Gargrave Walk – Leeds-Liverpool Canal
A 2.5 hour circular alongside the Leeds/Liverpool Canal and across the Pennine Way
by Matthew Callard
The problem with canal walking is a simple one: at some point you must turn around and come back.
Linear walking might do for dogs, but serious ramblers must plan long and hard to route a circular that takes in the pleasant indulgencies of canal walking – but join the Leeds/Liverpool Canal at Gargrave and you’ll find one such opportunity.
A classically Yorkshire village, Gargrave lies on the fringes of the Dales and manages to be trisected by no less than three famous northern thoroughfares – the River Aire, the Leeds/Liverpool Canal and The Pennine Way.
There’s a handy free car park in the village centre opposite the village hall – park there, then turn right onto the Pennine Way – you’ll soon find the entrance to the canal towpath on your left.
“Gently rumbling barge”
The 19th Century canal travels 217-miles from Leeds, across the Pennines, brushes Aintree racecourse and ends in Liverpool docks, hosting no less than 91 locks across its entirety. Unless you walk into a time warp, you won’t be seeing chugging barges transporting the raw materials of heavy industry anymore, but there’ll be plenty of pretty coloured and extravagantly-named holiday barges to admire.
The towpath quickly passes under the noisy A65 but you’ll soon leave the four-wheel cacophony behind and be left with little aural disturbance bar the odd frisky mallard and the occasional passing, gently rumbling barge.
Keep to the canal towpath until you reach Newton Bank (45 mins) – here, deviate from the canal and take the road leading up and left, initially running parallel with the canal (note: not the road heading left at a right angle).
This is the only incline on the whole route – it will take you, eventually (30 mins), past Newton Grange, an impressive Grade II listed holiday accommodation. About 10 minutes after that, look out for the Pennine Way marker on a stile to your left – make a mental note because we’ll be returning here shortly. But first we’ve an interesting midway point to locate – and a hot coffee to enjoy.
Keep on the road as it winds round, with a wood on your left, until re-emerging with the canal (30 minutes). Head onto the canal for a further five minutes until you reach the peculiar double arch bridge at East Marton. It’s a good place to stop for a Kit-Kat and cheese sandwich. If only to ponder how the bridge came about. Answers on a postcard please…
Sated, head back to the aforementioned Pennine Way marker. Leap the stile and prepare for the second phase of the walk. It’s a green and beautiful traverse over lush Yorkshire countryside. Through sheep and cow fields and wide open grassland. Beware; this section can get frightfully wet – so check the conditions first.
Follow the clearly marked Pennine Way over stile and through gate until you see Gargarve church in the distance. In fact, look closely and you‘ll see the war memorial cross at Cracoe in the far distance.
You’ll eventually wind up at the far end of Gargrave village. Pass the Mason’s Arms, St. Andrew’s Church and cross the bridge over the River Aire to return to the car park.
And there you have it. A walk of two halves. A perfect circle.
Gargrave Walk: Need to know
- DISTANCE: 6 miles
- DIFFICULTY: Easy
- TIME: 2.5 hours
- WHERE: Gargrave lies on the busy A65 trunk road, four miles north west of Skipton.
- REFRESHMENTS: There’s a friendly bed and breakfast pub in Gargrave – The Mason’s Arms.
- ANYTHING ELSE: You’re right in the heart of red kite country. These majestic birds of prey are one of our region’s great re-introduction success stories – keep your eyes on the skies!