Rogan’s Seat is the highest fell on the moors to the north of Swaledale and is unfairly maligned as being one of the most boring hills in the country.
|Classification:||Nuttall, Hewitt, Marilyn|
|No. of Visits||2|
Poor old Rogan’s Seat, without doubt one of the least loved fells in the Yorkshire Dales. It is variously described as having been voted the most boring hill in Yorkshire, England or even the whole of Britain. I’ve not been able to find out when this dubious soubriquet became attached to Rogan’s Seat, or what context the vote was held, but it is repeated with depressing regularity on the internet. This is a shame because, taken as a whole and not just judged on the summit area, Rogan’s Seat is a very interesting fell indeed.
One of the ‘problems’ with Rogan’s Seat is that it lacks the dramatic contours of a Pen-y-ghent, an Ingleborough or a Wild Boar Fell. This is due to the sheer bulk of the fell which, from Swaledale in the south to the valley of Sleightholme Beck to the north, is over seven miles in length. The fell encompasses a vast area of moorland including the likes of Stonesdale Moor, Sleightholme Moor, High Moor, Gunnerside Moor and Arkengarthdale Moor.
As with so many other names in the Swaledale area the name Rogan’s Seat is of Norse origin and apparently means Rogan’s Upland Pasture. It is one of a number of ‘Seats’ in the Yorkshire Dales including Lovely Seat, Citron Seat and Simon’s Seat. For no other reason than the fact that the fell is still named after someone who lived over 1,000 years ago makes Rogan’s Seat rather interesting.
The nature of the summit is perhaps one of the other reasons why Rogan’s Seat is widely held in disdain. It is a flat area of shallow peat hags speckled with small gritstone rocks. It is crossed by a shooting track with the highest point marked by a modest cairn sat atop a peat hag which could easily be overtopped by several other peat hags in the immediate vicinity. It is set so far back from the surrounding valleys that the views have little depth. Instead the extensive panorama is one of sweeping moorland and distant hills including the North Pennines. Taking the time to identify all the hills in view is always entertaining and never boring!
A mile to the NNE of Rogan’s Seat is the subsidary summit of Water Crag. Only four metres lower than Rogan’s Seat, Water Crag has enough re-ascent to qualify as a Nuttall (though not a Hewitt). The summit area features a shelter and a trig point, with a well built cairn, somewhat insultingly described as merely a ‘pile of stones’ standing a short distance away. The views from Water Crag are, on a clear day, quite simply superb and range from the Lakeland Fells in the west to the North York Moors to the east.
Arguably if Water Crag was the true summit then Rogan’s Seat wouldn’t be so unfairly maligned. However, a fell shouldn’t just be judged on it’s summit alone. In my opinion it should also be judged by the interest of the routes of ascent and, thanks to some spectacular gills, Rogan’s Seat has a couple of crackers.
Perhaps the best known, and one of the glories of Swaledale, is Gunnerside Gill. This steep-sided valley has a savage beauty the result of extensive past mining activity. Gunnerside Gill is often visited for its own sake and walkers tend to get half way up one side of the gill before turning round at Blind Gill and returning down the other side. Instead of turning round at this point a path climbing up above Blind Gill can be used to access the moorland above and the broad tracks leading on to Rogan’s Seat.
For the more adventurous another option would be to continue up Gunnerside Gill, beyond Blakethwaite Mines and Blakethwaite Dams, to then strike out across the pathless moor to either Rogan’s Seat or Water Crag. Those venturing into the upper reaches of Gunnerside Gill may well also be treated to a sighting of the elusive ring ouzel.
The first time I climbed Rogan’s Seat, way back in August 2004, I took another equally interesting approach from Keld in the west. The walk above the Swale Gorge to the ruins of Crackpot Hall and then climbing up the steep-sided Swinner Gill was one of the highlights of my first forays in to the Yorkshire Dales.
My next visit to Rogan’s Seat was a super all day walk via Gunnerside Gill and Water Crag before descending Swinner Gill and returning to Gunnerside via Arn Gill and Kisdon Scar – one of the least boring walks I’ve ever done. The two mile descent on the shooting track from the summit to the top of Swinner Gill on a sunny summer’s day whilst enjoying the sweeping views south was simply glorious.
Although the level of ‘interest’ a particular hill holds is always subjective to my mind only people with a lack of imagination could ever truly find a hill like Rogan’s Seat boring. Even an attempt to descend into the wilderness to the north of the fell is ‘interesting’, if somewhat taxing. If anyone remains to be convinced then perhaps one final fact might clinch it – Tan Hill, at 538m above sea level the highest pub in Britain, is situated on the far north-western slopes of Rogan’s Seat. No other hill can boast that.