Nine Standards Rigg from Kirkby Stephen.

Start. Kirkby Stephen.

Route. Kirkby Stephen - Stoneshot (lane) - Franks Bridge - Hartley Lane - Hartley - Birkett Lane - Hartley Fell - Nine Standards Rigg - Baxton Gill Head - Dukerdale Pots - Lamps Moss - Birk Dale - Lockthwaite - Stainmore Railway (dismantled) - Birkett Lane - Hartley - Hartley Lane - Franc's Bridge - Stoneshot - Kirkby Stephen.

Notes. Nine Standards Rigg in the northern Pennines, a lofty hill dominating the skyline to the east of the market town of Kirkby Stephen. This sprawling mass of a hill sits on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, the summit adorned with nine gigantic sentries overlooking the Eden Valley and Stainmore Gap. At 2,172ft above sea level this hill presents me with a slight dilemma, not quite in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, most definitely not in the Lake District, in Cumbria, only an hours drive from home, so I'm not exactly escaping the hills of home, which section should it slot into? As we wandered across the wind swept summit we almost but not quite stepped into the Dales National Park, so into the Dales it goes.

There are two obvious routes up Nine Standards Rigg, one from the lane leading through Birk Dale, and our chosen route from Kirkby Stephen, I'm sure there are others but these are the ones that jumped from the map sheet when I laid it out on the kitchen table. Loads of free parking in Kirkby Stephen, we parked on the Auction Mart car park, a stones throw from the town centre. You may have gathered I've got company, Sue's in pursuit.

Our route passed the Parish Church before descending a narrow lane to access Franks Bridge, we crossed the river and continued on a tarmac path to the delightful little village of Hartley, here we joined Birkett Lane, with tarmac under foot we started ascending the fell. This long ribbon of tarmac guided us passed Hartley Quarry and the steep slopes of Birkett Hill before abruptly ending at the fell gate, on the other side of the gate a stoney bridleway carried us on up. Soon we found ourselves ascending in the company of Faraday Gill, we left the gill a stones throw from the summit, just a short stretch of peaty ground to cross and we were there. It felt quite humbling standing on the wind swept summit amongst a line of giant cairns, erected for what reason? the answer's been swept away with the winds of time, one thing for sure, they're impressive, the views even more so, an excellent place to shelter and have lunch.

Lunch over we headed south in a vain attempt to enter the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the gate, a mass of peat bog and hags was closed, I felt sorry watching walkers on the coast to coast attempting to cross the mire, we didn't have to so turned our backs on the scene to head down the hill. Crabbing from sheep track to sheep track we made our descent eventually stepping onto the path descending to Birk Dale, I'm being forced to make a confession here, if I'd studied the map a little better I would have noticed it was possible to ascend Nateby Common, then follow the dry stone wall all the way to the farm lane leading to Lockthwaite, so it was our misfortune that a long stretch of road walking followed as we descended the Birk Dale road.

From Lockthwaite an easy walk through pastures followed, lovely green paths carried us down hill, soon depositing us on the track bed of the disused Stainmore railway line, hands in the pockets strolling followed passing over two substantial viaducts before reaching Birkett Lane once more. A short walk down hill and there we were strolling through the streets of Hartley about to re-trace our steps to Kirkby Stephen.

view route map.


Our route passed the romanesque sandstone pillars of the Cloisters, built in 1810 to provide shelter for the parishioners.

Franks Bridge spans the River Eden, built in the 17th century, named after Frank Birbeck a brewer at the local brewery, the buildings have been converted to housing just out of shot to the right. Today this is a delightful foot-bridge, it's original purpose was to convey corpses across the river on their final journey from Hartley or Winton to consecrated ground at Kirkby Stephen, the two stones you're forced to squeeze past are coffin rests, it also comes equipped with it's resident ghost. Jangling Annas believed to have escaped from the Hatley Castle unfortunately to drown in the river, cross at night if you dare.

On the path to Hartley looking back to Kirkby Stephen, easy walking over a tarmac surface.

Views to a sunlit Kirkby Stephen, seen from Birkett Lane.

Gain a little height and the vast sweep of the Eden Valley starts to tilt into view, across the far horizon the hills of Lakeland.

Rising from the Eden Valley the ridges of the North Pennines, to the left Cross Fell, on the right Warcop Fell.

Heading up Birkett Lane with stunning views to a Howgill skyline.

The high skyline of the Howgill Fells seen over the green slopes of Birkett Hill, one of two the other's behind me....

....The other, Birkett Hill or Hartley Birkett in sunlight with a dark cloud over the North Pennines.

The striking view seen from the approach to Nine Standards, the vast expanse of the Eden Valley.

To the north over the Stainmore Gap the North Pennines.

Seen to the west the grassy ridges and rolling summits of the Howgill Fells.

Dappled light and purple heather add a touch of colour to Kirkby Stephen Common and Ash Fell.

Viewing Wild Boar Fell and High Seat across Birk Dale, with the Howgill's to the right.

Standing like sentinels on the northern edge of the Yorkshire Dales, Nine Standards.

On Nine Standards Rigg feeling rather humble.

Stunning views over Stainmore and the Northern Pennines, as I squinted to the east I was sure I could make out the massive petro chemical works on Tyneside.

Seen over Nine Standards the Northern Pennines.

Seen from Lamps Moss the limestone cliffs of High Dukerdale.

The Cross Fell skyline seen from Birk Dale.

Seen from the Birk Dale road, Wild Boar Fell rising from Mallerstang, with the now familiar Howgill Fells to the right.

Podgill Viaduct marks the route of the Stainmore line, our route back to Hartley.

Hands in pockets strolling, a delightful way back.

Views from the Podgill Viaduct.

From one rather large Victorian structure to a much smaller, probably much older bridge, a quaint foot-bridge over Hartley Beck.

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