Thursday 20 July 2023

Walking to Nine Standards Rigg, Cumbria

 Nine Standards Rigg

Nine Standards Rigg is an iconic landmark near the summit of Hartley Fell in Cumbria.  Nine cairns, some which once stood nearly 4 metres high, stand at 2170 ft above sea level and provide spectacular 360 degree, panoramic views of the Teesdale hills, Swaledale, the Cumbrian hills and the Lake District mountains in the far distance.  Nobody really knows why they are there.  Some say they could have been an ancient boundary marker between Swaledale and Westmorland.  Another theory is that they were built to give the impression of a large army encampment and that the 'standard' or flag would have flown from the top of each cairn, sending a warning to any approaching foes.

Whatever their purpose, I am pleased I made it to the top,  Another boxed ticked!

My walk stared in the pretty village of Hartley just outside of Kirkby Stephen.  The village has popped up along both sides of a babbling stream with several attractive little footbridges that knit the village together.  At the top of the village is a short path (thoughtfully signposted) through a wooded area that is a pleasant diversion from the road.  Coming out of the wood carry on up hill to a left hand junction clearly marked 'Walkers path and C2C'.

The first glimpse of the Nine Standards

The trail is very easy to follow.  The first mile or so is along a the tarmac road that leads to the fell gate.

Through the fell gate and a wooden seat provides a good stopping place to take on water and admire the wonderful views of the Eden Valley that has been left behind.  The whole walk is largely uphill.  Hartley is 575 ft above sea level and Nine Standards Rigg stands at 2170 ft above sea level.  It doesn't have to be an uphill struggle but it does take stamina and a degree of determination.

Looking back from whence you came.

The path is easy to follow. There are however three different colour coded routes for different times of year.  These are for guidance only and are for those who are following the C2C trail all the way through to Keld.  For the purpose of walking to Nine Standards walkers are asked to use the Permissive Path.

Coast to Coast Walk and Nine Standards.  Due to severe ground damage the path has been re-routed.  Please follow the waymarked Permissive Path.

The fell is a working environment for hill farmers.  When gathered in, the sheep are penned up for one of many reasons; clipping, dozing, sorting, foot bathing.  These pens, although in a very remote spot, are in regular use. 


Although the trail is easy to follow the stone cairns have a habit of coming in and out of view.  There they are on the horizon but the next time you look they have disappeared.  Stick to path, you will get there eventually.

 Wow!  That last half mile is certainly worth it. 
This is also a natural watershed.  From here any water that falls to the west of the cairns flows back down to the River Eden and any water that falls to the east of the cairns flows into the River Swale.

For me this is where the walk ended.  After a short break and a well deserved sandwich I turned round and walked back down the 3.5 miles to Hartley.  

For a small bribe and by prior arrangement, any serious walker staying at Pry House Farm B&B who would like to tackle the whole stretch from Kirkby Stephen to Keld, a lift to Kirkby Stephen is possible. 

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