Walk 2612 - printer friendly version
Roughton Gill, Caldbeck Fells Walk
Author - Darren Hoyle
Length - 4.5 miles / 7.3 km
Ascent - 750 feet / 227 metres
Grade - easy
Start - OS grid reference NY304373
Lat 54.725851 + Long -3.0821892
Postcode CA7 8HA (approx. location only)
This is a very pleasant Lake District walk up a seldom visited valley that is steeped in history. Once it was the centre for rich copper and lead mining and had its own row of cottages and even a small smelt mill. From the main amphitheatre of Roughton Gill small steep side valleys or gills can be explored, these include Clints Gill, Roughton Gill with its stunning cascade of waterfalls, Silver Gill, Swinburn Gill, Red Gill and Haygill.
The length of the basic walk is about 7km but can be easily extended if you explore the many steep gills that lead off from the main valley. The valley walk is easy going following a well laid miners track, which will take you all the way to the mines at the head of Roughton Gill. However if you add side ventures into the likes of Silver Gill, Swinburn Gill or taking the climb up the waterfalls then you must be a strong walker as these are arduous to ascend.
Limited parking can be found at the tiny hamlet of Fellside (Grid ref. NY304373)which lies about two miles south of Caldbeck Village. After parking, walk up the hill to the gate, either go through the gate or over the adjacent stile. From this point there are two choices. By going left takes you east towards Potts Gill, but for the purpose of this walk turn right along the track. This is the old miner's track and is an easy walk.
After 10 minutes your reach the first major bend in the track which is Ingray Gill (Grid ref. NY 304367). The small brick building here is a water intake for the local area. Continuing along the miners track beneath Hay Knott on your left you come across a mass of ruins on your right (Grid ref. NY 301361). This was once the Smelt Mill which served the mines further up the valley. Below these ruins is the stream, Dale Beck, which you will now follow all the way as it meanders up the valley.
At the next bend cross Hay Gill (Grid ref. NY 302361) using the ford or footbridge, depending on the weather! Wonderful views up Roughton Gill open up in front of you now with the broad bulk of Yard Steel right in front, Swinburn Gill on its right flank and Roughton Gill on its steep rocky left flank.
Continue along the miner's track you now have to cross Dale Beck via the ford or the gated footbridge (Grid ref. NY 300359). To the left here is Birk Gill and looking up to your right you can see the small mine tips on Brae Fell, which is a huge broad fell often in mist. Continue along the miner's track with Dale Beck now on your left.
After a further 10 minutes you pass the turning on your right into Swinburn Gill (Grid ref. NY 298353), which leads up to the famous Red Gill Mine (Grid ref. NY 294347). From this point the craggy face of Iron Crag is in front of you, with the waterfalls to the right in the cleft between Iron Crag and Balliway Rigg. The high rocky topped fell to the left here is Peteraw and to the right is the steep rocky flank of Yard Steel. It is at this point that Birk Dale seem to broaden out into a rocky basin. This was the dressing floor for the mines a little further up whose vast tips of litter provide the natural ampitheater floor.
Continue along the miner's track till it virtually runs out onto the main Roughton Gill Mine Tips (Grid ref. NY 302344). Several paths from this area run off in all directions but for the purpose of this walk we shall stay with Roughton Gill.
With Iron Crag towering in front of you, head into the cleft where the Waterfalls are located, keeping these to your right. For those with limited experience over tough ground it is best to keep to about the half way point up this cleft as the path becomes hard to follow and requires a "hands on" scramble as height is gained. However the harder section can be omitted as the best parts of the cascade of waterfalls anyway are located where the fading path begins to steepen.
Returning back down to the mine tips at Roughton Gill face the waterfalls again and on your right you will see a distinct line running up Balliway Rigg past the Falls. This path leads up to Theif Gills (Grid ref. NY 300337) and onto the high fells beyond. Again from the Mine Tips looking at the waterfalls, look right, the very steep gill between Balliway Rigg and Yard Steel is Silver Gill (Grid ref. NY 301344) and is a tough arduous climb.
It is worth paying a little attention to all the mine tips in this area as you will still see traces of the minerals the miners worked. Most of the blue/greens are copper ores. The area once produced some of the worlds finest mineral specimens and many are so rare that only in this area can they be found. After a hour or so wandering around this quiet peaceful area its time to wander back down the miner's track to Fellside. Take note of the views when you get past the broad bulk of Brae Fell. In the distance, on a clear day, you can see the hills of Scotland over the Solway Firth.
If you have time left in your day then why not visit the nearby Village of Caldbeck with its links to John Peel, the famous Huntsman. Or the pretty village of Hesketh Newmarket both are rewarding in their own right. Although an easy walk, it does provide for all tastes and levels as it can be easily extended. It also provides an excellent escape from the popular areas of Cumbria to the south. Keep this one to yourself!