Fairy Steps from Arnside.

Start. Arnside.

Route. Arnside - Station Road - Black Dyke Road - Arnside Moss - Hazelslack - Underlaid Wood - Fairy Steps - Beetham Fell - Cockshot Lane - Haverbrack Bank - Hollins Wood - Sandside - Arnside/Hincaster Railway - Arnside Station - Station Road - Arnside.

Notes. This short excursion comes with a menu listing everything a good ramble should embrace, limestone grassland, coppice woodland and a sizable slice of estuary rambling, legend and folk law abound, all blend together to make a compelling few miles. Today was grey and misty, the light was flat, the temperature on the cool side, not very appealing at all. By early afternoon a slice of colour had appeared in the sky to the south, I grabbed my bag and camera before high tailing it to the coast, destination Arnside. The further south I drove the further south the inviting slice of blue sky slipped, akin to chasing a rainbow, you never win. By the time I reached the coast it had gone, I stepped from the car into a grey afternoon, disappointed I opted to stick to my plan, the one I formulated on the short drive south.

The plan, wander inland, turn right or maybe left at Beetham Fell, then make my way to the coast, hopefully returning via the edge of the estuary at sun set, I should be so lucky. So off I went the tarmac of Station Road under foot, passed the tiny railway station then along Black Dyke Road, at the foot of Briary Bank a finger-post invited me to Hazelslack. This path crosses the railway line, take care, then traverses Arnside Moss take extra care, I've never known it so wet, after a great deal of bog hopping I reached Hazelslack with it's farm, formidable 14th century pele tower and ancient corps road, my guide and companion to the Fairy Steps.

Corps roads criss cross vast tracts of Northern England and Scotland most dating back to medieval times, a means of transporting corpses from outlying villages for internment inland with burial rights. These roads of the dead often crossed water, it was thought the spirit was unable to return over rivers or streams, in this case Arnside Moss, often hazards such as the Fairy Steps were thought to stop ghosts returning, on it's final journey the feet of the corps had to be kept facing away from the family home, again to stop it returning. In 1866 the church at Arnside was consecrated, the corpse road became redundant. Over the centuries myths and legends have grown up around them, as far as I know this one is spirit free, and I've walked it in the dark and seen nothing. Chatting to a local chap at the end of this ramble he claimed corps lights were regularly seen on this route, believed to be the souls of the dead lingering on their final journey, how spooky is that.

This ancient track deposited me at the Fairy Steps, after a tight squeeze through the narrow fissure in the Whin Scar cliffs I sat and had a brew. Brew over a short walk over Beetham Fell followed before a long easy descent to Cockshot Lane, I turned right then almost immediately left into yet more woodland. This path ascended a ridge, if it wasn't for the tree cover I guess the views would be outstanding. I escaped the tree cover onto Haverbrack Bank amidst masses of mole hills, wonderful views and clearing skies. The grey had vanished, the vail lifted, how lucky was I.

After descending the field I entered Hollins Wood, I continued descending along the edge of the woodland to access the estuary at Sandside. I wandered south, the tide was well out, the sand and mud frozen, I used this to my advantage, striding out towards Storth Road and to re-join the tarmac of the coast road. The short walk along the sea front that followed ended when I stepped onto the track bed of the disused Arnside/Hincaster railway, now an excellent foot-path, my guide through the golden light of a winters sun set back to the delights of Arnside, how lucky was that.

view route map.


On a grey uninviting afternoon the Kent Viaduct backed by the White Scar cliffs of Whitbarrow.

Cheerless views down the Kent Estuary, the chink of light that tempted me out is just disappearing over the horizon.

The gaunt remains of 14th century Hazelslack Tower, built to protect the occupants and their animals from any unsavoury passers by, Scots and Border Reveres spring to mind.

Striding out in the foot fall of many a funeral cortege that passed this way before me, about to enter Underlaid Wood.

The Fairy Steps, legend tells us if you can ascend these natural steps without touching the sides the Fairies will grant you a wish. Local law also tells us coffins were hauled up this cliff face en route to Beetham, personally I find that hard to believe as a perfectly good track exists to the south end of the cliff, it's a nice thought though.

Cloud capped Arnside Knott seen from above the Fairy Steps.

Haverbrack Bank provides a fine view point.

Milnthorpe as seen from Haverbrack Bank.

Stunning views the length of Lyth Valley, with the channels of the Kent and Bela capturing the early evening light.

Descending Haverbrack Bank looking to Farleton Fell.

The essence of the sky captured in the Kent Channel.

Whitbarrow seen across upper Morecambe Bay.

The flat calm waters of upper Morecambe Bay mirror the beauty of the evening sky.

From the sea front at Sandside views to Meathop Fell.

Fire in the sky and cool reflections in this view south down the estuary.

When sunlight reflects off the water and wet sand of Morecambe Bay, and Arnside Knott rises dark on the horizon this can be a truly humbling place.

Evening light paints the landscape.

The Kent Channel looking to Arnside, it's surface captures the spirit of the sky.

Along the tide line at Sandside, beyond rises Heversham Head and Scout Scar.

Spellbinding vistas down the estuary.

The prospect south to Arnside and the Kent Viaduct.

The Scots call this the gloaming, a wonderful word for a wonderful time of day, Arnside Knott seen across the salt marsh to the north of Arnside.

As the light fades, the white washed buildings of Arnside seen from the disused Arnside/Hincaster Railway.

The setting sun casts it golden glow over the snow painted hills of Lakeland.

The pier at Arnside, built in 1860 as compensation for the new railway viaduct severing links to the ports at Sandside and Milnthorp.

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