Black Force, Carlin Gill

Carlin Gill and Fell Head

Walk Summary

An interesting and adventurous route up Carlin Gill via Black Force and The Spout before visiting the summits of Hand Lake, Fell Head and Linghaw.

Distance: 6.5 miles
Total ascent: 2620ft
Walk Rating: *****
Parking: Roadside, Carlingill Bridge
Route: Download Route [GPX]

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Walk Report

Prior to this walk it is over seven years since I last visited Carlin Gill, a deep valley in the north-west Howgill Fells. On that occasion I'd only visited one of the two named waterfalls, Black Force. As I'd not penetrated the gill as far as The Spout it had been on my list to go back to for sometime now.

There is just enough room to park 2-3 cars off the road just before it drops down to Carlingill Bridge from the south. Upon parking we were immediately greeted with a burst of sunshine and a rainbow across Blease Fell immediately to the north of us. Sadly this was to be the last sunshine we would see for a while. From the car we dropped down to the bridge. Without crossing we turned right heading upstream on what was a rather muddy path.

"Thus far the paths had been muddy in places, any rocks we'd encountered were slippery underfoot and the grassy slopes greasy."

Fairly soon the path dropped down to ford the beck and continue on the north bank. After crossing the side stream of Grains Gill we ended up crossing back over Carlingill Beck. To avoid these two initial crossings it is probably best to try and seek a higher initial path.

Once back on the south bank we continued on a thin path, sometimes near the stream and sometimes climbing up higher above it. There was one slightly dodgy moment when, on one of the higher sections, a part of the path came away underneath my trailing foot to drop ten feet or so below. As I was in the lead Wally had to scramble around what was now an awkward gap.

After passing a nice little waterfall in Small Gill we once again crossed over Carlingill Beck. From my previous visit I knew there was a fairly good path on the north side of what is a steep gorge-like section of the beck. Having traversed this path we arrived at the foot of Black Force and the confluence of Little Ugill Beck and Great Ugill Beck. Situated in a steep gully Black Force is like a miniature and much less visited version of Cautley Spout.

On my previous visit to Black Force I'd climbed out of Carlingill via a steep path on a narrow ridge to the left of Black Force. This time we pressed on up alongside Great Ugill Beck, the path once again crossing to the far bank. Eventually, after clambering over an increasing number of rocks, we arrived at The Spout. Only previously seen from afar it is a fine waterfall that sees even fewer visitors than Black Force.

Thus far the paths had been muddy in places, any rocks we'd encountered were slippery underfoot and the grassy slopes greasy. As we soon discovered these unfavourable conditions meant that the scramble to the stream above The Spout was, to put it mildly, a bit dodgy.

Our route was on the north side of the stream, initially up rock before utilising some modest footholds on steep grass. The next section of slippery rock was the worst bit. I imagine in dry summer conditions it would be easy enough but it was seemingly impossible to get a good purchase with my boots. Ultimately we managed it but unless you are a confident scrambler and the conditions are dry then from The Spout I'd recommned returning to the path climbing up alongside Black Force.

Although we'd now gained the top of the waterfall the path didn't last long and we soon found ourselves slanting up the steep sides of Great Ugill Beck. Eventually the going eased as we arrived at the flat marshy area of Blakethwaite Bottom. After locating the small Blakethwaite Stone (once marking the boundary between Yorkshire and Westmorland) we climbed on grass up to the saddle between Hand Lake and Docker Knott.

As we were so close, and it had been years since I last visited the top of Hand Lake, we first made a detour north to visit the summit. This is beyond the 495m spot height on the map and is marked by a handful of stones. Despite the still cloudy skies the view was superb, particularly to the west where, beyond the Shap Fells, could be seen the distinctive outline of the Scafells.

Retracing our steps back to the saddle we climbed over Docker Knott and then skirted around the top of Over Sale. Despite both being higher than Hand Lake neither of these tops has enough prominence to be classed as a summit in its own right. From Over Sale there was a steady pull up on to Taffergill Hill and Wind Scarth. Following a right hand fork in the path we passed around the top of Crooked Ashness Gill to reach the cairn on the summit of Fell Head.

There are many fine viewpoints in the Howgill Fells but Fell Head is possibly the best of the lot. The extensive panorama in all directions, together with super views down into the Lune valley, make for a winning combination.

From Fell Head we continued west over the subisdary summit of Fell Head End. From the cairn on the top of the latter we took a path descending north. This gradually worked its way down to a saddle. Before the brief pull up on to Linghaw we stopped for a bite of lunch. By this time patches of sunshine were breaking through the cloud and we were lucky that our lunch spot seemed to be attracting some of sunny patches.

After passing over the unmarked summit of Linghaw it was a simple case of continuing on down the path all the way back to the car. All in all this had been a superb, if at times slightly scary walk. Carlin Gill is really one of the great places in the Dales but care does need to be taken and, as previously advised, The Spout should only be approached with caution, especially in wet conditions.