Cautley Spout (AKA Cautley Spout Waterfall) is the highest waterfall in England. Despite this, Cautley Spout is a fairly unknown waterfall. You can find the awe-inspiring Cautley Spout by doing one of a few different walks in the Howgill Fells (AKA simply Howgill Fell) in Cumbria. In this guide, we’re going to focus on the circular Howgill Fells Walk, starting in Sedbergh, which visits Cautley Spout via The Calf – the highest peak in the Howgill Fells. But, we’ll also talk about other Howgill Fells walks, some much shorter, which also explore Cautley Spout.
We hope you find this guide helpful. For information about other great walking routes and waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales, read our guides about Simon’s Seat and Bolton Abbey Waterfall, Aysgarth Falls and Pen-y-ghent and Hull Pot (coming soon). Otherwise, read our big Yorkshire Dales hiking guide (also coming soon).
Cautley Spout: England’s Highest Waterfall
That’s right, Cautley Spout is the highest waterfall, above ground, in England! Plummeting nearly 200 metres, this multi-tiered waterfall, somehow, remains relatively unknown. Similar to Scotland’s Eas a’ Chual Aluinn, which is the highest waterfall in the UK, we’ve found a lack of hype around these record-breaking waterfalls. We’re hoping that this guide motivates and inspires you to explore Cautley Spout. Indeed, you should be chasin’ waterfalls and Cautley Spout is no exception.
Cautley Spout is found in the impressive Howgill Fells, which are located in Cumbria, in the northwest of England. Technically speaking, the waterfall, and the Howgill Fells, are located in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, despite not being located in the county of Yorkshire. Confusing right? We’ll discuss the finer details about this later on in the FAQs. But, anyway, despite these technicalities, Howgill Fells are an outstanding range of rounded grassy hills that fall between Sedbergh and Ravenstonedale. One of the star attractions of Howgill Fell is, indeed, Cautley Spout.
As mentioned, there are a few different walks you can choose from to access Cautley Spout. If you’re wanting to do the shortest walk to reach the magnificent waterfall, then consider walking to Cautley Spout from Cross Keys. We’ll cover this shorter walk option in this section – Other Howgill Fells Walks to Cautley Spout.
If you’re wanting to do the longest and best walk to reach the waterfall, which also summits the Calf – the highest peak in the Howgill Fells, then we’ve got you covered. Below, we’re going to talk about this awesome Howgill Fell Walk, AKA Sedbergh to Cautley Spout.
Howgill Fells Walk: Sedbergh to Cautley Spout Details
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 17km
- Time: 5.5–7.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 750m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Sedbergh
- Map: Wikiloc or ordnance survey
FYI – we recommend checking out one of the links to the Cautley Spout Walk maps above. Feel free to use either map to help you with trail navigation.
Howgill Fells Walk: Sedbergh to Cautley Spout Highlights
In this trail description, we’re going to talk about the highlight of the circular walk from Sedbergh to Cautley Spout. Certainly, this is one of the best Howgill Fells walks.
Starting in the quaint town of Sedbergh, you’ll follow Joss Lane, in a northerly direction, heading towards and into the Howgill Fells. Once you pass through a gate at the top of Joss Lane, you’ll cross a field. You’ll then pass a wooded area before reaching the fell gate. From there, you’ll follow a path, with Settlebeck Gill to your right. This is where the trail ascends and you’ll be huffing and puffing. Personally, Beck and I had to contend with mist and terrible visibility. So, we could barely enjoy views over the fells, let alone see five metres ahead of us. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy better weather!
Eventually, after a gruelling uphill hike, you’ll arrive at the summit of the Calders (674 metres above sea level). From there, you’re around 1km from reaching The Calf (675 metres above sea level). At The Calf, you’ll find a trig point. Given the poor visibility, we continued to have a lack of views of the surrounding Howgill Fells. Fortunately, as we continued along the lovely streams of Force Gill Beck and Red Gill Beck, towards Cautley Spout, the weather improved.
After following Red Gill Beck, you’ll arrive at the top of Cautley Spout. From the top of the waterfall, you’ll enjoy impressive views of the valley below. But, you won’t yet appreciate the scale of the waterfall. For the best views of Cautley Spout, it’s best to cross Swere Gill and continue to descend the trail beside the waterfall. Indeed, soon enough, views of the thin, but tall waterfall will come into view. As you continue to descend, you’ll get a better perspective of the entirety and length of the falls. Certainly, this is the best part of this Howgill Fell walk.
After scoping out the waterfall, you’ll continue to descend to the floor of the valley. You’ll walk along Cautley Holme Beck, eventually veering right. You’ll then follow a series of trails, following along the valley of the River Rawthey. From this lower position, you’ll enjoy a unique perspective of the Howgill Fells. Soon enough, you’ll arrive back in Sedbergh, ready for a rest!
Other Howgill Fells Walks to Cautley Spout
As mentioned, there are a few Cautley Spout short walks to choose from, if you want to cover the least amount of ground to see and explore the waterfall. Basically, the short walk options are Cautley Spout walks from Cross Keys. From the Cross Keys Inn (AKA Cross Keys Temperance Inn), there are two short walk options.
