Travel North - 5: West From Bedale - up Through the Middle Dales and Back
Start from Bedale's historic market place, where the Michaelmas Hiring Fairs were held
Leave your car in the car park and travel by train from Leeming Bar to Redmire - it'll soon be Aysgarth! - with a quiet walk maybe to historic Castle Bolton where Mary, Queen of Scots was kept as 'guest' of the Scrope family in the 16th Century. Stroll through the village and stop for a drink at the Bolton Arms before starting back to the station and another ride through pleasant countryside back to Leeming Bar
Wensleydale Railway journeys start here:
- Wensleydale Railway
Start your trip into the dale from Leeming Bar near the A1(M) to Redmire, near Castle Bolton, phone 0845 450 5474. Wensleydale Railway, Leeming Bar Station, Leases Road, Leeming Bar, Northallerton, North Yorkshire DL7 9AR
Wensleydale views - Masham
Up Hill & Down Dale
Fancy a trip up west? In my previous three write-ups I've been west to east over the North York Moors, along the coast north to south and more specifically around the Eston Hills and over to Guisborough. This time we're off up Wensleydale to begin with and across the middle of the Yorkshire Dales.
Why call the area the Dales? Well, on the Moors there's more moor than dale, and in the Dales there are more dales than moors. Rule of thumb, very basic. Yorkshire folk like to keep things simple. It's like the difference between the words 'hard' and 'difficult', or 'simple' and 'easy'. Anyway, where were we? Right, got it! The best place to start is Bedale. Known as the Gateway to the Dales, this market down is as easy as it gets, one main market street through the middle, one way down to Ripon, another to Northallerton, a third to Masham and the through route to Leyburn. We're going to Masham on the B6268.
So what's at Masham? you ask. Hang on, enjoy the scenery and we'll soon be there. The road is a bit up-and-down and round-and-about but as country roads go the way is fairly straight. It's like a politician's answer. Assuming it's a nice day, open the side windows, take in the air and once you're away from the town gun the engine and get shifting. Towards the end of this part of the route there's a dog-leg right onto the A6108 Ripon-Leyburn road. Pass the old Masham station site that's been turned into a caravan site. The goods shed is now a visitor centre. Sharp right, sharp left over the narrow bridge over the River Ure (Wensleydale used to be called Uredale until the 18th Century. Now it's affectionately known locally as Yoredale) and up a short hill into Masham, to the market place. Well, you say, one market place is much the same as another. Wrong! Whereas Bedale Market spreads along the main road to Leytburn, this is in a dedicated square. Like any other there's a market cross, and an Honesty Box close to it to put your parking fee into. What? you say. Such trust is rarely seen, but it's between you and your conscience. Now there's a long word. Drop your coins in and look around you. Wednesday and Friday are market days, like some others (Guisborough, for instance). You can get anything here from a cure for a cold in the head to all the gear you need to create a perfect garden. Look around the square, there are three public houses, three cafes, a fish shop, a town hall and a nursery school. Away from the square? Now you're talking.
First of all there's Theakston's Brewery with its visitor centre. There's a bar here where you can taste all their wares and buy your souvenirs including presentation packs of bottled beers. There's also the brewery tour for the over-18's. Back into the market square again after a small sample of the product of your choice. Take a right-angle to the left at the road junction and follow the road past the post office and left again past the filling station. Here's the Black Sheep Brewery, with its own visitor centre and brewery tour. Two breweries, one name: Theakston? The clue is in the name, the Black Sheep brewery. (Family bust-up, like John and Samuel Smith at Tadcaster). The Black Sheep Brewery has tied houses (the brewery dictates sales) just about everywhere in the Dales area) many breweries would give their eye-teeth to own, in all the main tourist traps!
On our way again, on through East Witton along z-bends that make you slow down and straight stretches you can practically thunder along on (safely, of course)! High dry stone walls, Jervaulx Abbey and its tea room (advertised in a welcome to all and sundry), and round a wide bend into Middleham. Again, several public houses and inns around the main square, cafes for the abstemious and under-18's and a ruined castle that used to belong in turn to the Neville family (Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick owned it until his sudden demise in the bloody battle of Barnet in the Wars of the Roses), then Richard III wedded his daughter Anne and took ownership. Before Oliver Cromwell took it from the royals in the next big civil war and rendered it uninhabitable it was a model of mediaeval castle architecture, as evidenced by the drawings. English Heritage owns it, and it's not cheap to look into unless you're a member, but it's worthwhile at least once. Another attraction of Middleham is seeing all the racehorses being exercised. (There are several big racing stables in the Dales, to go with the nine racecourses I mentioned in West to East Over the Moors). You see the gallops on the right side of the road up Coverdale.
