It is always cold on Dead Mans Hill. I have climbed it several times and even in summer you want to pull your clothes tightly around you. I have been climbing mountains and hill walking most of my life but for some reason whenever I am on Dead Mans Hill I get cold. I don’t know why.
Dead Mans Hill is at the head of Nidderdale in North Yorkshire. It is wild, bleak and barren. I always approach it along the Pateley Bridge to Middlesmoor road. Up the old Corporation road at Lofthouse past Goydon Pothole (spectacular in full flood), and park at Scar House. There are two old reservoirs – Angram and Scar House – walk along one and then up onto the bleak peat moors. It isn’t a particulary long or a hard walk but it is easy to get lost on top.
I was up there with a friend several years ago and it got very dark very quickly. It started to snow heavily and we both swear we could hear voices in the wind. We eventually made it down OK and having a pint later we mentioned to the landlord about the walk.
He told us that in 1792 the bodies of 3 headless Scottish tinkers were found in a peat bog on ‘Dead Man’s Hill’ – that’s how it got it’s name. The landlady of the old inn at Arkleside near Horsehouse, where the three men had spent the night, was suspected of the crime along with her daughter. She was eventually acquitted for lack of evidence.
The inn is now gone and the bodies are supposed to be buried at Middlesmoor, which is Nidderdales highest village. I’ve not looked for the gravestones, but next time I am up there I might.
Now I don’t know if these moors are haunted, and I don’t know if it was the wind or not making the noise on the fells that night but it certainly unnerved me…and I would not like to spend a night out here on my own in the dark.