Hell Gill

Rory Calland
Visit Cumbria, Hell Gill Force

Hell Gill, Mallerstang, Aisgill, CA17 4JY – Visit Now

A 1.5km walk from the parking area is needed to reach the entrance of Hell Gill on the border of the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. Once you’ve found it you’ll be able to see where the Hell Gill Beck begins to burrow into the soft rock to create this 500m long slot canyon. There’s plenty of wading/swimming to be done here but it’s a journey too. With a wetsuit, wet boots and a helmet you’ll follow the water’s descent down into the bowels of the limestone where it has carved out high narrow walls. At its deepest point it’s easy to understand how it has been likened to being inside the belly of Jonah’s whale. Use of the fixed rope and skilful footwork is one way to stay dry(ish) in here, but the sequences of mini-waterfalls into plunge pools are far too enticing.

The water is peaty and cold in the gill, and the overhanging ash trees snuffs out light to create a cave-like atmosphere. As a bonus though, upon emerging into the light (the way out of the canyon is a little hop over a wall to your right) you’ll only be a short meander from Hell Gill Force, where the beck meets the infant River Eden. Here, beneath an 8m waterfall you can bathe in the sunlight and perfectly punctuate the end of your journey.

Putting aside the intimidating name this is one of those biblical cracks in the Earth that can grant you a truly altered perspective. It requires caution however, and going with a guide is recommended if you lack the necessary experience. Choose your day to visit wisely and be aware that heavy rainfall can cause the water level to rise dangerously and make the gill impassable.