High Spy and Maiden Moor

Date: 2 Sep 2017 Weather: 14’C, cloudy, light wind
Height gain: 1,886 ft Distance: 7.4 miles
Time taken: 5 hours 15 mins Wainwrights: 41, 42 of 214

Route:  From Little Town up path beneath Castle Nook up to Rigghead then turning sharp left up to the top of High Spy then along ridge to Maiden Moor then walking towards Catbells as far as Hause Gate and turning left back down to the car park.


A beautiful day is forecast and it looks like the last one of this holiday before rain is due to sweep in and stick around.  I was keen to make the most of the potential for views so scoured the Wainwright books for potential walks last night.  In describing the ridge walk from Catbells to Maiden Moor Wainwright says “It must be something like this in heaven”.   

That was me sold – I wanted to head for that ridge.  S took this direction on board and suggested that we climb High Spy from Little Town and then follow the ridge to Maiden Moor and Catbells before coming back down.

We set off early as we know parking at Little Town can get busy.  Slow cars and slow service in the pasty shop frustrate us on the way and by the time we arrive at the car park at 10.15am there are only two spaces left.  As we put on our boots the last space is taken – we arrived just in time.

We head off up the road for a short distance before scaling a verge to a gate and the start of a good path which runs along the valley.  The sun is indeed shining and the valley looks stunning:

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The path stays mostly flat for the first two miles and we make good progress – I like a good walk in before the climbing starts.  As we move under the crags at Castle Nook the path starts to climb upwards.

It’s a great path moving gently up the valley between two ridges – we’re heading for that U at the head of the valley:1a

The path gradually gains height on good terrain surrounded by great scenery but S is feeling energy-less with the remnants of his cold hanging around.  We get to the U at the end of the valley and turn almost back on ourselves for the final 600ft up to the top of High Spy.  S is getting slower and slower and we stop every few feet but finally, just over two hours after we set off, we reach the impressive cairn at the top of High Spy:

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The views to the south are impressive and we’re surprised that we have such great views of Crinkle Crags and Bowfell:

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And to their left the Langdales:

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Unfortunately our lovely day seems to have deserted us and the cloud has come down which obscures the views a bit.  It’s also breezy up here and feels cool now the sun isn’t shining.  Neither of us has brought our waterproofs given the great forecast and I in particular am starting to regret it as I feel on the edge of cold.

The paths up here are busy with people we assume are doing a whole Newland’s round.  Most groups are trotting along without bothering anyone but there’s a very loud group making their way up Dale Head to the west – they are just passing Dale Head Tarn and will be tackling the near vertical final ascent soon – hopefully that will keep them quiet for a bit (it does, but their dog keeps up his constant barking).

There aren’t many people hanging around on the top of High Spy, though, so we settle in next to the cairn for shelter and have some lunch.

As we decide to set off for Maiden Moor a party of six Duke of Edinburgh teenagers reach us and we let them move past us (which they do at a swift pace) before we get going.

As we set off I go to the edge of the ridge and look down on our ascent route – a respectable amount of height gain I think:

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We don’t have much climbing to get to Maiden Moor (100ft of ascent) but it is one and a half miles on the stony undulating ridge so we expect it to take a bit of time, especially with S’s lack of energy.  That’s no problem as I’m looking forward to enjoying this little bit of heaven.

The walk feels slow to start with and the breeze is quite chilly but we warm up as we walk and the ground soon becomes grassier and more even:

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Derwentwater starts to come into view ahead of us on our right and, although the cloud subdues the photo, it did look lovely in real life:

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The views do indeed make this a very enjoyable ridge walk and in less than 50 minutes we’ve reached the top of Maiden Moor:

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We look back at High Spy and the path we’ve come down – it didn’t feel like that much of a descent at the time:

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There’s a great view north west towards Causey Pike and the Grasmoor ridge:

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We look at Catbells along the ridge in front of us – one and a half miles and 310ft of ascent away and decide that S isn’t up to it today:

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We do carry on along the ridge for the first three quarters of a mile until we reach the depression at Hause Gate.  It is a beautiful walk and although the clouds aren’t ruining it I would love to see it in full sunshine one day.

When we reach the hause I go to the opposite edge of the ridge and take one final photo of the lovely view down over Derwentwater with Blencathra visible behind it:

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We turn left and pick up the path down towards Little Town.  It looks steep and covered in scree as it moves through what looks like old quarry works but in fact it poses no problems as a descent – in fact this would make a good route up to Catbells in the future and probably be less crowded than the usual route from Hawse End.

As we reach the farm track and head up the road back to the car park the sun is peeking out again and the afternoon light is making this lovely valley look stunning as usual:

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This is a great walk with, as I said at the time, “no scary bits”.  It’s  shame S wasn’t feeling too good but the slower pace wasn’t an issue with all those lovely views to take in.  I look forward to coming back and doing Catbells in the future and also perhaps a full Newland’s round when we’re fully fit and firing on all cylinders.