southerndale and
across to Barkbethdale where the track vanished into a boggy
I managed to cross without getting my feet wet and crossed the
gill to start the steep steady climb up White Horse and on to
Broad End. It was quite blustery as I followed the easy path and
could see the clouds rushing past the fells higher up. It wasnít
long before I reached the cloud level and lost all views.
Climbing up towards Gibraltar Crags I could look over the edge
but see nothing. I was now on the main path and the swirling
cloud made it very dark at times. Eventually the summit Ordnance
Survey trig post appeared as a silhouette against the grey
cloud. To the right was the information column with a steel
plate on the top indicating what mountains can be seen if it was
possible to see anything.
Skiddaw summit 931m (3,054ft).
I was pleasantly surprised to find the wind was no stronger than
on the climb. I took a couple of quick photos and continued over
the summit heading directly south. I saw a young couple coming
up through the cloud and we stopped briefly. They asked how far
to the summit and I checked they had a compass before continuing
on my way. I said hello to 4 more people further down before
reaching the gate where I left the main path to head along the
side of the fence in a SW direction. I was heading towards Sale
How but at first there was no sign of a path.
Gate where I left the track.
Mist and trees behind Skiddaw House.
Eventually one appeared and became more defined as I descended.
It's a shame I was still in cloud as the views down to the River
Caldew must have been impressive. There was a flat area of boggy
ground before the final hump of Sale How which was marked with a
small rocky outcrop. Further down I found some shelter in a dip
by the path and stopped for my sandwiches. I was still in mist
and as I approached the plantation behind Skiddaw House I took a
photo of the trees appearing from the mist. I reached the access
gate to Skiddaw House but there didnít seem to be anyone at
Skiddaw House - back o' beyond
from Wainwright's Norhern Fells book.
The following information is from the information board by the
At 1550ft above sea level, Skiddaw House is
the highest hostel in Britain. It was built around 1829 as a
'Keeper's lodge' and grouse shooting base for George Wyndham,
the third Earl of Egremont. The Wyndham family, whose
descendants became the Lords Leconfield, owned the estate known
as Skiddaw Forest and also nearby Cockermouth Castle. The
building was originally divided into two separate dwellings; one
side for the gamekeeper and his family and the other for a
shepherd's family. The Earl and his shooting parties also had a
few rooms to stay in when they came to visit. This joint usage
continued until 1957, when the Leconfield Estate was broken up
and Skiddaw House, with its associated grazing lands, were sold
to a local farmer. The two resident families left, with just one
shepherd staying on to work for the farmer. This shepherd,
Pearson Dalton, lived alone in the house (except for his goats,
cat and five dogs) for the next twelve years. In 1969, Dalton
retired and moved out of Skiddaw House. The building was
occasionally used by local schools and the Border Bothies
Association but gradually fell into decline. In 1986 the two
dwellings were converted into the current hostel.
House operated as a youth hostel from 1987 until 2002, when it
closed and began to fall into disrepair again. But with the help
of the previous hostel manager, many volunteers and the Skiddaw
House Foundation (a registered charity), the hostel was
renovated and reopened in 2007. It has been welcoming guests
ever since, operating as an independent hostel affiliated to the
YHA. The building retains many original features.
I set off along the access track towards Dash Beck but still had
no views. It was long and boring for a while as I passed above
the wonderfully named Candleseaves Bog. Above Whitewater Dash
waterfall I eventually had a view and could see down into Dash
Beck. A mountain-biker came up the track and stopped to take a
photo as I descended. I had about 1.5miles to walk back to the
road and a further mile back to my car. The rain had kept off
during my walk but started on the drive back home.
Access track to Skiddaw House.
Looking down to Dash Beck.