Little Gems – Hallin Fell

Ullswater (lower reach) from Hallin Fell summit

If you find yourself in the Penrith area, with an afternoon to kill, on a sunny day, you don’t even need to have walking boots with you to enjoy the ascent of Hallin Fell, another little gem that offers views out of all proportion to the effort required to reach its square summit, dominated by an obelisk cairn.
For those actually starting from Penrith, a roundabout approach should be taken. Rather than head straight for Pooley Bridge, at the foot of Ullswater, take the main A66 west towards Keswick, and at the big roundabout, a mile outside Penrith, take the exit left for Ullswater and enjoy a leisurely, country approach, with the rolling hills accompanying the lower reach of the Lake inviting you forward.
The road ends with the first glimpse of Ullswater, which, many years ago, was my first sighting of the Lake. It’s a view down the length of the lower reach, to Howtown Bay and the first dogleg. Hallin Fell, on the far side of the Lake, lies directly ahead, its 12′ obelisk of a cairn clearly visible from this distance.
Turn left towards Pooley Bridge, and, at the far end of the village, right and right again, signposted Howtown to locate the narrow road snaking along the eastern shore of the Lake. Howtown itself is sheltered in its bay, under the foot of Hallin Fell. Once past the boat landings, where the Ullswater steamer pulls in, the road bears left, into open country for the first time, and starts climbing towards the Hause, which links Hallin Fell to the outlying ridges of the High Street range, to the east.
It’s a lovely, narrow, quasi-Alpine road, swinging back and forth and is a joy to drive (as long as someone isn’t trying to come down it at the same time). There is offroad parking for about twenty cars on the Hause.
Like Latrigg, there is a direct approach, up the back of the fell, which is undistinguished but keeps the lovely view as a surprise, or there is a gentler, much more entertaining, roundabout route that gives a more enjoyable ascent at the expense of revealing the view on the way.
The direct route is obvious, a broad swath through the bracken, leading uphill, and completely safe in trainers (unless it has been raining and is still wet, in which case purchase underfoot may be dodgy). Fifteen to twenty minutes of none too rushed walking should bring you out on top.
Alternatively, a narrower path leaves the further end of the Hause, using a gate to gain access to the open fellside. It continues in a gentle circuit around the southern flank of the fell, gradually gaining in height. Ullswater’s middle reach is immediately in view below, and as the walk takes you further round towards the western flank, above the Lake. Place Fell rises invitingly to the left, Gowbarrow fell’s green ridge undulates across the Lake, and the further you progress, the wider the views towards the Helvellyn range, south west, expand.
The route eventually peters about above bluffs above the Lake, which are a perfect place to just sit, watch and enjoy the sun, especially as you will be alone.
However, the summit must not be ignored. This is only some two hundred feet higher and the absence of paths is no bar to an easy stroll to join the (relative) crowds.
The summit occupies a broad, rocky platform with superb views along the middle and lower reaches of Ullswater. It is doubtful that you will get the experience I had on my first visit here: we saw an RAF helicopter hovering only a hundred feet or so above the lake, under the shelter of Hallin Fell which, almost the moment we detected it, started up the flank of the fell, soaring over our heads on the summit by no more than fifty feet.
If time permits, some exploration can be indulged in on the way back to the car. A path leaves the summit towards the north and progresses in a remarkably straight line downhill, until the slope gets too steep for comfort. Several cross paths will have been traversed on the northern flank: take the last of these and turn right, towards the eastern flank, above the road to the Hause. This provides easy walking through the bracken until it joins the direct descent to the Hause and the car.
For such a small fell, a surprising amount of walking can go into a single half-day expedition, all of it delightful.

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