Drumaldrace or Wether Fell

Drumaldrace

Drumaldrace is the name given to the summit of Wether Fell, a prominent hill to the south of Hawes.

Height (m): 614
Height (ft): 2014
Prominence (m): 66
Classification: Nuttall, Hewitt
Hill No: 2796
Grid Ref: SD873867
OS Map OL2, OL30
No. of Visits 5

The Database of British Hills have chosen to list Drumladrace as the name of the fell. In fact it is much more commonly known as Wether Fell. The name Drumaldrace refers specifically to the summit area. Drumaldrace is one of those ancient names, such as Pen-y-ghent and Gragareth, which has survived the passing of time. Its exact meaning is not known but Robert Gambles, in ‘Yorkshire Dales Place Names’ has put forward the proposition that ‘Drum’ is from the Celtic word for ‘wooded ridge’ and that ‘Aldrace’ is a personal name. Therefore Drumaldrace would mean ‘Aldrace’s Ridge’.

Drumaldrace as seen from the other side of Sleddale
Drumaldrace as seen from the other side of Sleddale

Wether Fell is located to the south of Gayle and Hawes in Wensleydale and rises prominently above the two. The fell is bounded by valleys on three sides, Sleddale to the west, Wensleydale to the north and Raydale / Bardale to the south-east. It is joined to the higher ground of Dodd Fell just to the south of the junction of Beggarman’s Road and the Cam High Road.

Wether Fell rising high above Gayle
Wether Fell rising high above Gayle

The fell takes the form of one long ridge running north-east from the col with Dodd Fell towards Bainbridge. In total the ridge is over 4 miles in length. In addition to Drumaldrace there is the subsidary top of Yorburgh and the pointed end of Crag. Unfortunately there are no obvious paths to either Yorburgh or Crag.

Yorburgh, a subsidary summit of Drumaldrace
Yorburgh, a subsidary summit of Drumaldrace

One of the best known features of Wether Fell is the Cam High Road. Its origins are in an old Roman road that served the fort of Virosidum, near Bainbridge. It passes over the entire length of Wether Fell to continue, around the flanks of Dodd Fell, then descending Cam Fell to Gearstones in Ribblesdale. For much of its length the road runs remarkably straight and is one of the finest tracks in the Dales. It also runs just below Drumaldrace so any visit to the summit is likely to include at least a section of the Cam High Road.

Looking down the Cam High Road on Wether Fell
Looking down the Cam High Road on Wether Fell

To the south-west of Drumaldrace the Cam High Road meets another high road, Beggarman’s Road. Climbing steeply out of Gayle above the valley of Sleddale, the Beggarman’s Road connects Wensleydale and Wharfedale via Langstrothdale. It is the highest motorised road in Yorkshire. Just to the north of its junction with the Cam High Road the Beggarman’s Road takes a sudden steep drop. I remember the first time I descended the road it was as a passenger in my friend’s Smart car. It felt like we were going to take off!

Beggarman's Road (left) and the Cam High Road (right)
Beggarman’s Road (left) and the Cam High Road (right)

The easiest route to the summit is to use one of the small parking spots at the top of Beggarman’s Road. From there it is an easy mile along the Cam High Road with a minimal amount of ascent. In the winter and early spring this might not always be practical. I once tried it in March with my wife and daughter but had to turn back before reaching Drumaldrace due to a sudden snow shower. Had I been parked down in the valley it wouldn’t have been a problem but I really didn’t want to attempt the road back down to Gayle if the snow began to lay.

My daughter on the Cam High Road
My daughter on the Cam High Road

The most satisfying walk to the top is via a good track climbing up on to Wether Fell from Burtersett. Just below the 550m mark the path splits with one heading towards the Cam High Road. The other option takes a more circuitous route around the northern slopes of Drumaldrace. Along the way it passes a number of old mine workings, the track presumably originated as the miners path to these workings. Whichever option one takes it is worth a detour before the path splits to visit the crags of Cavy Clints. The fantastic views of Wensleydale are enhanced by the cliffs below.

Enjoying the views from Cavy Clints
Enjoying the views from Cavy Clints

Other options include a path climbing south-east from Gayle to meet the Burtersett track. From the east a long climb up the Cam High Road from Bainbridge is another option. To the south a path climbs up to the Cam High Road from Marsett in Raydale. A more roundabout option from Marsett is to take the lonely path up the valley of Bardale which climbs up to Oughtershaw Road and then the Cam High Road.

Looking back down the track climbing up from Burtersett
Looking back down the track climbing up from Burtersett

Whichever route one takes none of the main paths actually reach the summit. To the south-east and south-west of the summit thin paths breaks away from the Cam High Road to reach the cairn marking the highest point of Drumaldrace. Quite small on my first visit back in 2004 the cairn seems to be gradually gaining in size.

The summit of Drumaldrace looking towards Great Shunner Fell and Lovely Seat
The summit of Drumaldrace looking towards Great Shunner Fell and Lovely Seat

As one would expect from a fell that is situated in such a central position the panorama is quite extensive. Many of the highest hills of the Dales can be seen. However, due to the flat nature of the summit area there is not much lower ground to add depth to the view. One might also see hangliders or paragliders as Wether Fell is one of the more popular locations for the Dales Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club.

The summit area of Drumaldrace with paragliders to the left of the picture
The summit area of Drumaldrace with paragliders to the left of the picture

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