Dufton Pike – Discovering the Eden Valley

“To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace.”

Milan Kundera

Nowhere is this more true than in the aptly named Eden Valley. Skirting the Lake District National Park, the Eden Valley is home to a glorious abundance of countryside, and is somewhere I’d been dying to explore for months. We finally headed over for a walk up Dufton Pike just before Christmas and my very high expectations were massively exceeded by this outstanding short walk up a small but very impressive hill. The dusting of snow across the tops made for a wonderful adventure in our own winter wonderland.

The walk starts from the charming village of Dufton, not far from Appleby-in-Westmorland. The circular route we followed was from our Cicerone guide to the Eden valley, which is excellent, but you can find a similar walk online on Walking Britain. The walk is about 5 miles, and while the hill may look imposing from the village green at the start, there’s not that much effort required to get to the top!

There is a small car park with facilities in Dufton. And I do mean small (at least in comparison to the national park car parks you come across in the Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland). This car park was full when we arrived so we parked on the village green opposite the Stag Inn. There was plenty of free parking here, and it afforded us our first glance of our target, rising majestically behind the pub!

As I mentioned earlier, this walk is not particularly difficult, either navigationally or in terms or elevation. The only steep sections are relatively short sections as you near the summit and again on your descent. Or maybe it just felt steeper as the compacted snow had frozen and turned the path into a ski slope!

The paths generally didn’t seem too bad, although once we got past a certain point they were invisible under the snow. There was one horrendously muddy section of the Pennine way near the start which made us very glad we had sturdy waterproof boots on! That being said the rest of the tracks were pretty level and well surfaced – as much as you can expect in the countryside anyway!

One thing I learned very early on in my hiking days is that a small hill doesn’t necessarily mean small views. The views on this walk were absolutely unparalleled, and while a blanket of fog on the summit meant we didn’t get the full shebang panorama the book promised, we managed to glimpse all of the different aspects on different sections of the walk.

At the start of the walk, the views are mainly focussed on the surrounding countryside and neighbouring Murton Pike. As your ascent steepens, you get views across the Eden Valley to the Lakeland fells, before cresting the summit ridge to see the Pennine chain continuing into the distance. Not to forget my favourite view of the whole walk, the glimpse of a snowy Great Rundale, gained by a simple glance over your shoulder on the descent of Dufton Pike.

Looking down into Great Rundale

I really, really enjoyed this walk, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to grab a few hours of peace and tranquility in a stunning part of the world. I was surprised by how few walkers we encountered – Dufton itself was pretty busy when we set off, however, there are quite a few walks (including High Cup Nick) which start from here, which possibly accounts for how empty the slopes of Dufton Pike were. That being said even in Dufton itself it was nowhere near as busy as hotpots like the Lakes and certain places in the Dales can get!

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. I was a bit unsure of the dog friendly rating to give this one. There are enclosed tracks where you can let your dog off, but you also pass through fields with livestock (we saw sheep and horses) where your dog should be under close control, preferably on a lead. On the hill itself we didn’t see any livestock but this can’t be taken for granted. This walk was blissfully stile free, with only one stile crossing required, and this was the type inset into a dry stone wall which is easier to manage with dogs. There are bins in Dufton where you can dispose of any poos. You also pass through a farmyard near the beginning of the walk so make sure your dog is on a lead here – you wouldn’t like it if people let their dogs run around your garden!

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Fremington Edge

Fremington Edge, or ‘Fermenting Pike’ as it was once mistakenly called by a friend of ours, is a five kilometre limestone escarpment which dominates the landscape to the north of Reeth. This dramatic swathe of scree and rock is littered with relics of the area’s mining history, with old shafts and openings sprinkled haphazardly along the ridge. Fremington Edge marks the boundary between two of the most northerly dales, Arkengarthdale and Swaledale, and being so far removed from the tourist hotspots of Wensleydale and Ribblesdale means that you can enjoy the spectacular views without having to give up your viewing platform for the next person in line!

Looking across to Calver Hill on the ascent of Fremington Edge

From Reeth, Fremington Edge is an imposing silhouette to the north of the village, offering an impressive but not overly inspiring backdrop. This rapidly changes as you climb up the hill, with amazing views over Swaledale to Calver Hill appearing as soon as the climb starts to steepen – no shame in stopping to admire the view here!

The walk we did was a circular hike of just under eight miles from the Cicerone Yorkshire Dales: North and East guidebook. I really couldn’t recommend these books more, we have our own mini library at home with the guides for lots of different places, and the hikes are always a fantastic variety of lengths/difficulties and take in the best that any area has to offer in terms of outdoor exploration.

If you don’t own the Cicerone guide, an online alternative similar to the route we followed is available on Walking in the Yorkshire Dales, although this route is slightly longer and detours to include Langthwaite in the walk.

The walk starts from the centre of Reeth where you can park on the cobbles for a donation to the honesty box (£1 for half a day or £2 for a full day). We set off at lunchtime on one of the shortest days of the year and managed to get back to the car with daylight to spare – however it was very cold and snowy so we didn’t hang around for too long to enjoy the views!

After a short stretch along the river, the walk veers away from Reeth, to start the climb up Fremington Edge. While relatively steep, the path is on a metalled lane for the majority of the climb before passing through a gate onto a slightly rougher but still pretty level track. The climb offers spectacular views to Calver Hill, and once you begin your trek along the ridge, the panorama shifts to focus on the distinctively shaped Addlebrough fell in Wensleydale.

The wind up on Fremington Edge was pretty icy by the time we started to drop down into the valley for the return leg, so although we were sad to lose the birds-eye view across the Dales, we were quite happy to trade them for no wind and still decent views lower down!

Coming back along the valley you pass through fields and the odd farm yard before briefly passing through the woods by Arkle Beck. It is a lot soggier underfoot than on the ridge (where the ground was completely frozen) with plenty of mud in the woods in particular!

Given how lovely this walk was, and the winter wonderland the landscape was transformed into by the snow, I was really surprised we didn’t see many other walkers. In fact, you could probably count the number of other people we saw on one hand! Maybe it’s different in summer when the weather isn’t quite so bracing…

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Ours absolutely LOVED this walk but I think that was largely due to the vast quantities of snow – it was Coal’s first time seeing deep snow and many Labrador zoomies were done! I’m only giving this a rating of 3/5 for a few reasons though. Apart from a few short sections, we kept ours on the lead, as we weren’t sure where there might be an old mine shaft lying under the snow. Below the snowline most of the fields had sheep in so we kept them on leads here too, although in the woods there was another opportunity for a quick sprint around. Merry in particular loved dropping down to the river to have a quick paddle, despite the temperature! There were a few stiles on this walk but only one where we actually needed to lift Coal over – Merry managed to wriggle through a gap under the fence!

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog today, make sure you subscribe below. You may also be interested in my previous blog Super Swaledale which explores six walks in the area immediately surrounding Fremington Edge.

