Wharfedale is made up of every single thing that springs to mind when you ask someone to describe the Yorkshire Dales. Tumbledown barns, haphazard meadows, fluffy cows, burbling brooks and picture-postcard villages. And don’t even get me started on the panoramic views waiting around every corner. Wharfedale is a roulette of big skies and rolling hills, lush dales and gossamer clouds. The wonders of Wharfedale are many and varied and not to be missed, and in this blog I’m going to share some of my favourite walks, ranging from easy family-friendly strolls to more strenuous days on the hills.
Langstrothdale is a tiny valley nestled in the heart of Wharfedale. It comprises the area around Yockenthwaite, Hubberholme and Beckermonds, and is home to a gentle stretch of the river Wharfe which gives Wharfedale its name. The river here is easily accessed from the road which can lead to it being completely packed in summer with picnicking families – it also seems to be a popular spot for wild campers as there were plenty of tents and motorhomes pitched alongside the river when we visited in the summer. It was lovely to see so many young families out and enjoying all that the countryside has to offer – without any litter left lying around which was lovely to see!
The walk we did was the very short and easy two mile circular on the National Trust website. Parking is free on the roadside by Yockenthwaite Bridge and the walk itself should be an enjoyable stroll for walkers of all levels. There are no steep climbs, the terrain is pretty level and there are helpful way markers for much of the route. If it’s a warm day there are opportunities to have a paddle in the river on the return stretch, which runs along the verge between the water and the road. This walk also passes a number of interesting archaeological features including Yockenthwaite stone circle and a small cave – which will be pumping out water if it’s rained recently!
Dog friendly rating – 2.5/5. Although this is a lovely gentle stroll, this isn’t the best walk for burning off excess canine energy. The first half of the walk passes through fields, any of which could have livestock in, and the return passes along the road. This means that all in all there aren’t really many opportunities to let your dog have a good run. Merry did however love having a dip in the river and I spent a good five minutes trying to coax him out! There are no poo bins on this walk so make sure you take any ‘deposits’ home with you.
Conistone Dib is an impressive limestone gorge which is located close to the village of Conistone (unsurprisingly!). Historically, water flowed through the gorge, but today it is nearly always dry and you can access the gorge on a stony track. Walking through the gorge almost feels like you’re on another planet, with full sized trees sprouting from the walls all around you and echoes from people walking in front of you bouncing back to sound like they’re behind you! When we did this walk I got a little side tracked taking photos and got left behind a bit – not a problem until I remembered the Barghest said to haunt Trollers Gill and started wondering if there was a similar creature lurking in Conistone Dib…
The seven mile circular route we followed starts from the National Park car park in Grassington (with toilets) and starts off by cutting through Grass Wood before reaching and traversing Conistone Dib. The route we used was from the Cicerone Trail and Fell Running in the Yorkshire Dales guidebook (not that I run any of the routes we follow from this book!), which has lots of routes which make for great half day rambles instead of runs! If you don’t have this book a slightly longer route which is fairly similar is available on the Walking Englishman website.
This walk was actually pretty quiet most of the way around, which surprised me, as Grassington was absolutely heaving with people – it was impossible to socially distance without walking down the middle of the road! As soon as we took the footpath out of the village though the crowds died back and we had the path mostly to ourselves – it only really started to get busier again as we dropped back down into Grassington at the end of the walk.
This walk is definitely a step up from the Langstrothdale amble but you should be fine if you are reasonably fit. The path does wander up and down, without being too steep, but it does feel like you’ve been walking for a while by the time you get to the end! The views are amazing throughout and you do feel like you’re wandering around the pages of a Yorkshire Dales photography book. In particular the views from the top of Coninstone Dib are very impressive and there are lots of eye catching limestone outcrops to look out for.
Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. The woods are great for exploring and sniffing out new scents, and provide your dog with the opportunity to let off some steam, before going back on the lead for the rest of the walk. Much of this walk passes through fields where there may be livestock and there is a short stretch along a quiet road. We saw both sheep and cows on this walk. This is the first walk where a cow has ever approached us – it was a very slow inquisitive approach, but it was enough to make me power walk across the field as fast as I could! There were quite a few stiles on this walk but they were the easy kind where the steps are built into a dry stone wall, rather than the fiendishly difficult stiles over wire fences where you inevitably get coated in mud lifting your dog over. There is no water on this walk so make sure you take some extra along for your dog.
The Head of Wharfedale
If ‘value for effort’ was a thing, this walk would surely top the list. This five mile magical mystery tour of the head of Wharfedale takes you from the charming village of Buckden to the Lilliputian hamlets of Cray and Hubberholme. There are a few relatively steep climbs on this walk, but these are few and far between, and the views are more than worth the effort. We found this walk in my trusty Pocket Mountains guide to the Yorkshire Dales but a longer online alternative is available on Where2Walk.
There is a large National Park car park in Buckden which also has toilets (hooray!). This does get extremely busy in summer so make sure to arrive early or visit out of season. The Yorkshire Dales National Park introduced a traffic light system on their website this year to let you know how busy their car parks were before you set off, which was really useful, and hopefully something they’ll continue doing in peak season.
While the car park at Buckden can be busy, we saw hardly any other people on this walk. Most people tend to head straight up Buckden Pike and miss out on a lot of what is on offer! This walk passes the dog friendly White Lion Inn at Cray – we didn’t call in as we had packed lunches but it smelled absolutely amazing when we walked past! We will definitely have to head back this way when lockdown ends to sample what’s on offer.
Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. As nearly all of this walk passes through fields dogs need to be on a lead or under close control for the majority of the time. There is a small section on the final descent into Buckden where you can let your dog off, but this isn’t very long. You do cross the river which provides the opportunity for a drink and a paddle which is perfect on a summer’s day! Toss in a dog friendly pub and really, what more could you want?!
Did you know that Wharfedale has it’s very own version of the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge? The Wharfedale Three Peaks of Buckden Pike, Great Whernside and Birks make for a challenging 18 mile hike with great views and much less foot traffic.
Just like the Yorkshire Three Peaks, their Wharfedale equivalents make for a memorable hiking experience whether tackled together or individually. Buckden Pike is by far the most popular, with the car park at the foot of the hill heaving at weekends and in summer, but Birks offers an unjustly overlooked alternative with (in my opinion) better views and a high chance of seeing zero other walkers.
I can’t find the exact route we followed online but there are a number of routes with different starting points to be found if you have a Google – the closest one I can find is this route from Walking in the Yorkshire Dales which is a ten mile circular from Litton.
The walk itself had a few steep climbs but the gradient is predominantly gentle – just watch out for the boggy sections or you might end up with water over the top of your boots! All of the Wharfedale Three Peaks are notoriously boggy and therefore best tackled on a dry day or when it’s very cold, unless you don’t mind getting wet feet! (Carrying a spare pair of socks is always a good idea).
Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Dogs need to be on leads/under close control for the duration of this walk due to livestock (we saw both sheep and cows). There is however a section along the river where your dog can have a splash, and the length of this walk means that even the most athletic pooches will be napping in the car on the way home! As always please pick up poos and dispose of them responsibly.
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