Dufton Pike & Brownber Hill

Walk Summary

A walk from Dufton featuring two steep climbs on to Dufton Pike and Brownber Hill before returning via the Pennine Way and an enjoyable little loop into the surrounds of Dufton Ghyll Wood.

Distance: 7.8 miles
Total ascent: 2680ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: Car park, Dufton
Route: Download Route [GPX]

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Walk Report

The night before I was weighing up two options for another trip out to the North Pennines. One option was to visit Burney Hill, one of the foothills of Cross Fell, and a summit that I’ve not yet been on. The other was to revisit a walk I’d first done in August 2010 visiting Dufton Pike and Brownber Hill. In the end I decided to leave Burney Hill for later in the year when the days would be long enough for me to include it in a walk with Cross Fell. So it was that I drove up to Dufton to do this route.

Although similar to the previous walk I’d done over these two hills I decided on a couple of variations. Whilst the initial route and descent of Dufton Pike were the same I decided to tackle Brownber Hill the opposite way round to last time. Finally I decided to add a little detour at the end to visit Dufton Ghyll Wood.

“As with Dufton Pike the highest point of Brownber Hill is not marked by a cairn or trig point. Much broader than the top of Dufton Pike the views are much less dramatic – the view of Great Rundale from the top of the crag notwithstanding.”

It was a bright but quite hazy day as I travelled over the A66. There was also quite a stiff side on breeze as I drove over the road summit. When I arrived at Dufton it was to find the car park almost full. This was quite a surprise but as it turned out I’d come on the day of a local fell race. Fortunately I managed to find room for my car.

From the car park I turned right to head along the main road through the village. After the road turned left I continued straight on to a bridleway signposted between buildings. I remained on this initially enclosed lane for the next mile. Very soon I had good views of Dufton Pike, my first objective of the walk and arguably the shapeliest hill in the North Pennines.

Passing Pusgill House, where there were some nice snowdrops, the views began to open out a bit more. Ahead were the extensive slopes of Backstone Edge. Had it been less hazy I’d have been able to look back over Dufton to a distant Lakeland skyline.

At about grid reference NY703261 I came across a kissing gate in the fence to my left. This was my cue to leave the bridleway and begin the steep grassy climb up on to Dufton Pike. For some reason I found the climb stamina sapping and I found myself stopping regularly for a breather. The views of Backstone Edge improved the higher I climbed. Then, as I neared the summit, the view to the north opened up to include Great Rundale, Brownber Hill and Cross Fell.

Finally I reached the neat little summit of Dufton Pike. Although unmarked by cairn of trig point it is a great spot. On my first visit here the views extended out to the Lake District to the west. However low cloud largely obscured the high Pennine hills immediately to the east. On this occasion the range of hills including Cross Fell, Little Dun Fell, Great Dun Fell, Knock Fell and Backstone Edge were all well seen. The haze however almost completely rendered the Lake District invisible. Maybe when I go back a third time I’ll finally get a balanced panorama!

What goes up must come down. Thankfully, haze or no haze, the descent of Dufton Pike’s north-west ridge is simply glorious. The only downside is that it is over all too soon. Near the foot of the ridge I came to a wall. Here I turned sharp right to take a nice wide path contouring back into the valley of Great Rundale. This slanted neatly down to the public right of way. If the climb up Dufton Pike was more than enough and you wish to omit Brownber Hill then at this point you can turn left to join the Pennine Way. However, I was keen to revisit Brownber Hill so I continued on in the same direction up the valley. I eventually left the path to pass through a gate in the wall at about grid reference NY703268.

Walking around the outside of a fenced off area of saplings I came to a makeshift gate. Looking like I’d do more damage trying to open or climb through it I instead climbed over the wire fence next to it. Here I joined the foot of a clear quad track climbing steeply up the side of Brownber Hill. The gradient was quite punishing, the only slight relief was a short flattish section after passing a lone tree half way up. Near the top I made a slight detour to my right to take a look at the dramatic little crag overlooking Great Rundale.

As with Dufton Pike the highest point of Brownber Hill is not marked by a cairn or trig point. Much broader than the top of Dufton Pike the views are much less dramatic – the view of Great Rundale from the top of the crag notwithstanding. Just under quarter of a mile to the north-west of the ‘summit’ is a feature marked as a ‘Pile of Stones’. Crossing over to that I hunkered down behind the rocks to eat my lunch and enjoy the views of the Cross Fell range.

After eating my lunch I contoured around a tussocky area to find a place to cross the wall. I’d remembered from my previous visit there was a large stone embedded in the wall. I found it at grid reference NY707275 and as I had done on that previous walk used it to cross the wall. It is worth noting though that not long after leaving my lunch spot I did spot a gate in the wall to the north. This may well have been an easier route.

After crossing the boulder I made a detour to the right for a grand view down into Great Rundale. I then returned to the wall to pick my way north over the stony ground below Rossgill Edge. My target was the head of an enclosed track near a jumble of stones that may have been a kiln. Arriving at the top of the lane I turned down it to eventually join the Pennine Way. After crossing Small Burn the Pennine Way itself became enclosed and also rather muddy.

After crossing Great Rundale Beck at a little stone slab bridge the going underfoot improved a little. It soon deteriorated again though after passing the buildings at Halsteads (keep an eye out for the OS benchmark on the corner of the building). The enclosed path I was now on is called Hurning Lane. It is one of those sunken ways that becomes a magnet for any moisture in the ground. As a result it was quite slippery and muddy. Finally, after passing through the farm at Coatsike, I made it back on to a firmer track.

Finally arriving on the road on the outskirts of Dufton I turned right down the road to Mill Bridge. Without crossing the bridge I took a path signposted on the left to enter Dufton Ghyll Wood. Although I’ve done several walks starting from Dufton this was the first time that I’d visited the deep little gill below the village. It proved to be a real little gem. Initially following Mill Beck the path swung round into Dufton Gill proper. Climbing up on the opposite bank to the village I passed a number of wooden posts with memorial plaques. As the path slanted down to a stone bridge there was a quite stunning display of snowdrops on the opposite bank. Finally I climbed back up the other side to enter the village at a caravan site next to the car park.

This had been an excellent walk. Had it been less hazy then it would have been even better. Dufton Pike is an absolute must and whilst Brownber Hill can be omitted it is still a decent fell in its own right and is worth the effort of a second steep ascent.

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