Grimwith Reservoir: It’s Not So Grim Up North

As I write this blog we should be travelling up to Tomintoul to spend the week over New Year exploring in the Cairngorms. Alas, like many people our plans have been scuppered by Covid, but we are taking this as an opportunity to explore lots of new walks closer to home, as well as re-visiting some old favourites. One such walk is the gentle four mile meander around Grimwith Reservoir in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, somewhere we have been visiting for years, a place of increasing popularity as the secret now appears to be out!

We have been visiting Grimwith for years and it has always been a blissfully peaceful walk. We were a bit shocked on our last visit to find the car park completely full – it just goes to show the effect lockdown has had on getting people to appreciate the outdoors more!

Grimwith is a good choice for all ages and abilities. The four and a half mile circular route around the reservoir is easy to follow and 90% flat – there’s just one slope to climb at the end! The path around the edge is generally well surfaced and dry, although there was one horrifically muddy patch on our last visit, that we almost needed to swim across to get to the other side!

Parking is free in the Yorkshire Water car park which also has accessible toilets (these are currently closed due to Coronavirus). As I mentioned earlier, Nidderdale’s reservoirs are becoming increasingly popular, so don’t leave it too late to arrive or you might not get a space!

Scattered along one side of the reservoir are a few benches which are the perfect place to stop and enjoy your lunch. If you want to stay for longer, there are a few holiday cottages right by the water’s edge – I imagine visitors get absolutely amazing sunsets from here!

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This is a great walk for your four legged friends, as evidenced by the absolutely huge number of other dog walkers we saw (including what looked like one dog walking club!). For this reason I’ve knocked off one point as some dogs, like Coal, don’t like busier environments. Generally everyone was polite enough to put their dogs on a lead when they saw ours were on a lead, but there were one of two who didn’t bother, so we had a few moments with a very stressed out Labrador!

There’s no livestock around the edge of the reservoir so offlead walkings is fine – but do keep an eye out for sheep in the gated section at the end of the reservoir where you will either start or finish your walk. A big bonus on this walk is that there are no stiles which is always great news for anyone with a dog bigger than a spaniel!

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The Druid’s Temple & Masham Moor

Given the rather unpredictable nature of the weather forecast this weekend we didn’t stray too far from home. We ventured over to Masham for a slightly longer than usual walk to make the most of the December sunshine – and what a Christmas cracker of a walk it was! It had it all: blue skies and big views, rainbows, local history and most importantly a bracing lazy wind to brush away any lingering cobwebs! Finding a new walk close to home is always immensely satisfying and I know we’ll be back to do this walk again soon.

Masham Moor is somewhere I’ve wanted to explore for ages, but it wasn’t until yesterday that the weather and our days off work aligned to make it possible! The walk we followed was this nine and a half mile circular from My Yorkshire Dales, which is an absolutely fabulous blog full of great walks, and most importantly also includes a GPS route you can download and follow.

This walk starts from a lay-by alongside Leighton Reservoir. The reservoir has no rights of way along its shore so the first section of the walk is a short section along the road to reach the public footpath. The road is very quiet though and we heard any cars a long time before we saw them – more than enough time to step onto the verge out of the way.

Crossing a network of fields you soon reach the Druid’s Temple. Sadly this is not a prehistoric site but an eighteenth century folly – it still makes for an intriguing inclusion on your walk though! This was a slightly busier part of the walk and we saw plenty of people making their way down to the Bivouac Cafe to shelter from the intermittent rain showers. I did think that maybe we should have stopped as we spent a quarter of an hour slipping and sliding down the total mud bath that the path became about two hundred metres later!

On this early part of the walk we spent some time following the Ripon Rowel walk. This is a fifty mile long distance route which visits some of the nicest countryside around the city of Ripon, including Fountains Abbey and Markington Hall, as well as traversing woodlands and dales which are frequently overlooked due to being outside the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales national park.

You leave the Ripon Rowel trail and join a road to climb up a fairly steep hill to the village of Ilton which has an eponymous moor. Traipsing across Ilton and Masham moors was pretty windy with my nose going completely numb until I hoisted my buff up to just under my eyes! The views were totally worth the chill though and this was my favourite part of the walk. Despite the on and off drizzle it was a remarkably clear day, with Roseberry Topping visible to the North and Drax power station just visible in the South. The well surfaced tracks also made for much more pleasant walking than squelching across muddy fields at the start of the walk! The moors seem to be popular with locals as we saw plenty of runners and the odd mountain biker too.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. Much of this walk passes through fields where your dog will need to be on a lead due to livestock (we saw both sheep and cows – thankfully none of them took any notice of us!). The moorland is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and there are signs up asking you to keep dogs on a lead during nesting season, and under close control for the rest of the year. Merry spent this section on the lead anyway as there were grouse everywhere and he is absolutely obsessed with them! The woods around the Druid’s Temple offered a chance for off-lead walking and we saw lots of dogs off the lead on the quiet lanes around Ilton.

For the length of the walk there weren’t many stiles at all, but the two or three that we did come across were very awkward and required lifting the dogs over, not fun when they were completely coated in mud! A big bonus was the poo bin in the car park for the Bivouac Cafe which meant we didn’t need to carry poos the whole way round – all dog owners will feel this pain! This was a great walk to take the dogs on as they were both completely pooped when we got home, which meant a nice and peaceful evening for us.

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5 Wanders in Wensleydale

Wensleydale is without a doubt one of the most popular dales. Crammed full of tumbling waterfalls, lush meadows and of course the famous Wensleydale Creamery, people flock from far and wide to experience all that Wensleydale has to offer. The waterfalls deserve a blog entirely of their own, so today I’m going to focus on five walks that sample the rolling pastures and wilder uplands of one of the most easterly of the dales.

5. Constable Burton and Finghall

This walk is a bit of a wild card. Constable Burton itself isn’t quite in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, being situated in Lower Wensleydale on the A684 between Bedale and Leyburn, but it’s close enough and this lovely short walk merits inclusion on this list. Constable Burton has it’s own website and this is where we found the three and a half mile circular walk which starts in the village.

Parking in Constable Burton is free on the roadside but please park considerately. This walk is pretty easy with no steep inclines or descents, and the path is pretty level throughout, either on levelled lanes or grass.

For such a small walk the landscape is wonderfully varied. You will pass through copses of woodland, through fields and wander for a short stretch along the river. You will also pass the 12th century church of Saint Andrews which is surrounded by the earthworks of medieval villages which no longer exist. There are pubs in both Constable Burton and Finghall if you want to incorporate a pub stop on your way!

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This is a lovely dog walk with many sections where your dog can be let off the lead – and Merry loves any walk where he can take a dip in any kind of water! There are some sections through fields with livestock and a short stretch along the road in Finghall where your dog will need to be on a lead, but over all, this is a lovely place to walk your dog. There is also a wonderful shortage of stiles on this walk which owners of larger dogs will no doubt be thrilled to hear!

4. West Burton to Aysgarth Falls

This is another walk from a Burton, but this time, the walk starts in the pretty village of West Burton. Most people visiting West Burton head straight to Cauldron Falls, however, that’s a feature for a future blog. Many of Wensleydale’s beauty features are connected by footpaths and this walk makes use of them to trek from West Burton to Aysgarth Falls, of Robin Hood fame.

