What’s in a Name? A Sunday Stroll up Sour Howes & Sallows

Sour Howes and Sallows are, based on name alone, two of the least appealing of the Wainwright Fells (although surely Barf is up there too). Knowing little about them and having never been to this part of the Lake District, they were not fighting for prime position at the top of my ‘to do’ list. However, a changing weather forecast meant that last weekend we ditched our plan to do the Fairfield Horseshoe (again) and opted to stick to the lower fells, where the weather forecast predicated no wind and much better visibility than up on the high tops. Flicking through my wonderful Walking the Wainwrights guide, we compiled a short list of possibles and agreed to do the walk with the best forecast. And thus, Sour Howes and Sallows were catapulted to the top of the list.

We followed the 6.5 mile circular route set out in our guidebook, but if you don’t own this, a very similar route is available on WalkLakes. We parked for free on the side of the road at the end of the Dubbs Lane byway (limited spaces for about four cars). Overall it took us just over three and a half hours to complete this walk, although it would’ve taken us three hours if we’d paid closer attention to where we were going on our way down and gone left instead of right at a fork!

The route itself is easy to follow, with the start and end following an enclosed lane, with a detour up and along a grassy slope to take you to the two summits. The initial climb up Sour Howes was a bit of a slog (and muddy as the path is all grass), but it’s over pretty quickly, with good views across to the Kentmere Horseshoe to keep you going. Don’t forget to look over your shoulder for a lovely view over to Windermere.

Before you know it you’re at the summit (a large grassy knoll). We didn’t hang around here what with it being January and pretty cold: instead we continued on along the undulating grassy trail to our next port of call, Sallows. A rather unappealing name in modern English, from Googling it appears that ‘Sallows’ may come from the Middle English word ‘Salwe’, which means Willow. Perhaps you used to be able to find willow trees here?

Whether or not this is true we didn’t see any willow trees on the summit, just a few other walkers, and after saying hello we started the descent back down to the byway we started on. This descent is fairly steep but it’s over before you know it: a rare treat where you can see the bottom of the slope from the top.

The walk along the lane back to the car is an easy stroll which is downhill or flat for most of the way. While it was quiet on our way up, on our way down we did see a fair few more people, as well as more than the normal amount of mountain bikers. It was a sunny Sunday in the Lake District though so I’m surprised we didn’t see more people!

In terms of views, there is nothing on this walk which is going to blow your previous favourite view out of the water, but it is a pleasant ramble through typical Lakeland scenery. In particular the views as you climb up Sour Howes are very nice, but there is also a pleasing ruggedness to the view across to Sallows as you make your way there.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This walk is a great option if you’re wanting to tick off a Wainwright or two with your dog in tow. The long stretches along the enclosed lane offer plenty of off lead time (although watch out for sections of tumbled down wall if your dog is likely to run through), and there was only one stile with the potential to be difficult. This is a ladder stile at the foot of the climb up to Sour Howes and for this reason I would recommend tackling Sour Howes first: there is no drop on the other side of the stile, meaning you can get your dog up without having to worry about getting them down the other side. Speaking from our own experiences, it’s definitely a lot easier to get a dog up a ladder stile than it is to get it down! There is no road walking on this hike but also no water, so if you’re planning to do this hike on a hot day, take some extra along for your dog.

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