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Wainwright's Howgills & Dales Guided Trail

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Duration: 7 nights
Type: Guided Trails
Walking Grade: 4

Combining part of Wainwright’s Walks on the Howgill Fells and Walks in Limestone Country, this trail celebrates the best of these areas. From Kirkby Stephen to Settle, our journey goes through quiet, picturesque countryside and over a number of key peaks, including The Calf - the highest point in the Howgills - Middleton Fell, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent. We explore history including iconic railway viaducts, lime kilns and tales of witches and admire waterfalls and the much-photographed Ribblehead Viaduct.

Holiday Highlights

  • From Kirkby Stephen to Settle
  • Celebrate the best of Wainwright's Howgill Walks and Limestone Walks
  • Climb The Calf, Ingleborough, Pen-y-ghent and Middleton Fell
  • Enjoy quiet, picturesque countryside

Trip Notes

Trip notes are detailed, downloadable PDFs for each holiday.

Download Trip Notes

68 miles with 9-12½ miles and up to 2,250 feet of ascent in a day.

Our first day is a relatively easy start, through farmland and along a disused railway line. We begin in the charming old market town of Kirkby Stephen, then head south around the 'Poetry Path', before heading west past the Settle to Carlisle Railway and into Smardale. We walk above Scandal Beck, passing over the spectacular Smardale Gill Viaduct and on to the old Smardale Bridge to Ravenstonedale. 9 miles (14.5km), with 1,000 feet (300m) of ascent.

Today is more challenging in terms of distance and ascent. We head west on lanes and through farmland to the foot of Bowderdale. We gradually ascend into the heart of the fells, to reach the summit of The Calf - the highest point of the Howgill Fells. We then head across the top of the Howgills and walk down to Sedbergh. 12 miles (19.5km), with 2,000 feet (610m) of ascent.

Leaving Sedbergh on foot we wind our way nearby the Rivers Dee, Rawthey and Lune. After a short section of Roman Road to Fellside, we begin our steady ascent of Middleton Fell. From the highest point of Calf Top, on a clear day, there are great views east down into Dentdale and west as far as Morecambe Bay. We continue along this excellent broad ridge above Barbondale to Eskholme Pike and down to Barbon. 11½ miles (18.5km), with 2,100 feet (640m) of ascent.

Today we enter Limestone Country. Heading up Barbondale, we turn south towards Bull Pot Farm in an area famed for its extensive potholes and underground cave systems. Passing by Ease Gill Kirk (a small limestone ravine) we reach a more pastoral landscape. We meander beside the Leck Beck (a tributary of the River Lune) down to the quaint village of Leck. Passing the hamlets of Ireby and Masongill, we reach Ingleton. 11 miles (17.5km), with 1,250 feet (380m) of ascent.

Today we enjoy a section of the Ingleton Waterfalls Walk, beside the River Twiss and up to Twistleton Hall. We then take an old Roman Road, under Twistleton Scar, to Chapel le Dale. We scale one of the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks – Ingleborough. We should be afforded stunning views of the much photographed Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle to Carlisle Railway. We cross the limestone pavement of Sulber Nick and on down to Horton in Ribblesdale. 12 miles (19km), with 2,200 feet (660m) of ascent. 


We climb the whaleback ascent of our second Yorkshire Peak – Pen-y-ghent. From the summit we head south along a section of the Pennine Way and on to Stainforth, before taking in charming views of the Catrigg Force waterfall. We walk by Jubilee Cave (noted for its prehistoric remains) and under Attermire Scar to reach our journey's end in the picturesque railway town of Settle. 12½ miles (20km), with 2,250 feet (685m) of ascent.


Thorns Hall

Situated in Sedbergh, in West Yorkshire’s portion of the famous Dales, at the foot of the Howgill Fells, Thorns Hall offers cosy, country-pile atmosphere amid beautiful rural surroundings. Dating from 1535, the small manor house is home to 25 bedrooms as well as wood-panelled public rooms, open fireplaces and a cobbled courtyard that ooze historic charm. From every aspect the hills can be seen rising around the house and a short hop takes you from the house to the fells and upland scenery. Marvel at the 24 arch Ribblehead Viaduct, climb the distinctive summit of Ingleborough, one of the Three Peaks, explore classic limestone scenery and stop in at one of Appleby’s historic pubs for a well-earned toast.


