Cautley Spout is a spectacular waterfall that few people have heard of let alone visited. Cautley Spout is said to be England’s tallest waterfall and can be found in a sleepy part of the Yorkshire Dales in the county of Cumbria. Most people ignore this part of the Dales in favour for the famous three peaks that lie further south in the national park or they head to the dramatic peaks of the lake district which lie just to the west of Cautley Spout. The Howgills, in which Cautley waterfall can be found, are rarely visited making this a hiker’s paradise. This is England’s ultimate waterfall hike!
Getting to the Cautley Spout trail
Driving through the village of Sedburgh, the self-proclaimed ‘book town of England’ we had almost reached our destination which was just a few more miles away. The start of the Cautley spout trail begins in Lower Haygarth. We parked our little car began our hike up England’s tallest waterfall.
The River Rawthey
After following a small footpath, we reached our first obstacle. We had barely been walking for 5 minutes when we reached the banks of the River Rawthey. We quickly realised we should have started out hike a little upstream by the Cross Keys Temperance Inn. Next to the Inn was a bridge. Yet neither of us were keen to walk all the way to the inn just to cross the river. Therefore, we decided to make our own way across the water.
It had not rained in the UK for weeks meaning that the river was fairly shallow. As the river was low and were we equipped with our hiking poles, we could easily jump across the rocks. After navigating the makeshift stepping stones, we both managed to cross the river Rawthey whilst keeping our feet dry.
Walking to the start of the Cautley Spout
Safely across the river Rawthey we could continue our walk on dry land. A few other walkers had also found their way to this remote part of the Dales. We saw some young sporty couples, a family, an older couple and a few friends who were all enjoying the April sunshine. It was 25 degrees, unheard of in the UK at this time of year, yet another worrying sign of global warning….
The first part of the walk is very flat. You walk through the valley towards the glistening silver threads sparkling in the distance. We very much enjoy walking to waterfalls. In the last year alone, we hiked to Northern Thailand’s most spectacular waterfall and another Yorkshire waterfall called Aysgarth falls. Waterfall hikes are the best!
As we entered the valley, the wind stopped. It was eerie as most walks I have been on in the north of England are generally very windy!
We took a few photos on this easy part of the walk up the Cautley Spout. Our My Travel Scrapbook sign even had a miny photoshoot.
We could now hear the water splashing against the rocks. It had taken us about 30 minutes from leaving our car to reach the base of the cascades. It was now time to start our steep ascent up England’s tallest waterfall.
After a quick water stop, we started to climb the steps up to Cautley Spout. Cautley Spout is said to be the tallest waterfall in England. A few other waterfalls such as Canonteign Falls and Cauldron Snout also claim to be. Yet Cautley Spout is definitely England’s highest cascade waterfall. Red Gill Beck falls in tiers down the hill side. Whilst it is disputed how high the waterfall is most sources agree it is 175m high. We were climbing its entire length.
The path next to Cautley Spout is well kept. I don’t think I much fancy walking down those steps though. The walk up the steps is quite steep, steeper than our hike up Roseberry Topping, but the views are spectacular. The constant view of England’s tallest waterfall helps weary hikers forget quite how out of breath they are!
As the beautiful waterfall turns westward, the wind returns. I was grateful of the cool breeze against my warm skin. It was worth driving all the way out to Sedbergh for this incredible waterfall hike.
This is how I like to spend my weekends: walking in spectacular scenery in the sunshine with the love of my life.
One could argue this is one of England’s best countryside Instagram spots!
The trail once more flattens out when we reach the top of the Cautley Spout. At the top we hop over the stream and relax by the water’s edge. We had climbed up England’s tallest waterfall! We both sat by the beck and enjoyed a juicy apple whilst resting after the steep climb. Other hikers took off their shoes off and went for a dip in the cold stream. This appeared to be a popular resting spot. Understandable after walking up all those steps in the midday heat!
Our My Travel Scrapbook sign also wanted to go for a quick swim.
After consulting the map, we decided to ignore our original route. Our original route told us to leave the stream and head across the moor. Yet, the stream was just so lovely and despite our map telling us that the path next to the stream disappears after a few hundred metres, we decided to explore. This is where we left all the other hikers playing in the pools.
Red Gill Beck
I can happily confirm that the path next to the stream, listed on maps as Red Gill Beck, does not disappear. The path was a little narrower, but still perfectly walkable. We walked next to the little gurgling stream and a light wind swept through our hair. My legs began to itch and despite coating myself in sun cream I noticed I had started to develop a small heat rash. I covered them in yet more sun cream, cursing my incredibly pale skin, and splashed some stream water up my legs in an attempt to cool the red rash down. Once there was another thick layer of sun cream covering my blotchy legs we carried on.
