I mentioned in my blog about Wensleydale a few weeks ago that nowhere in the Yorkshire Dales is more abundant with waterfalls (or that’s how it feels to me at least!). My original intention was to write a blog post featuring some of the most impressive, however, having had a few weeks to think about it I feel that Hardraw Force deserves a post all of its own. It is perhaps one of the most famous of the waterfalls of Wensleydale, and if you haven’t heard the name, you’ve probably still seen it on the screen in the 1991 film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Yes, it is the waterfall where Robin takes a bath, but today there are (thankfully) no skinny dippers to be seen. In fact, the whole site was remarkably quiet when we visited, although this may have been more to do with the fact that it was December and about minus two…
Hardraw Force is somewhere I’d wanted to visit for absolutely ages and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Rather than parking in the village of Hardraw and just popping down to the waterfall, we incorporated a stop off at the falls on a circular walk from Hawes. This walk was from my much loved Pocket Mountains guide to the Yorkshire Dales and also includes a detour to the much less well known Shaw Ghyll: sadly we missed this part out due to a navigational error! This little guidebook is wonderful, but if you don’t own it or don’t want to buy it, there is a similar route online on Walks in Yorkshire (although this route doesn’t include Shaw Ghyll). Parking for the walk is in a Pay & Display car park in Hawes where there are plenty of spaces, or free if you have a national parks parking permit.
The walk itself it pretty easy to navigate (if you refer to the instructions correctly). The path is often indistinct but there are plenty of landmarks such as dry stone walls and gates to keep you on track. There is only one section of steep descent as you drop down into Hardraw, but this is short and stepped to help you keep your footing. Note that entry to the waterfall site is via the information centre, which is situated behind the Green Dragon pub (you will walk across the pub car park to reach the building), and there is an entry fee of £4 per person. The path down to the falls is well maintained and there are plenty of picnic benches dotted around, so this is the perfect place to stop for lunch if you’ve brought something to eat along! I was shocked that we ended up having the waterfall completely to ourselves, as I’d expected it to be packed, but I suppose that a) It was December and very very cold and b) It’s £4 each to enter and not many Yorkshire folk are willing to stretch that far! (Including me, my entry was subsidised by my mum).
Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Like the majority of walks in the Dales, this walk passes through fields with livestock, so dogs should be on a lead or under close control for these sections. A big plus for this walk is the lack of stiles – there was only one which I would deem ‘awkward’ with the rest being the easily manageable kind built into dry stone walls. There are sections along water which water loving dogs will enjoy, although I didn’t let ours in by the falls as the waterfall was in spate. There are also a couple of short sections along a relatively busy road as you leave/return to Hawes – although we just walked fast and these sections took no time at all!
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