Gargrave and the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

The weather forecast for Bank Holiday Monday was for a beautiful sunny day, so we decided to head down to Gargrave for a nice easy stroll along the Pennine Way, before heading back along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. This walk can be completed as a short circuit of about three and a half miles or extended for an extra few miles, depending on how far you want to go. This is definitely a walk to consider if you want to experience the variety on offer in this part of the Dales: the start along the Pennine Way will take you through gently rolling fields with the occasional tumbledown barn, before you experience a completely different type of walk returning to Gargrave along the canal tow path.

We found this route in our AA Yorkshire Dales walking book, but if you’re looking for an online version, this 6.5 mile walk on the National Trail website is pretty similar (we just followed the bridleway between points 5 and 10 so didn’t go quite as far). The walk we did was a hybrid of the two, as where we were originally meant to cut across to the canal path, there was an extremely curious herd of cows clustered around the gate! We didn’t fancy risking it / I point blank refused to go in the field with the dogs, so we just added a few extra miles on to go around the field.

We started our walk from the free car park near Gargrave village hall. There are public toilets not far from here: these are free to use, but are maintained by a community group on donations, so please donate if you can.

“You Shall Not Pass”

This walk is not taxing in the slightest, with absolutely no steep sections of ascent or descent. Following the Pennine Way the path is frequently grassy, so I imagine it could be wet in winter, but along the tow path the track is level and well surfaced. Keep your eyes peeled to spot ducks and swans enjoying the water on the canal – we saw a pair of swans with four signets which was lovely! Coal was so busy looking back at them over his shoulder that he forgot to look where he was going and walked straight into the canal. There was a lot of flailing in the five seconds it took us to fish him out!

The section along the canal was much busier than the Pennine Way – probably because it’s such a pleasant walk for minimal effort! There were plenty of canal boats to be spotted and I have to confess I was slightly tempted by the idea of a canal boat holiday! The thought of trying to keep Merry onboard and not swimming alongside was enough to put me off though.

The Leeds to Liverpool Canal began construction in the 1770s but it didn’t reach Gargrave until early in the 19th century. At 127 miles long it is the longest single waterway canal in Britain – there are a few way markers telling you how many miles left to go before you reach Liverpool dotted along the tow path. At the end of the tow path we were lucky enough to come across an ice cream van so it’s worth putting some pennies in your pocket just in case it’s there when you visit.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. There were sheep and cows in most of the fields on the first half of this walk, so make sure your dog is under close control, preferably on a lead. There were a few stiles along the Pennine Way section, but they were reasonably easy to get the dogs across, without any need to heave them over! Along the tow path we saw plenty of other dogs enjoying themselves off the lead, we chose to keep ours on as there was a bit too much going on for them, but I think for lots of dog owners this would be a nice place to let your dog off the lead for a while. There were a few poo bins in Gargrave as well as along the tow path, so no need to have to put it in the car to dispose of at home! While there were a few sections along quiet roads, we hardly saw any cars, so I won’t deduct any points for this.

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