Semerwater

Semerwater has previously been called ‘the Atlantis of the Dales’. One of only three natural lakes in North Yorkshire, legend has it that the village of Semer was lost to a flood after a travelling hermit (who was also a sorcerer) cursed the village for refusing to offer him shelter. The only villagers to escape the rising waters were a family living in a shepherd’s hut higher up the dale, who were the only ones to offer the traveller a place to stay…

The lake is popular for a variety of water sports, including fishing, kayaking, canoeing and SUP – more details can be found on the Lake Semerwater website for those with their own equipment. Alternatively a number of companies such as Alfresco Adventures offer water sports courses/equipment hire on the lake.

Semerwater is the source of the river Bain, which at just under four kilometres is one of the shortest rivers in England, and powers a small hydro electric dam which provides electricity to most of the properties in nearby Bainbridge.

Bainbridge is a popular starting location for those who want to walk to Semerwater. This six mile circular walk from Walking Britain offers wonderful views over Wensleydale and takes you along the Roman Cam High Road, which is a rather bleaker side of Wensleydale but equally beautiful. You don’t spend too long on this road – much of the walk passes through green meadows and the return leg follows the river back to Bainbridge.

There is roadside parking along the village green in Bainbridge – please park considerately and leave some money in the honesty box.

There are plenty of opportunities for spotting local wildlife on this walk – there were dozens of lapwings in the fields we passed through and Sam even spotted an owl when we passed through an overgrown woody area!

The walk itself is pretty hilly on the way to Semerwater but the return to Bainbridge is generally flatter. Navigation skills are required as the path is at times indistinct and turning points can be easily missed (we detoured slightly after missing the turn off the Roman road!

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. Like many walks in this part of the Dales, many of the fields you walk through will contain livestock, and in these areas dogs should be kept on a lead. We didn’t go down to the lake itself as it was pretty busy with people in canoes and kayaks when we walked past, but the river Bain is accessible in places and is a great place for your pooch to have a paddle or a drink. The main section where you can let your dog off is the long walk along the Roman road, which is walled off and doesn’t have any traffic passing along. Ours both loved this walk, and as an added bonus it was very quiet with very few other dog walkers, so if you have a noisy dog like Coal there’s one less thing to worry about!

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Wallington Hall

We’ve made the day trip up to Wallington Hall a few time now – it’s a great day out with lots to see and do, and best of all, it’s dog friendly! Wallington is a National Trust property not far from Morpeth in Northumberland. It is a gorgeous house surrounded by overflowing gardens and a few longer walks around the surrounding parkland and countryside.

The house was built in the 18th century in the Palladian style and has been owned by the National Trust since 1942. The history of the house extends much further than this though, with the cellars of the house being all that remains of the medieval manor house which once stood here. The house changed hands a few times over the years before becoming the property of the National Trust but seems to have been a country escape for wealthy landowners from the Newcastle area. It’s definitely somewhere I’d be happy to have as a holiday home!

There is plenty of car parking on site and entry is free for National Trust members (charges for non-members can be found on the National Trust website). There is a cafe/tea room on site and plenty of space on the grass for a picnic!

The gardens at Wallington are a delight. Every time we have visited they have been bursting with life – and not just the borders! We saw a very cute clutch of ducklings in the stream on our first visit and there is no shortage of wildlife on the rest of the estate. There are bird hides in the grounds where you have a chance of spotting woodpeckers and red squirrels or take a stroll along the river for the chance to spot an otter.

The walled garden at Wallington is one of my favourites ever – it is so full and vibrant that it makes lots of other walled gardens elsewhere look rather drab! Every time we have visited there has been something slightly different to see – but that might be because there is simply so much there that we missed it the time before!

The Wallington estate is huge – over 20 square miles! This means that there are plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs for those who like walking. The National Trust provides details of 4 walking trails of varying length and difficulty. When we visited we did the easy 2 mile River walk, which is a lovely gentle stroll predominantly through woodland, with the opportunity to call in and see the bird hides on the way. Next time we go though I would love to explore the longer walk around Greenleighton Moor which looks a bit more challenging.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. Dogs on leads are welcome in the walled garden here, and there were a few water bowls out in the courtyard for dogs to drink from when we visited which was nice. Merry absolutely loves the woods here and is always desperate for a paddle in the river! As always please pick up after your dog, there are plenty of bins here so no excuses!

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Far from the Madding Crowd – Bank Holiday Weekend in the Forest of Bowland

I booked a weekend in the Forest of Bowland rather impulsively towards the end of last year, as I’d heard that it was completely undiscovered, and it seemed like the perfect place to go for a ‘quiet’ bank holiday weekend. Cue the scenes of pandemonium which have frequented the British countryside this summer, and as our trip approached, I was feeling increasingly nervous that our quiet weekend away would be one of scrabbling to find a parking space and trying to artistically aim the camera to avoid families picnicking by a stream!

I was so wrong! The Forest of Bowland is going to be one of our new ‘go to’ weekend destinations: over the whole Bank Holiday weekend you could probably count the number of other people we saw on one hand. And what a beautiful, unspoilt part of the country! For somewhere so close to many large towns and cities, it was blissfully litter and crowd free, perhaps because people bypass it on their way to the Lake District. We had a wonderful time and cannot wait to go back – a weekend just wasn’t enough! Read on to find out more about the places which converted us to Lancashire (don’t tell any of our Yorkshire neighbours!).

The Forest of Bowland

For those who have never heard of the Forest of Bowland, you could be forgiven for thinking that the term ‘Forest’ suggests that this is somewhere with a lot of trees. This is actually incorrect, as the phrase ‘Forest’ harks back to the Middles Ages, and just means an area protected for hunting (i.e. no poaching allowed on pain of death!). Long ago the area was roamed by deer, wild boar and even wolves.

The Forest of Bowland was one such area – it was actually part of the land held by the earldom of Lancaster. Much of the land today is Access Land (rather than Public Right of Way) and therefore you will need to check before you take your dog with you – all of the walks we did were dog friendly, but if you head out on a different walk, check before you go. The North Western area (where we stayed) is where the majority of dog restrictions are but there are still plenty of walks you can do with your canine companion! The Cicerone Forest of Bowland and Pendle book has lots of walks and states explicitly in the information box which walks don’t permit dogs, which was really helpful.

The landscape of the Forest of Bowland is wonderfully varied. There are miles of rolling heather topped hills, lush valleys full of grazing livestock and pockets of green and vibrant woodland. The land is probably so vivid due to the amount of rainfall in Lancashire, but we were so lucky with the weather when we visited – sunny everyday and ‘coats off’ walking weather!

The Forest of Bowland is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, something I wholeheartedly agree with, especially in August when the heather is out! The Forest of Bowland is also one of the best places in the UK to spot Hen Harriers – so much so that the bird is the emblem of the AONB. The AONB also covers the nearby area around Pendle Hill, with a gap in the Ribble Valley between the two, although this is also a beautiful place to go walking.

Arnside & Silverdale AONB

On the first day of our visit we popped over to the neighbouring AONB of Arnside & Silverdale. This 8 mile circular walk from Where2Walk takes in all that the area has to offer: beach, woodland, rolling fields and a nice hill to finish off with! There is limited free parking along the shorefront in Arnside but we still managed to get a space at about 9.30am.