The walk we followed was a four mile circular from the AA 50 Walks in the Yorkshire Dales, but if you don’t have this book, you can find a similar route on the Walking Englishman website. Parking in West Burton is free along the village green, there is however an honesty box, so make sure you take some pennies with you for this purpose.

The walk is pretty easy to navigate, again with no steep climbs, and the paths are pretty even throughout apart from some rocky sections at Aysgarth Falls. We did this walk in summer when the hay was being cut and I don’t think I’ve ever seen more bucolic scenes!

Dog friendly rating – 2/5. This isn’t the best walk for dogs being completely honest. It wasn’t so bad with Merry as he is an agile little goat and flies over stiles on his own, however, owners of larger dogs may struggle as there are a whopping 35 stiles on this walk. Most are inset into dry stone walls, so not too bad, but still not great if your dog is not a natural climber! There is livestock throughout and a few short sections along roads so leads are a must. Merry did however love the stop at Aysgarth Falls – as you can see in the photo he was dying to get in the water!

3. Middleham Castle and Gallops

Middleham is one of my favourite places in the dales, and somewhere I would definitely recommend to people looking for somewhere to stay in North Yorkshire. For a small town it is bursting at the seams with history and has a wonderful bustling vibe – largely centred on the many racing stables which are located in the town. The stables have an open day every year, where you can visit the stables and meet the horses, which is a great family day out. Every time we go for a walk in Middleham we encounter a string of race horses somewhere along the walk – either on the gallops or on their way up there!

Middleham is also home to Middleham Castle, the boyhood home of Richard III, an imposing ruin which is open to the public (managed by English Heritage, entry fees apply). If you’re not fancying a walk I would definitely recommend a visit to the castle – the history is fascinating and there is a view point where you get wonderful views across Wensleydale towards Coverdale. The castle is also dog friendly so you don’t need to leave your four legged friends at home!

The walk we like to do from Middleham is from the Pocket Mountains Yorkshire Dales guide and is about 3 miles, however, the AA book has a longer version. You can also find a similar route online on Where2Walk. Parking in the centre of Middleham is a few pounds which you can pop into the honesty box for parking.

The walk itself is nice and gentle with only one steeper climb as you pass Pinkers Pond (this is pretty short and not too bad). You pass the castle on your way out of Middleham and immediately find yourself in the middle of fields, which you will pass through for the majority of this walk until you climb up to the gallops. The views of Wensleydale and Coverdale are lovely considering the amount of effort (almost zero) you are required to put in. The paths are mostly grassy and level throughout, with a short section on a metalled track by the gallops, and a stretch along the pavement to descend back into Middleham.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. The first half of this walk passes over stiles and through fields which may all have livestock in (both sheep and horses) so dogs need to be under close control. Water loving dogs will enjoy the opportunity to splash in the river Cover, although the river is largely blocked by a fence so you will need to make a short detour to give them the opportunity to have a swim. We do quite often see dogs off the lead on the gallops, but make sure your dog will re-call and not get in the way or chase any racehorses you may see.

2. Cotterdale

Cotterdale is a small village in the heart of Wensleydale. The walk we did is from the Cicerone book for the North and East Dales, however, a similar route is available on Where2Walk (which includes a detour to Cotter Force, definitely the most underrated of Wensleydale’s waterfalls!).

The walk starts from the village of Hardraw (home of another waterfall). Parking is free in a lay-by on the western side of the village (there is an honesty box where you can leave a few pounds). The walk then starts off by following a track to join the Pennine Way, taking you to a wilder side of Wensleydale, before dropping down into the pretty village of Cotterdale. Keep your eyes peeled for red squirrels here – we saw three all in the same tree!

Can you spot the red squirrel scampering up the tree?

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. We were walking behind another couple for most of this walk and their dog was off the lead on the upland sections and was fine. We’d have had no chance with Merry as the amount of rabbits was insane. There isn’t much water on this route unless you follow the Where2Walk route which detours to Cotter Force, so take some extra water for your dog. There is a short section through trees where we were able to let ours off for a sniff but they were mostly on leads for this walk. There are also a few stiles so be prepared to get muddy lifting your dog over!

1. Pen Hill

Pen Hill was always going to top any list of walks in Wensleydale for me. It’s distinctive shape is one of the local landmarks that I see everyday silhouetted against the horizon. After years of seeing the hill every day we finally got across to walk up to the top last year – we followed this circular walk from the Happy Hiker website which includes an optional detour to the top of Pen Hill.

Parking is free on the roadside in the village of Carlton-in-Coverdale. You very quickly enter a more rugged landscape than you might expect to find in Wensleydale – in my mind Wensleydale is all green pasture and less wild upland!

The walk is around 10 miles if you include the trip up to the summit – this is definitely worth it as the views over the surrounding countryside are wonderful! You can also make the walk longer if you choose to by following optional detours to West Witton or West Burton as you pass the footpaths connecting to these villages.

The path was a little boggy in places but generally pretty even underfoot. The climb up Pen Hill is steep in places but feels surprisingly short – so don’t give up, you’ll get to the top sooner than you think! The worst climb is the one at the end of the walk which feels never ending. I’d like to say I did it without whinging but I’d be lying!

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. While there are fields with livestock to cross (sheep and cows), there are also a few sections free of livestock where you’ll be able to let your dog off the lead. This is a lovely long walk so you’ll have a nice and tired pup by the end! Like most walks in the dales you will come across a few stiles but there’s nowhere near as many as the 35 on the West Burton walk. As always carry some extra water for your dog and pick up any poos.

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: Sale Fell and Ling Fell

This was our first weekend back out of lockdown and we therefore headed straight back to the Lakes to tick off a few more Wainwrights. We worked out the other day that I need to be ticking off five a month to meet my target of completing them by the time I’m thirty – and that’s without lockdown getting in the way! Therefore I am already behind so off to play catch up we went. We thought the Lakes might be busy with everyone else having the same idea, so we headed to the northern fringe of the national park, where Sale Fell and Ling Fell offer a relatively easy half day circular walk. I hadn’t been feeling very Christmassy (the early onslaught of Christmas songs at the end of November brought out my inner Scrooge), but after a day walking in the crisp winter air with snowy fells in the background, I am definitely ready to put on my Christmas jumper!

We headed off early in anticipation of having to trawl car parks and lay-bys for a parking space – we needn’t have bothered! Perhaps the cold snap we’re having has dimmed the enthusiasm of fair weather walkers, as when we arrived at half past nine there was no one in the lay-by we wanted to park in, for once. It’s a shame that the cold puts some people off as I think you get some of the best views in winter. There was only a tiny bit of snow on Sale Fell and hardly any at all on Ling Fell, but the Skiddaw Range had a blanket of snow and you got the most stunning views from Sale Fell. To me that’s the bonus with climbing smaller fells – you get the wonderful views of the bigger fells without the effort of climbing them!

The route we followed was a six mile figure of eight loop that we found on the OS maps app. If you don’t have this app and are looking for a similar route online, there is an equivalent loop on Mud and Routes. The ascent up both fells was pretty quick but it was horribly steep in some sections – there was lots of ‘admiring the view’ on my part! Having climbed Sale Fell before I know that there is a less strenuous route to the top and it is this route that I link to on my blog 5 Undiscovered Lake District Walks. I am less sure if there is an alternative approach up Ling Fell as this was my first visit, however, it did look like there was another path to the top before the mist descended and hid everything from sight!

