Classic Dales

41 Yorkshire Rivers Way – Classic Dales

This is the original path devised to link the five major Yorkshire Dales with few small alterations. The original starting point was Saltaire but I felt it needed a start that involved more than a token visit to the River Aire. The path follows the other major rivers for a number of miles along their route and while this may seem like a minor point but I just liked the idea that a few miles along the banks of the Aire added a degree of balance to the walk. Hence the new starting point of Margrave.

From Gargrave the route passes through Ilkley, Pateley Bridge, Middleham and Reeth among other towns before finishing in Richmond. Along the way it links the Rivers Aire, Wharfe, Washburn, Nidd, Ure, Burn, Cover, Bain and Swale. So that’s 9 out of the 41 rivers ticked off the list.

Total mileage is 90 miles (144km) spread across seven stages. The average daily mileage is reasonable but Days 4 and 5 are difficult to split into more than 2 stages with the result being 32 miles in two days over some quite open moorland. 

Day 1. A little over 11 miles to start with from the River Aire in Gargrave to the Wharfe in Addingham. The path into Skipton alongside the Leeds and Liverpool Canal is shared with The Pennines and the Wharfedale Loop sections and gives an easy start to the day. A sharp climb starts as you leave Skipton and this is followed by a traverse along the steep valley side before a steady descent into the streets of Addingham.

Day 2. Another gentle start to the 12 mile day as the path stays alongside the river for the first few miles into Ilkley. A climb of around 4 miles starts as you leave Ilkley and heads past Middleton with a dip to cross Bow Beck at Fairy Dell eventually topping out at some obscure point on the moors. The path then takes a steady downwards angle via woods and fields to the shore of Fewston Reservoir and the final stretch is a waterside walk for a mile or so the Blubberhouses.

Day 3. 12.5 miles across more open land today with a couple of reservoirs thrown in for good measure. Undulating in a generally uphill direction for most of the first half of the day passing Thruscross Reservoir, Padside and Heyshaw before meeting Nidderdale. Glasshouses and Pateley Bridge are the first two villages in the Dale and you follow the Nidd upstream to Gouthwaite Reservoir. As with yesterday the day ends with a mile or so walk along the reservoir. Journeys end for the day is either Bouthwaite or Ramsgill.

Day 4. Today is a long one. 16 miles of open moorland, fields and river side from Bouthwaite to Middleham. Uphill all the way climbing around 300m in the first couple of miles to reach the highest pont of the day. Then we head downhill to Roundhill reservoir followed by a trek over open land to the sharp up and down of Grimes Gill. The next notable landmark is the River Burn at Gollinglith Foot. One more climb then downhill to Ellastring and onto Jervaulx Abbey. The final few miles follow the River Ure and River Cover towards Middleham which is entered via a quick jaunt over the small mound that is Williams Hill.

Day 5. Another long one today covering 16 miles along Wensleydale from Middleham to Bainbridge. The first 6 miles are steadily uphill with the first target being Middleham Low Moor which is topped after around 2 miles. A gentle mile takes us over Naylor’s Hill after which we skirt and then climb onto Middleham High Moor. The path steepens for the final section onto the highest point of the day in the plateau of Penhill. Then it’s a drop for a few miles back down from the heights towards the valley bottom to arrive in West Burton. After a flattish section it’s a sharp climb to our second plateau of the day as we cross Aysgarth Pasture then a gentle end to a long day brings us into Bainbridge. The River Bain at Bainbridge is the only one of our rivers contacted today having walked 16 miles along Wensleydale without being any closer than 200 yards to the River Ure.

Day 6. Slightly shorter today with a 13 mile jaunt from Bainbridge on the River Ure to Grinton on the River Swale. After spending all yesterday heading West along Wensleydale we start today by heading back east along the north bank of the river. The first third of the day is a valley side walk through Askrigg, Newbiggin and Woodhall before climbing up and away from the river for a while. One final eastwards section to Castle Bolton then it’s to the north and out of Wensleydale into Swaledale. This section skirts the top of Black Hill to drop to Dent’s Houses before the final climb over Greets Hill. After Greets Hill its downhill for the last couple of miles to Grinton.

Day 7. A 10 miler along Swaledale from Grinton to Richmond following Wainwright’s Coast to coast path. A short step to the north crosses the Swale and hits Low Fremington at which point then path turns east along side the river for a couple of miles before climbing up the valley side towards Marrick. An undulating 3 miles follows taking you further away from the river and then dropping in the village of Marske. The valley steepens for the walk through Applegarth Low Wood to Applegarth and then on through Whitcliffe Wood and finally in Richmond. Journeys end is the bridge over the Swale in the shadow of Richmond Castle.

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