Cracoe Fell is a hill in mid-Wharfedale the summit of which is topped by a prominent obelisk, a memorial to the dead of the First World War.
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Cracoe Fell is the highest point of a large tract of gritstone moorland between Airedale and Wharfedale that also contains a number of lesser tops, including; Thorpe Fell Top, Brown Bank, Crookrise Crag Top, High Crag (Halton Height) and Embsay Crag.
For some time it was thought that Thorpe Fell Top was, at 506m, the higher of the two fells. However, a survey in June 2008 found that the highest point of Cracoe Fell was in fact 1.8m higher. As a result Thorpe Fell not only lost its status as a Marilyn but was also removed from the list of Deweys as it did not have the requisite 30m of prominence to be included. Poor Thorpe Fell!
In truth the distinctive summit of Cracoe Fell is a much finer place than Thorpe Fell Top. The highest point is on the north-western end of a large gritstone outcrop called Watt Crag on the OS map. What really draws the eye though is the obelsik, a war memorial to the local men who died fighting for their country in the First World War. It is a superb landmark that can be seen for miles around.
The view from the summit is excellent, especially north to the fells above upper Wharfedale and Malhamdale. As the highest point is right on the edge of a crag there is also real depth to the view and a good prospect down to the villages of Cracoe, Rylstone and Hetton.
Apart from the summit one of the chief attractions of Cracoe Fell is Rylstone Edge. Running south-west away from the summit Rylstone Edge features some fine gritstone crags, the best of which is at the far end and is topped by another landmark – the Rylstone Cross.
The original Rylstone Cross was built out of wood in 1815 to mark the Treaty of Paris that ended the Napoleonic Wars. Having been replaced several times the current stone version was built in 1995 thanks to funding from a number of organisations including the Bolton Abbey Estate, the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the British Mountaineering Council. It is an absolutely splendid spot and a favourite place of mine.
It is worth noting that the main path between the summit of Cracoe Fell and the Rylstone Cross is on the south side of the wall. However, a thinner path on the north side of the wall along Rylstone Edge is far more exciting and involves some nice easy scrambling.
Thanks to the plethora of paths and tracks on the moor there are a variety of ways to reach Cracoe Fell. The two most direct are from Cracoe and Rylstone and combining the two, one for ascent and one for descent, a fantastic circular walk of approximately six miles can be enjoyed.
The Cracoe path exits the village along the enclosed Fell Lane track. On entering access land the path initially becomes unclear. The trick is to pick up a thin trod heading towards the limestone knoll of Sharpber. This becomes clearer as height is gained before turning south and climbing steep ground up to the summit.
The Rylstone path can be reached by walking a short way south out of the village along the B6265 to then take a bridleway that winds its way up to a wall at High Bark. Pass through the wall and turn left to reach the Rylstone Cross. From there two options, the wall track or the thinner edge path, lead on to the summit of Cracoe Fell.