The route was easy to navigate with the map, although if you choose to take the ‘direct approach’ straight up the sides of the fells, these paths are faint and easy to miss as they branch off paths which are much more clearly defined. The paths generally were not clear and the descent from Ling Fell was very slippery – with prickly gorse to poke you if you grab onto the surrounding foliage for balance! Apart from the ascents though the majority of this walk was pretty easy to accomplish. We were really lucky with the weather as the snow had almost completely melted where we walked, making hiking much easier, but it was cold enough that the higher fells were still cloaked in snow. And it was clear enough that we could see them!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. I gave Sale Fell a 2/5 dog friendly rating previously as it’s quite a short walk on it’s own, so I’m giving this walk an extra point as it is a fair bit longer! There are short sections of road along this walk and there could be sheep at any time, so keep your dog under close control. A big bonus on this walk was that there were no stiles at all, which is something I’ve come to appreciate a lot more since we got a Labrador! Much harder to lift over a stile than a spaniel. There wasn’t much in the way of water apart from a few small streams at the very end, so it’s probably a good idea to carry extra for your dog. As always please pick up poos and dispose of them responsibly – there are no bins on this walk so you will need to take any poos away with you.

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If You Go Down to the Woods Today: 5 Woodland Walks in North Yorkshire

There’s something magical about the woods at any time of year. The first buds of new life in Spring; the carpet of wildflowers and dappled sunbeams in Summer; the blazing riot of Autumn colours; the eerie whistle of the wind through the skeletal forests of Winter. Throughout the ever-changing seasons the woods offer a constant escape from the rush of daily life, the silence only punctuated by the trilling of birdsong, the chatter of squirrels, and the crunch of your own footsteps through the undergrowth. North Yorkshire in not perhaps best known for its abundant woodlands; the profusion of camera-ready moors and dales has a tendency to usurp attention from our less open spaces; but they should not be so easily dismissed. Below I’ll share five woodland walks which will take you down twisted tracks and through sylvan glades, often encountering no one but the odd deer once you get a few hundred metres from the car park.

5. The Bridestones and Dalby Forest

This walk qualifies for this list by the skin of it’s teeth – really this blog should be called ‘four and a half woodland walks’. Dalby is the Great Yorkshire Forest, and I therefore felt that I had to include a walk from here on this list, but the walk that I’ve chosen spends very little time below the treetops! However it’s my blog and I make the rules, so it’s made the list…

Dalby is a bit of a beacon for visitors the the North York Moors. The forest is huge, spanning eight thousand acres, and as well as miles of footpaths and cycling trails there’s also a Go Ape centre, multiple car parks, a bike hire centre and a cafe. The Bridestones walk we followed was from our North Yorkshire – A Dog Walker’s Guide book but there are a number of trails on the Dalby Forest website if you don’t own this book.

The walk starts from the Low Staindale car park, one of many along the forest toll road. Parking is a flat all day fare (toll booths with number plate recognition on the way in and out) and you pay before you leave at one of the pay points. It was £5 when we visited in off season (November to March) but in high season this rises to a pretty pricey £9!

The walk heads away from the car park up a gently climbing track through the woods. You soon leave the cover of the trees as you approach to sandstone monoliths which are the Bridestones, the remains of Jurassic rock which formed over one hundred million years ago, and which today are largely used for people posing for arty photos standing on top of the rocks. Sigh!

The route we followed curved away from the busier part of the trail (and it was busy), trekking across boggy moor (everyone’s favourite) to reach a forest track which runs along the edge of the woods for just over a mile. Another change of direction takes you over fields, down a short stretch of quiet road and through a farmyard before you cross a few final fields to reach the fringe of woodland close to the car park. We were lucky enough to see a few deer on this walk once we’d left the hustle and bustle of the main track behind – it took me a few seconds to realise they weren’t just very tall rabbits as they were on the other side of a valley!

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. You can let your dog off the lead for much of this walk. There are a few steep drops around the Bridestones themselves where we kept ours on the lead, as well as some fields with sheep in, but for the long section along the forest track there are plenty of opportunities for dogs to have a run around. The guidebook we used is pretty good if you aren’t sure whether or not you can let your dog off as it tells you clearly where this is allowed.

4. Blubberhouses Tree Trail

The Blubberhouses Tree Trail is an easy three mile stroll which follows the course of the river Washburn in Nidderdale. If you fancy a longer stroll, you can park at Thruscross Reservoir and take the steps down into the trees away from the car park to reach point 13 on the map, or combine the walk with a circuit of a reservoir. Note – there are a lot of steps right at the end if you choose to start this walk from Thruscross!

We did this walk in summer and it was a delight – the river bank was bursting with foxgloves and other wild flowers, the canopy provided by the trees provided shelter from the intermittent summer showers, and best of all we saw a rather regal heron about ten metres away from the path!

Hello Mr Heron!

The path is pretty level throughout this walk if you avoid the steps up to Thruscross reservoir. There is a short stretch along the busy A59 so take care here – fortunately there is pavement you can walk along and the section of road you turn off to walk along is a lot quieter. You do cross some fields which could have livestock in (sheep or cows) – we came across this very lively herd of Belted Galloways who by happy chance were on the other side of a fence, but I still felt pretty sweaty after walking along the fence line for a few hundred metres with them thundering up and down! By the end of this section I was seriously wondering if they had used a recording of a Belted Galloway for the Orc war-cries in Lord of the Rings.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. The sections along the river are absolute dog walking goals with no livestock to worry about and gentle sections of river where your dog can have a swim. You will however need to put your dog on the lead for the sections along road and over fields – although to be honest I think ours were so tired out from swimming that they didn’t notice the leads going on at all! This was one of the first places that Coal braved the water and given how much flailing about he did I’m glad we picked somewhere where he could have a paddle without much of a current pulling him along!

3. Silton Forest

Silton Forest is a Forestry Commission plantation not far from Thirsk on the edge of the North York Moors. We have been here absolutely loads of times as it’s really easy to get to and never busy. Parking is free in a small parking area and I’ve never seen more than one or two other cars here at any one time.

There is no set route that we like to follow – trails criss cross the woods and you could spend hours wandering around without passing anywhere twice – it is therefore recommended to keep where you’ve been in mind so you can get back to the car! If you follow the main track up the hill from the car park this will take you out of the trees and onto the Cleveland Way (pictured), where you could walk for miles in either direction.

The paths at Silton are a bit of a mixed bag. The main track which climbs through the forest to reach the Cleveland way is level and well surfaced; the network of subsidiary paths are not. This spiderweb of interconnecting paths takes you off the beaten track and you will brush past festive pine cones in winter and amble through tunnels of butterflies in summer. Some paths get overgrown with nettles and brambles in the warmer months, while in winter, certain patches become boggy marsh. It’s all part of the adventure to me, just make sure you wear sturdy footwear!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Merry absolutely ADORES it here. There are so many exciting smells, plenty of pheasants to chase (great for practising recall!) and best of all, if you don’t go up to the Cleveland Way where there are sheep, your dog can spend the entire walk off their lead. One thing to bear in mind is that you do get the odd mountain biker in these woods and they tend to hurtle around corners at speed – so keep your eyes and ears peeled to keep your dog from getting hit by any bikes.

