Rye Loaf Hill is one of three fells between Malham and Settle that top the 500m contour and is notable for its steep contours and small summit area.
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Rye Loaf Hill is the most shapely of the three 500m+ summits that lie in close proximity to each other between Malham and Settle. Whilst Kirkby Fell to the east overlooks Malhamdale and Grizedales to the north-east overlooks Malham Tarn country, Rye Loaf Hill very much belongs to the high valley of Stockdale.
Presumably the fell’s name is due to its distinctive shape. Personally I’m not sure what a traditional rye loaf looks like. To me the top of the fell looks bell shaped. Certainly the upper slopes are steep on all sides and whichever way one approaches these steep grassy slopes have to be tackled.
It is the good track that climbs up Stockdale and which doubles as the Pennine Bridleway that provides the key to tackling Rye Loaf Hill. An early option to cross Stockdale Beck a third of a mile above Stockdale Farm leads to quite a tough climb. A longer, gentler option is to follow the track right up the head of the valley until reaching a bridle gate.
Instead of passing through the gate look for another gate in the wall to the right. Pass through this gate and follow a faint path all the way along the wall on the left until directly to the south of the summit. Here leave the thin path to climb up to the top.
Rye Loaf Hill undoubtedly has one of the most compact summit areas in the Yorkshire Dales. On the summit there is an Ordnance Survey trig point and a battered shelter cairn. This provides only a modicum of shelter from the fierce winds that the exposed summit is sometimes exposed to.
The views from the summit are superb. Not only do they include fine views north to Yorkshire Three Peaks country but there is also a wide sweep of moors in view to the south including Pendle Hill and the Bowland fells. The finest aspect of the view though is the direct view down into the small valley of Stockdale backed by limestone scars and with Warrendale Knotts a distinctive presence at the far end of the valley.
Although the fell is largely grassy there are some small gritstone outcrops on the steep slopes immediately to the west of the summit overlooking Stockdale. Looking at one of these outcrops from the south it takes on, at least to me, the aspect of the face of a stone sentinel watching over Stockdale.