Need to know

Important Covid-19 steps we have taken for guest safety: Please Read

As we slowly reopen in the wake of the Coronavirus lockdown, our country house stays are set to be organised a little differently; extra steps have been taken to keep our guests, house teams and leaders safe while we return to action. We ask all our guests to respect the measures put in place.

Initially the overall capacity of the houses has been reduced. Guests must wear face coverings in public spaces. To adhere to social distancing guidelines, we have taken the necessary steps to space out furniture and seating in public areas. In addition, a one-way system will be in place around the house. Adequate signage will be displayed to support the direction of travel to be followed by guests and house teams.

As a temporary measure, we will not be servicing rooms during a stay. Extra tea, coffee, milk, and toiletries will be made available on request for all guests. It is recommended that guests bring their own toiletries for the duration of their stay. We have removed all non-essential and reusable items from our rooms for the meantime including cushions, hairdryers, bathrobes, bed throws, and printed materials to reduce the number of items that need to be disinfected. Hairdryers will be available on request. Clean towels will be available on request. We will though be increasing the frequency of cleaning in our public areas providing particular attention to frequently touched items including door handles and handrails.

For now, there is no cream tea on arrival day. We have also adapted our food offering to remove all buffets and open food items. Different sittings may be required for breakfast and dinner due to the occupancy and size of the house. Picnic lunches will now be pre-ordered the night before from an order form in the room. The bar in each country house will be open, and we will be offering a table service for drinks. At this time there is no, or only a very limited, evening social programme available. Outdoor swimming pools at those houses that have them will re-open throughout August, except at Freshwater Bay House, where the pool will remain closed for 2020. Indoor swimming pools will remain closed.

For more information and to see all the steps taken, visit our page on how house stays will be adapted.


Tea & coffee-making facilities, TV, Hairdryer, Toiletries, Wi-Fi

Stay in one of the Hall’s smartly presented rooms in the main house or cottages across the courtyard. With 25 rooms, Thorns Hall has plenty of space and there’s a range of Good, Better and Best Rooms to choose from. Our pick is Room 25, a very spacious escape on the ground floor with a great brick fireplace, comfy seats to sit in and big bed as well as gorgeous views of the gardens. Look out too for large and airy Room 4 and the more intimate Room 13 with its exposed wood ceiling and courtyard view.

All ‘Good’ rooms are ensuite and furnished to a high standard. There are also several ‘Better’ and ‘Best’ Rooms that are either larger or have a desirable view, a more luxurious mattress and larger television – upgrade your stay for just an extra £15-25 per person per night. You can choose a specific room for an extra £30 per room, subject to availability. Upgrade supplements still apply.


Free Wi-Fi, boot room and drying room, formal garden, large reception hall, two lounges, library and board games to borrow

After a day exploring the Dales, come back to the house and its specially tailored walkers’ facilities. At the front of the house there’s a pretty, formal garden that makes a pleasant spot to relax in. Take up residence in the lounge below the exposed wood beams or seek refuge in the small, dark wood-panelled bar with its over-sized fireplace and log burner for an atmospheric corner to kick back in and catch up with fellow guests over a local ale or two.

Food & Drink

As at all our country houses, holidays are full board, from afternoon tea served as a welcome treat through that evening’s meal to a hearty breakfast on the day of departure. Lunch is a chance to stock up on our famous picnic snacks. Food at Thorns Hall is varied and tasty and has a strong emphasis on ingredients from the area and seasonal produce. Once a week the dining room in the converted barn hosts a Local Food Night, when, over a sociable evening, you might try a five-course feast of regional flavours, from twice baked Wensleydale Cheese Souffle to Lancashire black pudding and Cumbrian rump of lamb.


For accessibility and assistance information, please contact our expert team on 020 3974 8865

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Getting to Thorns Hall

Find out more about this location including travel details and room types.

More Information

What to Bring

Essential Equipment 

  • Rucksack with a waterproof liner,
  • Thermos flask for hot drink,
  • Water bottle (at least 1 litre)
  • Spare high-energy food such as a chocolate bar.
  • Small torch
  • First aid kit – your leader’s first aid kit doesn’t contain any medication or blister kits (such as Compeed).

Optional Equipment

  • Walking poles are useful, particularly for descents.
  • Insect repellent,
  • Sun hat,
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun cream and
  • Camera

Guest Reviews

7 nights
Guided Trails
Walking Grade:

7 nights from 0pp

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