At Coverham is the hall, home of the Forbidden Corner. To enter the oddest theme park you ever saw you have to book ahead in the Information Centre at Middleham. You pass through follies, water traps, underground passages, turning floors and dark corners to the large laid out garden where a life-size, painted statue of a Greek or Roman goddess lets you think someone's gone overboard and stripped to the buff until you get close up to her. Red-blooded males beware!
On, uphill still through Carlton (another one!) in Coverdale, a dog-leg past a farmhouse and up to Coverhead. A farm track leads uphill to the right away from the road and you can admire the view from the roadside. Here the infant River Cover burbles around a wide bend under an old stone bridge and around another, wider reverse bend. Note the road past the bridge is narrow, steep and you have to get up there sharpish before anyone else comes downhill and you have to remember how to do a hill start! That done you're still going uphill after the initial climb, downhill, round sharp bends, uphill again until to reach the 'watershed' between Coverdale and Upper Wharfedale. Then it's steep downhill around sharp hairpins, 1-in-4 mostly, past plantation woodland into Kettlewell.
You're in Upper Wharfedale. There is the B6265 that leads along miles of high dry stone walls, the meandering infant River Wharfe fed by other high dale rivers and springs, and a comfortable, relaxed village atmosphere. Take the road south-westward across the bridge. A little way along here is the hamlet of Kilnsey, overshadowed by the looming Kilnsey Crag. A few houses, a public house and a small park and in the late summertime you might come to the Kilnsey Show, held on the river plain on he other side of the high dry-stone wall. Brass bands, stalls, sheep dog demonstrations, fattened livestock and demonstrations of sheep-shearing.
On along to Grassington and Threshfield, on down the B6265 towards but not into Skipton. The A65 takes you from the roundabout at Stirton west to Settle, where the famed railway runs northward to Carlisle by some of the most mouth-watering scenery. To follow the route by road leave the A65 at Settle for the B6479 to Horton-in-Ribblesdale.
Horton is a small road village, little building away from the road, but a view to the north-east of Yorkshire's highest mountain, Pen-y-Gent. That's right, it's got a Welsh-sounding name, unlike the other two peaks, Great Whernside and Ingleborough. Funny, a peak having the name of a town. The nearest town is Ingleton. At Horton is a climbing and hiking centre halfway along the village past one of two inns. Once a year there is a cycle race between these mountains called the Three Peaks Race, where cyclists have to have back-up, lots of spare tyres, plenty of energy and a healthy store of luck and pluck! You can buy Kendal Mint Cake at the centre, plain white or chocolate-coated. You can buy all manner of confectionery, tea, coffee, soup... food! You can also 'clock in' if you're on a walking or climbing holiday between the peaks. If you're not back by the time you've told the centre proprietor they send out the rescue team.This district is dangerous for the unprepared or unwary, make no mistake!
Next: Horton to Hawes.
Middleham Castle and town - see also the Middleham page in this series
30 Walks In The Yorkshire Dales
Thirty walks of all lengths from a leisurely amble by a riverside to a lengthy hike that'll bring roses to your cheeks and an appetite that'll help you through generous portions of Yorkshire nosh and good drinks (try the Black Sheep Brewery's tied houses for variety of taste)! Good country air and scenery to inspire.
Middleham to Ribblehead
Spring, summer or autumn walking in lush green surroundings in the dale bottoms, dark rocks, heather blooming pink to deep purple in the late summer and autumn. Wide open views, ruined castles, abbeys, hamlets, settlements, small towns and then you've got Richmond and Ripon for shopping, museums and tall buildings (Ripon cathedral, Richmond castle) or fast-flowing rivers that hurtle over waterfalls of all sizes and heights.
Hawes to Askrigg, north of the Ure
Yorkshire Dales National Park
Not just any guide book, see the best without going round in circles wondering what it is you've seen, want to see or are going to see. There are places in the book I haven't been to yet, and I've covered most of the area since I first started to drive. Use it as a point of reference or as inspiration for a day out. So much to see, I could never hope to list all the options here! (East-west, which is best?)
Horton to Askrigg and Carperby
Again the B6255 road out of Horton-in-Ribblesdale looks as if it had been laid by a drunken navvy with a grudge. To leave the village there's a narrow bridge and a very sharp left turn that takes you uphill under the Settle-Carlisle line and then sharp right again. You need good brakes for this road - as anywhere I've taken you so far - but there's probably more twists and drops that take the road over, around, under and over the railway line in turn, finally under at Ribblehead and across to a 'T'- junction. Right is towards Hawes, left to Ingleton. And more or less straight ahead is an undulating moorland track that takes you under Ribblehead Viaduct.
Admire this quarter-mile long structure that carries this part of the 72 mile south-north route over this part of Blea Moor called Beatty Moss. There's a small car park on the right by the Hawes road. A mobile snack bar is there most of the year, so you can enjoy a cuppa whilst taking in the view. Feeling adventurous? Good, when you've finished your tea stride across the road and over the spongy hummocks, stony track and debris-strewn surface under the viaduct. You'd be a bit flaky if you were about 130 years old! The viaduct is maintained, however, so it's fairly safe to walk under and around. Work was done on it not long ago at great cost to make it safe, so make yourself at home and gawp up at the sheer size of it, all twenty-four arches of it, 105 feet high! Words of warning: the weather can change rapidly up here - one minute warm and fine, next there's a cold, clammy mist everywhere or drizzle sets in from the west - so make sure you've got good waterproof footwear on, and waterproof cape close to hand. If you're walking for long distances up here you need cord or weatherproof trousers and leggings over strong walking boots.
Back to the wheels, and the B6255 to Hawes beckons. Stone barns and high stone walls, and watch that bend, up and over. The bends are not as sharp as they were before, but there's always the odd one to keep your mind on what you're doing. At last you come down into Gayle, above Hawes, and the Wensleydale Creamery beckons over on the right. A medium-sized car park accommodates a couple of dozen cars - even long wheel-based Land Rovers. You're spoilt for choice now. Do you go around the shop first for a quick tea and biscuits or lunch, or do you keep that for later and 'do' the museum and viewing gallery where you take in the old means of cheese-making and watch the modern process of turning milk into cheese? Either way, there's at least a worthwhile couple of hours' of your time. Taking the way down into the market town of Hawes along the A684, you can see on the right the old mill race behind a seventeenth century bridge. Out of the town now there's time for a diversion to Hardraw. In the bar of the Green Dragon to your right you need to pay a small fee for the upkeep of the pathway to Hardraw Force (or fall). A pleasant walk this, and before you arrive you can hear the thunder of falling water. The 96 foot high water fall froze once near the end of the 19th Century! Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy visited 'Hardraw Scaur' in December, 1799. Above the Force is a series of attractive smaller drops.
You can take the road direct to Askrigg through Sedbusk from here, a narrow road with passing places for when you come up against a tractor from time to time. Past Sedbusk a road to the right leads to Bainbridge where the Roman military camp of Virosidum is laid out at the back of the village. The Bain - England's shortest river at 2 miles long - flows out from the upland glacial lake of Semerwater into the Ure. Askrigg is another market town with stupendous views from Askrigg Common above, across to the flat-topped Addleborough. Not a town but a hill, Addleborough dominates the dale on its southern side across the Ure from here. Eastward from here is Newbiggin, and the road to Carperby with the high ground sloping upward out of view behind farms, fields and woodland - unless you're driving a convertible. Carperby is another street village of stone-built houses, farms, a shop, a public house and a chapel. You might have seen the Mars advert on TV, where the locals were improving their football pitch Listen carefully, I will say this only once: that is Carperby. Not far further east is Castle Bolton, once the property of the Scrope family until their direct line died out. One of the Scrope sons foolishly involved himself in a plot with two other young knights to hand over Henry V to the French. All three were executed for their pains and their properties confiscated. Luckily for the Scropes a later generation held the property in Elizabeth I's time, unluckily Mary Stuart was billeted on them when she came south to ask Elizabeth for men and arms to put down a rebellion in Scotland. Mary and a servant escaped Lord Scrope's clutches, but were caught again on Leyburn Shawl - a hillside behind the town - when asking for directions to London. Poor creature they asked didn't have a clue where, or even what London was, but had the presence of mind to alert the Constable to their escape attempt. Mary was later taken from here to Fotheringhay in Leicestershire where she was separated from her head. Such is the cost of embarrassment!
Leyburn round to Worton on the Hawes road
Take a look into Castle Bolton. Unlike Middleham it's privately owned, not by English Heritage. There are safe walkways and staircases that take you to the top of the building, where you can look out over the dale. In the gateway is a large round grate over an open dungeon. A scrawny figure of a man stands looking upward with outstretched arms as if to plead for help. The recording of a plaintive cry plays from time to time. A bit gruesome, but it helps highlight the plight serfs used to face if they misbehaved or tried to run away to freedom in the town - any town, but a city would be better. At the back of the castle is a formal garden, laid out as it would have been in the late middle ages or renaissance era. When we went - back in the mists of time - it had only recently been laid out; by now it should be mature.
It's an easy drive through Redmire and on to Leyburn, down into the market square from the north-west side and along downhill to the railway station. There's only limited free parking here, and it's best to look in at the shop or sit in the cafe - then you can wander off, but not for too long. I've been lucky so far. The wandering takes you up to the market square for a look around at the shops but there's not a lot to hold your attention for long. So off down the Hawes road westward now to Wensley.(we're not going round in circles, no, but this way you cover both banks of the Ure without zig-zagging). Wensley had little to commend it, and no-one knows why someone changed the name of the dale from Uredale, after all the other dales are known by the rivers that flow through them. There's only a church and a few houses - nothing to look at, but take in the fresh.air anyway.
