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Discover the Southern and Western Yorkshire Dales with a Cicerone guidebook - Sample Route

Cover of Walking in the Yorkshire Dales: South and West
13 Apr 2017
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.4cm
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Walking in the Yorkshire Dales: South and West

Wharfedale, Littondale, Malhamdale, Dentdale and Ribblesdale

by Dennis Kelsall, Jan Kelsall
Book published by Cicerone Press

Part of a 2-book set, this guidebook describes 44 walks in the southern and western Yorkshire Dales, including the famous 23 mile Three Peaks circuit over Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. The other, mostly circular routes of 3½ to 13 miles cover the scenic region between Sedbergh, Kirkby Lonsdale, Settle, Skipton and Grassington.

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The Yorkshire Dales need little introduction: their picturesque scenery and hundreds of miles of footpaths, tracks and bridleways have been attracting walkers for decades. Part of a two-volume set, this guidebook presents over 40 routes in the south and west of the National Park, with bases including Sedburgh, Malham, Grassington, Skipton, Settle and Kirkby Lonsdale. The walks cover the valleys of Wharfedale, Littondale, Malhamdale, Ribblesdale and Dentdale – each with its own distinctive landscape and character. Also included is the Yorkshire Three Peaks, a 23 mile (37km) challenge to bag three iconic summits – Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.


Mostly circular and ranging from 3.5 to 13 miles (6–21km), the routes showcase Yorkshire's diverse landscapes, beautiful views and rich heritage and celebrate the 'ups, downs and endless in-betweens' of the Dales. With the exception of the Three Peaks walk, they are designed to suit most abilities: steeper sections are rare and usually short-lived. Detailed route description and 1:50,000 OS mapping are provided for each route, along with information on nearby points of interest and facilities. In addition, an introduction presents an overview of the region's plants and wildlife, geology and history and offers an insight into iconic local industries such as farming and quarrying.

From bucolic pastureland to wild moors, the Dales have it all. Highlights include delightful riverside walking in Wharfedale, spectacular views of the distant Howgills and Lake District Fells, and the arresting limestone cliffs of Malham Cove. Charming villages and cosy pubs offer a warm welcome, but it is also possible to find tranquility and seclusion. The walks in this guide take in rolling hills, sweeping valleys and dancing streams, providing a wonderful introduction to this magnificent area.

  • Activities
  • Seasons
    Year round walking in the Yorkshire Dales, but be properly kitted out on the tops in winter.
  • Centres
    Skipton, Settle, Grassington, Kirkby Lonsdale, Sedbergh, Dent, Grassington, Clapham, Malham
  • Difficulty
    From gentle two-mile walks to more strenuous day-long routes
  • Must See
    The individual character of each dale, wild fells, cosy villages, the traditional farming landscape, the Yorkshire Three Peaks route, Malham cove
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Evolution of the landscape
Geological history
Human settlement
Industry and enterprise
Farming in the Dales
Plants and wildlife
The Southern and Western Dales
The Yorkshire Dales National Park
Navigation and maps
Careful planning
Clothing and footwear
Food and drink
Taking your car
Leaving your car behind
Using this guide
1 Lower Wharfedale and Barden Moor
Walk 1 Bolton Abbey
Walk 2 Barden Moor
Walk 3 Simon’s Seat
Walk 4 Burnsall and Trollers Gill
Walk 5 Grassington and Grass Wood
Walk 6 Conistone
2 Upper Wharfedale
Walk 7 Great Whernside
Walk 8 Kettlewell and Arncliffe
Walk 9 Buckden Pike
Walk 10 Old Cote Moor Top from Buckden
Walk 11 Buckden and Yockenthwaite
Walk 12 Horse Head and Langstrothdale
Walk 13 Oughtershaw Side
3 Littondale
Walk 14 Arncliffe and High Cote Moor
Walk 15 Old Cote Moor Top from Arncliffe
Walk 16 Pen-y-ghent Gill from Litton
Walk 17 Litton and the River Skirfare
4 Malhamdale
Walk 18 Airedale and Weets Top
Walk 19 Gordale, Malham Tarn and the Cove
Walk 20 Malham Cove and Pikedaw Hill
Walk 21 Mastiles Lane
Walk 22 Fountains Fell
Walk 23 Winterburn Reservoir
Walk 24 Cracoe Fell
5 Dentdale and the Western Outliers
Walk 25 Great Knoutberry Hill
Walk 26 Wold Fell
Walk 27 A Walk into Deepdale
Walk 28 Great Coum
Walk 29 Dentdale
Walk 30 Calf Top and Middleton Fell
Walk 31 Barbon Low Fell
Walk 32 Gragareth and Great Coum
6 Around Ribblesdale
Walk 33 Attermire Scar and Victoria Cave
Walk 34 Langcliffe and Catrigg Force
Walk 35 Plover Hill and Pen-y-ghent
Walk 36 Upper Ribblesdale along the Ribble Way
Walk 37 Ingleborough from Ribblehead
Walk 38 Whernside from Ribblehead
Walk 39 Gayle Moor and the Source of the Ribble
Walk 40 Clapham and the Norber Boulders
Walk 41 Ingleborough from Clapham
Walk 42 Ingleton Falls
Walk 43 Kingsdale
Walk 44 The Yorkshire Three Peaks
Appendix 1 Route summaries and suggestions for longer routes
Appendix 2 Where to find out more

