For newcomers

At the bottom of each post there is the word "comments". If you click on it you will see comments made by followers, and if you follow the instructions you may also comment and I always welcome that. I have found many people overlook this part of the blog which is often more interesting than the original post!

My blog nick-name is SIR HUGH. I'm not from the aristocracy - my middle name is Hugh which relates to the list of 282 hills in Scotland compiled by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. I climbed my last one (Sgurr Mor) on 28th June 2009


Sunday, 3 May 2020

Fairy Steps

Saturday 2nd. May 2020 (Day 38 of Lockdown) - Fairy Steps circuit - 5 miles plus.

The first photo was taken lazily from sitting in my armchair looking east a couple of days before this walk. I can sit there and watch all kinds of bird activity in the air and birds perching on the rooftops. The chimney that sticks up partly obscures my view of Ingleborough twenty miles away on the horizon, and I can also just see Whernside.

The cloud formation was more dramatic than the photo shows but I get much pleasure from this ever-changing view.

Having walked to the south-west all over Arnside Knott territory for the last few days I decided to head east and re-visit Fairy Steps. That sprang from Bowland Climber reminding me of my last visit with his friend Mel who sadly died a few days ago after a longish period of poor health. I have tried to pinpoint the date both from my blog and BC's without success but it was probably a couple of years ago - I'm sure BC will remember.

Fairy Steps is a limestone crag at the top of the path from Arnside over to Beetham, and is on the route of the long distance Limestone Link path from Arnside to Kirkby Lonsdale. Legend has it that this was one of those tracks over which coffins were hauled. This one involves a tight squeeze through a gap in the crag and some of the iron rings remain used for ropes to manhandle the coffins which at least gives a bit more authentication to the story than other similar old tracks over the hills.
I have a fantasy that on occasions the old villeins got fed up with heaving their burdens about on steep paths and decided to opt for cremation halfway?*

I set off from home which is another few hundred yards away from the start shown on the map below. There are now noticeably more people about. I took a few photos up to and including the squeeze through Fairy Steps then found the camera battery had expired.


Up the line towards Arnside station

Fairy Steps is in the tiny gap in the trees on the horizon

This and below - Hazelslack Tower 14th Century

A long climb through these woods on a rugged limestone path to get to Fairy Steps

Fairy Steps



*That reminded me of model aeroplane flying with my son years ago. A well known figure on the scene owned a model shop in the North and he had a friend who owned one in the South. They were both struggling financially. By "coincidence" both shops went up in flames on the same night - the police computer had a wobbler. Jimmy did a spell at her Majesty's pleasure. When we came to hear about him he had a huge four engined model of a Lancaster bomber, and to be fair he had raised lots of money for charity flying it at model shows, but it was not uncommon as folk passed by at these shows to hear them calling out "Have you got a light Jimmy?"


  1. I can't tell you how disappointed I was when I reached the denouement of this post.

  2. RR - enigmatic as always:

    Which denouement?

    Battery expired so sarcastically relieved no more photos?

    Battery expired so disappointed no more photos.?

    Sarcastically celebrating brevity?

    Genuinely hungering for more?

  3. Denouer is the French for "to unknot". Denouement is used, untranslated, in English to refer to the resolution of a foregoing situation; more loosely to bring that situation to a close. Now think of Fairy Steps in another light.

  4. Your "couple of years ago" was actually Oct 9th 2015. I think we had lunch in the pub at Beetham.
    The picture of the Steps in your post looks strangely empty and forlorn. Hope you didn't meet anybody coming down them, it would be difficult to distance correctly.

  5. I think he was hoping to see fairies - after all, it is long time since he was a denizen of Cottingley or thereabouts
    Best place is, of course, the Fairy Pools, under the Fairy Bridge, where they cavort, waving the Fairy Flag, on the rare days when it is above 0C !

  6. I’m doing better with the Guardian crossword these days.

  7. I consider that Mick & I are remarkably lucky to live in an attractive area of countryside that is close enough for us to access on foot, but Arnside wins hands-down on having 'stuff' as well as countryside. Things like ruined towers and fairy-steps (and that's without thinking about things like hills and coastline).

    I don't think I've heard mention of the fairy steps before. I assume they are a popular local attraction in more normal times?

