Date: 20th June 2010
Distance: 4.3 miles
Ascent: 825 feet
Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: NT929047
Some difficult route finding in Harbottle Woods precluded a close encounter with a fox and some interesting features including Harbottle Lake and the massive Drake Stone.
Route Summary: Harbottle Castle Car Park - Harbottle - Harbottle Wood - Harbottle Crag - Drake Stone - West Wood - Harbottle Car Park
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: After fairly long walks on the Friday and Saturday I'd chosen this walk as a short, easy leg stretcher before heading for home. As is sometimes the case the walks that I expect to be simple and easy are anything but.
The initial walk through Harbottle along the road and then on to the wide plantation track in Harbottle Wood were as expected. My problems started when I took the public footpath that leaves the main track and makes its way up through the woods to pass just south of the top of Harbottle Crags. The path was badly overgrown and the further I went the path got narrower and the vegetation thicker. If it was not for the occasional finger post reassuring me I was still on the right path it could have been even worse.
Eventually, in a particularly dark and overgrown section, I decided I could not follow the 'path' any further and so battled my way out of the woods on to the moor and there followed a bit of thrashing about in bracken and burnt heather before I finally came to reasonably decent ground underfoot. Thankfully from then on the walk proved to be much easier.
Upon finally reaching the summit I was rewarded with some fairly good views in all directions. The big treat came though when I began heading north to the main crag only to find a fox sniffing about on the path 20 metres or so ahead of me. I ducked down and managed to get a few pictures before it finally spotted me and legged it.
After visiting the most substantial crag on the moor I then followed the fence north over terrain which had we not had a fairly dry spring and summer would have been quite unpleasantly boggy. After passing some minor outcrops I arrived at the small rocky ridge which overlooks the small but attractive Harbottle Lake.
From this subsidary top I then made for the small rise which is crowned by the Drake Stone. This impressive sandstone boulder is about 30 feet high and is quite a landmark. Local legend assigns healing powers to the rock while it has even been speculated that it was a site of Druidic ceremony. It is certainly one of the largest rocks I have come across.
The return to Harbottle was thankfully much easier than the climb. While the crags themselves are fairly modest the combination of rock, heather, lake and the Drake Stone make this a fascinating place to explore. While I'd like to go back some day I almost certainly wouldn't attempt the path through Harbottle Wood again though on the day it was worth going that way for the encounter with the fox.