2. Nutwith Common

Nutwith Common on the edge of the Swinton Estate is another place we love to go for a wander. A deciduous wood, rather than a coniferous one like Silton, this is one of the loveliest places to come for a bit of Autumn colour. Parking is free in a lay-by a few hundred metres from the nearby Hackfall Woods car park. We usually just have an amble through the trees, however, it you want to follow a set route this walk on AllTrails combines Nutwith Common with it’s very popular neighbour Hackfall. Hackfall tends to be absolutely swamped with people in the summer and on weekends so this might be one to save for a midweek day.

The paths here are generally pretty level but they do get very soggy. Walking here is a delight but after any rain you need to watch out for squelchy patches! The footpaths around Nutwith Common are all permissive footpaths rather than public rights of way so make doubly sure to take any litter and/or dog waste home with you so that the paths remain open for everyone to enjoy (not that you shouldn’t be doing this everywhere!).

There are plenty of local pubs nearby if you want to start or end your walk with a meal – there is a pub in the nearby village of Grewelthorpe or alternatively head into the pretty market town of Masham and visit the dog friendly White Bear.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. How could anyone doubt that Merry loves it here with such a happy little face! In my experience all dogs love walks in the woods and Nutwith Common is no exception. Most of the time we do come across a few other local dog walkers and their dogs all seem to be having a great time too! I’ve just knocked a point off as the woods here are much smaller than Silton, Dalby or Boltby, and so you can’t get quite as exhausting a walk in!

1. Boltby Forest

Top of the list is Boltby Forest near Thirsk. Slightly larger than Silton Forest, you can walk here for hours without seeing another soul even on a relatively busy day. Normally we are lazy and just follow the well surfaced track from the car park for a while and then turn around, but there are a number of circular walks on the High Paradise Farm website which incorporate parts of Boltby. High Paradise Farm is a small holding with holiday accommodation which also has a tea room – perfect for stopping off on a walk! You can only access the team room on foot as the road is for residents only.

I’m not sure why I picked Boltby as the top of this list. I think it’s because you feel so quickly that you’re miles away from everyone else – even on a fairly busy day you won’t see many people once you get away from the car park. There are various branches off the main track which are just as well surfaced and we tend to follow a different one of these every time we go – so technically it’s a new walk every time!

This is another wood that is popular with cyclists and you might see the odd pony from Boltby Trekking Centre. Mostly though it’s local families and dog walkers, probably walking off a Sunday dinner!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Our dogs love it here and so do we. The woods feel a bit more airy and spacious than Silton but there are still plenty of bushes for your dog to disappear into looking for smells! There are probably slightly less pheasants here too although we have seen plenty of deer here over the years. Staying in the forest means that leads aren’t really required, although it’s polite if you see another dog on a lead to recall your dog and put them on a lead until the other dog has passed. You tend not to see many other dog walkers though as the woods are so large that walkers spread out pretty quickly! We very often walk in silence for a while to just listen to the silence (with is never actually silent, there is always plenty of birdsong in the background and the trees themselves make a fair amount of noise).

Keep an eye out for bikes and horses and put your dog on a lead as they pass to avoid accidents. However you are unlikely to encounter many of these which is what makes Boltby such a fab place to walk your dog! Miles and miles of relatively mud-free paths, peace and quiet, just you and the dog… Perfect.

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The Wonders of Wharfedale: 4 Favourite Walks

Wharfedale is made up of every single thing that springs to mind when you ask someone to describe the Yorkshire Dales. Tumbledown barns, haphazard meadows, fluffy cows, burbling brooks and picture-postcard villages. And don’t even get me started on the panoramic views waiting around every corner. Wharfedale is a roulette of big skies and rolling hills, lush dales and gossamer clouds. The wonders of Wharfedale are many and varied and not to be missed, and in this blog I’m going to share some of my favourite walks, ranging from easy family-friendly strolls to more strenuous days on the hills.


Langstrothdale is a tiny valley nestled in the heart of Wharfedale. It comprises the area around Yockenthwaite, Hubberholme and Beckermonds, and is home to a gentle stretch of the river Wharfe which gives Wharfedale its name. The river here is easily accessed from the road which can lead to it being completely packed in summer with picnicking families – it also seems to be a popular spot for wild campers as there were plenty of tents and motorhomes pitched alongside the river when we visited in the summer. It was lovely to see so many young families out and enjoying all that the countryside has to offer – without any litter left lying around which was lovely to see!

The walk we did was the very short and easy two mile circular on the National Trust website. Parking is free on the roadside by Yockenthwaite Bridge and the walk itself should be an enjoyable stroll for walkers of all levels. There are no steep climbs, the terrain is pretty level and there are helpful way markers for much of the route. If it’s a warm day there are opportunities to have a paddle in the river on the return stretch, which runs along the verge between the water and the road. This walk also passes a number of interesting archaeological features including Yockenthwaite stone circle and a small cave – which will be pumping out water if it’s rained recently!

Dog friendly rating – 2.5/5. Although this is a lovely gentle stroll, this isn’t the best walk for burning off excess canine energy. The first half of the walk passes through fields, any of which could have livestock in, and the return passes along the road. This means that all in all there aren’t really many opportunities to let your dog have a good run. Merry did however love having a dip in the river and I spent a good five minutes trying to coax him out! There are no poo bins on this walk so make sure you take any ‘deposits’ home with you.

Conistone Dib

Conistone Dib is an impressive limestone gorge which is located close to the village of Conistone (unsurprisingly!). Historically, water flowed through the gorge, but today it is nearly always dry and you can access the gorge on a stony track. Walking through the gorge almost feels like you’re on another planet, with full sized trees sprouting from the walls all around you and echoes from people walking in front of you bouncing back to sound like they’re behind you! When we did this walk I got a little side tracked taking photos and got left behind a bit – not a problem until I remembered the Barghest said to haunt Trollers Gill and started wondering if there was a similar creature lurking in Conistone Dib…

The seven mile circular route we followed starts from the National Park car park in Grassington (with toilets) and starts off by cutting through Grass Wood before reaching and traversing Conistone Dib. The route we used was from the Cicerone Trail and Fell Running in the Yorkshire Dales guidebook (not that I run any of the routes we follow from this book!), which has lots of routes which make for great half day rambles instead of runs! If you don’t have this book a slightly longer route which is fairly similar is available on the Walking Englishman website.

This walk was actually pretty quiet most of the way around, which surprised me, as Grassington was absolutely heaving with people – it was impossible to socially distance without walking down the middle of the road! As soon as we took the footpath out of the village though the crowds died back and we had the path mostly to ourselves – it only really started to get busier again as we dropped back down into Grassington at the end of the walk.

