Harewood House

Harewood House is somewhere I’d wanted to visit for years but always held off because I thought it would be too busy. Some people don’t mind crowded places, but I always feel like I’m standing in someone’s way, or get stressed out by the person in front of me walking too slowly! Last summer though we took advantage of the limited opening to visit Harewood when we knew it wouldn’t be too busy. Due to Covid (and having the dogs with us) we didn’t go into the house itself, but spent a nice afternoon wandering around the park and gardens, as well as peeking through the fence of the farmyard to try and get a glimpse of the goats…

Entry to Harewood is pretty pricey – you can buy tickets on the estate website ahead of your visit to guarantee entry on the day. Pre-booking also saves you 10% compared to the price of paying on the day (at the moment it is pre-booking only due to Covid restrictions). I have to say, if you are only going to visit one pay for entry country house this summer, I would probably recommend Castle Howard over Harewood – the vibe is just slightly more welcoming and the estate is, I think, a lot easier to navigate and explore. The gardens at Harewood are nice but don’t quite have the overwhelming abundance of those at Castle Howard – I remember being actually quite disappointed in how empty the walled garden was. The Himalayan Garden was, however, much more interesting than the rest of the gardens and definitely worth exploring. When we visited there was a one way system in place in this part of the garden and this actually made it much easier to make sure we saw everything.

Like many country houses, Harewood has an ornamental lake you can walk around, which is home to a very large number of swans (luckily these ones weren’t particularly interested in us, I’m a bit nervous of swans as the ones at Fountains Abbey always come at me with intent!). The lake is part of a Capability Brown landscape, with sweeping lawns and clumps of trees artistically scattered across the park. If you are interested in Brownian landscapes, Harewood is a fantastic example, and if you explore the grounds further you will come across fascinating features including Harewood Castle. For those who are less inclined to walk there are boat trips available on the lake! For families there is an adventure playground as well as the aforementioned zoo. There is also a Bird Garden where you can see, amongst other species, penguins and flamingoes.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Dogs on leads are allowed in the gardens and parkland but not, understandably, in the petting zoo or bird garden. Walking around the gardens doesn’t take too long, so those looking to take their dogs on a longer walk might want to look at one of the longer walks around the estate. As Coal was too young for long walks when we visited we sadly didn’t venture far out into the parkland, but this walk on the Walking Englishman looks to be a good one (which also takes you past the set of Emmerdale for any soap opera fans out there).

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The Stang

How often these days are ‘hidden gems’ actually not that hidden? Places you expect to find deserted due to having this label are actually, on arrival, only quiet before the sun comes up or after it’s gone down! Such are the perils of living in an age where part of the criteria for visiting somewhere is how ‘Instagrammable’ it is. The Stang was recommended to me by someone at work after we’d been talking about good places to walk the dogs on a bank holiday weekend. Intrigued, I had a google to try and find out more, and my search results yielded pretty much nothing! I took this as a promising sign that we’d be guaranteed a nice peaceful walk on Easter Saturday – and I wasn’t wrong…

As my trawl of the internet didn’t give me much in the way of walks, it was a case of wander aimlessly, or have a look at OS maps for routes other people had done. We decided to follow an OS route to help us get the most out of the walk and to explore as much of the forest as possible – we followed this 8km circular route. I have recently invested in the paid version of the OS app and I couldn’t recommend it more – I have spent hours creating my own routes which I can’t wait to go out and try!

There are a few free car parks along the road which the route passes. We were the only car in the one we parked in, despite pitching up at midday on bank holiday weekend!

The paths up at the Stang were sooo much better than we’re used to at forestry places in North Yorkshire. Every path we followed was level and well surfaced – it was a beautiful sunny day when we visited, but even if it had been wet and wintery, I think the paths would have been fine – not the type to dissolve into a bog! I think for this reason the Stang is popular with mountain bikers. The route we followed was generally pretty gentle, with no steep ascents or descents, although there were a few gradual climbs. For a forest walk, there are plenty of great views over County Durham, before dropping back down into the trees for the second half of the walk.

