Aysgarth Falls and Woods

Last summer we discovered a handful of short walks which we had previously discounted for being a bit too short. However, the lifting of lockdown restrictions saw what we termed ‘hiking mania’, and we started sneaking out for quick evening strolls when the crowds had died down. This didn’t always work in some of the more popular locations, Aysgarth included, but we did find some fantastic easy walks on our doorstep which are perfect for days when you just want to pop out for some fresh air, rather than committing to a full day clambering over mountains!

Aysgarth Falls are without a shadow of a doubt one of the most popular ‘attractions’ in the Yorkshire Dales. Like Hardraw Force, they feature in Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood movie, which at least had better taste in film locations than actors. Fortunately the National Park centre has a very large car park, although this does fill up quickly at weekends and in summer, with the more ‘Instagrammable’ spots along the falls getting bagged pretty early on by picnicking families. When we did this walk at five thirty pm last summer we saw plenty of people camped out in deckchairs!

We found the short 1.5 mile circular trail on the Yorkshire Dales National Park website. It’s a very easy to navigate walk with practically no steep ascents or descents, although there are a few pathless sections in fields, that I imagine would be pretty boggy if you did this walk in winter.

For those wanting a slightly longer walk you can connect Aysgarth Falls to Castle Bolton – just visible in the distance in this photo. This isn’t a walk we’ve ever done but there looks to be a good route on Dales Walks.

For such a short walk this trail has amazing views. After less than a mile of walking you are rewarded with panoramic views across Wensleydale and you’re likely to have them all to yourself – most people don’t seem to venture away from the falls.

My favourite part of the walk was the end section through the woods. This surprised me as normally I prefer the parts of the walk with all the views – it might have had something to do with the fact that it was extremely warm, I had overdressed and was happy to get into the shade!

The woods on this walk are lovely and chronically under-appreciated – we didn’t see anyone else at all. You pass through two separate woods: first the woodland trust managed Freeholder’s Wood and then into the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust’s St Jospeh’s Wood. St Joseph’s wood was planted just before the turn of the century and as such the trees are all relatively young, so while they provide the welcome relief of shade on a hot day, they still let in plenty of sunlight. The overall effect is one that is pretty magical.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. As far as dog walking in the Yorkshire Dales goes this is one of my favourite walks! The sections by the falls offer the opportunity for your dog to have a paddle and a swim, and while there are some parts where you’ll need to put your dog on a lead around livestock, the woods are perfect for letting them blow off some steam (as well as providing shade in summer). While there were a few narrow gateways on this walk, there weren’t any stiles, which is perfect if you have a gangly Labrador or similar larger breed! There is one very short section on a quiet road, but this is so short that I had completely forgotten about it until I looked back over the route to write this blog. It’s definitely a big paws up from our dogs!

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