This walk is definitely a step up from the Langstrothdale amble but you should be fine if you are reasonably fit. The path does wander up and down, without being too steep, but it does feel like you’ve been walking for a while by the time you get to the end! The views are amazing throughout and you do feel like you’re wandering around the pages of a Yorkshire Dales photography book. In particular the views from the top of Coninstone Dib are very impressive and there are lots of eye catching limestone outcrops to look out for.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. The woods are great for exploring and sniffing out new scents, and provide your dog with the opportunity to let off some steam, before going back on the lead for the rest of the walk. Much of this walk passes through fields where there may be livestock and there is a short stretch along a quiet road. We saw both sheep and cows on this walk. This is the first walk where a cow has ever approached us – it was a very slow inquisitive approach, but it was enough to make me power walk across the field as fast as I could! There were quite a few stiles on this walk but they were the easy kind where the steps are built into a dry stone wall, rather than the fiendishly difficult stiles over wire fences where you inevitably get coated in mud lifting your dog over. There is no water on this walk so make sure you take some extra along for your dog.

The Head of Wharfedale

If ‘value for effort’ was a thing, this walk would surely top the list. This five mile magical mystery tour of the head of Wharfedale takes you from the charming village of Buckden to the Lilliputian hamlets of Cray and Hubberholme. There are a few relatively steep climbs on this walk, but these are few and far between, and the views are more than worth the effort. We found this walk in my trusty Pocket Mountains guide to the Yorkshire Dales but a longer online alternative is available on Where2Walk.

There is a large National Park car park in Buckden which also has toilets (hooray!). This does get extremely busy in summer so make sure to arrive early or visit out of season. The Yorkshire Dales National Park introduced a traffic light system on their website this year to let you know how busy their car parks were before you set off, which was really useful, and hopefully something they’ll continue doing in peak season.

While the car park at Buckden can be busy, we saw hardly any other people on this walk. Most people tend to head straight up Buckden Pike and miss out on a lot of what is on offer! This walk passes the dog friendly White Lion Inn at Cray – we didn’t call in as we had packed lunches but it smelled absolutely amazing when we walked past! We will definitely have to head back this way when lockdown ends to sample what’s on offer.

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. As nearly all of this walk passes through fields dogs need to be on a lead or under close control for the majority of the time. There is a small section on the final descent into Buckden where you can let your dog off, but this isn’t very long. You do cross the river which provides the opportunity for a drink and a paddle which is perfect on a summer’s day! Toss in a dog friendly pub and really, what more could you want?!


Did you know that Wharfedale has it’s very own version of the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge? The Wharfedale Three Peaks of Buckden Pike, Great Whernside and Birks make for a challenging 18 mile hike with great views and much less foot traffic.

Just like the Yorkshire Three Peaks, their Wharfedale equivalents make for a memorable hiking experience whether tackled together or individually. Buckden Pike is by far the most popular, with the car park at the foot of the hill heaving at weekends and in summer, but Birks offers an unjustly overlooked alternative with (in my opinion) better views and a high chance of seeing zero other walkers.

I can’t find the exact route we followed online but there are a number of routes with different starting points to be found if you have a Google – the closest one I can find is this route from Walking in the Yorkshire Dales which is a ten mile circular from Litton.

The walk itself had a few steep climbs but the gradient is predominantly gentle – just watch out for the boggy sections or you might end up with water over the top of your boots! All of the Wharfedale Three Peaks are notoriously boggy and therefore best tackled on a dry day or when it’s very cold, unless you don’t mind getting wet feet! (Carrying a spare pair of socks is always a good idea).

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Dogs need to be on leads/under close control for the duration of this walk due to livestock (we saw both sheep and cows). There is however a section along the river where your dog can have a splash, and the length of this walk means that even the most athletic pooches will be napping in the car on the way home! As always please pick up poos and dispose of them responsibly.

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The Magic of Malhamdale

Malham. The ultimate honeypot of the Yorkshire Dales, it draws visitors in their hundreds, both locals and tourists alike. And for good reason! Malham Cove towers above visitors providing a dramatic backdrop where walkers can spot peregrine falcons diving in front of the cliffs. Rock climbers are also drawn to the challenge offered by the cove, while those who prefer not to climb can trudge up the hundreds of steps to reach the limestone pavement at the top. But this is just the beginning of all the wonders of Malham just waiting to be explored…

We are lucky to live close enough to Malham to be able to drop in for a walk whenever we like. Our favourite walk is this circular walk on Walks in Yorkshire which takes in all of Malhamdale’s most popular spots. The cove, limestone pavement and tarn are all visited on this seven and a half mile loop, as well as Janet’s Foss and Gordale Scar. This walk does get exceptionally busy and we therefore avoid it like the plague in summer and school holidays – if you want to enjoy Malham in relative peace and quiet a week day in the off season is best.

The walk itself is easy to navigate, and should be manageable for walkers with a reasonable level of fitness. The climb up from Gordale Scar is pretty steep but this is a relatively short section of the walk, so persevere, it’s worth it! Up on the exposed ground near the tarn and limestone pavement it can be very cold and windy so make sure to take plenty of layers if you visit in winter, and even a few extras if you visit in summer – you never know with the great British weather! The first time Sam and I did the walk was a beautiful crisp winter’s day with a dusting of snow on the higher ground. Walking back to the limestone pavement we came across a slowly melting snowman which was lovely – Merry was a bit suspicious at first but soon came to love it!

Do you wanna build a snowman?

Parking for this walk is in the Yorkshire Dales National Park car park which is pay and display and has public toilets. There are two pubs in Malham if you want to start or end your walk with a pub lunch – the Buck Inn in particular frequently appears on lists of ‘Best Pubs in the Yorkshire Dales’ and is dog friendly to boot!

The limestone landscape of Malhamdale has drawn visitors for centuries, from 19th century tourists who came to see the natural wonders of the area, to 21st century Potterheads touring locations of the films! The limestone pavement at Malham was a location for one of the Deathly Hallows scenes where Harry and Hermione are setting up camp and is therefore a feature on many Harry Potter bucket lists. Janet’s Foss is also a place associated with stories, but this time, the story is much older. The beautiful waterfall and woodland glade are said to be the home of Janet, Queen of the Fairies, and it is easy to imagine fairies dancing across the water and through the wild garlic which thrives in the woods here!

There’s something magical about Malhamdale. The diversity and wonder of the Yorkshire Dales is captured in a microcosm centred on Malham: fairytale woods and waterfalls, extraordinary limestone pavements, windswept moors, the wonderful gorge at Gordale Scar and the awe-inspiring cove itself. Gordale Scar is a surprise favourite for many: people flock to Malham to see the cove with no idea about the enormous gorge just around the corner! Many people are so thrilled by this discovery that it stays with them as their favourite part of the day.

For those who don’t want a strenuous walk and want to avoid the crowds that gather around the cove, Malham Tarn is a slightly quieter alternative. There is a National Trust walk starting from Watersinks car park which is slightly shorter at around four and a half miles. Malham Tarn is one of only three natural lakes in North Yorkshire – the other two are Semerwater in Raydale and Gormire Lake in the North York Moors (which you can read about in my blog about Sutton Bank).

