East Witton & Jervaulx Abbey

There is nothing better than a crisp winter walk with blue skies and a carpet of frost cloaking the grass underfoot. Add in a dash of local history and you can’t get much better for a Sunday afternoon stroll! Jervaulx Abbey in Wensleydale is one of many ruined abbeys in North Yorkshire, harking back to a time before Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, when the Church was a dominant local land owner. On this walk you can choose to detour into the abbey itself or just incorporate it as a landmark you pass on your way – possibly depending on whether you want to spend any spare time in the abbey or the ice cream parlour down the road!

The route we followed was a 7.5 mile circular that we found on the Ordnance Survey app, however, having a quick scan for an equivalent route online has unearthed this slightly longer 9 mile walk on the Walking Englishman website. I think if we were to do this walk again we’d probably use this route, as the OS walk took us through quite a few farmyards, something which I’m never a fan of as I always worry about accidentally ending up somewhere I shouldn’t be!

If you’re driving you can park for free in the small-ish car park opposite the Cover Bridge Inn. This is a lovely pub (and also dog friendly) so I would definitely recommend a stop off here after your walk to warm up with some hot food!

The walk starts by following the river for a stretch before eventually coming to the grounds of Jervaulx Abbey. The abbey, probably built in the 12th century and now a ruin, is privately owned. The site is open to the public and also has its own tea rooms. Entry is a donation into the honesty box and this is used to contribute towards the upkeep of the building. We didn’t stop off at the abbey but did walk close enough to get a good look – I’m a shocking history graduate in that I don’t find ruined abbeys that interesting unless they are really impressive like Fountains! I was much more interested in the Brymor Ice Cream Parlour, which we walked past soon after leaving the abbey grounds, but it was very sadly closed. Sob. Who doesn’t want ice cream in January?!

After leaving Jervaulx we walked across fields to reach the tiny village of Ellingstring. The paths here were at times invisible so I’d definitely advise you to take a map or GPS. This is the section that I think differs to the Walking Englishman route and it was my least favourite part of the walk – I’d definitely rather walk a bit further and not have to traipse through as many farmyards! One farm did have some arrows signing an alternative permissive footpath for you to follow, which we took gladly, although it did mean getting the dogs across a cattle grid. Soon enough though we reached the very pretty village of East Witton before cutting across some more fields to reach the start again.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. I was going to give this 3.75/5, and then realised it’s ridiculous to use two decimal places, so I’ve rounded up to 4. The first stretch of the walk along the river is perfect for dogs – they can run and swim to their hearts content (please pick up poos, there are bins in East Witton). There are also a few enclosed lanes along the way where they’ll be able to have a run off lead too. The abbey and grounds are dog friendly (although they do ask for dogs to be kept on a lead, which is fair enough) and seemed to be a popular outing for local dog walkers. There are a few fields with livestock in (we saw both sheep and horses, including a rather fiesty flock of sheep who corralled us out of their field sharpish!). There were a few stiles on the stretch from East Witton to Cover Bridge, but these were either the easy kind built into walls, or had a dog gate for dogs to slip through. The only awkward one was a ladder stile on the Jervaulx/Ellingstring leg – we spent 15 minutes manoeuvring Coal over and getting covered in mud before we saw that we could’ve just walked around a corner and used a gate! Never mind, it’s all good practice…

Getting a labrador over a ladder stile is NOT our favourite way to spend a Sunday afternoon…

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