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A walk from Dufton to High Cup Nick

From Dufton to High Cup Nick

The first time I walked along the Pennine Way from Dufton to High Cup Nick I managed to do so having never seen a photo of the Nick. I could have easily looked for a photo online but managed to resist. All I had to go on was Alfred Wainwright’s description: “a natural wonder, an unforgettable sight”. Intriguing. Needless to say I didn’t end up disappointed when I walked out of Dufton along the Pennine Way for the first time. The way the ravine of High Cup Gill gradually reveals itself to the walker on this route is tantamount to teasing. It is well worth the climb though.

On this subsequent walk from Dufton to High Cup Nick I decided to take a different route and walk up the Gill itself. Having parked in the centre of Dufton I headed east out the village, along the minor road for two miles. Hardly the finest few miles of walking but the road is very quiet and it got the rubbish bit of the walk out of the way.

On reaching High Cup House, and taking the footpath north-eastwards the walking improves markedly as the route leads into High Cup Gill. In less than a mile High Cup Nick makes its appearance at the head of High Cup Gill.

High Cup Nick from High Cup Gill in summer
High Cup Nick from High Cup Gill

The path sticks to the right of High Cupgill Beck, all the way to the top of the High Cup Gill. Small cairns mark the route but these can be hard to spot amongst the scree at the head of the gill. The target of High Cup Nick is always in sight though and acts as something to aim for.

The Pennine Way back to Dufton

Now at the halfway point of the walk it was time for a break, for some food and to admire the scenery. There aren’t many places like this – a classic glaciated U-shaped valley ringed by a cliff of basalt columns.

glaciated U-shaped valley of High Cup Gill
The U-shaped valley of High Cup Gill
High Cup Gill from High Cup Nick in summer
Basalt columns overlooking High Cup Gill

As a hiker, this day was just about spot on with glorious weather: a warm summer’s day with barely a cloud in the sky. As is often the case though good walking weather does not guarantee good photography weather. The lack of any clouds meant a featureless blue sky and no variation in the light. I did what I could though and cropped out the sky where possible. Some people are never happy!

My route back from High Cup Nick to Dufton followed the Pennine Way. There is a clear path long the top of the western side of the Gill, offering fantastic views all the way. Eventually the path turns away from the scenery and becomes a walled track. At the remote farmstead of Bow Hall the track becomes a road and from thereon the walk is an arm-swinging descent back to Dufton.

Not a bad outing at all. I have still to get a decent photo of High Cup Nick and the ravine of High Cup Gill from the Pennine Way though so it won’t be my last trip here. Luckily there are plenty of different routes to try though so next time I’ll pick another one.

To view more photos of the North Pennines feel free view my Eden Valley landscape photographs.

A walk from Dufton to High Cup Nick was last modified: November 20th, 2016 by Gavin Dronfield