- Cautley Spout From Cross Keys: this is the shortest walk option. From the Cross Keys Inn, you’ll simply do an out and back walk to Cautley Spout.
- The Calf & Cautley Spout: from the Cross Keys Inn, you’ll so a shorter circular walk, which visits Cautley Spout and The Calf.
How to Get to Sedbergh
The easiest and quickest way to get to Sedbergh is to drive there yourself. Joss Lane Car Park is a common place to park in Sedbergh. There are around 50 spots here. It’s a pay and display car park with the following rates (although, these are subject to change).
- Under 30 mins: 50p
- Under 1 hour: £1.20
- 1–2 hours: £2.20
- 2–3 hours: £3.20
- 3–5 hours: £5
- All day (9 hours): £6
It’s very difficult to find free street parking in Sedbergh, so the pay and display car park is probably your best choice. Given the length of the Howgill Fells Walk described in this guide, it may just be best to pay for all-day parking. That way, you won’t have any time pressures when you’re doing the walk.
If you don’t have your own set of wheels, we recommend hiring a car using Rentalcars.com. You’ll find a wide variety of cars on Rental Cars, which are very easy to book online.
It’s also possible to use public transport to get to Sedbergh. Buses usually alight at this bus stop. From there, it’s a short walk to reach Joss Lane to commence the walk. We recommend using Google Maps to plan your journey. Although, personally, we don’t recommend using public transport to get to Sedbergh as you’ll have a fairly long-winded journey to get there. Certainly, it’s best to drive there yourself.
How to Get to Cross Keys
If you’re doing one of the shorter Cautley Spout walks, then you’ll need to get to the Cross Keys Inn. You can simply drive to the pub, where there is a decent amount of free street-side parking.
Otherwise, it’s possible to get public transport to the Cross Keys Inn. Depending on which direction you’re coming from, you’ll alight at this bus stop or this one, next to the pub. But, the frequency of services is quite limited. So, realistically, using public transport may not be a viable option. Indeed, driving there yourself is the much more efficient, reliable and straightforward way to get to the Cross Keys Inn.
Waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales National Park
Of course, there are many waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales. Here’s a list of other epic Yorkshire Dales waterfalls to explore.
- Aysgarth Falls: a more popular and famous waterfall, located in Aysgarth.
- Cauldron Falls: a lesser-known waterfall, in West Burton, located near Aysgarth Falls.
- Bolton Abbey Waterfall: after reaching the summit of Simon’s Seat, you can scope out the lesser-known Bolton Abbey Waterfall.
- Muker Meadows Circular Walk: you’ll explore many waterfalls on this walk, including the brilliant upper and lower East Gill Force.
- Hardraw Force (Hardraw Falls): a famous waterfall that featured in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves!
- Hull Pot: an excellent waterfall, which can be seen on a circular walk exploring one of the three peaks – Pen-y-ghent.
- Ingleton Waterfalls Trail: of course, there are many waterfalls to see along the Ingleton Falls Trail.
Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked questions about Cautley Spout and the Howgill Fells.
How High Is Cautley Spout?
It’s approx. 198 metres, meaning it’s the highest waterfall above ground, in England.
Can You Swim in Cautley Spout?
Technically, yes, you can swim in Cautley Spout. Various wild swimming groups would vouch for that. But, realistically, it’s not recommended to swim in Cautley Spout. That’s because it’s quite difficult to reach the base of the falls. With that said, it can be quite dangerous to attempt it. So, for safety and common sense reasons, it’s advised to not swim at Cautley Spout.
Where Is Cautley Spout?
It’s located in the county of Cumbria. But, it’s located within the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Let’s explore this a little more below.
Is Cautley Spout in the Lake District?
No, technically speaking, Cautley Spout is located within the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dale National Park. That’s despite Howgills Fells being located in Cumbria, where the Lake District National Park is located. Basically, in 2016, the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales National Park were extended into both Lancashire and Cumbria. This meant that the Howgill Fells, as well as the towns of Kirkby Stephen, Sedbergh and Ravenstonedale, fell within the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, despite these places still being located in the county of Cumbria (not Yorkshire). Yep, I said it was confusing earlier, right?
These are our five hiking gear essentials for this walk to Cautley Spout in Howgill Fell.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
For a longer hiking gear list, read our 66 Travel Items You Must Travel With. For a list of everything else you’d need for travelling, read our Packing Checklist.
- Explore Sedbergh: it’s a gorgeous old market town with a real oldy world feel. Officially known as England’s book town, it apparently has the most books for sale per capita! So, after finishing a Howgill Fell walk, go check out a book store, or head into one of the lovely cafes. Personally, Beck and I enjoyed a hog roast from one of the weekend market stalls.
- Do the longer walk: yes, there are shorter walk options to get to Cautley Spout. But, we think the longer circuit option is the most adventurous and fun option.
- Explore other nearby national parks: don’t just stop at the Yorkshire Dales. Head to the nearby Lake District (guides coming soon) or North York Moors National Park.
Please leave us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.
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