Cross the UK: Guide to the Priest’s Hole

The Priest’s Hole is one of the best known ‘secret’ over night stops in the Lake District.  Often described as a cave, this overhang on the side of the crag helps to shield visitors from weather blowing across the top of the fells whilst a dry stone wall provides additional protection from the elements in front.  If your looking for a wild camp without the tent then this could be the spot for you but it is not for the feint-hearted as you’ll read further on!  Shift your mind from the prison slang and prepare to enter the Priest’s Hole!

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Perched above Brothers Water in the Hartsop Valley sits Dove Crag which is notable for being the first of the lakeland fells to be documented by Alfred Wainwright in 1952.  Often included as part of the Fairfield Horseshoe this fell can only be truly appreciated by approaching from Patterdale.

As Stoney and I were hitting the trail at the end of a busy Friday we took advantage of overnight parking at the Brotherswater Inn.  For £2.50 you can leave you vehicle in the overnight parking facility which is ideal for those wishing to hit the hills for a wild camp.  The path cuts through the campsite below the Inn and comes to a farm track.

The track brings you to a stream with a number of different paths coming in to view.  We continued to follow the path uphill without crossing the stream at this point although we did attempt to find the way through to what appears to be an obvious path to the north of the stream.

Small waterfall at Dovedale Beck en route to the Priest's Hole on Dove Crag
Small waterfall at Dovedale Beck en route to the Priest’s Hole on Dove Crag

The path continues uphill and becomes very steep in places as you ascend Dove Crag.

The Priest’s Hole is a hugely popular overnight stop off and we weren’t guaranteed to get a space.  On our ascent we overtook a couple of others who were struggling with the climb in the heat which gave us hope that we may get there to find room at the cave.  Unfortunately our efforts were in vain and there was no room at the inn!

We had spotted an old shepherds hut which would provide a bit of shelter at NY 37729 11198 and decided that this would be our next best option.  It was a short drop down from Dove Crag and we set up here for the night.

Like most of our bothy experiences we found an unfortunate amount of litter that had been left in the old hut which is obviously used as an alternative to the Priest’s Hole quite frequently.  It’s so disappointing to arrive at any spot in the outdoors to find it full of litter.  We decided to do our bit to counter this by removing as much as we could carry back down.

Both the Priest’s Hole and the disused building below it were midge hotspots and we would certainly recommend something to protect you from them if your thinking of going.  Despite the disappointment of not sleeping in the Priest’s Hole we enjoyed a stunning lakeland evening in the Houndshope Cove so even if you have to resort to plan B, as we did, it is definitely worth a visit.

Even if you have to follow our plan B you still get a splendid view to wake up to!

View from the shepherd's hut
View from the shepherd’s hut

Mick Fenwick

Mountain Leader, D of E Co-Ordinator, Deputy Headteacher

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