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. This walk is a bit of a mixed bag for dogs. At the start you pass along the river and some enclosed lanes, where your dog can have a swim and a run off the lead. In the woods too there are opportunities for off-lead running and swimming. However, beyond this point, leads should be on as there are both sheep and cows on this walk as well as a seventy metre drop off the top of the cove. The limestone pavement, too, can be tricky for dogs, with deep cracks criss-crossing the surface. Dogs can and do manage this walk though so don’t let this put you off!

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Northumberland: North of the Wall

As I write this blog, we are just home from an incredible week in Northumberland, where we stayed near Wooler. None of us (dogs included) have moved a muscle all day as we are so exhausted from all of the walks we managed to cram in! We have ventured up to Northumberland quite a few times before, but never this far north, and never for a whole week. And what a world we have been missing out on! Previously our knowledge of Northumberland centred on Hadrian’s Wall and Kielder Forest – however, north of Hadrian’s Wall, the Cheviots and Northumberland National Park offer a huge expanse of wild and un-peopled wilderness, just waiting to be explored.

Following the Pennine Way from Windy Gyle

Yeavering Bell

As Wooler was only a few hours drive from home, we had time to do a quick walk before arriving at our home for the week, Kypie Cottage (more to come later). Yeavering Bell literally means ‘Hill of the goats’ and is one of the places where you can spot the feral goats which roam the Cheviots. We did spot a few in the fields on our way over but only one on the hill itself. Yeavering Bell is also the largest Iron Age hill fort in Northumberland so is a great walk for history lovers – you can combine your visit with a trip to Ad Gefrin, home to a Royal Borough in Anglo-Saxon times, where you park at the start of the walk.

The route we followed was from our trusty Pocket Mountains guidebook. It was easy to follow and not too strenuous – after the fairly gentle ascent we took, we felt pretty smug seeing other people climbing up the steeper way on our way down! If you don’t have the Pocket Mountains book a similar circular route is available on the Northumberland National Park website. Parking is free in a lay-by next to the Ad Gefrin monument. To avoid walking down the road to get to the start, you can go through the gate by the monument, and follow the track down to the corner where you pick up the public footpath,.

This is a great walk if you just have a morning or an afternoon but still want to get completely away from it all. I wasn’t expecting much in the way of autumn colour but wading through the sea of bracken to start the climb up the hill was pretty spectacular!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. There is livestock throughout this walk so dogs should be under close control or on a lead. However, this is a lovely quiet walk, and we didn’t see any other dogs which was perfect for Coal. We did see lots of grouse so we had a very alert spaniel all of the way around! There is no water on this walk so you will need to carry extra for your dog. A big bonus for us was that all of the stiles had gates next to them – so there was no need to heft a 25kg Labrador over any fences, hooray!


No trip to Northumberland would be complete without a trip to the coast – and those who have been following this blog for a while will know how much I love the beaches here in particular! If you haven’t already read it, you can read more in my blog about the Northumberland Coast.

Bamburgh is famous as a the historic capital of the kingdom of Northumbria – the same kingdom which had a royal borough at Ad Gefrin! Many Anglo-Saxon finds of international importance have been unearthed in the area, but visitors today are drawn to the magnificent castle which overlooks the village and beach.

Bamburgh castle itself is dog friendly, but we just popped over for a walk along the beach at the end of a rainy day, and didn’t visit the castle itself. It was actually surprisingly busy on the beach, but this might have been as the tide was coming in, so there was less space for strolling! There are a few car parks in Bamburgh, the castle car park is £3 (cash), or alternatively there is a large car park just over the road from the castle where you can pay on your smartphone. There is lots of useful information about car parks and parking charges across Northumberland on the Northumberland County Council website.

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. The beach here is dog friendly and there are bins in the car park, so no need to quadruple bag poos and take them home with you, as you can pop them in the bin! I’ve just knocked off a point as the beach was pretty busy when we went with lots of people and dogs. It did drop off remarkably once it got to four o’clock (about fifteen minutes after we arrived) as people started to head home. I’m not sure why as the sunset sky here was amazing so they all missed out on a treat!

Alwinton to Kidland Forest

Alwinton is a great place to head out into the National Park. We did a circular walk which we found on the Ordnance Survey app which took us across to Kidland Forest, where there are plenty of Forestry walking trails. If you are lucky you may also spot a red squirrel! We didn’t really do more than skirt the edge of the forest before following the river back to Alwinton. I can’t find the route we followed online but there is a nice route on the Northumberland National Park website which covers a similar area.

There is a national park car park in Alwinton with toilets, or you can park for free (considerately) in the village. The village was pretty quiet when we visited but this may have been as it was very, very windy – not for fair weather walkers!

Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. Similarly to many countryside walks there may be livestock for much of the walk. However, Kidland Forest (if you venture that way) offers miles of trails which are perfect for sniffs, or if you follow the route along the river Alwin, there is the opportunity for dogs to have a paddle! Either way there is something for dogs to enjoy on these walks. Please pick up poos and dispose of them responsibly.

St Cuthbert’s Cave

St Cuthbert’s Cave is a hidden gem that I can’t believe we hadn’t visited before! St Cuthbert was an Anglo-Saxon monk who lived in the 7th century and who was buried on the island on Lindisfarne. As the island increasingly came under attack from Viking raiders, the monks who lived there sought shelter on the mainland, journeying across the north to eventually settle at Chester-le-Street. Believe it or not the monks carried the remains of St Cuthbert with them, and St Cuthbert’s Cave is said to be one of the places they stopped to rest on their journey.

From the reviews on Tripadvisor it sounds like this can be fairly busy in school holidays, as the cave is easily accessed from a small car park about half a mile away. This car park was not the easiest to find – the Sat Nav took us to Holburn, but you need to carry on a little further, about halfway down the road between Holburn and North Hazelrigg.

There are plenty of options if you want to extend the walk to take in more of the stunning countryside around this area. We followed a seven mile circular walk from our Ordnance Survey pathfinder book which took us past the cave and on to sections of forestry, then up to higher ground for fabulous views over to Holy Island (pictured), finishing off with an easy climb up Greenshin Hill for panoramic views. It’s worth keeping an eye out along the path away from the cave for the impressive sandstone boulders which are casually at the side of the path! If you don’t own this book there is a similar route description on Northumberland Walks, but this doesn’t take you to the summit of Greenshin Hill, and you will need to pair this route with a map. This really was such an enjoyable walk with so many great views for so little effort!

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. There are ample opportunities for off-lead running around on this walk. Ours loved the woodland sections and were bouncing off the walls around the cave trying to sniff out all the smells as fast as possible! The open sections did involve crossing a few fields with cows and sheep in but they took no notice of us whatsoever – it’s always worth being cautious around livestock, especially cows, and putting dogs on a lead. This was another walk where we didn’t have to clamber over any stiles – the best kind!

Windy Gyle

The Cheviot Hills are peppered with a motley collection of fantastic hill names. Ogre Hill, Bloodybush Edge and Beefstand Hill are just a few of the wonderful appellations guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. We ventured up the very aptly named Windy Gyle for a marvellous walk of around seven and a half miles, again from the Ordnance Survey Pathfinder book (alternative online route available on Walk the Way in a Day).

