The Druid’s Temple & Masham Moor

Given the rather unpredictable nature of the weather forecast this weekend we didn’t stray too far from home. We ventured over to Masham for a slightly longer than usual walk to make the most of the December sunshine – and what a Christmas cracker of a walk it was! It had it all: blue skies and big views, rainbows, local history and most importantly a bracing lazy wind to brush away any lingering cobwebs! Finding a new walk close to home is always immensely satisfying and I know we’ll be back to do this walk again soon.

Masham Moor is somewhere I’ve wanted to explore for ages, but it wasn’t until yesterday that the weather and our days off work aligned to make it possible! The walk we followed was this nine and a half mile circular from My Yorkshire Dales, which is an absolutely fabulous blog full of great walks, and most importantly also includes a GPS route you can download and follow.

This walk starts from a lay-by alongside Leighton Reservoir. The reservoir has no rights of way along its shore so the first section of the walk is a short section along the road to reach the public footpath. The road is very quiet though and we heard any cars a long time before we saw them – more than enough time to step onto the verge out of the way.

Crossing a network of fields you soon reach the Druid’s Temple. Sadly this is not a prehistoric site but an eighteenth century folly – it still makes for an intriguing inclusion on your walk though! This was a slightly busier part of the walk and we saw plenty of people making their way down to the Bivouac Cafe to shelter from the intermittent rain showers. I did think that maybe we should have stopped as we spent a quarter of an hour slipping and sliding down the total mud bath that the path became about two hundred metres later!

On this early part of the walk we spent some time following the Ripon Rowel walk. This is a fifty mile long distance route which visits some of the nicest countryside around the city of Ripon, including Fountains Abbey and Markington Hall, as well as traversing woodlands and dales which are frequently overlooked due to being outside the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales national park.

You leave the Ripon Rowel trail and join a road to climb up a fairly steep hill to the village of Ilton which has an eponymous moor. Traipsing across Ilton and Masham moors was pretty windy with my nose going completely numb until I hoisted my buff up to just under my eyes! The views were totally worth the chill though and this was my favourite part of the walk. Despite the on and off drizzle it was a remarkably clear day, with Roseberry Topping visible to the North and Drax power station just visible in the South. The well surfaced tracks also made for much more pleasant walking than squelching across muddy fields at the start of the walk! The moors seem to be popular with locals as we saw plenty of runners and the odd mountain biker too.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. Much of this walk passes through fields where your dog will need to be on a lead due to livestock (we saw both sheep and cows – thankfully none of them took any notice of us!). The moorland is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and there are signs up asking you to keep dogs on a lead during nesting season, and under close control for the rest of the year. Merry spent this section on the lead anyway as there were grouse everywhere and he is absolutely obsessed with them! The woods around the Druid’s Temple offered a chance for off-lead walking and we saw lots of dogs off the lead on the quiet lanes around Ilton.

For the length of the walk there weren’t many stiles at all, but the two or three that we did come across were very awkward and required lifting the dogs over, not fun when they were completely coated in mud! A big bonus was the poo bin in the car park for the Bivouac Cafe which meant we didn’t need to carry poos the whole way round – all dog owners will feel this pain! This was a great walk to take the dogs on as they were both completely pooped when we got home, which meant a nice and peaceful evening for us.

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