The path showed no sign of stopping even once the stream forked. We followed the right-hand fork which is Force Gill Beck. Our path along Force Gill Beck led uphill but it was a gentle and pleasant gradient. Suddenly though, the sound of the stream stopped. Force Gill Beck had disappeared. The water had vanished into the earth. There are many underground water systems in the Yorkshire Dales due to the underlying limestone. In fact, there are only two large bodies of water in the Dales due to the geology of the regions.
You can read about other fantastic places to visit in the Dales in our ultimate Yorkshire bucket list here.
We missed hearing the merry gurgling of the stream which would eventually fall down the Cautley Spout. Yet the highest point of our hike was near and we pressed on towards the summit.
A handy white post marked our peak. We had reached the highest point in the Howgills, known as ‘The Calf’. The Calf is at 676m and we had started our hike at around 180m. From the summit there was a spectacular view of the Howgills. The Howgills were once described by Wainwright – the hardy walker and guidebook writer – as a “herd of sleeping elephants”. It is understandable why he described them as such given their rounded nature and steep flanks compared to their westerly neighbouring peaks. The Howgills are also unique in the Dales as there are no dry-stone walls! The view of the Howgills from the Calf was worth our steep ascent in the heat.
We decided to have a break a few hundred metres away from the summit and enjoy a well-earned cup of tea. I wished I had packed some vegan cake, but we made do with our coconut biscuits.
After a nice rest it was time to head back down. From the Calf it was all downhill back down to the Cross Keys Inn where a cool ginger beer was waiting for us. We were back on our original route and were happy that we had completed the stream detour.
The path was very well kept as we later discovered we were on the Dales Highway. I hope that one day I can complete a multi-day hike through this spectacular national park.
It was obvious from our surroundings up on the moorland that this area had not seen rain for weeks. Several tarns had completely dried up. This was very sad to see as there were lots of tadpoles which were no longer under water. We passed one tarn, which was deeper and were glad to see the thousands of tadpoles which would hatch within the following weeks.
After that tarn our path downwards was very steep. We followed sheep trods until we reach the path. I was glad of our walking poles for support!
We could hear the Cautley Spout again and could see the Cross Keys Inn far in the distance. It was nice to be able to see our finishing line. We looked at the time and aimed to be there at around 5pm. The sun was starting to set, and its golden rays cast a glorious glow across the Cumbrian landscape.
Our path met the one we had walked up earlier, but we decided to choose to stay on the sheep trod. In hindsight, I am not sure whether this was a wise idea as this path took us across several scree fields. Alex accidently knocked a large rock down the mountainside, and we watched in dismay as it tore down the hill. Grateful that no one was walking beneath us at this point I looked upwards to make sure the same would not happen to us… we carried on, careful not to knock any more rocks…
Eventually we left the slippery scree fields and were back on the solid path. We were so close to our ginger beer!
The sheep and the lamb
We carried on past where we had crossed the river at the start of our hike and headed to the small wooden bridge by the Cross Keys Inn. Just before we crossed the river, we saw something spectacular. A sheep had just given birth to a baby lamb. The mother was nuzzling and licking her new-born.
We stood and watched the sheep for a while as the mother tried to encourage her young to stand up. The little lamb wobbled and just rolled down the hill! All of its limbs flared in the air! The mother once again nudged the lamb. The lamb bleated and rolled again. It was really trying to stand up but due to the slope was struggling to keep steady. We discussed how useless human babies are when they are born compared to the lamb who was trying to stand within minutes of being born. We both love seeing animals on our day trips. Similar to when we saw a cormorant jump out of the water during our trip to the sleepy coastal village of Staithes. Seeing the sheep bring new life into the world was a wonderful way to end our fantastic hike.
The Cross Keys Inn
We went over the little wooden bridge and headed into the Cross Keys Inn. Our limbs were grateful for the rest and we ordered a shandy and a ginger beer. We basked in the sunshine, watched the sheep and sipped on our wonderfully cold drinks.
The Cross Keys Inn is a temperance Inn meaning they don’t sell alcohol. Yet they have a fantastic array of soft drinks. We can thoroughly recommend the ginger beer and shandy! Perfect to enjoy on a hot day like ours.
Would you like to walk up England’s tallest waterfall?
The walk up to the Calf via Cautley Spout is a fantastic hike. This part of the Dales is still relatively unknown which means it is perfect to visit now before everyone discovers this corner of England! Similarly, to the walk we did in Grassington to beat the crowds, this walk was also relatively uncrowded. Children will also love this hike as they can paddle in the becks once you reach the top. If you needed anymore persuaded why you should walk up England’s tallest waterfall, the view from the Calf over the Howgills is spectacular.
Would you like to walk up England’s tallest waterfall? Let us know in the comments below!