I just couldn’t get past the fact that we had the beach practically to ourselves for the whole time we were walking on it – and on a bank holiday too! I think I must have sounded like a broken record! The views across Morecambe Bay were absolutely stunning with the Lakeland Fells rising in the distance. The tide can come in extremely quickly here, make sure you stay near the shore path, so that you can scramble out of the way if necessary!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Merry and Coal had the time of their lives on this walk! You could almost hear them shouting ‘BEST. DAY. EVER!’ as they were zooming around on the beach. There is the opportunity for off-lead walks on the inland sections as well, with plenty of woodland paths, but please put them back on a lead if you encounter any livestock in the fields you pass through (we saw sheep and cows). There are poo bins in both Arnside and Silverdale, as well as a few in what must be popular spots with local dog walkers, so it makes a nice change not to have to carry any poos all the way around with you!

Central Moors

We were very lucky to witness the explosion of colour in the Central Moors, as when I booked this trip, I had no idea that there was even any moorland to explore!

This six and a half mile circular walk from the Explore Bowland website around Haredon and Langden gave us the best views of the trip. We walked for about three miles and it felt like we had arrived somewhere you would need to walk for days to reach, as it was so utterly peaceful and wild, and felt totally remote from the rest of the world. The walk takes you past both Haredon and Langden intakes – much of the land is owned by United Utilities – and I was completely gobsmacked to read that the Forest of Bowland provides 110 million litres of water to homes in the North West EVERY DAY. I know it rains a lot in the North West but I still can’t quite get my head around that fact!

The weather was definitely on our side with this walk – much of the terrain crossed is peat moorland, which would be exceptionally boggy if it had been raining. You also need to traverse a section of pathless moorland, so navigation skills are definitely required, or a good GPS app like the paid version of Ordnance Survey maps which is what we use.

We also needed to cross Langden Brook, which was easier said than done, as recent rainfall had submerged the stepping stones completely. In the end I managed to get across on my tiptoes but Sam ended up wading through – so take a spare pair of dry socks just in case!

This was another day where we turned up relatively late (9.30am on Bank Holiday Sunday) and we were the first car in the car park. I just don’t understand why people spend hours driving around the Lake District trying to park when all this is only down the road!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Dogs on leads are permitted on this walk, but they do need to be on a lead, due to the ground nesting birds they may disturb if they go romping through the heather – much of this area is a SSSI. That being said, this is a great walk for exploring lots of interesting smells, and there is water along the way for your dog to have a drink or a swim.

Bradford Fell

On the Eastern edge of the Forest of Bowland, Bradford Fell is named after the nearby village of West Bradford, rather than Bradford in West Yorkshire! This was the final walk of our trip and we weren’t sure whether to head here or somewhere else (we thought about both Stocks Reservoir and Gisburn Forest), but decided that as it was Bank Holiday Monday, heading for the hills would be the safest bet for a nice quiet walk.

We definitely made the right choice! We saw a grand total of 3 people in the 4 hours we were walking. We followed the route from the Cicerone book but a similar route map is available on AllTrails. We started in the very picturesque village of Grindleton, where there is limited free roadside parking, arriving at 9.45am on Bank Holiday Monday and getting a space with no problem!

This walk has something for everyone – starting on quiet country lanes (we saw one tractor and no cars), you head through fields and quickly end up on heather moorland, before briefly detouring along the edges of a forestry plantation. We then headed back onto a walled lane through the moorland, and eventually dropped down to a mixture of farmland and woodland, ending the walk in a lovely Woodland Trust wood. You get great views of Pendle Hill on this walk, and briefly walk along the Pendle Witches Way, a 48 mile long distance path which traces the historic journey of the infamous Pendle witches.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. While passing through farmland or open moorland we kept the dogs on their leads, but let them off on the walled lanes and woodland paths where they were able to let off some steam! There was surface water throughout this walk but it is probably worth taking some extra along on a hot day.

Where we stayed

We stayed at the fantastic Rooten Brook Farm, which is very well located for walks around the Forest of Bowland, with fantastic views over Morecambe Bay to the Lakeland Fells (we were glued to the sunsets every night!). The farm is a working farm with both sheep and cows as well as breeding and training sheepdogs.

There are three cottages available to book via cottages.com – don’t forget that you can use Tesco Clubcard vouchers to get up to £99 off! We stayed in Lakeland View and it was very cosy, with a large mezzanine bedroom, and an open plan kitchen/living room downstairs. There is plenty of parking and an enclosed outside space shared with the other two cottages.

The owner has gone to great lengths to make the property feel safe during the Covid-19 pandemic – all soft furnishings like throws and cushions have been removed and all cooking equipment is being washed in between guests. Most impressively, the owner isn’t cashing in on the massive demand for staycations, and is leaving 72 hours in between guests in each property. It felt super safe and we were able to relax completely.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. When we booked this trip, we only had one dog, so our new addition could have put a spanner in the works! The owner very kindly allowed us to bring along a second dog and the cottage was perfect for them. The floor is flagged downstairs which is always a weight off a dog owner’s mind! The track down to the road from the cottage was also ideal for pre- bedtime walkies, with great views for humans and great smells for the dogs. I think Merry and Coal loved our stay here just as much as we did and we would love to come back one day!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog today! The Forest of Bowland was an amazing place to visit and we can’t wait to go back – if you’ve been, let me know what you thought in the comments!

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Sutton Bank

Sutton Bank is a hill on the edge of the North York Moors National Park, and one of the highest points in the Hambleton Hills. It is perhaps best known for James Herriot’s proclamation that the top of Sutton Bank offers ‘The Finest View in England’, or if you are a motorist, for the hellishly steep road that has many a 1.2 driver breaking out in a cold sweat! This barely scratches the surface of all that Sutton Bank has to offer – there is an abundance of history, nature and adventure all waiting to be discovered!

The Finest View in England

Visitors to the Sutton Bank National Park Centre can take a short walk from the car park to ‘the Finest View in England’. From the viewing platform you get extensive views over the Vales of York and Mowbray for absolutely no effort walking. While I’m not sure that I would agree with Herriot’s declaration (in my opinion there are better views elsewhere in the Moors and Dales), I can’t deny that the view is without a doubt very fine, extending for miles as far as the eye can see. ‘

Among the landmarks the you can see from the bank are Roulston Scar, Hood Hill and Gormire Lake. Roulston Scar was discovered to hold the remains of one of the largest Iron Age hillforts in the North of England and is one of a series of promontary forts in the area. Gormire Lake is one of only three natural lakes in North Yorkshire, the other two being Malham Tarn and Semerwater in the Dales, and Hood Hill was the site of a medieval Motte and Bailey castle.

There is a pay and display car park by the main building with plenty of spaces, although this can fill up quickly. The visitor centre has a cafe, bike hire station and a lovely shop, which is the perfect place to pick up a gift for friends or family (or yourself!). It has a wonderful selection of walking books, art and homeware, with lots of Yorkshire themed merchandise available!

By strolling just a little way along the bank you can reach the White Horse of Kilburn, a famous local landmark which many have driven past, but few stop to investigate more closely.

The White Horse

In the 19th century a gentleman named Thomas Taylor travelled to the South, and while he was there, saw the famous chalk hill figures. He decided, on his return to North Yorkshire, that he wanted his home village to have a drawing of its own. His idea was taken up by a local schoolmaster, and thus in 1857, the White Horse of Kilburn was born.

The White Horse was outlined by the schoolmaster and local school children, then a group of volunteers did the cutting, before finally spreading 6 tons of lime onto the rock to whiten it. To this day regular maintenance is required to keep the horse looking white, as the limestone beneath is naturally grey. The horse is visible for miles around (some say as far as north Leeds) and a well loved local landmark, although it was covered over during the Second World War, as the authorities were worried that it would be a target for German bombers!

