Dent to Aye Gill Pike, height 556m. 6.8 miles (11 kilometres), moderate walk. June, sunny and warm. Solo. Peak bagging: Marilyn and trig point
TL;DR skylarks, high moorland, picnic and peak bagged. Bonus dead sheep
Stand up and look north when you are in Dent and you will see Aye Gill Pike like a huge animal sleeping along the edge of the dale. It’s a benign looking old monster, maybe he was left here by the Vikings, this whole dale was settled by norse invaders over a thousand years ago.
Whilst it is in Cumbria, it’s also part of the Yorkshire Dales. We’re only a limestone’s throw from pretty Hawes and Malham, but Dentdale feels apart. It feels viking, from the working smithy to the old norse place names, Gawthrop, Sedbergh, Ingmire.
It was time to start exploring Dentdale, and to start with the pike I can see from my bedroom window.
The walk begins, as many a good one does, with a walk back to the river and some excellent stiles. I recommend to anyone with even a passing interest in field furniture an eccentric little book I found in an indie bookshop in Cromford many years ago, entitled Gates and Stiles. If it’s still available I’ll link it below. It will enliven all of your walks, for it is the definitive guide to these things.
Bringing my focus back to the path, the route follows the Dales Way west out of the village to Barth Bridge where it leaves the valley and begins to climb North Lords Land. The elder blossom smells strong and sweet as I climb up the roads and between farms and the insects are enjoying it too. The farmers will be hay cutting soon I’m told. I’m so fortunate to be able to wade through these wildflower meadows before they are gone for the year. My hayfever, terrible in the city, has disappeared with two days of this sensory flooding.
As I climb I’m glad to have walking poles, it’s all uphill and I’m out of practice. I’m leaving the biggest till last.
As I get higher the land becomes sheep land and I have the beautiful drystone walls to navigate by. Before too long I’m on the push before Long Moor begins, and I can hear the skylarks already. I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many.
Long Moor marks the start of a long slow pull up to the pike. It’s well named. There’s no one to see me stopping for rest, far too many times. I have the hillside to myself but I feel out of shape suddenly. It’s me, the skylarks and now curlews. The curlew is one of those birds which has the decency to cry its own name over and over, making it easier for duffers like me to spot them. Cheers birdies.
I’ve made sluggish progress (300 metres in height on the moor) but the top is in sight now and I’m going to have a trignic.
It’s a slightly weather beaten trig which looks lovely in its surroundings and I picnic near by on some rocks. I had the foresight to bring a chocolate brownie wrapped in a beeswax wrap with me, made by a splendid woman in the village called Katie. I decide to always bring one of her goods with me when walking round these parts. Traditions are important and they have to begin somewhere.
From here a short walk to Rise Hill for views of Whernside, and for the energetic there is Snaizwold Fell and back down to Cowgill that way (see the previous walk). But after a short detour, the skylarks constantly chittering and giggling, I follow the wall back a short way to turn down the steep hill.
I’d like to bring you good news about the way down, but picking my way down the most ridiculously steep scrub was not a highlight of my week. Whether I was off course (OS app said not) or no one has been this way all year I cannot say, but it was arduous and painfully slow coming down. When I reached the plantation indicated there was a rotting sheep by the stile. The stench stayed with me for some time. The plantation was a jungle thicket and I didn’t have a machete handy.
You might assume I exaggerate for dramatic effect but i’d like to know how you got on. We can compare scratches.
From the bottom of the plantation it’s all pastoral pleasure again, green fields and meadows back to lovely Church Bridge, and even as I write I wonder whether someone put that part in just for a joke. I get it, the rotting sheep was a lovely touch.
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I first saw this walk on Walking World, #8090, which is a subscription site I often use, however the walk is widely available from other places and guidebooks. Despite the steep route down I still rate the walk as moderate. The OS explorer map is OL2
The peculiar book I mentioned is called Gates and Stiles by Michael Roberts. You may be able to find it in a second hand bookshop if you are lucky or online.
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