Combining a visit to Hardknott Fort with a more strenuous walk over the Wainwrights of Harter Fell and Hard Knott (the mountain) makes for a rewarding circuit. The Fort is a well preserved Roman settlement with the best views to be seen on the steep descent from Hard Knott fell.
This circular walk has so much going for it. It includes two isolated Wainwright fells, a Roman fort and rough terrain with excellent views, particularly over the Scafell massif to the north west. There is plenty of parking near Brotherikeld in the Upper Eskdale valley. I prefer the anti clockwise route starting with a gentle climb up the bridleway linking Eskdale with the Duddon Valley. However on leaving the bridleway near the trees the nature of the walk changes. The climb of Harter Fell from here is undoubtedly a steep pull (just shy of 1,000 feet). However the rewards are two fold, a 360 degree panorama of the south western Lake District (benefiting from the isolation of Harter Fell from other high land) and an interesting summit area with three distinct boulder fields. The highest has a fine trig point.
Harter Fell can also be climbed on its own from the Duddon Valley, the most straightforward route.
The crossing to Hardknott Pass from Harter Fell is straightforward. Hard Knott (the fell) lies on the northern side of the road pass and is a relatively short but interesting climb. Hard Knott is another isolated fell with excellent views particularly to the Scafell range to the north. I crossed towards the subsidiary summit to the south west, Border End, and contoured its slopes to the west. There are some faint tracks but I simply picked the easiest route (can be confusing in the mist). From the slopes of Border End Hardknott Fort appears splendidly. The view over the fort and down Eskdale is one of the finest in the Lake District.
Drop down to the fort which you can explore at leisure. The fort was built between AD120 and AD132 in the reign of Hadrian as one of a series of forts linking the coast at Ravenglass to the Roman Wall. There can not be any with such an inspiring setting. It is a strange feeling to look down Eskdale, knowing the Roman soldiers did the same nearly 2,000 years ago.
It is worth the extra climb to Hard Knott (the fell) even if you are not completing the Wainwrights. The views are unusual to the Scafells. However those over the fort to Eskdale are genuinely something else. It is something missed by anyone just visiting the fort.
As a general rule steep ground is marked by close together contours. When those contours merge then the ground is so steep it is dangerous. However when the land is rocky (marked by grey outcrops on a map) then the terrain can still be dangerous even if the contours do not merge with each other.
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