If you don’t want to walk up any hills to reach the White Horse you can park at Sutton Bank National Park Centre and follow this 3 mile walk. Alternatively, if you don’t want to pay for parking, you can park at the Forestry England car park and follow the slightly shorter way marked White Horse trail.

It is worth pointing out that from the top of the bank you can’t actually see much of the White Horse itself due to your position at the top of it! You will however get a good view driving into Kilburn and there is a lay-by where you can stop and take a photo if you like.

The White Horse trail from the Forestry car park is very easy to follow. It starts with a steep climb up 151 steps(!), before continuing on a flat and level path along the top of the bank. This path gives you wonderful views and was much quieter than the section of path close by the visitor centre. You will also pass the Yorkshire Gliding Club, which is one of the oldest in the world. Your return to the car park is through mixed woodland which was practically deserted when I visited, but I was there very early in the morning, so it might get busier later.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. The first half of this walk definitely requires dogs to be on leads – there is a steep drop to the left and the airfield is on the right, which your dog should absolutely not be allowed to run on to, as planes are active and your dog could cause a serious accident. You can however let your dog off in the woods, where there are plenty of exciting smells to explore, as well as enough room to have a good zoom around!

Gormire Lake and Garbutt Wood

The only true lake in the North York Moors, Gormire Lake is said to have been created when a village was swallowed by an earthquake, with the chimneys of the lost houses supposedly still visible at the bottom of the lake on a clear summer’s night.

The walk to Gormire Lake from the National Park Centre takes you steeply down through Garbutt Wood Nature Reserve, which is home to species such as blackcaps, redstarts and bullfinches. The walk I followed was from my constantly recommended Pocket Mountains book, but a similar walk can be found on Walking Britain.

The walk back up to the National Park Centre, whichever route you take, is diabolically steep. This was made worse by the fact that it had rained a lot the week before I visited so the path had turned into a bog in places! Once I had managed to haul myself back up to the top of the bank though I was rewarded with a cracking view of Roulston Scar and the fields below Sutton Bank.

This walk was surprisingly quiet given how busy the area around the National Park Centre can get. I only saw one other walker away from the main path at the top, although I suppose most people don’t fancy having to climb up a steep hill first thing on a Sunday morning!

I actually enjoyed this walk a lot more than I expected to. The total stillness in the woods on the way to and from the lake was a little unnerving at first, but I soon found myself hearing bird calls and songs that I’d never heard before, and probably wouldn’t have heard at all if many other people ventured away from the top of the bank to walk through the reserve.

Dog friendly rating – 2/5. Dogs should be on a lead for the entirety of this walk due to the sensitive nature of the site, and Gormire Lake is privately owned, with a sign stating no swimming or fishing is allowed. However, this is still a nice walk to do with your dog, and there are normally water bowls for your dog to drink from at the National Park Centre. There is plenty of shade from the trees, so this might be one to consider on a warmer day.

Hood Hill

I didn’t realise you could walk around Hood Hill until I parked at the Forestry England car park to do the White Horse trail and saw that there was a Hood Hill trail also available from this starting point. The 5km trail is pretty much all through woodland and is definitely my favourite of the three walks in this blog! The woods were completely and utterly peaceful and, while there weren’t panoramic views like those in the previous walks, I have never seen quite so many different shades of green.

The woods are thick enough to make you feel like you are somewhere totally wild, but still allow plenty of light in, so they aren’t dark or oppressive. The path is way marked but the way markers are often hidden behind overgrown ferns, so you will need to keep your eyes peeled if you want to spot them! There were a few sections where it wasn’t clear which way you needed to go, but we stuck to the rule that we went straight on unless sign posted otherwise, and we got all the way around without having to turn back.

The path was often very muddy, and I think the ground here must be quite wet all the time, so this is probably best saved for a sunny day unless you don’t mind a bit of mud! There was one section where the path was very overgrown with nettles and brambles but it wasn’t impassable – long sleeves and trousers recommended for this reason. Speaking of brambles, take a Tupperware box with you if you head here in blackberry season, as there was a section of the path with plenty of blackberry bushes.

The way markers did stop close to the end of the trail when you reach a small parking area by the road. If you cross the road and take the path on the edge of the trees running parallel to the road, this will take you back to the main car park without having to walk along the road, which has lots of hair pin bends.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. I had Coal off the lead all the way on this walk and he had an absolute ball! Merry was relegated to on lead only as there were just far too many interesting smells for him to come back when he was called. The trail is absolutely perfect for dog owners who want to be able to let their dog off the lead to let off a bit of steam. The trees are also perfect for keeping you out of the sun on a hot day, not that we experienced this in classic British Summer weather! We will definitely be making this one of our local go to walks as it was wonderful to be able to let the dogs off without having to worry about any sheep popping up around the corner!

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Super Swaledale: 6 Walks for the Uninitiated

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I bang on about Swaledale all the time. I am 100% guilty and completely unapologetic! Swaledale is my absolute favourite part of the Dales. It is more rugged than the ever-so-slightly manicured Wensleydale to the South, and much quieter than the tourist hotspots of Malhamdale and Ribblesdale. The famous logo of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is a Swaledale ram – as far as I’m concerned, that’s an official declaration that Swaledale is the best of the Dales! Many of the place names are handovers from when the Vikings lived in the area, and in more recent history, the crumbling remains of lead mines can be discovered on many of the walks I will share below. We are lucky enough to have Swaledale pretty much on our doorstep, so I thought I would share some of my favourite walks – prepare to become a Swaledale convert! You’ll have to read all the way to the end to find out my favourite!

6. Richmond and Easby Abbey

Richmond is a beautiful historic town right on the edge of Swaledale. In addition to its bustling market square and independent shops, the town is also home to one of the oldest stone castles in England, which started construction in 1071. Richmond Castle is a ruin these days but can still be visited by the public, and is easily accessed in the centre of town.

This very easy circular walk passes close by the castle as you leave Richmond, before following the river Swale to Easby Abbey, returning along a clear and flat path. There are a few places that you can park in Richmond, we usually end up using a Pay and Display as roadside parking is very limited. Easby Abbey is another ruin in the hands of English Heritage and is both free to visit and dog friendly – it’s the perfect place to stop and have lunch before walking back to Richmond. On warm days keep an eye out for the ice cream van as you arrive back into Richmond!

Dog friendly rating – 4.5/5. It would be very easy to give this walk full marks in terms of dog friendliness! The sections of the River Swale that you walk along are generally very calm and perfect for dogs to have a swim and a splash around. This walk is 99% off road with plenty of sections where you can let your dog off the lead (check there are no livestock in fields before letting your dog off). There are poo bins on this walk so no excuses for not picking up! The only reason I have knocked off half a point is because this walk does get busy, especially in Summer and at weekends, and it is very popular with dog walkers. If your dog prefers quieter walks this probably isn’t for you, but read on, as once you get away from the (relative) hustle and bustle of Richmond there is a whole Dale waiting to be explored…

5. Reeth and Marrick Priory

Most people heading to Reeth go to walk Fremington Edge and then go home. And what a missed opportunity! Reeth is my favourite town in the Dales and there are so many places to walk around here that you will see it pop up twice more later on in this list. There is parking on the the village green in Reeth, and if you park here, please put some money in the honesty box.