  8. Surely it's going to percolate soon.

  9. And this is a chap who claims to do The Guardian cryptic.

  10. And may - or may not - have given Simone Weil a run for her money.

  11. afoot - it was of course a bit of poetic licence in that the Pools are quite a few miles from the Bridge and their connections with fairies are a bit airy . . . - whether fairy wings could endue the icy waters is a moot point - but the Flag is real !
    All magic anyway: probably more so at present, with the most un-fairylike masses gone. Who could possibly have guessed that the bridge could cause that: so unpredictable.

  12. Gimmer - thanks for clarifying. I think. I have decided to say no more since it might, almost certainly will, seem like pedantry if not worse! Life is just too short.

  13. RR - Yes of course I knew the meaning of denouement, in fact it is a word I have a particular fondness for.

    Because the majority of your comments are critical that is the first interpretation I am conditioned to consider,

    By the way, I did plough through Simone Weil - The Need for Roots, and the main message was the importance of we humans having a relationship with our place of birth and or environment and the adverse effect of that being much less permanent in the modern world which Simone takes three hundred pages to elaborate on. I am not criticising, just observing.


    BC - Thanks for the reminder. Your comment is diplomatically sandwiched between others, unless you are going to tell me you saw fairies up there back in 2015?


    Gimmer and Afoot - Well, Gimmer, you are nearly as enigmatic as Big Brother failing to identify the sources of your comments. I knew not of the connection with the Fairies of the Isle of Skye until I did an Internet search - I'm not sure if you Afoot knew about that but if not you may now go and have read.


    Gayle - I usually respond to comments in the order received so sorry for missing you along the way. You. like BC, have avoided the subject of fairies - maybe you have them in you locale but would rather not say? It's surprising how such a mundane post, originally intended by me to be more of a simple record for my own reference before I got carried away has resulted in so many comments.

  14. Ever whingeing about being criticised, and still no nearer to decoding that sentence I left behind originally. And yet the allusion should be staring you in the face; an exchange on the subject passed between us a mere decade ago. If I were to explain it (which I won't) you'd be horribly disappointed, since the core of the matter impinges on your previous life.

    Gimmer and I are accused of failing "to identify our sources". But in my case what I offered was a conumdrum. We've moved on since Miss Hudson at Thackley Primary School.

    And why all this about Simone Weil? I covered that eventuality in my reference.

  15. Sir Hugh - Yes I'm aware of the folk lore of Skye being lifelong lover of the Island. For anyone interested in such things Otta Swire's 'Skye - the Island and its Legends'is worth reading.

    I'll email you regarding Fairy Bridge. Any the wiser?

  16. RR - The light has dawned. Perhaps a slightly more vivid memory for you. It must have been circa 1957 so five plus decades ago.

    I filled in a bit about Weil because our recent conversation had me uncertain about having read it and even with my admitted bad memory I found it disturbing that I was not able to recall much about it at the time. I thought you may be interested because I retain the impression that you had not read it and I thought a quick semi-humorous resumé may be of interest. You have a much stronger memory than most people I have met, and I think you become impatient with people who have less.

  17. Well , I wonder if he can remember the quite unprompted and arcane remark he made to me when coming down the Mill Beck track after pushing back the furthest boundaries of English rock climbing skill, expertise and sheer doggedness on Tarn Crag and Little Gully, just before we popped over the shoulder to drop down to the ODG and the tent. I'm not sure whether this was before or after the visit to Dr Mylechreest but it was after you had left: the ride back to Bradford on the back of his motorbike cured me forever from the idea of having one: it was the time of the great Allt a'Mhuillin washout and the night walk from Penrith to the ODG. Anyway, it confirmed that cold showering was to be preferred for young boys.

  18. A lovely walk Conrad and, since I haven't been that way since lockdown started, a timely reminder for me.
    The comments are entertaining as always, although I can't pretend I could follow all of it!

  19. Gimmer: "unprompted and arcane" and still I don't remember. However I do remember the giggly conversation we had about the etymology of Dr Mylechreest's surname and its pronunciation. Having decided I could add nothing useful to your medical rendezvous I stayed outside and you went in alone. As you faced the receptionist you suddenly realised that social politeness (of which you are an advanced practitioner) might demand that you be forced to utter this odd name, leading to an uncharted event which might not qualify as social politeness. Quick as a flash your brain changed gear and you asked "Is the doctor in?" You were quite proud of this and I was proud on your behalf.