Knock Fell

Knock Fell

Knock Fell is part of the Cross Fell range and, as the fourth highest summit in the entire Pennine chain, is something of an unsung giant.

Height (m): 794
Height (ft): 2605
Prominence (m): 48
Classification: Hewitt, Nuttall
Hill No: 2710
Grid Ref: NY687343
OS Map OL31
No. of Visits 1, 2

Although Knock Fell is the fourth highest summit in the Pennines it is somewhat to its disadvantage that it is situated immediately to the south of the three highest, namely Cross Fell, Little Dun Fell and Great Dun Fell. All three manage to stand together as an obvious trio, helped by the sheer size of Cross Fell and the prominent weather station on Great Dun Fell. Knock Fell, which declines very gradually in all directions except to the west, is much less shapely and fails to really assert itself with its neighbours.

Knock Fell from Brownber Hill
Knock Fell from Brownber Hill

Appearances aren’t everything and Knock Fell is a grand mountain, perhaps best known to Pennine wayfarers on the Dufton to Garrigill leg of the Pennine Way. Indeed the Pennine Way crosses the summit of Knock Fell. This alone makes the mountain something of a rarity as public rights of way tend to shy away from the high fells of the North Pennines.

Following the Pennine Way up on to Knock Fell
Following the Pennine Way up on to Knock Fell

The Pennine Way is also the most direct way to the top of Knock Fell. It is a climb of just over four miles from Dufton, a little bit shorter if beginning from Knock. After an easy mile and a half the ground steepens after crossing Swindale Beck. The path also becomes much fainter, in its higher stages small stone Pennine Way markers help aid navigation. They certainly helped to keep me on track when I visited Knock Fell in the snow not long after the ‘Beast from the East’ in 2018.

One of the small stone Pennine Way markers on the upper reaches of Knock Fell
One of the small stone Pennine Way markers on the upper reaches of Knock Fell

Another alternative route from Dufton is via Great Rundale. This is the way I took on my first visit to Knock Fell in 2007. The track up Great Rundale is superb and, as the head of the valley closes in, quite dramatic with excellent views back to Dufton Pike. From the top of the track near Great Rundale Tarn it was then a rough pathless walk north to the top of Knock Fell. I was fortunate that the low cloud that was covering the fell lifted the higher I climbed. It is not a route I’d recommend in poor visibility and without the aid of GPS.

The dramatic upper reaches of Great Rundale
The dramatic upper reaches of Great Rundale

Perhaps the most straightforward route is to follow the access road to the Great Dun Fell weather station from just north of Knock. This is the highest metalled road in England. Simply follow the road all the way up to join the Pennine Way. Turning south then follow the partly slabbed path to the summit.

The road leading to the top of Great Dun Fell with the slopes of Knock Fell on the right
The road leading to the top of Great Dun Fell with the slopes of Knock Fell on the right

The top of Knock Fell is quite flat and is marked by a currick. The view to the north is dominated by Cross Fell and the Dun fells. To the north-east the view extends to the fells on the Tees – Wear watershed with Burnhope Seat the most prominent. To the east Knock Fell is connected to Meldon Hill by some very rough ground. One day I’ll have to head out that way to visit the unnamed tarn almost a mile due east of the top of Knock Fell.

On the summit of Knock Fell
On the summit of Knock Fell

A five minute walk to the south-west of the summit is the currick called Knock Old Man. This is the best place to appraise the finest view from Knock Fell – the view west to the Lake District mountains. This extends north from High Pike to the Helvellyn range further south. I’ve been very lucky that on both my visits visibility has been excellent.

The large currick known as Knock Old Man
The large currick known as Knock Old Man

Further down the Pennine Way from Knock Old Man is a feature called Knock Hush. This dead straight trench is presumably man made and is one of at least two hushes that drop into the upper reaches of Swindale Beck. They are the remnants of lead mining activity, as are a number of workings in Great Rundale further south.

The snow filled trench called Knock Hush
The snow filled trench called Knock Hush

Knock Fell Walks

9th February 2018 – Distance: 9.2 miles: Knock – Knock Gill – Pennine Way – Knock Fell – Dun Fell access road – Flagdaw – Knock Pike – Knock.
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28th October 2007 – Distance 10.1 miles: Dufton – Threlkeld Side – Backstone Edge – Great Rundale Tarn – Knock Fell – Knock Hush – Pennine Way – Dufton.
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