This walk from Reeth to Marrick Priory is from the AA 50 Walks in the Yorkshire Dales book (which I would definitely recommend to both visitors and locals looking to discover more of the countryside!), but if you don’t own this book, a similar route is available on Walk4Life. This route is shorter than the one in the book, only goes to Marrick Priory as a detour, and doesn’t give you the option to extend the walk over Fremington Edge. Therefore if you want to get the most out of this walk I would definitely recommend buying the book or using a map to connect up the footpaths from Marrick to High Fremington.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. This is a lovely walk which is pretty much all off road apart from one short section. You will however need to keep your dog under close control as most of the fields you will pass through have livestock in them. There are poo bins in Reeth to dispose of any dog waste so make sure you leave the countryside as you find it!

4. Gunnerside Gill

Gunnerside Gill is the first walk on this list where you’ll get a chance to see some of Swaledale’s industrial heritage. There are remains of 19th century lead mines scattered across Swaledale, in places where it’s hard to imagine the landscape swarming with workers, and Gunnerside Gill is no exception.

One of the other things that I love about Swaledale is the way that walls appear on landscapes that look like no wall would ever stay up on them due to the undulations and ripples – prime example pictured on the right!

We did the Gunnerside Gill walk in the Yorkshire Dales Pocket Mountains book, but if you don’t have this book, there is a similar route available on the Swaledale Museum website. This is a pretty easy walk following the river. The views are typical of Swaledale all the way, although you do pass through a small wooded section at the start of the walk.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. Similarly to the previous walk, there could be livestock throughout this walk. There is however the opportunity to splash in the water for a section of this walk which water loving pups like Merry will love!

3. Grinton and Maiden Castle

Grinton is the next village along from Reeth, and therefore we overlooked it for ages, carrying on to Reeth for all of our walks. We rectified that earlier this year with a walk up to Maiden Castle – the rough route we followed is available on ViewRanger. There is free roadside parking in Grinton but please park sensibly. When we walked this route it was slightly drizzly, and the higher up we got the wetter it got, but this didn’t dampen our spirits too much as the views were wonderful! I especially loved the view of Calver Hill on the walk out of Grinton (pictured).

The walk hugs the edge of High Harker Hill until you reach Maiden Castle – not the famous one in Dorset! – but still a scheduled monument which possibly dates from the Iron Age. You get lovely views over Reeth and drop down to return to Grinton along the river.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. There are plenty of the famous Swaledale sheep on the first half of this walk, so keep your dog under close control, especially at lambing time. The second half of this walk follows the river Swale back to Grinton and there are some sections where you will be able to let your dog off the lead as well as jumping into the river for a swim!

2. Keld to Muker

This is perhaps the most famous walk in Swaledale. Muker is home of some of the most beautiful hay meadows in the Dales, and if you are visiting in June when the wildflowers are in bloom, this walk is unmissable. In fact I would argue that it’s unmissable no matter what time of the year you visit! The walk follows the Pennine Way from Keld to Muker, offering amazing views into the valley for very little effort climbing, before descending into the hay meadows in Muker. The return on the opposite side of the valley follows the river to Keld, and you will come across the impressive Kisdon Force waterfall on your return to Keld.

For a short section of this walk you will pick up the Swaledale Corpse Way, so named, if you can’t guess, as it was the track villagers used to carry their dead from Keld to the consecrated ground in Grinton 16 miles away! This was quite obviously a very long way to carry a coffin and so large flat stones were laid along the path to enable the bearers to have a rest – see if you can spot any. Also keep your eyes peeled for the headless black dog which is said to haunt the way…

This walk is full of all the things that draw people to the Dales: spectacular views, tumble down barns, lush meadows, a winding river and a fairytale waterfall… need I go on? This is another route from the AA 50 walks in the Yorkshire Dales book, but a route starting along the river and returning on the Pennine Way is available on the Northern Echo website. There is a small-ish car park in Keld (which includes toilets) but get there early as it can fill up.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. There could be livestock throughout this walk apart from a few short sections, and you will need to keep in single file with dogs on leads when passing through the hay meadows. However, Merry absolutely ADORED the section along the river, and I literally had to drag him away from the water all of the way back! He also had an extended swim in the pool in front of Kisdon Force which was perfect for cooling him down at the end of the walk.

1. Surrender Bridge

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You prize is the knowledge of our favourite local walk, which is up at Surrender Bridge, near Reeth. There are so many walks you can do from here that I could probably write an entire blog post just about Surrender Bridge! The landscape up here is littered with the ruins of the 19th century lead mines so strongly associated with Swaledale, and the heather in bloom is absolutely stunning. You can follow the footpath from the road up to the Coast to Coast path on its way to Reeth, follow a circular walk, or invent your own walk – the footpaths up here span for miles in all directions!

The area is popular with mountain bikers but we never see more than one or two cyclists, and hardly ever any other walkers. You will instead see countless grouse and tiny birds along the river which a better twitcher than I could probably identify! The area is part of a SSSI and there is so much to explore if you know what to look for!

We tend to just wander aimlessly for a few hours, but if you want to follow a particular route, Walking Britain has a circular route which starts from Surrender Bridge (free roadside parking) and heads up to Great Pinseat. You will see plenty of lead mines up here and there are a few information boards dotted about with information about the area’s industrial heritage.

The distinctive landscape up here was formed by ‘hushing’ – torrents of water were released over the topsoil, removing the top layer, and revealing the lead veins beneath. There are so many old mining ruins that it almost seems like one day they just finished work and forgot to come back.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. This area is part of a SSSI so dogs absolutely must be on a lead to avoid disturbing the local ecosystem (CCTV in operation). Despite this Merry absolutely loves coming up here – and a dip in the river is always a bonus! Please remember to pick up poos and dispose of them responsibly (bins in nearby villages).

Did you know..?

The Yorkshire Dales are famous for their tumble down stone barns, and nowhere are they more prevalent than in Swaledale. Muker has the highest density of these barns in the Dales with about 60 within 800m of the village centre!

The barns were constructed to store the hay cut and gathered in the meadows immediately surrounding them, avoiding a long walk carrying heavy bales of hay to a distant location. The hay would then be used to feed the animals which sheltered in the barn over the winter. I only found this out recently – until then I had just admired the barns and wondered why they had largely fallen into ruin. Now I know their original purpose and have realised how many there are, it makes sense that they aren’t all still in tip top condition!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Swaledale today – let me know in the comments if you’ve given any of these walks a try! If you’ve enjoyed reading this today make sure you subscribe below:

A Week in Powys

I can’t believe that it’s nearly been a whole year since we spent a week in Llandrindod Wells, a pretty spa town in Powys, Wales. It was perfectly situated for exploring the region, including adventures in the Brecon Beacons, Red Kite spotting and tea and cake at National Trust properties. We had bit of a battle with the weather but still managed to find something to occupy ourselves everyday…

View from the summit of the Sugar Loaf near Abergavenny

Where to stay

We stayed at the absolutely amazing and eco friendly Little Hill Lodges just outside of Llandrindod. There are two lodges onsite and we stayed in Siskin Lodge which is the larger of the two. The interior of the lodge has clearly had no expense spared. Particularly wonderful were the floor to ceiling windows in the bedrooms and living area, with fantastic views over the countryside surrounding the lodge. Despite being so close to the town the lodge feels totally and utterly secluded from the outside world.

The lodges are completely ‘off the grid’ and a great choice if you are looking for a green holiday option. The electricity comes from solar panels and the water from a well. Eco friendly shampoo, shower gel and washing up liquid is provided. There is a large lawn and sunken patio area (including a fire pit!) and the owner kindly provided a dog proof fence so we could let Merry off the lead outside without having to worry!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This property is perfect for dog owners who want to get away with their dog! There is plenty of outside space for dogs to run around, a wood burner to curl up in front of and the floors are easily cleaned. Merry absolutely loved it here and so did we!

Pen Y Fan

On the first day of our trip we had the only full day of sunshine we were getting that week – we therefore headed straight down to the Brecon Beacons National Park to tackle that iconic peak, Pen Y Fan. There is an absolutely fantastic horseshoe walk from Taf Fechan Forestry Commission car park which takes in Pen Y Fan, Corn Du and Cribyn. The views are incomparable – standing on the summit of Corn Du and looking across to Cribyn it seems like someone has taken an ice cream scoop to the landscape. Once you get away from the honey pot of Pen Y Fan and Corn Du summits this walk is surprisingly quiet, although there are still more people around than on the other walks we explored.

This was my favourite walk, but I’m not sure if that was down to the views, the weather, or the fact that Sam managed to get us lost and add on an extra mountain (Fan Y Big) when his feet were already aching from running the Cumbria Way Ultra the week before! I think it’s the first time he has been more tired than me on a walk and it felt soo good to be the spritely one laughing at him being tired! I think the photo below sums up his dismay when he realised we had gone wrong:

Haha! Consulting the map on Fan Y Big with Cribyn, Corn Du and the edge of Pen Y Fan in the background

One of the other highlights of the walk for me was coming across a herd of Welsh Mountain Ponies in-between Corn Du and Cribyn. I was slightly apprehensive about passing them with a dog as they had foals, but they took no notice of us, and we spent a very enjoyable ten minutes watching the foals play. We also spotted a few Red Kites flying around as we came down Fan Y Big – a group of four who just seemed like they were riding the wind for fun!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. This is a long walk which should wear out even the most athletic of pups – Merry did what we dubbed his ‘tired waddle’ for the first and only time we have ever seen on this walk! There are sheep and ponies throughout this walk so your dog will need to be under close control, preferably on a lead, especially when there are foals and lambs about. There is very little water on this walk so you will need to carry water for your dog to drink. Don’t let that put you off though as this walk really is something very special!!

Carreg Cennen

Wales has more castles per square mile than anywhere else in the world. There are over 600 castles in the country and one of the most impressive is the dramatically sited ruins of 13th century Carreg Cennen Castle. There had been a castle of some form on this site for hundreds of years until the Wars of the Roses, when it was deliberately dismantled by the Yorkists after they captured it from the Lancastrian garrison. This romantic ruin is perhaps best known for being sketched by the artist Turner.

Cadw and English Heritage members receive discounted admission and entry prices are available on the castle website. There is plenty of parking on site although this was mostly empty when we visited!

While the castle today is a ruin, there is still plenty to see and do, not least the cave directly underneath the castle (take your own torch or rent one from the ticket office). There are panoramic views over the surrounding countryside from the interior of the castle, or take a stroll around one of the way marked walks to see wonderful views of the castle perched on a limestone cliff 300 feet above the river.

There are two way marked walks that start at the castle’s car park (free parking). We chose to do the longer of the two which is about 4 miles. The walk takes you through pastures, along the river and finally back up to the castle through woodland. When you reach the castle keep an eye out for their extremely photogenic herd of pedigree longhorn cattle who we glimpsed through the hedge on our way out.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. The longer walk is great for dogs with water to splash in along the way and the chance to run around off the lead in the woods at the end. Dogs on leads are allowed on the ground floor of the castle so this day out is perfect for dog owners!

The National Botanic Garden of Wales

The National Botanic Garden of Wales now allows dogs on ‘Doggy Days’ (usually Mondays and Fridays but this is subject to change so check before you visit). This is a fab day out if you love gardens – the site is huge and there is a great variety of plants to see. In particular I loved the apothecary garden, where there are all sorts of plants with reputed medicinal properties, with explanations both modern and medieval in origin!

The Bird of Prey centre is also worth visiting if you get the chance. It is not dog friendly so we took turns to pop in and see the birds, and by standing at the end of the lane while the flying display was on, we still got to see the birds fly even if we couldn’t hear the commentary. We saw some beautiful birds, including the Sea Eagle pictured, and my personal favourite which was the snowy white Gyrfalcon.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. For a site that only allows dogs on certain days of the week I was really pleasantly surprised by how many places we could take Merry! The only place that was really off limits was the Bird of Prey centre and that is completely understandable. We were able to take Merry into the cafe with us, as well as the Great Glasshouse, which has one of the largest collections of Mediterranean plants in the world. Most dog friendly gardens tend to be pretty small or limit you to just parts of the garden with wide paths so this was a very nice change from the norm!

Brockhampton

In the middle of the week it was pouring with rain pretty much everywhere in Wales so we hopped over the border to Hereford. Hereford is a lovely city, with a historic cathedral, and plenty of the shops and cafes seemed to be dog friendly. We called in to Trekkit outdoor shop (dog friendly) to stock up on Nikwax re-proofing spray after being caught in one downpour too many at Carreg Cennen, and then had the rest of an afternoon to kill before heading back to the lodge. A quick Google of National Trust properties in the area revealed there was a small country manor called Brockhampton just down the road.

Brockhampton is perhaps the most charming manor house I have ever set eyes on. Everything about the exterior appeals to my old English senses, from the lily filled moat, to the timber framed wattle and daub building and the climbing rose by the front door. Entry to the site is free for National Trust members and there is also free parking on site.

The grounds were exceptionally quiet when we visited and we had a wonderful chat with the volunteer at the entrance, who told us all about the walks and the history of the house, as well as instructing us to help ourselves to sloes and apples from the orchard!

There are three way marked walks of varying lengths around the estate. We decided to do the woodland walk, which is around two miles, and I have to say this was one of my favourite walks of the holiday! Merry was able to be off lead for pretty much the whole two miles and he had an absolute whale of a time. The walk through mixed woodland was pretty muddy in places (unsurprising given the amount of rain we’d had that week!) and I did slip over when I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going, but I think that was entirely my own fault!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Dogs are welcome on the estate and in the grounds around the house. Merry loved helping to ‘tidy’ up the windfall apples in the orchard and the woodland walk is ideal for a good run off the lead.

The Sugar Loaf

One of the walks that I really, really wanted to do when we visited was the Sugar Loaf near Abergavenny. It is an insta-famous location and I wanted to join the long list of people who have reached that summit!

There is a lovely National Trust walk you can do which also takes in St Mary’s Vale, a wonderfully weird wood full of trees growing in a bizarrely convoluted fashion. Walking through the wood felt a bit like walking through the set of Red Riding Hood in the scene where the wicked wolf jumps out! The walk was really quiet and we only saw another two or three walkers which really surprised me given the hill’s popularity – always a bonus to walking on a week day!

Navigation skills are required for this walk as paths in places are indistinct and hard to see. A large portion of this walk is reasonably level but be prepared for the slog up the Sugar Loaf itself as this is an unrelentingly steep climb! From the summit on a clear day you can see as far as Pen Y Fan and the Bristol channel (unfortunately it wasn’t quite clear enough for us!).

Parking for this walk is free for National Trust members at the National Trust car park. The car park is fairly small by National Trust standards but there were still plenty of spaces on the day we visited.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. If your dog is well behaved you can let it have a run around off the lead in the woods of St Mary’s vale, however, there are sheep throughout the rest of the walk so your dog will need to be on the lead for the majority of the walk. There is very little water on this walk so make sure that you take extra for your dog. As always, make sure that you pick up poos and dispose of them responsibly.

Caio Forest

We called at Caio Forest on a slightly drizzly mid-week day. There is free parking on site and three short walking trails which start from the car park. We did two out of the three and didn’t see a soul apart from a local dog walker as we were leaving.

The trees and plants in the forest were so vibrant (presumably because of all the rain we had!) that we kept having to stop to examine them. There was an abundance of blackberries and Merry taught himself how to go blackberry picking in the bushes!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This forest is perfect for letting your dog off the lead to have a good zoom around! There are no livestock and it seems to be pretty unknown apart from amongst dog walkers in the local village. The woods offer plenty of exciting smells and of course a mid-walk snack if you visit in blackberry season! If you want a longer walk you can link the walks at Caio with footpaths on the neighbouring Dolaucothi Estate.

The Dolaucothi Gold Mines

The only reason we called at the Dolaucothi Gold Mines was because it started raining hard before we could walk the third trail at Caio and we wanted to go somewhere dog friendly for a bit of shelter from the rain. And what a find! This National Trust site is amazing. It is completely dog friendly – the cafe, exhibitions and tours of the mines all allow dogs! There were some really interesting interactive displays about the history of the mines, as well as the opportunity to pan for gold, which is ideal for kids (and adults!).

Away from the centre of the site itself there are a number of walking trails to explore. We followed the Miner’s way trail which was absolutely fascinating and took you past the Roman entrances to the mines, as well as showing you the marks that miners over the centuries have left on the landscape.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Dogs are allowed pretty much everywhere on this site which was lovely! The staff all made a big fuss of Merry too which doesn’t often happen when you have a soaking wet dog. The walking trail we followed was suitable for off lead walking in places but we did pass through a few fields with sheep where the lead went back on. I was totally blown away by this site and couldn’t recommend it more for a family or couple’s day out, dogs included!

Llanddeusant Red Kite Feeding Station

Wales, and Powys in particular, have a strong historic association with Red Kites. Despite being widespread throughout Britain in the Medieval period, in the 19th and 20th centuries these beautiful birds suffered heavily due to raptor persecution, and their numbers dwindled until there were only a few breeding pairs remaining in the Welsh hills.

Thanks to a massive effort by volunteers (including the Welsh Kite Trust), Red Kites have made a come back, and Powys and the Brecon Beacons are the best place to go if you want to spot one. We saw Kites practically everyday that we were out and about, but if you want to see something really spectacular, head to one of the Red Kite feeding stations.

Most stations seemed to be pretty small establishments when I was googling a good place to go to see the Kites. We ended up heading to Llanddeusant Red Kite Feeding Station as it was close enough to squeeze into a day trip with Caio Forest and the Dolaucothi Gold Mines.

They feed the birds at the same time each day so the birds learn the routine and you are guaranteed to see more Kites than you can take a photo of a once! The meat is dropped in a field in front of the hide and the birds get so close you can almost count their feathers! There were so many Kites when we visited that I gave up trying to count them after the first few minutes.

Entry was pretty cheap at £5 per person when we visited (check pricing on their website before you go) and you could stay for as long as you wanted. There is parking at a dedicated car park and you have to walk about 200m to get to the hide from the car park – not far at all and definitely worth it!

Dog friendly rating – 2/5. Dogs on leads are allowed in the hide which was a really pleasant surprise for us! Merry was pretty tired from walks at both Caio and Dolaucothi earlier in the day so he just curled up and went to sleep while we watched the Kites. I’d only recommend taking your dog if they will sit quietly so that they don’t spoil the experience for you and other visitors by being noisy or boisterous. I’ve given a rating of 2/5 only because there isn’t much here for your dog to do apart from have a nap – they are more than welcoming to dogs at the site.

I think this is possibly the longest blog I have ever written! There was so much that we managed to squeeze into our week in Powys and we had the time of our lives! If you want to see where we went on a map I have plotted the locations below.

Map of Locations

  1. Little Hill Lodges, Llandrindod Wells
  2. Pen Y Fan
  3. Carreg Cennen Castle
  4. The National Botanic Garden of Wales
  5. Brockhampton National Trust
  6. Sugar Loaf, Abergavenny
  7. Caio Forest
  8. Dolaucothi Gold Mines National Trust
  9. Llanddeusant Red Kite Feeding Station

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Harter Fell and Hardknott Roman Fort

Most people who visit the Lakes go for one thing and one thing only: the breathtaking countryside which sweeps for miles across the fells of Cumbria. But did you know that the Lake District also has a rich history spanning thousands of years? Combine beauty and history with this walk in the heart of Eskdale, an undiscovered valley, situated in the west of the national park.

Hardknott Roman Fort taken from the summit of Harter Fell

Roman Britain

After the Romans invaded Iron Age Britain for the third and final time in AD 43 they were met with varying degrees of resistance. The tribes in the south east were subdued relatively quickly and mostly opted to become ‘client kingdoms’ of Rome – i.e., pay a tribute to Rome, adopt some Roman laws and largely be left alone. However, tribes further afield such as the Dumnonii in Cornwall and Devon, put up a sustained fight which led to the Romans building forts to patrol and defend the area.

Hardknott Roman Fort may have been one such site, although the reason behind its construction is not known. It may have been to defend the border with Scotland while the Romans were engaged in their lengthy attempt to subdue the Picts, or perhaps the Carvetii who lived in Cumbria were among those tribes who fought continually against their Roman occupiers. Whatever the reason for its construction it remains a dramatic and impressive site, perched on the edge of the Hardknott Pass.

The site is now managed by English Heritage and is free to enter. There is no ticket office or entry gate, so the site is accessible at any time of day, seven days a week. You will easily manage social distancing at this attraction – when we visited, the only other guests were a few Herdys grazing in the ruins!

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. Dogs are welcome on the site and it’s very quiet – perfect for dogs who are nervous of strangers or other dogs. Leads are required due to sheep on site.

Eskdale

Despite being a big fan of the Lake District I had never heard of Eskdale until I came across a reference in a copy of BBC Countryfile magazine. It only had a brief mention but that was enough to make me immediately start surfing the internet for a weekend away there!

Eskdale covers a relatively small area (from Gosforth to the foot of the infamous Hardknott pass) but it is popular as a base for those overnighting before or after climbing Scafell Pike. In my opinion Eskdale’s proximity to England’s highest mountain means that the valley itself and its gorgeous fells are often overlooked – but that was all the better for us as we didn’t come across a single walker on our afternoon hike up Harter Fell!

Harter Fell Walk

We used our much loved and very battered copy of Day Walks in the Lake District to navigate our up Harter Fell and across to Hardknott Roman Fort, which made for a very enjoyable 5 mile walk. If you don’t own this book there is a very similar route available on Walkhighlands.

There is free roadside parking at the very bottom of the Hardknott pass but this is limited. The path up to the summit of Harter Fell is easy to follow, but the path across to Hardknott Pass is difficult to make out, so map reading and navigation skills are required. There are plenty of impressive slabs of rock at the summit of Harter Fell which may appeal to the hiker/boulderer out there! There is also a spectacular view of the Roman fort from the summit. I expected it to stick out obviously but it took me a minute to find it, as over time, it has become a part of the landscape around it.

