Buy the OS Route Map and instructions for this route

The Howgill Fells have earned their reputation as the place to escape to when the Lakes are so busy that you have to queue to get through every gate. But what is often overlooked, is the actual quality of the trails: particularly the serpentine singletrack that cuts through the 8km long, U-shaped valley of Bowderdale, which has to be a contender for the best natural singletrack this country has to offer.
It all starts high on the windswept grassy summit ridge of the Calf, which at 676m is the highest of the Howgills. After traversing beneath the trig point, and steepening nicely to make an initial plummet down the valley’s rough headwall, it narrows sweetly into an undulating ribbon of a trail that cuts a precarious line around the steep hillside. The views ahead are incredible, and if you look back over your shoulder, they’re even more spectacular behind.
The next few kilometres slip by in an adrenaline-fuelled frenzy of short, steep ups and downs, and sweeping verandas that teeter high above gaping voids. The odd landslipped section ups the ante even further, and if you can clean all the stream crossings, you can certainly count yourself an expert.
But this is only one section of a 55km ride that scales over 1,700m of altitude in total. And there are plenty of other highlights, particularly the rough and rocky climb up the Breasthigh Road, and the equally sinister drop down the other side into Borrowdale (not that one), that really will test suspension, tyres and rider to the limit. There’s the monumental push/carry/climb up onto the Calf — well you have to get that height somehow. And if that’s not enough, there’s the isolation and remoteness of it all.