I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that Wensleydale is a veritable treasure trove of waterfalls. Some, like Aysgarth Falls and Hardraw Force, can be relied on to draw a steady stream of visitors. Others are tucked away in secluded corners of the national park and are only to be discovered by more intrepid wanderers. This walk is a bit of both: Whitfield Force is pretty inaccessible as far as the waterfalls of Wensleydale go, while Mill Gill is high reward for little effort, and so is understandably popular with both visitors and residents of the national park. This easy walk takes in both, and makes for a very enjoyable ramble, with fantastic views over the hills for hardly any effort.
This walk starts from the tourist honeypot of Askrigg, home of James Herriot, which is well connected by footpaths and the start of many possible walks. It was actually pretty quiet when we did this walk but that was probably due to the temperature (-4)! Lots of the paths which would have been really easy to walk along due to being flat and well surfaced had turned into ice rinks – in the photos where the paths look wet, this is actually just a thick layer of ice reflecting the light!
There is very limited parking in Askrigg, and to avoid being a nuisance to locals, it’s best to park in the small honesty box operated car park a short stroll from the centre of the village.
The route we followed was a 3.5 mile circular (although it felt longer due to a few unplanned detours!) from the Cicerone Yorkshire Dales: North and East guidebook. If you don’t own this book, a similar route is available on the Walking Englishman website.
The path is generally level and well surfaced for the majority of the walk, with some sections along unmarked paths in fields, and with no seriously steep ascents/descents. The way down to Whitfield Force was borderline impassable when we did this walk: after spending 20 minutes slogging up a steep bank, which was so waterlogged we sank back half a step for every step taken, we realised we were going the wrong way and dropped back down to follow the river to the falls. This stretch was a bit like a part of the Tombraider video game, and saw us shimmy-ing over huge boulders, clambering across fallen trees and inadvertently splashing into hidden puddles. The falls were worth the effort though and the difficulty getting down there meant we didn’t see another soul while we were there.
Once we’d hauled ourselves back over the obstacle course which doubled as a path, we continued on to Mill Gill. Whitfield Force was a shimmering veil of water which made me think of fairy glades and spring: Mill Gill was a tumbling rush of water which called to mind the wilder reaches of our county. Getting from one to the other was relatively easy, and made easier when finger posts started to include ‘Mill Gill’ – knowing that you’re definitely going in the right direction is something I always find very reassuring!
Mill Gill can be reached from Askrigg in less than a mile, via a well defined and sign posted path, so it was obviously much, much busier than Whitfield Force. Don’t let this put you off though as the waterfall is still impressive and worth a visit – just don’t expect to have it to yourself.
Dog friendly rating – 4/5. Like most of the walks in the Yorkshire Dales, expect to see livestock in any of the fields you cross, and keep dogs under close control or on a lead. This walk did however have long stretches on enclosed lanes or in woodland where we could let the dogs off, as well as being able to let the dogs have a drink and a swim at Whitfield Force, which automatically bumps any walk up the dog friendly scale! There were quite a few stiles on this walk but they were all the kind which are built into dry stone walls and easily managed by the dogs on their own, so this didn’t pose a problem for us. There is a very short stretch of road as you leave/return to Askrigg, but traffic is not fast moving here and there are pavements you can walk along.
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