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Hiking in the Howgills

Have you heard of the Howgills? The Howgill Fells are those amazing hills that are on your right as you drive north up the M6 when you’re past Kendal. Everyone tends to turn left and head into the Lake District but you really are missing a treat if you don’t turn right instead and spend some time in these majestic hills which are just as stunning and far less busy than their easterly neighbours.
My husband and I discovered the Howgill Fells about 18 years ago, in the days before children, when we chose to spend our free time hiking the countryside and refuelling slowly in country pubs. We’re now lucky enough to live within day-trip distance and seized an opportunity to take a day off and literally head for the hills last week!
With our OS map and trusty walking guide we followed a route which took us up Carlingill to Black Force and The Spout waterfalls which were cascading down their rocky ravines after previous rain. Spectacular, and how wonderful to enjoy them without another person in sight.
The path was just as the guide described ‘largely evident’ but ‘sketchy in places’. It was tricky, uneven, slippery and steep at times. The dog slipped on a rock when her claws didn’t grip and tumbled backwards taking me with her. Miraculously I didn’t end up in the river and just stained a grazed behind and a dent in my confidence! Well worth it for the splendour though.
Climbing out of the valley we had a long, tricky traverse followed by a steep ascent to take us up to the summit of Linghaw (1640ft/500m) with simply stunning views across the Howgills, to Lakeland and to our own familiar Morecambe Bay. Autumn is my favourite season to enjoy the hills; the colours and the light were spectacular.
A speedy descent back down to the car, with a bit of running, was a wonderful way to end the walk and ensure we made it back in time for the school run!
Oh how I’ve missed the Howgills, I’ll definitely be heading back there soon. Tell you what though, I’m so used to being in trail shoes, my hiking boots felt odd and clumsy. I also found my balance and co-ordination wasn’t nearly as good as I remember it being on such tricky terrain. I recall ‘scampering up’ hills such as these in the past. Definitely a sign that I need to challenge myself out in the hills more often!
Photo credits – all mine from my phone! Dr Juliet McGrattan

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