This was probably the toughest walk we did in the whole week – the wind battered us, the path was 75% bog and there was a fair bit of steep climbing at the start! The views more than make up for the effort though and I would recommend spending a day in the Cheviots to anyone visiting Northumberland. The highlight of the day was definitely coming across around twenty feral goats as we came off the summit and joined the Pennine Way!

Feral goats on the Pennine Way

Parking for this walk was free in a lay-by (please park considerately, if someone is already parked there you can park further down the road at Wedder Leap car park). Wrap up warm before you head out on this walk as it was a balmy two degrees up on the ridge compared to eleven degrees when we left the car! This was by far the most remote walk we did and we didn’t see another soul apart from a farmer fixing some fencing on our way back down to the car. Perfect!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. We kept ours on leads for the entirety of this walk as there could be livestock/feral goats at any point. There’s also no water apart from the odd boggy puddle so make sure you take some water for your dog to drink! Ours were also scared of the goats so this is something to bear in mind if your dog is usually fine with livestock – those horns can look pretty menacing if they’re on an animal five times your size!

Doddington Moor

Northumberland is absolutely heaving with history, and Doddington Moor is no exception. Northumberland is a great place to come and explore prehistory, but this doesn’t begin and end with Hadrian’s wall. The walk we followed from our Cicerone guide took us past two sets of Neolithic cup and ring marks, two hill forts, the remains of ancient settlements (invisible to my untrained eye) and the remains of a stone circle – all in just shy of two hours! A similar route can be found online on the Walking Britain website.

We parked for free in the small village of Doddington and found this to be a really pleasant easy walk. There is a short section along the road to begin with but we didn’t see any cars at all, and it is all on tracks and across moorland for the majority of the walk.

The path was refreshingly dry after our day out in the Cheviots with no prolonged steep sections. We did still however get wonderful views throughout this walk, especially the view of The Cheviot which you get from the summit of Dodd Law (the highest point on Doddington moor). Navigation was largely straightforward with a few diversions to the first cup and ring marks (into a cow field – which I braved to see them, it was worth it!). The final way marker as you come down from the high ground is almost completely obscured by overgrown gorse, so you might need to use GPS or refer to your map to re-join the road.

Dog friendly rating – 2.5/5. This was another walk where we kept the dogs on leads for the entire walk. The enclosed track has signs up asking for dogs to be kept on leads, which makes sense as it leads you straight onto the open field where there are sheep. As mentioned before, the diversion to the cup and ring marked rocks takes you into a field of cows – they weren’t bothered by us but they were on the other side of the field! Merry did drag me into an extremely prickly bush trying to chase a grouse. This resulted in us having to stop for a quarter of an hour so I could pick all of the prickles out of my trousers – not impressed! There are a few stiles on this walk which aren’t in the best condition – most can be avoided though by walking along the fence and sending the dogs through holes underneath it.

Embleton Bay

We really love Embleton Bay. We visit nearly every time we go to Northumberland and we pop up for the occasional day trip too! Dunstanburgh Castle is, in my eyes, the most photogenic castle you will ever come across, and the dog friendly beach stretches for miles in either direction.

We usually park in Craster and walk past the castle to reach the beach, however, we were just stopping off for a quick walk this time so parked at Low Newton for quicker access to the beach. Parking is about £1 per hour and if you don’t have cash you can pay on your phone. There is free parking in a lay-by not far from the car park but this was full by the time we arrived.

Given how many cars were in the car park and parked down the road we were surprised by how empty the beach was – plenty of space for social distancing! It looked like the majority of people who had parked up had gone to the Ship Inn for lunch – it was very busy outside so we didn’t stop.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Our dogs love this beach and it’s not hard to see why! The sea is perfect for splashing in and the vast expanse of sand means that zoomies can stretch for hundreds of metres without pestering another dog walker. There were a fair few other dogs on the beach but only one came over to say hello so it wasn’t too stressful for Coal. An added bonus was the amount of seaweed sticks lying around for fetching!

Thrunton Woods

This walk was not what I expected. At all. It was a thousand times better! As the Cicerone route description we used points out, when you think of a woodland walk, you do not think of it being airy and spacious. And yet that’s exactly what this walk is!

The route we followed was just over eight miles long and I loved every second of it – I was sorry to see the car (and normally after anything more than six miles I am very happy to see the car!). You begin and end in the woods, but the middle section of the walk climbs to higher ground, with breath taking views to the Cheviots, Simonside Hills and the coast. If you don’t own the Cicerone guide a slightly shorter route is available on the Happy Hiker website.

Parking for this walk was free at the Forestry Commission car park which is sign posted from Thrunton village (our Sat Nav took us to a trout fishery). This is a four hour walk so take a packed lunch – the cairn on Hard Nab was the perfect place to sit out of the wind while still enjoying the view!

The paths on this walk were a bit hit and miss. In the woods themselves the paths were well maintained and dry, whereas up on the higher ground, it was very boggy and the paths were badly eroded in places, especially on the walk up Long Crag. That didn’t put us off though – is it a proper walk if you haven’t nearly stacked it at least twice!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. How could I give this walk anything other than 100% dog friendly rating! Ours absolutely loved bombing around the woods off their leads and it was so nice to be able to relax without having to worry about any livestock. We did see a few horse riders so we popped the dogs back on their leads for this and moved off the path, and didn’t have any problems with them barking at the horses. We did keep them on their leads for the open sections as there were a few steep drops but they were so tired out from haring around the woods that I don’t think they minded at all! Be prepared for your dog to get very muddy on this walk through a combination of exploring in the woods and walking through bogs on the higher sections – I have actually now invested in a Mud Daddy because of the state my car got into after this walk!

Where we stayed

We stayed at the gorgeous Kypie Cottage which is located about ten minutes north of Wooler. I honestly could not recommend this cottage more – it had everything you could ever want and more! There were so many little touches that really showed just how much thought and effort the owners have put into making this gem of a cottage a home away from home.

We especially loved the log burner which was perfect to curl up in front of at the end of a chilly walk. The welcome hamper was exceptionally generous and had all of the basics that I’d forgotten to bring – milk, bread and butter included, as well as a whole heap of other treats including jam, wine, popcorn and much more! The interior of the cottage is beautifully decorated (I actually downloaded the Dulux colour matcher app to try and copy their paint colours in our house but alas the app isn’t very good).

Dog friendly rating – 5/5! 10/10! 100%! This cottage is ideal for people who want to bring their dogs with them. Our welcome pack included dog treats and tennis balls, there is plenty of space in both the living room and kitchen, and the garden is enclosed so no need to stand out in the rain while you wait for that last wee! Ours absolutely loved the log burner and spent every evening passed out on the rug after a fantastic day’s walking.

I also just want to mention how brilliant Canine Cottages were during our holiday. The day after we arrived (Saturday) the second lockdown was announced to start on the Thursday – they got in touch within 24 hours to let us know our options and made the whole thing much less stressful – we’ll definitely book with them again!

We are still recovering from such a busy week – but there’s so much more remaining to see and do that we’ll definitely be back soon! If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog today make sure you subscribe below: