Walk of the month

The Yorkshire Dales have a cosy reputation. But the stunning landscapes can be wilder than you think, says Mark Rowe

Thanks to James Herriot and the Calendar Girls, the Yorkshire Dales have a rather cuddly reputation. The reality is different, for this is a tough, remote landscape. The word "dale" comes from the Viking word for valley and is applied with good reason; hills here are steeper and valleys more dramatic than in the neighbouring North York Moors to the east.

The Dales have a gloomy beauty, nowhere more so than in Upper Wharfedale, in the eastern part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Here, north of Skipton, is a land of eroded gulleys, known as hags, and wind-battered limestone crags. The dales have a stepped aspect, a result of unusual geology, where shale and limestone alternate in a formation known as the Yoredale Series.

This walk, compiled by Peter Katic, the National Trust's local estates manager, is the classic walk of two halves. First, the climb through exposed moorland and raw, wild scenery to Buckden Pike, which requires a good deal of puff; then a long, leeward descent to the picturesque valley floor and an idyllic riverside amble.

Start in the car park in Buckden village, and here's hoping you get a brilliantly clear, crisp winter's day, rather than the furious storms of mid-January. Planning such a walk at this time of year is a gamble; the pay- off is that with a decent frost, the peat bogs are crisp underfoot, which takes the edge off the plodding, and the winter scenery is unsurpassed.

Follow the bridleway at the top of the car park, heading north towards the moorland and overlooking the typical dales landscape: a valley filled with meadows and fields divided by drystone walls and each with a field barn. The walls were first put up in the early 1800s, during the enclosures. The National Trust, which owns around 8,000 acres in Wharfedale, has reinforced about 1,000 metres against the elements. The Trust also repairs paths and gates, supports hill farmers and implements important environmental projects - the legacy of its hay meadows projects merits a return visit in summer when wild flowers cover the valley.

Where the track bends uphill to the right, go straight ahead, following a fingerpost sign and a waymarked blue post, and through a metal gate. Turn right, following the uphill path. Pass through another wooden gate and keep going uphill through open gateways in the drystone walls. Continue ahead to a steeper path of stone and gravel, constructed by the National Trust and the park authority.

Soon, you reach the summit of Buckden Pike at 702m, which represents one of the finest 360-degree views in England, with a large number of the country's distinguishing mountain landscapes lined up for inspection. To the west the Lake District's Coniston Fells, Scafell Pike and Helvellyn; to the east, the North York Moors (you can't quite see the sea but you can see Middlesbrough). The Peak District muscles up to the south and to the south-west lies a forbidding sweep of Bowland. The Yorkshire Dales' three peaks - Pen-y- ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside - are prominent in the middle distance.

Though the landscape looks truly wild, man's imprint is clearly visible. Scattered remnants of Bronze Age settlements can be picked out on the hillsides, while far below, pale channels - imprints in the fields - mark where the river Wharfe was once diverted. On the lower flanks of the hills, the low sun throws shadows across the humps and folds that represent yet more archaeological sites.

From the summit, continue along the wide moorland ridge, with the wall on your left, and cross a stile. At the southern end, cross a ladder stile to reach the Polish aircrew war memorial, a mournful spot where a Polish-crewed Wellington bomber crashed during a snowstorm in 1942. The sole survivor, who broke his leg, crawled away from the wreck and followed a fox track downhill to the isolated White Lion pub.

The memorial has remnants of the aircraft around its base and a fox's head in bronze. You can read more about this wartime heroism at buckdenpike.co.uk.

Head downhill, with the wall on your right. It can be slow going here if the ground has thawed, though the bogs are good places to spot a range of birds, including dunlin, golden plover and curlew. Eventually you reach a gate in the wall where you turn right and follow the track for two miles downhill to distant Starbotton. Lead mining used to be a huge employer hereabouts, and the fractured remains of the Starbotton Cupola Smelt Mill stand on the hill flanks to your left.

When the path becomes a concrete farm track, turn left and cross the bridge into Starbotton and walk though the village. At the end of the hamlet, cross the road and take the footpath by the barn to the river Wharfe.

Cross the river and turn right, following the Dales Way footpath beside the river for the two miles back to Buckden. After a mile and a half follow the fingerpost sign to the right and walk along the field edge back to Buckden.

THE COMPACT GUIDE

MAP

Explorer OL30, Yorkshire Dales, Northern and Central Areas.

DISTANCE

Seven miles.

FURTHER INFORMATION

A leaflet, Hill Walks in Upper Wharfedale, can be obtained from the National Trust estate office in Settle (01729 830416; nationaltrust.org.uk or malhamtarn@national trust.org.uk) and is also available at local tourist information centres. For more details on the Yorkshire Dales, visit yorkshiredales.org.uk.

Mark Rowe stayed at the White Lion in Cray (01756 760262; whitelioncray.com), which offers double rooms from £65 per room including breakfast. The pub is an excellent base for walks in the area.

Skipton can be reached by Virgin Trains (08457 222333; virgin.com/trains) to Leeds and Northern Rail (0845-700 0125; northernrail.org). A Dales Explorer bus connects Skipton and Buckden. For more details visit traveldales.org.uk.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links