If you want a fantastic good distance hike with a tremendous amount of variety then this approximately 12/13 mile wander across the South of Cumbria will suit perfectly. Kirkby Lonsdale, across and Westwards ending at the coast in Arnside. Cumbria counjours up images of lakes, mountains and ancient volcanic stone. This is limestone, green valleys, flat moss and crags all the way and more. The highs of Hutton Roof combined with crossing ways like the West Coast Railway Line, The Lancaster Canal and under the M6. Perfect for a days walk, climbs not too harsh at all but leg stretching enough to give a feel you have achieved and seen a lot.
The start of the walk will be well known to many that have ventured through South Cumbria, Kirkby Lonsdale. Devil’s Bridge over the River Lune to be more precise. A picture perfect river setting to set you on your way.
Heading West and across over the A65 it is straight into good old green and lovely countryside. For the next few miles all the life I came across was sheep, cows and bulls. Between the rolling fields you come upon gorgeous hidden villages and pass through untouched small woods. The variety had started with a bang. This is not one long plod on a common well used and heavy person traffic footpath. This was a foot on crisp green grass, through styles in hedgerows and a find your way kind of walk.
After a few miles the village of Hutton Roof is reached. This was the time to start the first real uphill. Don’t think steep, don’t think hard hard slog. Far from it. Up through the greenery you come out onto Hutton Roof Crags and its rolling ridge. Limestone is abound the top here. Small cliffs have formed amongst the crags. This is where I met my first people. A group of teenage weekend adventurers practicing their rock climbing skills. The view from the top is immense. yet another perfect example of how it is not altitude that gives arise to stunning vistas, sometimes an innocent looking hill can provide a lot more… and to more people too! Looking North in one eyshot you get the mountains of The Lake District, the Howgills and the start of Yorkshire Dales along with the Lune Valley. Looking West you get your first sighting of Morecambe Bay and towards the end point. Next time you head North up the M6 aiming for mountains, look right before you get there after Lancaster and Carnforth. You will see sets of limestone covered hills that are perfect to explore. Go for something different.
Lunch with a view had it was time to move on, down into and through more peaceful woodland, green limestone pastures and on towards the M6. Eventually you start hear the engines and fuss of this busy highway. Always feels strange to pass under it and as soon as you have you leave it behind fast and enter the village of Holme, not without first crossing the Lancaster Canal. A beautiful spot to take a few minutes or even a detour. Calm water, reflections and swans.
Through Holme, under the West Coast Railway Line and onwards through rolling fields to Hale and the M6. Rows of Hawthorn Trees lead the way. Almost knee deep in mud too thanks to the trampling of cows and our lovely summer we have had… Adds to the adventure 😉
Once you cross the A6 at Hale it is time for more uphill but yet again with such a difference and variety to what lay before. Up through a magical woodland setting with limestone pathways. In Autumn this had created a gorgeous look and feel. Winding up it suddenly opens up before you between the trees and a crazy paving of limestone crag is your path ahead. Hopping and stepping across small cracks in this ancient stone before you reach the ‘fairy steps’.
The fairy steps (pic below) are a set of steps down a very narrow crack between two limestone cliff faces. More adventure, a short scramble down, with history. Legend has it that if you can get down the steps without touching the sides you will see a fairy. It is of course impossible to do and not just because of a belly 😉 Actually these steps were part of an old coffin route when the deceased of Arnside had their coffins taken over to the church down the other side. When you see this gap and steps with your own eyes you will wonder how on earth the coffins were hauled up with any grace at all!
And so it was down and home stretch time. the ruins of the 14th Century Hazelslack Tower marks the way out of the treeline and back onto the green flat beauty of Arnside Moss. Only 2 miles to go but yet this walk still keeps throwing out gorgeous variety.
Alas it was time to hit reality again as you enter Arnside itself and the end of the stroll. But, Arnside at sunset is a very very special place. Rest your hard worked feet as you sit on the pier out on the bay. The daylight on a great day gows away but the sights and memories still haven’t finished.