If you do decide to visit the Stang please be respectful – the forest is privately owned but the owners allow the public to access the site for walking and cycling. Therefore, please do not litter, do not light disposable BBQs, and respect any temporary restrictions to access for commercial logging.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. Like many woodland walks the Stang is a doggy paradise! There are signs up asking for dogs to be kept under close control or on a lead to protect the birds that live in the forest, so this is something worth bearing in mind if you have a pheasant loving dog like we do, as there are plenty of them about! The walk is almost entirely off road although there are forestry operations ongoing in some parts of the forest. There was one stile which we needed to lift the dogs over, but the rest were next to forestry gates, which the dogs could walk under easily enough. The trees provide plenty of shade on warmer days (remember to be sensible when walking your dog in hot weather) but there is no water, so take some along for your dog.

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Keld & Kisdon Hill

Anyone who has read my blog Super Swaledale will know that Swaledale is by far my favourite of the Dales. There’s a sense of remoteness that you just don’t get anywhere else: not just on the hills and fells of the dale, but also in the tiny communities which are scattered in the far reaches of Swaledale past Reeth. Two such communities are Muker and Keld, which are both visited on this walk. Walking through the centre of these villages you really get the sense that, apart from the introduction of cars, barely anything has changed in the last two hundred years. Many of the villages in Swaledale, including Keld, Muker and Thwaite, have names that are even older and which originate in Old Norse: I imagine that the Vikings who came and settled them felt very at home in these wild uplands.

I was shuffling through my trusty Pocket Mountains guide for the Yorkshire Dales, looking for a walk to do at the weekend, and came across a walk entitled ‘Keld and Kisdon Hill’ (similar route online at Walking in the Yorkshire Dales). I immediately decided that this was the walk we had to do – I have previously walked along the side and bottom of Kisdon Hill but never over the top. In my excitement, I didn’t read the instructions properly and drove us to Keld to start the walk, when actually it starts from Muker (whoops!). In my defence it probably worked out slightly better to start in Keld – the car park is a bit bigger than the one in Muker and it meant that we got most of the climbing out of the way at the start of the walk! There is a reasonably sized car park in Keld which operates on an honesty box system (£2 short day, £3 all day) which also has a block of clean toilets.

The walk is a circular route of around 9km and easily navigable if you have a map and compass. The paths are largely pretty obvious, although traversing the summit of Kisdon Hill it does disappear in places, which I imagine would be worse in poor weather. Note that obvious does not mean level! On the descent from Kisdon Hill into Muker the path is very rocky and care is required so as not to end up flat on your face (try not to get distracted by the lovely view of the village). The climb up Kisdon Hill itself is short but reasonably steep, but should be manageable for anyone with a decent level of fitness, my gauge for this being how many times I needed to stop and ‘admire the view’ (once). Once you leave Muker to follow the river back to Keld the path is well surfaced and generally flat, with a few sections of gradual ascent.

Looking down onto Muker from Kisdon Hill

Muker is one of the best places in the Dales to see wildflowers in the hay meadows. We were a little early this time, but come June the fields will be ablaze and people will be flocking to see the flowers. To protect the meadows many of the fields have narrow paths: please respect the signs, stick to the paved areas and walk in single file.

Muker also has the highest density of stone barns in the Dales. These now mostly tumble-down structures were once used to store the hay from the meadow they stand in over winter, to save the farmer having to carry heavy bales of hay long distances to store it. The stock would then over winter in the barn with the hay – to save having to carry it all back to feed the animals!

One of the unmissable features of this walk is the waterfall at Kisdon Force. You pass it on your way into Keld and it’s almost so close to the path that you don’t realise what an impressive falls it is! There is a bench at the top of the falls which is a lovely place to sit and have lunch (although the sound of the water might make you need a wee – never fear, there are toilets in Keld). We were planning to extend the walk and continue on to Currack Force, however, by the end of the walk the glorious sunshine we started in had turned into on and off snow flurries! I’m not sure ‘flurry’ is really the right word – it was on and off, true, but it was sideways and heavy enough to make vision deteriorate significantly. It just goes to show you should always be prepared for all eventualities – we put our sunglasses away and whipped our waterproofs out of our bags, which we hadn’t really thought we’d need but had taken just in case!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Apart from a very short section at the start of the ascent of Kisdon Hill, which is along an enclosed lane, we kept ours on the lead the whole way around this walk. While there were no sheep on Kisdon Hill there were plenty of ground nesting birds which for Merry would definitely be a hundred times more tempting than a sheep. Along the river we did see a few dogs off the lead but we thought that the likelihood of coming across livestock or birds was too high so kept ours on lead. Through Muker you will almost certainly pass through fields with sheep in – please keep your dog on a lead. The second half of this walk had a few opportunities for the dogs to have a drink, which were missing on the first half of the walk. The two big bonuses on this walk are that it is nearly 100% off-road (just one short stretch along the road coming out of Keld) and that dogs should be able to manage all of the stiles without needing to be lifted, as they are all the kind of stile built into dry stone walls. For dogs who don’t like busy places this is also a good walk: we didn’t see another soul on Kisdon Hill, and while it was busier along the river, the path was more than wide enough for us to walk to the side and give other people a wide berth.

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Wild Boar Fell: Where the Wild Boars Aren’t

After twelve weeks of lockdown we are finally able to go a little further afield for walks and does it feel good or what! We spent a long time pondering where the best place to go would be for our first post-lockdown adventure: we wanted somewhere with great views and not many people. It’s not hard to get great views where we live but the crowd factor posed a slightly bigger issue! It was both the Easter bank holiday weekend and the first weekend since lockdown was slightly relaxed – I was pretty certain anywhere remotely well known would be heaving. After a lot of prevaricating on my part we settled on Wild Boar fell on the Cumbria/North Yorkshire border. Sadly, as you’ll see from the photos, there were no wild boar to be found, but this walk knocked the great views and crowd-free criteria out of the park!

Wild Boar Fell is the fifth highest fell in the Yorkshire Dales national park. Despite being in the Dales, the fell is actually in Cumbria, albeit on the eastern border with North Yorkshire. Irrespective of this claim to fame as one of the larger fells in the national park, not many people seems to head this way. Despite us arriving at lunchtime on Good Friday, in good weather, we barely saw anyone – just a few other groups of no more than three walkers and a farmer repairing his drystone walling.

We followed an eight mile circular walk from our Cicerone guide to the Northern and Eastern Dales, which took us up both Wild Boar Fell and neighbouring Swarth Fell. If you don’t have this book there is a similar route online on Walking Britain. The first half of the walk was amazing, but the descent from Swarth Fell was slightly hairy, so if you’re not comfortable with steep pathless descents you might want to look for an alternative route!

The walk starts from the roadside parking area by Cotegill Bridge, which is opposite two small waterfalls. There are two large lay-bys, one on either side of the bridge, which could both probably accommodate up to six cars (considerate parking dependent!).

You get great views right from the start of this walk. You head down a quiet road for a short way before picking up the footpath which eventually winds its way to the summit plateau of Wild Boar Fell. The paths for the vast majority of this walk are indistinct and at times totally non-existent, particularly on the descent of Swarth Fell which had me picking my way down the slope holding my breath incase I ended up breaking an ankle! Waterproof boots are a must, as boggy sections of the path occur frequently, and often require a fair bit of squelching to traverse.

There are basically no bad views on this walk, at all, and so many interesting features to look out for. After passing a series of potholes (fenced off for safety) you soon encounter a decent sized stretch of limestone pavement, before ascending to the summit where a group of ‘stone men’ stand sentinel over the dramatic panoramas. We did this walk on a clear day and the views (which I may have mentioned previously) were just fantastic – they stretch across the Howgills to the Lake District before a change in direction resulted in us having a cracking view of Ingleborough silhouetted by the late afternoon sun.

