Dale Head is a fell in the northwestern sector of the Lake
District, is 753 metres or 2,470 feet above sea level and stands
immediately north of Honister Pass - the road between Borrowdale and
The North Western Fells occupy the area between the
rivers Derwent and Cocker, a broadly oval swathe of hilly country
elongated on a north-south axis. Two roads cross from east to west,
dividing the fells into three convenient groups. Dale Head is the
highest fell in the southern sector.
Dale Head is the apex of two hill ridges - the
principal ridge descends from Dale Head to the north-east and forms
several other fells each given a chapter by Alfred Wainwright in his
Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells. These are High Spy, Maiden Moor
and Catbells (alternative spelling, Cat Bells).
This ridge forms
the western side of Borrowdale and overlooks Derwent Water. The other
ridge descends to the north-west and includes the fells of Hindscarth
and Robinson - it overlooks Gatescarthdale and Buttermere.
Dale Head is named for its position at the head of
the Newlands Valley. This stretches away due north for three and a half
miles before emerging into the floodplain of the Derwent between
Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake.
The eastern wall of the
valley is formed by the High Spy to Catbells ridge, separating it from
Entering on the western side are a series of side
valleys which drain the main mass of the North Western Fells. The source
of Newlands Beck does not however flow from the apex of Dale Head as
might be supposed from the name. Instead it has its birth at the col
between the main summit and the eastern top, High Scawdel (1,815 ft).
The northern face of the fell forming the dalehead is ringed with
crags. The main faces are Dalehead Crags and Great Gable, not to be
confused with the fell of that name.
The southern flank of the
fell running down to the summit of the Honister Pass road (1,180 ft) has
much gentler slopes, although, there is outcropping rock on either side.
Buckstone Hows and Yew Crag overshadow the road and from the top of
the pass Gatesgarthdale Beck runs north west to Buttermere while Hause
Gill flows east to Seatoller and Borrowdale. Across the road is Grey
Knotts in the Western Fells.
The ridge to Hindscarth departs
north west from the summit of Dale Head, soon narrowing into the fine
and airy Hindscarth Edge. Both slopes are rocky, that to the south being
known as Molds. Far Tongue Gill descends from the north of the ridge, a
tributary of Newlands Beck.
Although High Scawdel stands east of
the main summit, the high ground takes a great loop to the south around
the head of Newlands Beck. It then drives north to the depression at
Wilson's Bield (1,655 ft) before climbing to the summit of High Spy.
The rest of the North Western Fells bear no tarns worthy of the
name, but Dale Head has two. On the northern slope near the source of
Newlands Beck is Dalehead Tarn, while the smaller Launchy Tarn lies near
the top of High Scawdel.
Dalehead Tarn is a shallow pool
providing a popular stopping place for walkers. Its varied flora include
water horsetail, sedge and bogbean. Launchy Tarn is smaller and may have
been formed by overgrazing and erosion of the underlying peat.
The summit of Dale Head is marked by a cairn standing on the brink of
the northern face. There is a fine end-on view of the Newlands Valley to
the north backed by Skiddaw.
All around are rank upon rank of
fells - of the major Lakeland ranges only the High Street group not
being fully visible.
One of the most popular ascent routes of
Dale Head begins from the summit of Honister Pass where there is a car
park and a youth hostel.
The route ascends directly alongside a
fence for approximately 2 kilometres and would take the average walker
some 45 or 50 minutes.
Longer routes begin at Little Town in the
Newlands Valley climbing either via Dalehead Tarn or the old access
track to Dale Head Mine.
From Borrowdale a start can be made at
either Seatoller or Longthwaite, ascending first to Launchy Tarn and
routes near Dale Head