Tor Dike and Great Whernside.

Start. Kettlewell.

Route. Kettlewell - Middle Lane - The Green - Cam Gill Road - Top Mere Road (Track) - Starbottom Road (Track) - Tor Dike - Can Gill Road - Tor Dike - Black Dike - Black Dike End - Blackfell Crags - Little Crags - Blackfell Top - Great Whernside - Hag Dyke - Hooksbank - Scabbate Gate - Kettlewell.

Notes. I sat at the computer last night, the fell forecast in front of me, chance of rain none, cloud free summits certainly. That was the blue touch paper, back to Kettlewell and an assault on Great Whernside, things didn't go well.

Kettlewells charm, peace and beauty sweeps over you as you enter the village, it's a real attractive little place, 21st century hustle and bustle have been left down the dale at Skipton, I strolled around the streets looking for a way onto the hill. Of course the fell forecast never lies, so why couldn't I see the hills, perhaps it will blow over, perhaps, spoken tongue in cheek.

Along Middle Lane I wandered then The Green, I hadn't the foggiest idea where I was going, with map in hand I made for the Leyburn Road, this seemed to fit the wiggly bits on the map. I was climbing out of the village when I decided this was the right route, when the road swung sharp right I continued along a stoney track, this was Top Mere Road it guided me into the reason I couldn't see the hills, Yorkshires best pea soup.

I continued climbing, no views just the path in front and behind me, and no GPS that stopped working in Kettlewell. Between dry stone walls I wandered, over open moorland passed wall boundaries which it always pays to count when forced to use a map. After a long slog up hill I reached a junction, a friendly finger-post promised passage to Starbottom or Hunters Sleets, it was the latter for me. The track that had safely guided me from Kettlewell then abruptly vanished to be replaced by a narrow path, at first I thought I'd been misled then suddenly found myself wandering along some kind of earth fortification, I guessed this must be Tor Dike.

Tor or Ta Dyke is a massive earthwork cut along a limestone outcrop at the head of Scale Park spanning the route from Kettlewell to Coverdale. The Dyke is an entrenchment which stretches from the middle slopes of Great Whernside across the pass to the middle slopes of Buckden Pike. Built around AD70 on the orders of the rebel Brigant Chief Venutius as part of his defenses against the might of Rome, it didn't work but it's an awesome place to walk.

I followed the lines of the Tor Dike back onto open moorland, using a lone dry stone wall as a hand rail I finally reached Hunters Sleet and a finger-post inviting me to Great Whernside. A well trod path now ushered me over open Moorland, with a number of junctions I kept my eye on the map and compass, slowly the going got steeper. Traversing Black Dike the slopes really kicked up, with legs burning I reached a stile, crossed then used the dry stone wall as a handrail to guide me to a boundary running along the summit, the boundary turned out to be a fence line.

This handrail guided me through swirling cloud, across Blackfell Crags then on to the summit of Great Whernside. The summit's littered with a liberal sprinkling of millstone grit boulders, a large cairn and trig point, I found a comfy spot out of the wind, sat down and had lunch. After hanging around quite a while hoping for the cloud to lift I decided to descend, an obvious path leaves the fell top heading west, this I followed through a hillside littered with boulders, into sunshine and hazy vistas. Over a couple of scars I descended across soft ground easy on the joints, yellow topped marker posts keeping me on track. After a steep descent to Hag Dyke (a splendid Scout Hostle) I stepped into sheep pastures.

I continued down hill field paths under foot, gates and stiles allowing easy crossing of dry stone walls, the village of Kettlewell stays well hidden, tucked away in the folds of the hill. When I thought I'd never reach it I crossed the final stile, forded Dowber Gill Beck and joined a stoney lane leading back into the village.

view route map.


Gate Cote Scar above the River Wharf at Kettlewell.

Melting into the morning murk Old Cote Moor.

Kettlewell seen from the stoney surface of Top Mere Road.

A hazy day over Whernside Pasture and Sweet Hill.

The Dales are fast melting around me, the mist's refusing to lift, the view Dowber Gill.

Between the dry stone walls of Top Mere Road.

A small slice of Tor Dike.

A lonely ramble across Great Hunters Sleets.

Cloud drifts over Little Hunters Sleets, viewed from Black Dike.

A perfect handrail to the summit of Great Whernside....

....but first a traverse of Blackfell Top.

The highest point on the eastern flanks of Wharfedale, the summit Great Whernside.

The mist is lifting, slowly, and I'm on the descent, hopefully into some views.

Sweet Hill leading to Hill End, seen over Whernside Pasture.

A group of walkers head for the summit of Great Whernside, out of view just over the ridge.

Above Hag Dyke looking down on Dowber Gill.

Hag Dyke looking to Sweet Hill with Great Whernside out of shot to the left.

Striding out through limestone pastures enjoying views to Gate Cote Scar over Dowber Gill.

Looking back to Great Whernside.

Once mined for lead, Dowber Gill.

Looking to Cam Head, my ascent route through the mist earlier today.

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