Dog friendly rating – 2.5/5. While there a definitely not any wild boar roaming the slopes of Wild Boar Fell, there are plenty of sheep and several types of ground nesting birds. Dogs should therefore be on a lead or under close control, especially at this time of year which is lambing season. There is very little water on this walk apart from a few bogs – which Coal jumped straight into and went in over his head – he scrambled out very quickly! There was only one stile which I would say is ‘awkward’ with a dog, and while Merry managed to slip under a gap in the fence, we did have to lift Coal over as he was a bit too large. This is a lovely long walk though and very quiet – perfect if your dog doesn’t like crowded places.

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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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Castle Howard

It’s definitely started to feel like Spring has sprung over the last week or so. The snowdrops which herald the last throes of winter have faded away to be replaced by bright and beautiful daffodils, new shoots are budding in the garden and hedgerows are a-chatter with the sound of birds busily searching for food and calling for mates. While we are still stuck at home and staying local, the regeneration of all things green has got me reminiscing about my favourite places to visit in summer, both local and further afield. Last summer we capitalised on pre-booking and restricted visitor numbers to visit Castle Howard on a gloriously sunny day. Usually we don’t head over there in high season, as it can be a bit crowded, but the upside of social distancing meant that it was possible to get the best of the weather and enjoy the site without hordes of people flocking for a picnic and a day out.

I have always been rather taken with Castle Howard. My interest was first piqued as a student when I was writing an essay about the architecture of the English Country house, where Castle Howard stood out as a Baroque masterpiece in a sea of Palladianism (I don’t have anything against Palladianism, by the way, it’s just sometimes nice to have a bit of a change). Since then I have returned dozens of times and it never disappoints – it’s one of the few places I am prepared to actually pay an entry fee for! This blog mainly talks about the outside, but inside the house is definitely worth a visit if that’s your kind of thing normally (I tend towards being a philistine: inside one stately home is very similar to another. Cue my History degree being taken away…)

The estate is huge – 8,800 acres to be exact – and is made up of hundreds of buildings, formal gardens, rolling parkland, woodland and farmland. There are many walks to be discovered online (including a selection on the Castle Howard website) but we always prefer to just wander, slightly aimlessly, around the park and gardens (generally in the opposite direction of where we can see other people gathering). We always, without fail, discover a new corner of the estate that we haven’t found before. Last time it was the absolutely beautiful pocket of tranquility sandwiched between the cascade and the bridge to the mausoleum (pictured); the time before, the shady network of paths criss-crossing Ray Wood. People tend to get distracted by the dizzying array of colours in the walled gardens and forget that there is a whole park just waiting to be explored – and sometimes a pretty bridge is better than a well manicured border anyway.

That being said, the walled gardens are a delight, even for the world’s worst hay fever sufferer (take a hay fever tablet before you go – it’s a mistake I won’t make twice!). The spectacular display of colour leaves you slightly directionless: on entering the garden it usually takes me a few seconds to work out where I actually want to go. The gardens are neatly segmented using walls and hedges, giving each compartment a distinct identity, and also creating the illusion that there aren’t anywhere near as many people in the gardens as there might actually be. Benches are dotted around in a number of locations, making this a popular place for people to stop for lunch. Many of the plants in the garden can also be found in the garden centre which has a huge variety of plants on offer, including the best selection of roses I’ve ever come across.

The Atlas Fountain is one of the most impressive features of the garden

Down by the cascade is my favourite place to sit quietly, but Ray Wood is my favourite place to have a wander. I don’t think I ever truly appreciated the phrase ‘dappled sunlight’ until we walked through Ray Wood on a sunny day. The woods are like something out of a fairytale: a selection box of tree species, dense enough to create the feeling of utter privacy, spacious enough to let beams of sunlight sneak through to light the way. I’m always amazed that we don’t see more people in here: normally we see a few other dog walkers, but never more than five or six other couples. I would say it’s a shame but I love having it all to ourselves!

