Harter Fell from Birks Bridge

Harter Fell

Harter Fell is situated in the quiet Duddon Valley. The fell is flanked by the beautiful Eskdale and Duddon Valleys. It sits on its own at the head of these valleys giving a unique panoramic view to the Southern Fells. The summit area has three rocky tors that provide a playground for those who love scrambling around on rocks. There is plenty of wildlife to be seen and a unique aerial view down to the huge roman fort of Mediobogdum on the Hardknott Pass. This is a moderate walk, short in distance but does involve a few fairly steep and loose paths at times. The walk starts from the Birks Bridge car park. This isn't the easiest start to get too and for most people involves tackling either the Hardknott Pass, Wrynose Pass or a lengthy drive round the Lake District Peninsulas. This remote location makes it a peaceful and tranquil place though so it is well worth the effort. On your way home you can enjoy great food and drinks at the Newfield Inn in Seathwaite.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts at the Birks Bridge car park in the Duddon Valley. The car park is on the minor road just south of Cockley Bridge and north of Seathwaite at grid reference SD 235 995.
  2. You can get there by heading through Langdale or Little Langdale and over the Wrynose Pass or alternatively you can head round the Lake District Peninsulas on the trunk roads until you reach Duddon Bridge and head north along Smithy Lane to Ulpha and eventually Seathwaite.
  3. From the Birks Bridge car park cross the new wooden bridge then turn immediately left heading along a grassy path with the forest on your right and the River Duddon on your left.
  4. The path crosses a small stream after two hundred metres then splits as it passes an old stone wall. Take the path that ascends right into Great Wood away from the River Duddon.
  5. At the other side of Great Wood the track heads across a field to the old farm buildings at Birks. The farm here was sold off to the forestry many years ago and is now a privately owned outdoor education centre.
  6. When you reach the buildings go through the gate and turn right keeping the buildings on your left at all times. At the back of the buildings you pass through their small car park and head through a gate on a track ascending away from Birks.
  7. After less than a hundred metres the track reaches a junction with another track, here turn left and then after thirty metres turn right off the track on to a path that passes some old stone walls of a ruin.
  8. This path now leads to a boggy deforested area. The deforested area is being replanted with deciduous trees so by the time you head through here hopefully these will be well established and may have created a more established less boggy affair.
  9. The path is not at all clear at times and simply disappears into the boggy mess. Basically head towards the crags at the back of the deforested area on a fairly direct and straight forward trajectory.
  10. Eventually you will reach a more obvious path which starts a steep and loose ascent of the rocky crags. On you right as you ascend you will see the twin peaks of Buck Crag and the views behind to the Coniston Fells will start to open up.
  11. Mart Crag is rounded and then the path flattens out and passes over a vibrant area of heather and bilberry bushes. As the path crosses this area, straight ahead you will begin to see a fence ahead below the huge and isolated Maiden Crag.
  12. At the fence by Maiden Crag you can pass through a gate or stile to reach much wilder and open land. Keep ascending in a north westerly direction with Maiden Crag on your left.
  13. After ascending in a north west direction for just over half a kilometre you will reach the summit of Harter Fell. You can either head left to round an easy ascent or go to the right behind the summit and take one of a few fun scrambling routes to reach the summit.
  14. The summit of Harter Fell has a lovely stone trig pillar and three rocky tors. To bag the highest tor which is the highest point of the mountain requires a tricky scramble.
  15. Harter Fell sits in a perfect position flanked on each side by two of the Lakes quietest valleys, the valleys provide impressive views, especially down to Eskdale and the Roman Fort of Mediobogdum on the Hardknott Pass.
  16. There are also an impressive panorama to the back of the Coniston Fells and a unique panoramic view of the Scafell Fells. There are also views seaward to the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man on a clear day and to the south the lesser trodden Black Combe and the Dunnerdale Fells with the pointy Stickle Pike prominent.
  17. After enjoying one of the best viewpoints in the Lake District trace your footsteps back the way you came and head south east from the summit area on the same path and after half a kilometre you will be back at the fence with stile and gate by Maiden Castle.
  18. Head back through the gate or over the stile and walk across the heather and bilberry area to reach the steep descent round Mart Crag back to the deforested area. The descent here is very loose and rocky so take care.
  19. Head across the deforested area to reach the ruins above Birks then head back down the track to Birks and pass through its gates to reach the path crossing the fields to the left of Birks to Great Wood. Look out for birds while passing through Great Wood, I have seen Buzzards and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers here before now.
  20. Follow the path back to Birks Bridge where you can stand on the bridge and spot many Trout and Salmon jumping at the end of a summers day. Large Salmon make their way up here during the spawning months from the Duddon Estuary.
  21. There is no better way to end this walk than a visit to the Newfield Inn in Seathwaite, it is a very friendly and cosy pub with excellent food and drink and a place to stay if you don't feel like rushing home from this stunning and peaceful part of the world.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL6 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 96 Map Click to buy Harvey Super Walker Lakeland South West Map Click to buy Harvey Lake District Mountain Map

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.