West Witton, on the other hand, has the Wensleydale Heifer. People flock here from far and wide for the ales and home-cooked meals. Take in the views from the back, of Askrigg Common and Castle Bolton across the river while you chat over a drink and savour the cooking in generous portions.
West again, the road swings downhill in a reverse bend to Swinithwaite. Settled long ago by Norsemen from Cumbria who cleared the area for grazing swine, (the 'thwaite' part means clearing), the most distinctive feature is a large dovecote amongst the trees. At the next bend you leave the A684 for the B6160 which takes you to West Burton. Almost opposite the n arrow road the snakes downhill from Aysgarth is a road that takes you left away from the Kettlewell road. Bearing left and then sharp right brings you onto the village green. Stone farmhouses, archways and residential dwellings are aligned on the left of the green. A village shop, a cafe and an inn stand amongst the houses that line the north side of the green. There is an annual village show, with demonstrations of the shepherd's and the shearer's art. First left on the green as you come in from the Kettlewell road is the archway entrance to the garden workshop of the Moorside Design Cat Pottery. Owned by a former geography/maths teacher of mine, Barrie Nicholls from secondary school along with his wife Shirley, daughter and an assistant, there is a wide choice of pottery on show for sale i a range of prices. In the garden a table and chairs beckon while you take in the sounds. A steep path at the back of the premises leads up to the beck that empties into Cauldron Waterfall a few yards further east.
Aysgarth Falls can be reached by the narrow road that links both West Burton at the mouth of Bishopdale and Aysgarth in Wensleydale. At the riverside down a steep 25% gradient is a working mill and museum by the river below the top falls before the water cascades down the second set of falls to the third and highest one. A visitor centre and car park over the river welcomes you with yet another shop and cafe. Still, we need to keep our inner selves going. Close to Aysgarth Falls Visitor Centre is the footpath that leads to the two sets of falls downriver. The walk is pleasant and you know you're close to either waterfall by the noise. At the last set of drops there' are stone steps cut into the bank as well as a viewing platform You can walk right down to the river bank, strewn as it is - I like that word, 'strewn', don't you? - with debris brought down by the river in winter and spring. Looks almost wild western; you expect to see mounted cowboys.
Back up to the Hawes road again after negotiating the bends down onto the bridge and back uphill past the mill centre with its plaster horse. Turn right on the slope and through Aysgarth Village, past the shops and cafes (that are probably closed by now) towards Thornton Rust. To the right on the approach to Worton stands the Victoria Arms. A sort of car park across the road provides space for a dozen cars, but be careful of the bend in the road on manoeuvring. Go forward onto the road without looking and you can come a cropper. The gents is a bit basic out on the roadside, but they're serviceable. More important is what's inside. It's an old door with a latch - you come across one of them usually in an outhouse or outside toilet (some still have them!) - so don't be surprised when you get inside to see the seating looks as if it comes from a chapel. There's a big fireplace and at this time of day there's usually a fire going in the grate. The small bar is in the corner, and there's another room next door that never seems to get used. Everything there is to buy is behind that bar, including sweets. That's another thing, country pubs usually sell sweets for the kids. There's a short bench and small table to the right of the bar. Not wise to sit on the bench here. sit on the stool, I'll tell you why. If the son thinks you can take a joke there's a fox's back end on the wall above - the front end is over the fireplace - and a thin pipe connects that to a button behind the bar. You might get wet. There are postcards, bits of paper and all sorts of items on the beams, paper money - not Monopoly money, strictly kosher cash - stuck to the cross beams. It's a bit like the downstairs bar at Dirty Dicks of Bishopsgate (near Liverpool Street Station in the City of London) before the new owners cleaned it up and introduced 'bus-boys'.
The licensee was Ralph Daykin until he passed away in 2014, in his eighties at least. His younger son took over the trade. He had a host of stories to tell if you had the time to listen. His hearing wasn't what it was, so you had to repeat yourself now and then if you asked a question. The son can provide good conversation if you know the 'right buttons', but don't be misled, he's got a sharp sense of humour. Their back garden stretches down a fair way (they own fishing rights on the River Ure, in case you need to know. Next time leave the wife and kids behind and bring the rod!). Ask about the best places to cast your line, (that's probably one of the 'right buttons). Ralph was certainly a fully paid up member of the 'huntin', shootin' and fishin' fraternity, I'm not sure if the lad has the time now.
Well, the light is fading, you've got a long way to go back to Bedale (about an hour or an hour and a half, depending on what you're driving these days), so best get your skates on, take your farewells and make sure you don't get flattened on your way across the road.