Dog friendly rating: 4/5. It’s worth noting that this is a country house rating, and Castle Howard has scored highly, as it is very welcoming to dogs compared to other similar places I’ve visited. The courtyard cafe has dog water bowls outside, and dogs are allowed inside the formal gardens, which isn’t always the case. Ray Wood and the parkland footpaths offer plenty of opportunities for offlead walks, although I do recommend putting leads on by the lakes, due to the high number of wetland birds. Ours love it here and always arrive home knackered, ready to sleep for a week, giving us several peaceful evenings while they re-charge ready for next time!

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A Tale of Two Waterfalls: Whitfield Force and Mill Gill

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.

It was just a tad icy…

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.

Whitfield Force

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.

Mill Gill Force

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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Easedale Tarn

The walk up to Easedale Tarn is a lovely short stroll from the chocolate box village of Grasmere, famous for its association with the Romantic poet William Wordsworth. We found this walk on a trip to the Lakes about four years ago on a rainy Saturday in November – despite a fairly continuous stream of drizzle it was a beautiful walk with quintessential Lakeland scenery. And of course, finished off by hot chocolate and cake to warm up at the end…

We followed this very easy five mile linear walk on Walk Lakes, which starts from Grasmere, following Sour Milk Gill gradually uphill from the village to reach Easedale Tarn. This walk has a difficulty rating of 1/5 on Walk Lakes and this is fair, although the path is uneven in places and slippy in wet weather (I twisted my ankle after hanging onto the lead when Merry lunged after an interesting smell – I made sure I’d laced my boots up properly before our next walk!)

If you aren’t staying in Grasmere, there are a few car parks available (details on the Lake District National Park website), although given how popular Grasmere is these fill up very quickly. This is one for an early start! There is plenty to do in Grasmere so once you’ve finished your walk why not make a day of it and visit Wordsworth’s grave or the famous Grasmere Gingerbread.

My favourite stop in Grasmere is Heidi’s Grasmere Lodge, which as well as being a self-catering accommodation unit, also has a bustling cafe on the ground floor. I’ve been here quite a few times now and the cake is amazing, the customer service is great and the hot chocolate is proper hot chocolate rather than the watery rubbish you get elsewhere! The cafe is also dog friendly and if you have a photogenic pooch they have a ‘dog of the day’ feature wall – if you call in see if you can spot Merry among the previous dogs of the day!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Like nearly all walks in the Lake District there are sheep throughout, so dogs need to be under close control, preferably on a lead. Merry loved this walk as there were so many opportunities for swimming (you follow the gill for a while before arriving at the tarn itself). This walk was pretty busy – we saw quite a lot of people walking along the path, probably as it’s such an easy walk with incredible views. Therefore, if your dog isn’t a big fan of strangers, this might be an area to avoid (Grasmere in particular is never anything short of heaving).

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The Breamish Hillfort Trail

Nestled in the heart of the Northumberland National Park, the Breamish Valley is nothing less than delightful. The eponymous river flows gently through the valley, making this a prime choice for picnicking families, and the more adventurous can wander further to discover the ethereal waterfall Linhope Spout. For me though, the main temptation was the cluster of hillforts dotted along the valley. I was desperate to get up there and see what was left of these impressive structures, and to take in the view that must be relatively unchanged from the time when the hillforts were inhabited, over two thousand years ago.

The Breamish Hillfort Trail can be found online on the Northumberland National Park website, but we discovered it in my trusty Pocket Mountains guide to Northumberland. Of the two routes available online, we did the shorter route, as we were stopping off on our way home from a week in the area – you can read all about it on my blog Northumberland: North of the Wall.

This walk is an absolutely wonderful way to spend a morning or an afternoon. The initial climb up Brough Law gets your heart pumping, but from here on it is a gentle stroll along grassy paths, with very little steep ascent or descent. Parking was free in Bulby’s Wood Car Park (prepare to be confused and lost trying to find it if you don’t know where it is already), where there is space for a small number of cars, as well as a mini National Park centre with public toilers.