Sample Route

Simon’s Seat
StartCavendish Pavilion car park, Bolton Abbey (SE 078551)
Distance8.5 miles (13.7km)
Total Ascent490m (1608ft)
TerrainGenerally good paths throughout. Note the Permissive Path onto Barden Fell may occasionally be closed for shooting between August and December; dogs are not allowed at any time of year.
MapsExplorer OL2 – Yorkshire Dales (Southern & Western areas)
RefreshmentsCafé by car park
ToiletsBeside car park
ParkingCavendish Pavilion car park

Barden Fell is the culmination of a long, broad ridge that separates Wharfedale from Nidderdale, and although at just 485m it is not particularly high, its bulk and relative detachment invest in it an exaggerated sense of scale. In good weather, this ascent through the Valley of Desolation onto the upper moor is straightforward and contrasts with a meandering return beside the River Wharfe.

From the Cavendish Pavilion car park, cross the River Wharfe on the bridge in front of the café and follow the riverbank upstream. When you reach a gate, climb a zigzag path to the lane above. Turn left, but after 250m, leave through a gate on the right beside Waterfall Cottage. A track rises above Posforth Gill for 800m, eventually arriving at a marshy pond where you have your first view into the valley below. Branch left off the main track there, down to a footbridge nestling in the base of the valley.

The River Wharfe below Posforth Bridge


The Valley of Desolation is now a hardly fitting title for this charming glen. But in 1826 flash floods from a heavy deluge transformed the babbling beck into a raging torrent. It swept down the valley stripping bare the vegetation and uprooting massive trees to leave behind a naked gash cleaving the hillside. Now, apart from the odd ancient rotting stump, only the name gives any hint of its past devastation. More recently, nature has been given a hand, with the planting of some 8000 trees in a scheme to illustrate how the area might have been colonised by a succession of different types of vegetation in the 12,000 years since the last ice age.

The upper waterfall in the Valley of Desolation

The ongoing path winds upstream on the opposite bank through bracken-carpeted woodland past a pretty waterfall and into the upper glen. Beyond another bridge, branch off to remain beside the meandering stream, shortly reaching a rocky pool at the foot of a second cascade. Neither of the falls is spectacularly high, but their setting is beautiful. Surrounded by trees, dark mosses feather the dripping rocks while ferns find root amongst the shaded crevices. Both falls give some idea of the erosive power of the beck, as each has retreated upstream more than 800m during the last 10,000 years as the lip of the underlying rock has been progressively worn back.

With no way forward you must return to the main path, climbing along the valley-side to a small gate entering a conifer plantation. Join a forest track and, ignoring the track off sharp right, follow it forward towards Simon’s Seat climbing through the trees onto the open moor overlooking a confluence of streams. The ongoing track rises ahead above Great Agill Beck, later briefly dipping across to continue up the opposite flank. Further on, beside the path, stands a sturdy stone picnic table, sheltered from the wind by a curving wall. After passing a track off on the right, the way arcs around the upper reaches of the catchment to a junction.

Choose the right branch, which leads past the jumbled rocks of Truckle Crags, a prominent vantage breaking the vast rolling sea of heather and bilberry, and on to Simon’s Seat further to the north, distinguished from the other craggy islands by its size and a trig column adorning its highest boulder.

Having taken your fill of the view, clamber back off the summit, but instead of returning along the path past Truckle Crags, descend south west on a short section of paved way, refurbished in an effort to reduce erosion. Dropping steadily along the flank of Barden Fell, the path makes for the corner of a forest plantation rising in the middle distance. Below, the Wharfe sweeps a corner to drop through a wooded gorge, although from here it is evident that it once described a longer course to the east around Haugh.

As you reach the plantation, cross a stream and join a descending track that soon turns into the forest. Emerging below zigzags at a clearing, take the right fork and continue downhill to Howgill. Looking back to the forest fringe, the upper reaches of How Beck are spanned by an elegantly arched aqueduct carrying water from the Grimwith Reservoir high up on Appletreewick Moor.

Reaching Howgill Lane, cross to the continuation of the track, which ultimately emerges onto Stangs Lane. Take a farm track opposite, signed as the Dales Way towards Barden Bridge, bearing right just before the farmyard to find a path beside the Wharfe. Following the river downstream, there is a fine view back of the hillside, while in front, Barden Tower shortly appears. The path finally ends at Barden Bridge.

There is now a choice of riverside paths back to the Cavendish Pavilion, each equally enjoyable, but having their own special attractions. That on the northern bank climbs higher but in return offers some spectacular views along the valley, while the other gives the opportunity for a close-up view of The Strid. The paths leave the road either side of Barden Bridge, and if you change your mind, you can cross a little further downstream on a footbridge over an aqueduct. Whichever you choose is a fitting finale to the walk.

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