A Walk Through Upper Swaledale and Kidson
Four Legs Good
Rob Godfrey presents this dog-friendly trek through Upper Swaledale & Kisdon…
This walk has plenty of variety from tranquil meadows to waterfalls and rugged hilltops with extensive views down Swaledale. Lead mining used to be a major part of the local economy and there is plenty of evidence of this around Swinner Gill with various ruins and waste screes. Muker is a very attractive village. Originally a Norse-settlement, the name is derived from the Norse words Mjor-aker meaning ‘the narrow acre’.
The location at the meeting of the River Swale and the Straw Beck with the surrounding meadows is most likely why the Vikings chose to settle here. The very dog-friendly pub is called the Farmers Arms and there is also a village shop and post office, as well as craft shops and a café. Originally the vicarage, the teashop was built in 1680 and retains much of its ‘olde worlde’ charm today. Information about the National Park can be found at the Muker Village Store.
There are no difficult stiles to overcome and as long as you can keep close control of your dog when passing through meadows of grazing sheep, it is dog-friendly all the way. For the water-loving dog there are lots of opportunities for a paddle in the River Wharfe, as well as in many streams and springs.
“Sheep in the meadows”
Terrain: The second half of the walk involves a moderately steep ascent up the side of Kisdon Hill, followed by a similar descent at the end.
Where to park: There is a pay and display car park by the river (GR SD909979) and limited parking elsewhere in Muker if you are lucky (but be considerate). It is very popular with tourists so get there early on summer weekends and bank holidays.
Maps: OS Explorer OL30 Yorkshire Dales: North East, Harvey Outdoor Yorkshire Dales: Dales North.
How to get there: Travelling from the east up Swaledale, Muker is on the main road (B6270) through the valley. You can also approach via Wensleydale over the Cliff Gate Road from Hawse. This is quite a challenging route in poor weather.
Nearest refreshments: In Muker there is the Farmers Arms. Tel: 01748 886297 and Muker Tea Shop. Tel: 01748 886409.
Distance: 6 miles.
Road Walking: Limited to the distance from the car park through Muker village to the first footpath.
Livestock: Expect to encounter sheep in the meadows.
Stiles: Plenty of these but all are gated or there is an adjacent gate.
Nearest vets: Swale Veterinary Surgery, Reeth.
1. As you leave the car park, turn left onto the main road to go over the river and follow the road until you can turn right, up into the village. Follow the tarmac lane and when it levels out, after about 75 yards, walk to the right of the building in front of you (it has iron railings on the wall and steps up to an entrance on its right end). Walking past this you will soon see the first footpath sign for Gunnerside & Keld pointing towards the rear of the village.
This footpath will take you out of the village, through some attractive meadows, bordered by drystone walls, down to the River Swale. Initially the easy to follow path is rough gravel but then becomes paved with stone slabs. Each field boundary wall you cross is either gated or has an easy to negotiate stile. At the last stile before the river a signpost points left to Keld and right to Gunnerside. Take the right-hand direction to walk alongside the river towards and over the footbridge. On the other side of the footbridge go up the bank a few yards to another signpost and this time turn left in the direction of Keld.
2. The clear path soon broadens out into a wide graveled track taking you right up the valley with the River Swale on your left all the way. If you have spent a few hours driving to Muker now might be a good time to find a big flat stone to sit on and eat your sandwiches by the side of the river, whilst your dog can have a good splash in the broad shallow bed. Carrying on up the valley you come to where Swinner Gill enters the Swale.
3. Abandoned mine buildings run up the sides of the narrow valley. The work here was gruelling and dangerous but the area has a very peaceful air about it now. There are several small but attractive waterfalls along Swinner Gill too (a good place for your doggy friend to splash around again). Cross Swinner Gill via the footbridge and follow the track up and through the gate (ignoring the track heading down to the river on the left). This broad path leads you up to another gate and soon you pass the remains of Crackpot Hall on your right.
It’s perhaps worth a detour if you have the time to explore the ruins. Eventually the track levels out again and as you follow it round a stone barn on your left it starts to descend again. Going through a gate across the track follow it down until another gate leads you to the bridge over East Gill. This large stream drops down to the Swale over a number of attractive falls and is another good spot to have a picnic.
4. Follow the path to the left (now a section of the Pennine Way). It goes down to a footbridge over the river. First go straight ahead and then right as the path climbs steeply for a short stretch. You’ll reach a T-junction against a drystone wall. Turn left (again on the Pennine Way) and follow the path through some woods. Down the Swale from here is Kisdon Force, a series falls that are impressive after rain. To get to the falls (a detour from our route), take the first left-hand path downhill (signposted Kisdon Upper Force). The path down can be very slippery when wet, so take care. You are rewarded with a close-up of Kisdon Force as the Swale tumbles over two big steps in the underlying rock.
5. Continuing on the main route, take the next right-hand path (signposted toThwaite and Muker) up the hill. You could follow the more direct route down the valley side to Muker. But the views are so much better going the high (right-hand) route. As the path continues to rise, wide views over the valley below open out. The tumbledown drystone walls by the side of the path enhance the rugged feel. At the next signpost again take the left-hand direction along the Pennine Way that leads you on a narrow path just above the trees.
Soon the path rises again and you emerge into a much more rugged landscape. There is a ruined wall to your left and the rock-strewn hill rising to your right. The views keep getting better as the path follows the contour round the hill top. Soon views down the main Swaledale valley open up as Muker comes into view again. The path continues more or less on a contour through three gated stiles and one small gate until you come to a small ladder stile. The ladder stile is over a low section of wall and should be no trouble to any dog. Over the stile bear lef. From here the path starts heading downhill past a signpost and then on to a T-junction. Here you leave the Pennine Way and head down to Muker (now signed just ¾ mile away).
6. The very pleasant lane, bordered by drystone walls, ends at a gate leading into a gravelled lane. You can follow this all the way down the hill back to the start.
Yorkshire Dales: A Dog Walker’s Guide by Rob Godfrey is published by Countryside Books at £7.99 and is available from all good booksellers, some local garden centres and attractions and direct from the publishers at countrysidebooks.co.uk.