After your walk, if you are hungry, head to the Bower House Inn where the food is delicious (or at least it was in June 2018!). The pub is dog friendly and also has rooms available to book if you need somewhere to stay.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. There are sheep throughout this walk so dogs need to be under close control. This is however a very quiet walk which would perfectly suit nervous dogs. There is no water on this walk apart from one small part, so you will need to carry water for your dog.

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The Yorkshire Three Peaks

Every year thousands of people drive up and down the country to complete the ‘Three Peaks’ challenge of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Mount Snowdon. But did you know that Yorkshire has its own version? And to celebrate Yorkshire Day I thought today would be the perfect time to post about it. According to many the Yorkshire Three Peaks are actually more challenging than the Three Peaks challenge itself, as the walk is an unrelenting 24.5 miles, with no rests in the car in between peaks and only the food and drink you can carry as you walk!

Descending Ingleborough

The Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge usually starts from either the Ribblehead Viaduct (visible as a tiny feature in the photo on the right!) or from the villages of Horton-in-Ribblesdale or Chapel-le-Dale. There are pros and cons to starting in each location, and if you want to save on parking, roadside parking by the viaduct is free. The peaks themselves are Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent. Ingleborough is my favourite of the three as it has both spectacular views and a bit of history, with some saying that it was the site of an Iron Age hillfort. I always keep my eyes peeled but alas I haven’t found any Iron Age artefacts yet!

When preparing for the Yorkshire Three Peaks, make sure that you prepare properly. The official Three Peaks website has an excellent kit list which I would recommend using to pack your bag before you set off. Make sure that you take plenty of energy boosting food with you such as bananas, flap jacks and pasta pots. Chocolate bars will only get you so far! I didn’t take enough food when we did it and after the first two peaks I sat and had a cry because I was hungry and tired and didn’t have enough food! Don’t underestimate how long it will take you to do the walk – depending on your fitness levels and preferred walking pace, it can take anywhere between six and twelve hours, or longer. The plus side of being slightly slower or setting off later is that towards the end you will have the hills mostly to yourself, and if the weather plays along, a beautiful sunset.

Most people tackle the route by first climbing Pen-y-Ghent, before proceeding on to Whernside and then finishing off with Ingleborough. We actually preferred the reverse order – the climb up Ingleborough in this direction is much easier, and you get the two bigger mountains out of the way before starting the soul destroying walk between Whernside and Pen-y-Ghent. Soul destroying because for a relatively flat part of the walk it seems to last forever! I very clearly re-call feeling like we had to be walking in the wrong direction because Pen-y-Ghent just didn’t seem to be getting any closer, no matter how long we had been walking towards it for. Bear in mind that the traditional route up Ingleborough will be closed for the second half of 2020 while they repair the path so you will need to follow the diverted route.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Most dogs will absolutely love spending all day walking with their owner! However, there are a few things you need to take into account before you decide to take your pup on this challenge. Only fit adult dogs should take on this challenge, as it would be far too long for a puppy’s delicate joints, and probably a bit too much for an older dog. There are both sheep and cows on this walk, as well as one short-ish section of road walking, so your dog will probably need to be on the lead the whole way. This is fine if your dog walks nicely on the lead, but it will be a bit of a drag if you are getting pulled in the opposite direction on such a long walk! Be aware that this walk is very popular so if your dog is nervous around strangers they might find this walk stressful.

If you are reasonably fit and have the stamina to be on your feet all day, the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge is definitely achievable. The view from each of the mountains is spectacular, and if you are lucky, you might see the steam train cross the Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle to Carlisle railway. It’s a perfect walk for those seeking a challenge without having to worry about the logistics of the national Three Peaks challenge. However, all three peaks are also great for tackling on their own, if you don’t fancy taking them all on together. Read on below to find out some of my favourite routes.

Ingleborough

Like I said before, Ingleborough is my favourite of the Three Peaks. At 723m it is the second highest peak in Yorkshire and in my opinion gives the best views looking out over the viaduct and towards Pen-y-Ghent. You can also find a huge limestone plateau to the west of Ingleborough known as White Scars. This is just as impressive as Malham in my eyes (even without the dramatic clifftop) and much less crowded!

My favourite walk to Ingleborough is the Mud and Routes walk which starts from Clapham. There is a car park in the village or alternatively if you are happy to leave your car at the side of the road this can be done for free (please be considerate of local residents when doing this). This route is not as popular as those starting from Ingleton and Horton-in-Ribblesdale and also takes you past the Ingleborough cave, Trow Gill and Gaping Gill. When you reach the summit make sure you see if you can find the remains of Iron Age huts which are supposed to be up there – I’ve never managed it but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there!

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. There are a few places where you could let your dog off on this walk, but it will probably need to be on the lead for most of the day. The route above is a slightly gentler approach which is better suited to dogs than the route from Chapel-le-Dale, however, make sure to keep them well away from Gaping Gill. There is water at the start of the walk for dogs who like to paddle!

Whernside

When we walked up Whernside on its own it was one of those beautiful crisp winter days, where the sun shines, but it is absolutely bloody freezing. Whernside is the highest peak in Yorkshire at 736m but I actually found this one to be the easiest. The approach when walking from the Ribblehead viaduct is fairly gradual with no prolonged steep climbs – be prepared to be buffeted about on the top though if the wind is up! The route we took which was very enjoyable is available on Walks in Yorkshire. Parking is free by the Ribblehead viaduct and this does tend to fill up quickly, especially at weekends and on sunny days.

Keep a look out on your ascent for Force Gill waterfall (pictured below) which hundreds of people pass but very few go to investigate. On the day we visited it was so cold that the waterfall was partially frozen which was stunning to see. I have also heard that if you take a pair of binoculars up to the summit with you that you can see Blackpool tower on a clear day! I have no idea if this is true on not so if anyone has tested this theory and can let me know one way or the other, let me know in the comments.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Dogs will need to be on the lead for most of this walk – while you could probably let your dog off on the track at the start, I didn’t want to risk this with it being so close to the railway line. Make sure that you pick up any poos and take them home with you to dispose of properly (triple bagging tends to help stop the smell in the car).

Pen-y-Ghent

I have deliberately saved Pen-y-Ghent until the end, as I recently found out that Pen-y-Ghent isn’t actually the third highest peak in Yorkshire. I took this news badly as this means that I have another peak (Great Shunner fell in Wensleydale) to add to my list. Pen-y-Ghent is part of the official ‘Three Peaks’ but I wonder how many people know that at 694m it’s actually the 9th highest peak in Yorkshire? If you’re interested in knowing more about Yorkshire’s highest peaks, the 40 highest are listed on Atlas & Boots.

The most popular route to the top of Pen-y-Ghent is from Horton-in-Ribblesdale (full route on Walks in Yorkshire). There are a number of paid car parks in the village as well as a few pubs to re-fuel after your walk! This is a lovely walk and popular with families – lots of Yorkshire folk take their children here for their first ‘proper’ walk.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. There are sheep throughout this walk so you will need to keep your dog under close control, especially at lambing time. Make sure to take plenty of water for your dog if it’s a hot day like it was when we climbed Pen-y-Ghent – there is no water on route so you will need to carry it with you.

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Nunnington Hall

I took a much needed day off last week and we did a half-day trip to Nunnington Hall in Ryedale. Nunnington Hall is one of the nicest National Trust properties in Yorkshire and I have visited every year since we moved here. Surprisingly it does not seem to be as popular as Beningbrough Hall which is down the road near York, even though it has slightly larger gardens which are, in my opinion, much nicer. At the moment only the gardens and outdoor cafe are open, with the house remaining closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but don’t let this deter you from visiting a charming and much underrated manor house.

