A walk of two halves, coming with a health warning.

I’ve tagged this post ‘Lake District’ which is not correct but the motorway skirting the Lakes gives most people their only view of The Howgills and that’s as far as it goes for the majority. I would imagine for every thousand walkers setting foot in the Lakes there will be barely one in The Howgills. That view from the motorway shows extensive rounded hills with deeply divided valleys, long fingery ridges radiating from the central mass. The Lune Valley and Mainline Railway share that Western Boundary with the motorway, there is one particularly conspicuous, twisting deep valley leading intriguingly into hidden depths – this is the Carlin Gill.  Photo above.

I arrange a walk with Sir Hugh and suggest The Howgills for somewhere different, he says he has always wanted to explore Carlin Gill. The die is cast.

I have vague memories of walking up the gill to take a look at Black Force and The Spout, two hidden waterfalls. Out comes Wainwright’s ‘Walks on the Howgill Fells’ for guidance,  a few chapters cover parts of our intended route.

Carlin Gill – “The walk cannot be done if the beck is in flood. A half-mile section is a battle against nature in the raw and ends in a desperate scramble. Nonagenarians should think twice before attempting it.”

Part one.

Having parked up by the Gill we are not certain whether ‘the beck is in flood‘ or not, there seems a lot of water in it after recent heavy rain. We set off debating which side we should be on, the best path often on the other bank and sufficient water to deter wading. Sheep trods are followed with slippery rock encountered on steep obstructions. But progress is made, we marvel at the sunny weather, our solitude and surroundings.

The start of Carlin Gill.

The way ahead.

Easy going…

Deeper into the valley we are forced alongside the beck where care is needed to avoid a slip. Soon [it was over an hour] we are alongside the impressive Black Force, a waterfall tumbling down a gully opposite.


Getting awkward.

Don’t slip now.

Approaching Black Force.





Black Force.

We do not like the look of the scramble up it which is one of our escape routes! So we persist up the gill a few more hundred yards until stood under The Spout, the 30ft waterfall blocking our exit. An impressive place to be. I’m pleased we penetrated so far and would be happy to return the way we came but there are primitive stirrings from Sir Hugh to climb out ‘now we are here’.


In the beck.

Let’s look round the corner.




The Spout.

Wainwright says to climb a crack in the rib to easier ground above the fall, a steep scramble. Neither of us likes the look of the slippery crack or the steep ground above it. The other side of the gill looks as steep. Curiously we don’t think of retreat but convince ourselves of a better way just to the left of Wainwright’s option, some steep grassy rakes avoiding the loose rock. It is only when 15ft up with Sir Hugh clinging to grassy handholds and feet skidding on wet moss that I have a change of heart – “Why don’t we go down?”    “I can’t”  came the reply.


Grassy rakes.

Getting steeper.

“I can’t go back.”

Fast forward and I’ve coaxed Sir Hugh back to relative safety and we progress to better handholds – heather rather than moss. The angle eases and we have time to sit and have a team talk about further progress.  Soon we are traversing on sheep tracks above an ever-increasing drop and then it is all over as we arrive at Blakethwaite Bottom a boggy basin.

As exposed as it looks.

Easier ground.

Part Two.

Having defied death all was plain sailing from now on except that we were only halfway up onto the tops. A vague track led up to a vague col where we turned right and were able to stroll alongside each other, discussing the day so far, onto Docker Knott. The views were staggering particularly to the north. Undulations led to Wind Scarth where we had to be careful to keep right avoiding a well-trodden track to The Calf. There are no walls, fences and few cairns up here to help navigation but that is one of the attractions of these open fellsides. An upwards path heads towards a visible cairn on Fell Head at  623m the highest point on the Western Howgills. A couple of fell walkers passed us on the ridge without any conversation, the only people we saw all day. At the cairn, we sat and had some lunch and took in the 360-degree views. Everywhere was clear Morecambe Bay, The Lakeland Fells, distant Galloway, Cross Fell and the Northern Pennines, the Three Peaks, Bowland Hills and possibly far away Snowdonia. Sir Hugh was having a great time with his long zoom lens.

Upwards on Docker Fell.

Looking north.

The Calf.

Heading for Fell Head.

Fell Head looking south to Morecambe Bay.

West towards the Lakes.

