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Seven of the best walks in the Yorkshire Dales: Routes to roam and places to stay, from Wensleydale to Hawes

Here are some of the best tracks to tread in North Yorkshire, from Malhan Tarn to the famous Three Peaks

Natalie Wilson
Friday 08 September 2023 14:29 BST
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<p>Moors, valleys and chocolate-box villages make up the Yorkshire Dales National Park  </p>

Moors, valleys and chocolate-box villages make up the Yorkshire Dales National Park

An 841 square mile area with over 1,615 miles of winding footpaths, the Yorkshire Dales National Park forms part of the Pennine uplands in northern England.

Home to famous limestone features, England’s highest glacial lake and single drop waterfall (Malham Tarn and Hawdraw Force respectively), the Dales offers both natural wonders and quintessentially English stone towns.

Here, crags, caves and valleys meet waterfalls and woodlands, lakes and reservoirs in Dales including Wensleydale and Ribblesdale, and a fine way to explore the area is on foot.

There’s even a free walking app that tracks 35 of the region’s best linear and circular routes to sleepy villages with proper pub watering holes that lend themselves to all seasons – provided you pack a waterproof.

From the iconic Three Peak climb of Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent to stomps on the Dales Way path, hikes and walking routes suitable for all abilities promise active adventures in the north.

To help direct you through the Dales, we’ve rounded up a list of the best rambling routes, challenging climbs and simple strolls – complete with charming hotels – to inspire a Yorkshire walking holiday.

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Malham Tarn upland farm circular, Malham

The glacial waters of Malham Tarn, the highest limestone lake in Britain

Malham Tarn Estate has 2,900 hectares of countryside and hundreds of walking route options including a hike towards Malham Cove’s limestone rock face or ramble to the Janet’s Foss waterfall, which legend has it is home to the queen of the fairies.

This particular trail around England’s highest limestone lake is 4.5 miles long, takes three hours to complete and was declared one of Britain’s 100 favourite walks by the National Trust.

Start in Watersinks car park and join the Pennine Way to Tarn House’s Orchard House exhibition before heading through the woods past the Bird Hide to Tarn Moss Nature Reserve and over the stile towards the smelt mill chimney, then tracking left back to the car park. You’ll find colourful moorlands, wildlife and rare plants along your way.

Where to stay

The Lister Arms in Malham is a quintessentially 18th-century English inn and pub benefiting from proximity to some of the Yorkshire Dales’ best walking trails along Mastiles Lane, Settle and Skipton. Home-cooked Yorkshire breakfasts, stylish en-suite rooms and panoramic countryside views make the Lister Arms the ideal stomp for long weekend wanders.

Yorkshire Three Peaks, Austwick

Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent form the trio of challenging peaks

Covering the peaks of Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside, and Ingleborough the 12-hour Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge is a demanding 24.5-mile circular hike designed for experienced climbers at the heart of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It’s a route of steep terrain – 1,600m of vertical ascent in fact – that starts in Horton-in-Ribblesdale (£4 parking for a day) before a rocky climb and scramble up the steep summit of the 694m Pen-y-Ghent (“hill of the winds” in Welsh).

Challengers will then descend via Whitber Hill to Ribblehead to climb the highest peak in the trio, Whernside, where a steep decline to Chapel-le-Dale will take you to the flat ground before Ingleborough’s 723m scrambling ascent, ending by following the Nick Pot footpath back to your starting point.

Head to the Dales during summer to take on the challenge for long daylight hours that won’t leave you hiking the hills in the dark.

Where to stay

Luxury fine dining meets rural rambles at The Traddock Hotel in Austwick. Sat between Skipton and Kendal, the intimate hotel offers delectable traditional plates and winding footpaths right on its doorstep. Romantic floral decor and antique accents adorn rooms ideal for kicking back in after a day spent hiking Yorkshire’s picturesque peaks.

Ribblehead to Whernside, Ingleton

The Ribblehead Viaduct, an impressive Victorian structure on the Settle-Carlisle Railway

Walking Ribblehead to Whernside is one of the most popular routes in the Dales. The 7.8-mile route etched with fells, peaks and Victorian engineering feats takes around four hours to walk and is best explored between May and September.

Think views of hills, moorlands and the 24 arches of Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle-Carlisle Railway, as you wander among the Yorkshire peaks – largely following the Three Peaks path. Park in Ribblehead and hot-foot it past the impressive viaduct and over to Whernside for a summit picnic spot with views out to the Irish Sea.

Those less stable on their feet should do the route in the recommended anti-clockwise direction to avoid a steep, rocky decline down Whernside, the highest of the three peaks at 736m.