The South Front of Nunnington Hall

Nunnington Hall and Gardens

As a History graduate I am ashamed to say that I don’t know much about the history of the hall itself. Most of the current building dates from the 17th century, although parts of the western front (pictured right) may date from the Tudor period. When the house is open the National Trust host visiting artists and photographers and the attic is home to one of the largest collections of miniature rooms I have ever seen! Miniature rooms aren’t really my thing but I love wondering around having a look at the art exhibitions (even if I’d have to re-mortgage our house to buy anything).

Outside you can spend much longer than you would think exploring the relatively gardens. Although they aren’t large there is plenty to see and do – start off in the walled garden with some lawn games or relax in one of the deckchairs provided. Then make your way along the borders past the orchard and wild flower meadows to the vegetable and cutting gardens which are my favourite part of the garden. They are always so quiet and peaceful compared to the lawn which is popular with families playing the games.

The courtyard in front of the western side of the house is worth a visit if you like adding to your own garden as there are very often plants for sale here. I am definitely guilty of making an impulse purchase or two! All the money from the sale of the plants goes towards maintaining the house though so it’s for a good cause.

Make sure that you include a visit to the garden tea room on your itinerary for the day. The scones are delicious as always and it would be rude not to have a cream tea at a National Trust property!

You will also come across the resident peacocks at some point during your visit. On my most recent outing to Nunnington they were lounging in the tea garden, and to my utter mortification, Merry decided to try and chase them for the first time ever. Fortunately he was on the lead so he couldn’t do more than pull in their direction and whine in a very high pitched voice, but it was enough to earn me several disapproving looks from the other visitors in the garden, and to encourage the peacocks to fly up onto the archway just above our table to tease him for the duration of our lunch time!

It was really re-assuring to see how seriously the National Trust were taking Covid-19 precautions during our visit. There were hand sanitiser points throughout the site, with one way systems in place where paths were narrow, including the bridge to get from the car park (free) to the hall. There was one toilet open which is closed for half an hour twice a day for cleaning. They are also only accepting pre-booked visitors at the moment in an effort to control numbers so that you can socially distance from other guests.

River Walk

If you want to extend your visit or stretch your legs after a cream tea, you can head out of the gardens and take a walk along the river, following this 4.5 mile route. Although you are walking along the river for some way you can’t really see it apart from one short section. We did get a bit lost to begin with (we went left instead of right at the start) and ended up following the route backwards which is always a little tricky! It was manageable though which makes me think it would be easy to follow if you did it in the right direction. The walk is not strenuous and passes through farmland with some on road walking (there are also a few styles to clamber over).

This walk was really pleasant, with bucolic vistas over fields, historic landmarks such as the old mill (which is now someone’s house) and gives you glimpses of Nunnington Hall itself at times through the trees. While some of the paths are through fields with crops in we did also pass through fields with sheep, cows and horses – something to bear in mind if you aren’t comfortable encountering bigger animals on your walks.

Dog Friendly Rating

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. It’s great that the National Trust are so welcoming to dog owners at so many of their properties, and Nunnington Hall is no exception, with dogs welcome in the gardens and outdoor tea room as well as the wider grounds. Your dog does need to be on a lead in the gardens, but these are never busy, and there is water provided at the tea room for dogs. There is are opportunities for off lead walking on sections of the river walk, but remember to keep your dog on the lead around livestock, especially at lambing time. As always remember to pick up any poo and dispose of in the bins provided!

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A Weekend in the Peak District

This time last year I spent a weekend in the Peak District with Merry and my Mum. The Peak District was the first National Park to be created in the United Kingdom (1951) and it was also the site of the famous ‘mass trespass’ onto Kinder Scout which is largely credited as the start of the public rights of way movement. The Peak District is also home to many country houses and unusual field patterns (piecemeal enclosure), so my inner landscape history geek was bursting to get out and explore!

Merry posing at Curbar Edge

Where We Stayed

We stayed in the pretty Laurel Cottage in the village of Youlgreave. Laurel Cottage can be booked direct or through cottages.com – a handy tip for those of you who use Tesco Clubcard is that you can use your points to get up to £99 off your booking with cottages.com! The cottage was nicely decorated and had a large garden, woodburner, and complimentary dog treats on arrival which Merry loved! There was also lots of information about local walks and activities. Youlgreave is really well located if you want to get out and about – it’s about a 10 minute drive from Bakewell if you want to try an authentic Bakewell tart!

If you stay in Youlgreave and choose to eat out, I would definitely recommend the dog friendly Farmyard Inn. We came here on Pie Night and it was so good we came back on our second night! (Pie Night is Wednesday, or at least it was, if anyone else loves pies). It does seem very popular so I would recommend booking ahead.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. There is plenty of space inside for a larger dog with a large enclosed garden. There are lots of soft furnishings inside so be careful if you’ve got a pooch that loves to jump on sofas!

Curbar Edge

We chose to walk at Curbar Edge purely because the car park was National Trust and therefore free to us as members. And what a lovely walk! This relatively easy circular route will provide panoramic views across the valley and you will see plenty of the wonderfully wonky rock formations associated with the Peak District. Make sure you look behind you as you head along White Edge for a glimpse of Chatsworth house in the distance (Chatsworth is definitely a must visit – but it deserves a post all to itself so I won’t write about it today!).

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. Merry absolutely loved this walk! Be careful of steep drops along White Edge and if there is livestock around make sure you keep your dog on a lead. The end of this walk passes through woodland which will offer plenty of exciting smells and opportunities for off lead running!

Dovedale

Where is more famous in the Peak District than Dovedale? Nowhere! This was perhaps reflected by the fact that Dovedale was by far the busiest place we visited, even on a Thursday morning. The landscape is not only postcard perfect, it is also a great example of certain types of rock formation, or so I heard when I was ear wigging on one of the many school geography trips we passed.

We walked from the car park (pay and display, toilets) to Lover’s Leap. This walk only goes as far as the stepping stones, but if you want to walk further like we did you can just carry on following the path. If you go in spring keep your eyes peeled for the adorable ducklings which we saw (luckily Merry was too busy paddling to spot them).

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. I think this was by far Merry’s favourite walk of the weekend! He is a water baby and you follow the river all the way on this walk. It is calm and shallow and perfect for swimming. There are also poo bins on this walk for you to dispose of bags before you go home. I’ve knocked off a point as this walk is busy so may not be suitable for nervous dogs.

Ladybower Reservoir

On our way home we stopped at Ladybower reservoir (those of you who have followed this blog for a while will know how much I love a reservoir walk!). You can park along the busy roadside for free or pay to park in one of the near by car parks. This reservoir is popular with walkers but large enough that you probably won’t see too many people on your walk. It was very lush and green, with lots of wildflowers, a bit of a contrast to the slightly more bleak reservoirs back in North Yorkshire! We only stopped and walked down to the waterside to let Merry have one last holiday swim, but if you are looking to do a longer walk, Let’s Go Peak District have a 5 mile route which seems like a lovely walk.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This walk is great for pups who like to swim, however, I did keep Merry on a lead away from the water’s edge as there were sheep throughout this walk. You will see other dogs and walkers on this walk, even if it’s not busy like Dovedale, so remember your dog walking etiquette and put your dog on a lead if the dog coming towards you is on the lead.

Curbar Edge

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the Peak District! We barely scratched the surface on our visit so we will definitely be heading back to explore the area more – let me know your recommendations in the comments!

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