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Raisgill to Cowgill (and Sedbergh)

Friday 17th August

15 miles walking

This was the day we went over the moors from Wharfedale to Dentdale. We had breakfast at 8.30am with the other family staying at Low Raisgill Cottage (two women and two delightful small children, washed out of a camping holiday), picked up our packed lunches and set off around 9.15am. It had been a lovely stay and it wasn't raining! Indeed, there were only a few spots of rain all day and although it wasn't particularly warm, it was excellent weather for walking.

We crossed the Wharfe at Yockenthwaite and then followed it upstream, first on one side of it and then on the other.
The river was now quite a small stream, tumbling over the rocks, and at Beckermonds we reached what the guidebook describes as the source of the river of the name of the Wharfe, though the water comes from two streams which merge here. After a slightly complicated manouvre (to get across both streams) we followed the right-hand stream which, confusingly, still seemed to be called the Wharfe.

We climbed up the road to Oughtershaw and then followed the drive to Wethergill and Swathgill farms. After Swathgill Farm we left the track and climbed, following a footpath across very boggy ground, first to Cam Houses (a farm which appeared to be in the process of extension) then higher, across Cam Pasture and across the corner of some woodland. We eventually got off the muddy ground (I'd only fallen over once!) at Cam High Road, a track that carries both the Dales Way and the Pennine Way. We followed the track for a short distance to a cairn and a signpost, at 520 metres (1705 feet) the highest point on the Dales Way.
We had lunch here and talked to some other walkers who had been advised to take a diversion to avoid the boggy ground; apparently the diversion had been long and difficult so we were pleased we'd come the way we did.

After lunch we continued along Cam High Road, once a roman road and now something of a 'motorway', with the fell damaged by too many walkers and cyclists. We parted company with the Pennine Way and descended towards Gayle Beck (the infant River Ribble) at Far Gearstones,
with splendid views to Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-Ghent and a railway viaduct ahead.

We walked a short distance along the B6255 and then up a farm track to Winshaw Farm. From here there was a fairly steep climb and a distinctly boggy stretch of walking over Gayle Moor.

We eventually joined a track, possibly built by the builders of the railway (currently in a tunnel somewhere beneath us). The track took us from Yorkshire into Cumbria and eventually down to the head of Dentdale.
We followed the road for about 3 miles, a remarkably pleasant stretch of road walking, passing under Dent Head Viaduct and with the River Dee (the river that flows through Dentdale is called the Dee!) close beside us all the way.

We passed the former youth hostel and the Sportsman's Inn, where we would have been staying had they not decided that they didn't have room for us, and reached the phone box at Lea Yeat. To describe this simply as 'Cowgill' would be ambiguous, as we'd passed the the sign telling us we were entering Cowgill shortly after the Dent Head Viaduct.

The plan was that we would get a taxi from here to Sedbergh, then reverse the process tomorrow morning.
The good news was that, since tomorrow would be Saturday, there appeared to be a bus back from Sedbergh to Cowgill. The bad news was that getting a taxi proved to be extremely difficult. We had brought the telephone numbers of a large number of taxi firms, but most were 'not obtainable', not answered, or told us that they didn't serve the area. We eventually booked a taxi to collect us at 5.45pm (about an hour) and in the process of waiting had interesting conversations with two couples, one of whom told us that there was a group of Canadians also walking the Dales Way.

The taxi (a white minibus with a woman driver) arrived slightly early and we had an excellent journey to Sedbergh.
The lanes are extremely narrow, but other cars tend to give way to a minibus. We passed through Dent, which looks lovely, with narrow cobbled streets. We remember the Dent Geological Trail, from when Helen was little and mad on rocks, but we don't think we could have visited Dent itself.

The taxi cost £22 but when we got to Sedbergh the advantages of the two-night stop became apparent. We're staying in a small cottage (Dales Cottage), owned by and close to the Dalesman Country Inn, so we have plenty of space and can eat take-aways rather than going to a pub or restaurant (which we enjoy but can be a bit repetitive, day after day when walking a long distance footpath). We had a chinese take-away and a bottle of wine from the Spar Shop.

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