Where to stay

The Marton Arms in Ingleton is a rustic retreat surrounded by open countryside just a 10-minute walk from the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail. Rooms feature four poster beds, a view of St Oswald’s church and complimentary toiletries, and the two restaurants whip up plates of local produce to fuel walkers.

Aysgill Force to Hardraw Force, Wensleydale and Hawes

Hawdraw Force is the highest single-drop waterfall in England

The 268-mile Pennine Way National Trail stretches through the heart of the Yorkshire Dales and, when combined with the region’s public footpaths, is a great way to tread to Wensleydale’s series of running waterfalls via quiet ancient river courses.

This seven-mile circular walk and ramble starting and ending in the pubs and tearoom-packed Hawes village, takes approximately five hours to complete. With a moderate difficulty rating, from Hawes keen wanderers will join the Pennine Way near the Wensleydale Creamery, journeying past Gayle Beck Falls and Gayle Cotton Mill to the Wether and Dodd Fells before reaching the 15m high curtain of water at Aysgill Force.

Red squirrel sightings are common on the well-marked national trail back via Gayle to Hawes where behind the traditional Green Dragon Inn is the gorge at the foot of the 33m Hawdraw Force waterfall, England’s highest single-drop waterfall and an iconic setting of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Where to stay

The dog-friendly Stone House Hotel is housed in a 20th-century Edwardian country manor in Hawes. With a well-stocked bar, log burners and a sleepy library, the home-from-home hotel also stuns with seasonal dinner menus and traditional afternoon teas in the in-house restaurant.

Buckden to Kettlewell, Dales Way

The Dales Way runs for 80 miles between Ilkley and Bowness-on-Windermere

This easy-to-follow route highlights some of the best rural views on the mighty 80-mile Dales Way footpath from Cumbria to West Yorkshire.

The full trail from Buckden to Kettlewell is four miles long and the one to two-hour route follows the trout and kingfisher-filled River Wharfe through fields and farmlands.

Start your stomp in the Yorkshire Dales National Park car park at Buckden and head west to join the Dales Way, ending in Kettlewell village centre for a well-deserved pint at The King’s Head pub. Look out for brown trout, hay meadows and dry-stone walls along the flat, well-signposted track suitable for both dogs and families.

Where to stay

The Buck Inn provides a comfortable, rural stay in Buckden, Skipton. The quaint inn offers family rooms, private parking and hearty full English breakfasts just steps away from the mighty Dales Way footpath.

Aysgarth Falls to Cauldron Force, Aysgarth

Aysgarth Falls, a triple flight of waterfalls on the River Ure

Two of the Yorkshire Dales’ finest waterfalls, Aysgarth Falls and West Burton Falls (Cauldron Force), are connected by a six-mile long circular walk that takes around 3.5 hours to complete.

Hiking over farmlands through Barrack and Long Bank Woods and up over the stiles, gates and bridges on the River Ure can be steep in some places, but views of the triple-level waterfalls are well worth the slight incline.

Park in Aysgarth Falls car park, the start and end of the walk, before setting off for West Burton to the 12th-century Penhill Preceptory (once a home of the Knights Templar) and through Swinithwaite before circling left back down the River Ure past the rushing Redmire Force to the car park.

Where to stay

Aysgarth Falls Hotel provides charming accommodation in a country inn with a local produce restaurant and two outdoor terraces for al fresco dining. Set just a minute’s walk away from Aysgarth Falls, the hotel features uninterrupted views of the Dales’ rolling countryside and sheep-peppered hills.

Grimwith Reservoir, Skipton

The Yorkshire reservoir offers a scenic 4.5-mile circular walk

For a short and simple skip around Skipton, the Grimwith Reservoir circular trail between Grassington and Pateley Bridge is abundant with wildfowl, sailing boats and great views over the moors.

This 4.3-mile route on surfaced footpaths and slopes takes, on average, under two hours to complete and the relatively flat terrain is also suitable for cyclists. It’s free to park next to the Yorkshire Dales Sailing Club and the ring route is dog-friendly so long as furry friends are kept on the lead.

While the walk is straightforward to follow map-free, the route is plotted on the Yorkshire Dales National Park app to keep on track of the trail as you pass farmhouse ruins, gills and fields of wildflowers on the eastern fringe of the Dales.

Where to stay

Snave Barn is a charming holiday home set in Skipton on the banks of the Grimwith Reservoir. The secluded three-bedroom barn sleeps six and features a hot tub, walk-in showers and a cosy log burner for post-walk winter nights.

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