This is a fantastic walk for any history geeks. On several of the hillforts you can see the outlines on the ground where timber roundhouses used to be. The structures were originally built around 2,300 years ago – pretty mind blowing. You can also see some surviving cultivation terraces, which I was delighted by, having never seen one apart from in photos. I spent quite a long time perched on the boundary wall of Brough Law trying to imagine what it must have been like to live in a hillfort in the Iron Age – it was pretty impossible to even try wrapping my head around it, but I think I got closer than I ever have reading about it in a text book.

Northumberland is a secret treasure trove of interesting historical landscape – the concentration of hillforts in the Breamish Valley is just the tip of the iceberg. During the week we spent in Northumberland we also visited the hillforts at Yeavering Bell and Doddington, the ancient Anglo-Saxon settlements of Ad Gefrin and Bamburgh and the fascinating prehistoric cup and ring marks on Doddington Moor. Doddington in particular is a fantastic day out if you love historic landscapes, with the hillforts and cup and ring marks already mentioned, as well as the remains of a prehistoric stone circle.

The light isn’t brilliant, but you can clearly see the remains of cultivation terraces on the hillside.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. There are sheep throughout so we kept our dogs on the lead for the whole walk – better to be safe than sorry! The is also no water once you leave the car park, so carry some extra for your dog, especially if it’s hot and sunny. We got blue skies but we did do this walk at the start of November so it wasn’t quite as warm as it might look in these photos!

A big plus on this walk is the total absence of any kind of stile or object that would require you to lift your dog over – something we appreciate a lot more since we got Coal! Make sure you head down to the river when you get back to the car park to give water loving dogs the opportunity for a paddle.

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Redmire & Bolton Castle

There is no better way to welcome in the New Year than to go for a crisp winter walk. We get out early every year, while the sun is still low in the sky, and the majority of the world is still sleeping off the night before! This year people obviously couldn’t go out celebrating so we opted for a quieter walk in a less-frequented part of Wensleydale – just in case more people joined the early morning New Year’s Day brigade!

This is a lovely short walk if you don’t have the time or inclination for a longer walk, but still want the views and sense of solitude of a longer or more remote walk. Starting from the quiet Wensleydale village of Redmire (free roadside parking), this gentle walk rambles across mostly flat fields, to reach the impressive medieval fortress of Bolton Castle.

When we did this walk there had been a fair bit of snow on the hills, but not much along the route, which made for the perfect combination of easy walking for magical snowy views. The effort:view ratio on this walk is outstanding (although in fairness a dusting of snow makes any view Christmas card worthy).

We followed this very easy route on Where2Walk, which is a great place for walk inspiration in North Yorkshire and the Lakes. While the walk is nearly completely flat the terrain is often pathless, and you need to rely on landmarks and your own navigation skills to find the way. This isn’t too hard as you are generally walking from one stile or gate to the next! There had been a prolonged period of wet weather just before we did this walk and the fields were completely saturated – it was how I imagine walking through a paddy field would be – but the views were stunning and at least the water didn’t go over our boots! Apart from the river crossing where the stepping stones were completely submerged…

Getting across here without getting wet feet was somewhat challenging…

Bolton Castle was built in the fourteenth century by the wealthy Scrope family and is today a popular Yorkshire Dales tourist attraction. The castle and gardens are open to the public (admissions charges apply, details on the castle website) and there is a gallery, shop, tea room and falconry centre. Due to the birds dogs are not permitted on the site, so we just had a walk around the field by the car park, and then carried on with our walk.

I have to say this is one of the most photogenic castles in the area – it’s a lot more intact than nearby Middleham and gives off a similar kind of medieval vibe! Although sadly there aren’t as many racehorses knocking about as there are in Middleham.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. Much of this walk passes through grazing land, where you’ll need to keep your dog on a lead if there’s livestock about. We were lucky and there were a few empty fields without sheep in, but otherwise there are a few short enclosed lanes where you can also let your dog off if you like. The majority of this walk is off-road but there are a few short stretches along quiet roads. Merry’s favourite part, of course, was having the opportunity to paddle in the river! There were a few stiles along the way but these were all the ‘easy’ kind that the dogs could clamber over which are definitely our favourite kind!

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