Dale Head

Published 26 January 2020

An extremely large cairn on Dale Head
Is that a big cairn, or are you just pleased to see me?

Overlooking the Newlands Valley are a series of fells. One of them is well known. Catbells. But the others are frequented far, far less. And I decided it was definitely time to check them out. From Catbells I visited Maiden Moor, and High Spy, before heading to the fell with perhaps the best view of the day.

Dale Head was the high point of the day. Quite literally. Coming in at 753m above sea level, it was the highest fell I’d visit that day. And given how much I had to descend from the top of nearby High Spy, it felt like I’d be walking up pretty much from the bottom.

The first task was the descend to Dale Head Tarn. It was a lovely spot from where water flows into Newlands Beck, and then to the valley below. High Spy seemed to be quite good at producing water. It was coming out of the ground and gushing down the hill in abundance. It was no doubt keen to flow all the way to Bassenthwaite Lake, then to the sea. Yes, Bassenthwaite. Not Derwent Water. Derwent Water was close by. Vut the water from Newlands Beck wanted to travel a couple of other miles to a lake north of Keswick instead.

Dalehead Tarn
Dalehead Tarn, nestling inbetween Dale Head and High Spy

The tarn was a lovely spot. But resting there is for wimps. Also, resting there is for people who had stopped a few minutes earlier. For people like me who had mistaken a large puddle for the tarn.

I’d need more rest soon enough though. The path up Dale Head was steep. And I mean steep with a capital S. And a capital P. And some other capital letters in between.

I wasn’t the only one struggling. A man and a woman walking not far behind me were stopping for breathe more than I was. And I was stopping a lot. With a capital L. And a capital T. And possibly an O as well.

With my mind focusing putting on getting up the confounded hill, I didn’t take in much else. The path was well made, that I can tell you. Not slippery at all. Lots of nice sturdy stones set into the fellside. What was the scenery like? I can’t tell you. There was grass. The tarn down below. Could have been some sheep. Although who could be sure? Not me. But boy were those stones sturdy.

Finally, after much time climbing, and even more time spent resting, I reached the top of Dale Head. I’d made it. Ready to enjoy what has to be the best thing about Dale Head.

The view.

The view of the Newlands Valley from the summit of Dale Head
There’s a reason it’s called Dale Head. It’s at the head of dale.

Unlike all the other fells I’d visited that day, Dale Head has a name that’s self-explanatory. You can see exactly where it came from. I mean, Catbells? What? It doesn’t look like a cat. Nor a bell. Nor a cat with a bell. Maiden’s Moor? Well that sounds rather sinister, especially if exclaimed in a loud voice. But Dale Head, well once you get there, it’s abundantly clear. Highly obvious. For Dale Head is a bold, striking fell that quite simply, sits at the head of the Newlands Valley. It’s basically a hill at the head of the dale.

And when you stand at the summit, next to a frankly enormous cairn, and you look north, you see you’re standing pretty much dead centre of the valley. You’re looking down the valley. It’s an amazing sight. Quite beautiful. Almost hypnotic based on the fact I couldn’t take my eyes of it.

That despite the fact that Dale Head absolutely excels in the views department. It’s got a cracking 360 degree panoramic. If I turned round I could see the Honister Slate Mine and the fells around it. Pay enough attention and I should have been able to see Bowfell. Hey, there was next to no cloud on the hilltops. I could see for miles in every direction. But it was beauty and tranquillity of the the Newlands Valley that I simply couldn’t stop looking at.

Buttermere and its surrounding fells, from Dale Head
Buttermere and its surrounding fells, from Dale Head

I sat there, worshipping that view until another walker arrived,

“Phew, am I glad to be finally here,” he exclaimed.

I nodded in support, noting that his ascent had brought him up from the Honister Pass, using a route that Alfred Wainwright said of

“No other summit of like altitude is reached so quickly and easily from a motor road.”

True, this guy could have walked much further than Honnister. I didn’t probe to find out. Didn’t get chance as he was too busy taking a toy sheep out of his rucksack and then taking photographs of it sat next to the cairn.

I decided it best to leave him to it, and I heaved myself up and set off to Hindscarth.

Next time: onwards to Hindscarth for the final fell of the day.

Your Comments

Vic Flange

26 January 2020 at 12:48 pm

Have to agree that this is a superb top. Glad you had the weather too.

I walked it from Honister Pass though that wasn’t the original plan. In fact, Dale Head hadn’t been in the plan at all when I set out that morning. The gearbox of the bus to Buttermere gave out at the top of the pass, resulting in me abandoning a walk from Buttermere via Grasmoor back to Keswick.

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