Cowling - Wolf Stones - Hitching Stone - Cowling

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If you visit the industrial towns of West Yorkshire and Lancashire, it's sometimes hard to imagine that alongside the urban sprawl there are acres of wild, empty moorland. This is especially true on the border of the two counties, for this is the South Pennines, part of the 'Backbone of England'.

This walk starts from Cowling in Yorkshire. Just to establish the walk's credentials, it starts off on part of the Pennine Way and things don't get much more Pennine than that! The route gains height steadily without any drama, but look around and you won't be in any doubt that you are gaining altitude.

These aren't high hills though; the path soon levels out at a little over 400 metres height. A diversion to the Wolf Stones on the county boundary is the highest point at 443m, with good views into both Lancashire and Yorkshire on a clear day. From there the route tracks back for a short distance before heading for the Maw Stones followed by the Hitching Stone.

The Maw Stones are a bit of an oddity, an isolated low outcrop of gritstone set in an otherwise featureless bit of moor, in just the right place to act as a navigational marker. The Hitching Stone that follows is even more of an oddity. This isolated boulder is as big as a small house and weighs about 1,000 tons, making it the biggest boulder in Yorkshire.

Legends abound. It is said that the stone used to lie on Ilkley Moor, but it was getting in the way of the local witch, who 'hitched' the stone off her moor by striking her broomstick into the rock and hurling it to where it lies now. To add to the story, there is a 'tube' running through the length of the rock, where the witch pierced the stone. However, scientists would have it that the 'tube' was formed by a fossilised tree, now eroded away; and that the stone was carried from nearby Earl Crag to its present position by glacial action.

Being such an obvious landmark, the stone has a long history as a boundary marker of the townships of Cowling, Sutton and Keighley and the 'wapentakes' (assembly or meeting places) of Skyrack and Staincliffe. It was also the site of a Lammas fair that took place every 1st August until 1870. Lammas, or 'loaf-mass' day, was a Christian festival with links to the ancient Celtic festival of Lughnasadh, named after Lugh, the sun god.

After this ancient history we come up to date with two follies on nearby Earl Crag. The first is Wainman's Pinnacle, overlooking Cowling. Instead of a direct return to the start point there is another diversion, this time to Lund's Tower, half a mile away to the east. Both are worth the visit, Lund's Tower especially so with its internal staircase and viewing platform. An easy walk back to Cowling completes the route.

England - North England - Yorkshire - Pennines


Ancient Monument, Great Views, Moor
5/31/2015 - Janet Pickard

Did this walk yesterday. The weather was dry and blustery. I couldn't see any of the Waypoints 4 to 7 but if you keep to the Pennine Way you're on the right path. The post at Waypoint 11 has partly blow down but if you look up across the moor you can see a clearing in the heather. This is the general direction but as previous comments a compass is certainly needed. Like brian I found this part very challenging. The heather was knee high and there is no path. The bog is deceivingly deep in places and I nearly came a cropper several times. It was very wet indeed. The hitching stone in the distance was a welcome sight and I was pleased to reach it. The view and stones were well worth the trudge though. Thanks

3/7/2011 - Paul Shorrock

I would agree with Brian that the walk is better done in good clear weather, if only to ensure that you get the views. If, however, you are caught out by bad weather after starting out, the compass bearings given should keep you out of trouble - it goes without saying (but I will say it) that you should carry a map and compass on this sort of terrain and know how to use them.

3/5/2011 - Brian Smith

The legs of this walk between Little Wolf Stones to Maw Stones and then Maw Stones to the Hitching Stone are particularly tough. They are over open wild moorland with no clear paths. I would recomend only doing this walk in good clear weather. However the views once on the tops are stunning and made the extra effort getting there worthwhile.

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31.1 Miles