Outline of Route
Cow Bridge, Hartsop - Patterdale - St. Sunday Crag - Fairfield - Hart Crag -Dove Crag - Cow Bridge (Grid ref. NY 403134)
Total Distance 10.4 miles, Total Ascent 3500 feet, Equivalent Distance 17.3 miles
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Details of Route
This is not a true Deepdale round since that would require a descent via Hartsop above How from Hart Crag: I just wanted to go that little bit further. Leave the (free) car park at Cow Bridge over the little bridge and through the gate that allows access to the path going to the right, towards Patterdale. Follow the path through the trees, alongside the road, until it comes to an end, near Deepdale Bridge. You need to climb the fence, I'm sure you're meant to, to get down to the road. Continue along the road to Patterdale: there is a path on one side or other almost all the way. Pass across the front of the Patterdale Hotel and go round the back, where a footpath can be found onto the open fell. Follow this until you come to Hag Beck, which flows down from the left.
From here there are alternative routes to the top of Birks. For the well-known, well-trodden route, cross the beck and continue along the path until a gate is reached in the fence on the right. Turn left here and follow the steep path up to Thornhow End, and, once past the wall, bear left when you can, to the summit of Birks. Views of Ullswater improve as height is gained (photo) as do the views of Dollywagon and Nethermost Pikes (photo). For the quieter route follow the path, sometimes indistinct, up the left bank of Hag Beck. It is pleasantly secluded and easy going as far as the Glenamara Park boundary wall. A metal ladder stile allows you over the wall after which a broken-down wall can be found on the right leading to the summit of Birks. The climb up, by the wall, is extremely steep, but the alternative route is pretty steep too.
Follow the ridge down to a col; and, on the ascent of St. Sunday Crag (photo), where the path splits, choose whether to follow the path to the left and detour to Gavel Pike - well worth the effort - or go straight on to the summit. From here the view is limited but Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike and Dollywagon catch the attention (photo). The ridge becomes more interesting as it continues towards Fairfield, with Grisedale Tarn (photo) nestling between Dollywagon, Seat Sandal and Fairfield, and the rocky eminence of Cofa Pike looming on the ridge. It looks fearsome but provides no great difficulty and once past Cofa Pike (photo) there is the choice of taking an easy roundabout path or a scramble up rocky slabs to Fairfield's summit (photo).
This summit is very flat with many cairns and paths. It is easy to get lost in hill fog and there are precipious slopes to the north and west awaiting the unwary: make sure you have a compass, and can use it, before you set out. There are uninterrupted views of the felltops in all directions, the only detracting aspect being the flatness of the summit. Set off south east then bearing east for Hart Crag. It is worth keeping to the edge of the cliff, if the conditions are safe, for a sight of the crags tumbling down into Deepdale. A fine view of Rydale and beyond can be seen just as the path veers to the left (photo). It is a rocky path to Hart Crag, beware the paths that lure one towards Hartsop above How (photo) and make for the summit. Here one looks down on the peaceful and secluded valley of Rydal, enclosed by this fell and the other members of the Fairfield horseshoe. The going gets easier on the way, along by a wall, to Dove Crag. From here there are fine views to the east (photo), the southeast (photo), the north (photo), and the southwest panorama (photo).
From here one looks down on Little Hart Crag (photo), a tempting route back to Brothers Water, and justifiably so. For those who wish to go that way, head southeast downhill until a fence is reached (photo) and follow the fence to Little Hart Crag. Continue northeast from the summit down the steep ridge to Hartsop Hall farm. To follow my preferred route head north from the summit of Dove Crag, towards a rocky outcrop. Before this is reached, a grassy slope provides a way down on the left to the path that leads down into Dovedale. This becomes very steep at one point, with the path splitting to a wet rocky scramble on the right and small stones making a slippery and treacherous slope on the left - I chose the former. Avoid this in snow. After this steep descent the path follows a gradual slope down through this beautiful valley, one of the finest in Lakeland (photo of upper Dovedale) (photo of lower Dovedale). Take the path round the back of Hartsop Hall to return along Brothers Water to the car park (photo to the south) (photo to the east). There are pictures taken from Dove Crag, Hart Crag and Fairfield during a temperature inversion (here).
Rev. 02 September 2014