I have been fascinated to see photos of a cave on the slopes of Dove Crag called the “Priests’ Hole” as the photos from inside show extensive views across mountains and valleys beyond and the cave itself looks eerie. It is marked on Ordnance Survey maps and I was determined to go and see if for myself.
|Cascade on Dovedale Beck|
After consulting an expert I had my route planned, starting at the small lake called Brothers Water near the village of Hartsop. Brothers Water used to be called Broad Water but the name was changed in the 19th century when two brothers tragically drowned there. The sister of the famous Lakeland poet William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth (a poet in her own right) referred to it as a “glittering, lively lake” and that is just how it looked as I walked along the path beside it with tree branches hanging over.
|Taking time to admire the flora (view stop)|
The walk up the valley towards Dove Crag was beautiful with the rippling streams and many cascades of Dovedale Beck and the imposing crags getting closer. It was a lovely place to be that day. The gentle incline after a couple of miles turned into a steep final ascent to the cave however! From a distance, it did not look like a route was possible up the scree slope but fortunately an old stone-pitched path was still in existence and whilst it did not lessen the gradient, it did make for easier climbing. The path to the cave is off from the main path and an erratic boulder marks the spot to turn off and you can see the mouth of the cave from there. A short scramble later and I had arrived at the cave.
|"Priest's Hole" Cave|
|Looking from the Jaws of the Cave|
It was just as striking as I had imagined with the dark jaws of the cave leading to views down the valley and across the fells that were every bit as lovely as I had hoped. Even though it was a bit cloudy, it was mesmerising. Having mastered the timer on my camera, I even managed to include myself in one of the photos. The cave is natural but a stone wall has been constructed over part of the front for additional shelter. There was evidence of camping activity inside such as candles and some matting but it was all neatly stacked and someone had also left a book for people visiting the cave to sign – I signed on the very back page as the rest of it was full. Mission accomplished!
However, I decided to continue the walk onto Dove Crag summit and as I could not see a clear route from where I was, I dropped back down to the main path near the boulder. After Dove Crag I headed to Hart Crag which was only a short distance away. Both these fells are part of the Fairfield Horseshoe and I had not been on them since the “Mystery of the Rucksack” incident back in February! The sun even started to emerge as I sat on Hart Crag having lunch and whilst it was cold for July, it was a great day for walking. I headed off over the fell Hartsop Above How. This is not one of the most frequented fells in the Lake District but the ridge route over the top is gentle and there are excellent views of the surrounding crags and valleys and down into Hartsop.
|View Down the Valley|
The final part of my route took me off the side of Hartsop above How to return to the shores of Brothers Water on a grassy path. This was the most straightforward part of the walk. Or so I thought. However, I lost the path. The map and GPS said there was a right of way where I was but there was certainly no path – just a lot of bracken! I could just about see another path further down the slope so putting thoughts of bugs and snakes to one side, I decided to head through the thick bracken to the path. This was a mistake as when I took my first step, I tripped over a rock I had not seen and fell forward in what was actually a rather graceful roly poly movement and ended up a few feet further down my route than originally intended with bracken in my hair and sitting in a little muddy stream. I sat there for a few minutes wondering what on earth had happened (but secretly impressed that I can still do a roly poly) and then managed to get up, brush myself down and join the actual path with a flick of the hair. So much for glamorous walking!
|Brothers Water & Surrounding Fells|
The short walk to the car-park from there was uneventful (I am pleased to say) and after changing out of my rather wet and muddy trousers and removing the final traces of bracken from my hair, I headed off to Glenridding for a well-deserved drink. A great walk but next time I will attempt to do it without the roly poly!