Yorkshire Three Peaks.

Careful compass work made sure we were on our way towards the lesser top of Linghaw and onwards over Back Balk with the motorway in the background to arrive back directly to the car parked ironically on Gibbet Hill, we had escaped the gallows on this memorable day’s walk.

Heading down.

The Lune Valley and our car insight.

Well done Sir Hugh, mission accomplished – it will be less steep in The Broads next week!  Check out his post for further photos.

I am now keen to return to the Howgills and explore further but perhaps not in Carlin Gill.

A footnote.

I didn’t mention that a tree at the base of the spout was festooned with Tibetan Prayer flags and strangely a climbing helmet. There were also some ashes scattered on the rocks. Our imaginations ran wild  – was this someone’s favourite retreat or was somebody fatally injured on these rocks?

I’ve just ‘googled’ Carlin Gill Accident without a lot of success except for one accident that happened to Sir Hugh, who had posted that he slipped heavily on a patch of ice near the bridge at the start of the Gill whilst on a simple walk along the lane in winter January 2017. https://conradwalks.blogspot.com/2017/01/tebat-sedbergh-road.html









  1. shazza

    I have always noticed those hills on the way to the lakes. It is where our dodgy car radio signal always goes. I don’t think I will be attempting them!

  2. mountaincoward

    Wow! After visiting Carlingill yesterday after one of the hills, I’m amazed you went up past ‘The Spout’. I think I’m getting fairly brave exploring gills and could see it was possible to get up to the left of The Spout (just), but my friend and I both decided it was far too dangerous so we were glad of the gill explore but equally pleased to turn back. I thought the main route people use must go up the side of the preceding gill but it seems not – lots of people seem to be going the way you went! :-o.

    Your photo showing the drop below you says it all really – very dangerous indeed! I’ll direct my friend to look at this post!

    1. bowlandclimber

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, that was a scary day! A magic place though even if you just arrive there and turn back. I am not convinced that Wainwright would have tackled that scramble given his comments on other dodgy places. We will never know.
      The first time I went up the gill years ago I escaped up the rib to the left of Black Force but don’t remember much about it.
      Our improvised way past The Spout was challenging – felt about E1 at one stage and that’s without a rope. Tales for the grandchildren.
      All the best for the New Year.

      1. mountaincoward

        It looked damned horrifying that’s for sure! We just went to The Spout, had a look, said no thanks and came back. That was interesting enough and I enjoyed my exploration of the gill. I looked at the rib to the left of Black Force and that looked fine. Might see how far I can get up Black Force gill sometime but don’t think I’ll get far…

  3. Pingback: Howgills – Did Carlingill but Missed the hill! | The Adventures of a Mountain Coward

  4. Chris

    I am quite literally just back home after attempting this very walk. I got half way up at the spout and there was a downpour – so I gave up and returned to the car soaked and disheartened. I was using an OS route which states:
    “Cross at the base where deep cuts in the steep slab of rock give an obvious passage to the head of the waterfall. Soon after, cross the stream and a steep pull on a faint path will eventually meet a more obvious track, if not slightly boggy, ascending from Blakethwaite Stone. Turn R and continue above the Spout and the head of Black Force to cross Little Ulgill Beck.”

    I’m taking fron that, the suggestion is you scramble up at the opposite side of the falls? I may give it another go when weather improves.

  5. bowlandclimber

    Um, I’m not sure about that description. The steep slab of rock is on the NW side of the gill. That would give a difficult scramble only if dry to the head of the Spout on its left-hand side looking up and crossing the stream higher up. We tackled the slopes further to the left which were tricky. The slopes to the right look dangerous.
    If you were there in a downpour it was a good decision to turn back.
    There must be a definitive description somewhere. Your description seems to correspond to Wainwright’s but I’m sure he would not have gone that way.
    I would like to hear from you after a successful ascent, take care.

    1. Chris Tait

      It certainly is a strange one. The OS has 4 5-star reviews of the route, I just can’t get my head around how to get up that scramble! I did try to get to the top of the hills much earlier in the walk (after I turned back). There is a cairn, and a much shallower set of waterfalls – I followed a sheep track, there just didn’t seem to be a suitably flat top once I got all the way up. The sheep were incredibly interested in my attempt though.

      Stunning walk, even though I only really got to the Spout.


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