The Yorkshire Dales ---- Gargrave to Bowes ---- 62 miles ---- 5 days

The walk the next morning from Gargrave to Malham was beside the River Aire. At one exciting moment, on a hilltop, we could see ahead of us both Malham Cove (far left) and Gordale Scar (far right). Limestone country had arrived!

Our plan was to spend a restful afternoon in the Malham area. We first went to our guest house, and were delighted by the approach to it, by a stone footbridge over the Aire. Our room, too, was pleasing, with a big carved wood bed and bow windows over the river.

 

We first walked to Janet's Foss. This is a pretty waterfall, but we were even more pleased by the setting, a wooded dell by a stream, with the ground covered by wild garlic.

 

Gordale Scar is indeed impressive. The tall (300 foot) limestone cliffs are imposing, and the sight is stunning as one rounds a bend and approaches the boulders and cascading waterfalls. There's a route up beside the waterfall, and we had hoped to do it, but the rainfall of the past few days made it too dangerous for our liking.

The next day started out toward Malham Cove. This, too, is impressive. It's 600 feet in span and 300 feet high. At one time a river flowed from Malham Tarn (above the cove, several miles north) over the edge of the cove, but now the water disappears underground, emerging several miles away. The stream in the photo is one which disappeared from yet another place, to reappear at the base of the cove. They've found this out by placing dyes in the water.

The path goes up rock steps at the left side of the Cove (this is a popular area), near the limestone "pavement" on top of the Cove. This is an amazing, ankle-twisting surface. It was wet (it had been drizzling), so doubly difficult to walk on. We didn't venture near the drop-off edge.

 

We next turned north up the "dry valley". The water from Malham Tarn, higher up and further north, ought to flow through this valley and over Malham Cove, but instead it percolates down through the limestone close to the tarn. At the north end of the valley, we went steeply up. This photo looks back south down the dry valley:

We stopped for ice cream at a van near Malham Tarn. We were encouraged by the cheerful woman there, who said "Rain before 7, dry before 11". It had certainly rained before 7. It wasn't yet 11, so we hoped her "old saying" was right.

A couple of miles later, after going around Malham Tarn, we reached Fountains Fell, the next objective. It's several miles of steady but not steep climbing. We passed signs saying "There are a number of open mines shafts in this area. Please keep to the footpath." We weren't tempted to stray, one reason being that the cloud had come down on us - or we had come up to it - and visibility was low. But when we got to the wall at the top, the cloud had lifted enough for us to get an outstanding, exciting view of Penyghent.

We ate lunch while looking at Penyghent, after starting down. (The "dry by 11" part of the old saying didn't hold true today.) We had this view to inspire us as we walked the mile of rocky descent from Fountains Fell and the mile along a small road.

 

Finally we started to climb. There are the distinct layers of rock, making the distinctive shelves of Penyghent. The bottom layer is limestone and the top millstone grit. There's a straightforward, though steep, path to the top. Almost to the top, that is -- for the last short bit we had to resort to scrambling with hand-holds. Or did we lose the path?

The four mile descent was very enjoyable, as the sun came out. The whole area is filled with sink holes and caverns and potholes, where the limestone has collapsed. Water flows into the potholes and disappears. We passed near Hunt Pot, and went to see it. Wainwright describes it as "an evil slit", and indeed it is. It's 15 feet long, six feet wide, and 200 feet deep. We kept a healthy distance from the edge...

The final couple of miles into Horton-in-Ribblesdale are along a walled lane. It delighted us, and we were very happy.

As we walked, the sky became a cloudless blue and views were stunning. Penyghent was now to our left across the pastures. It was all totally beautiful.

The view out of our bedroom window at the Golden Lion in Horton-in-Ribblesdale was of Penyghent, beyond the church, so we continued our enjoyment of the scene.

The next day was back to the usual light rain, as we walked up another walled lane, an old packhorse route. We stopped to chat with a fellow who was repairing a drystone wall. He usually works with a partner, but the other fellow didn't want to work in this foul weather. They do about 10 yards a day. He estimated this collapsed section as seven yards, and hoped to get it done by himself.

As the rain came down, it became wetter underfoot. On the rocky lane, it was just wet puddles and not a problem. But on the next section, on mud, it was difficult. I slipped and sat down ungracefully and slid down a hill. I took a picture while standing on a stile, looking down at the mud at the bottom, and then another picture of the muddy terrain that we were having to deal with.

 

But there were plenty of enjoyable sights, balancing out the problems under foot. There were more potholes with amazing rivers swallowed up, rushing underground. There was Ling Gill, a deep ravine, with an old packhorse bridge at the top end of it.

There was the view of majestic Ribblehead Viaduct in the distance.

But then the rain came in earnest, as well as the wind. We walked for several miles along Cam High Road, a Roman road, named in the packhorse days, straight as a Roman road is expected to be. By the time we turned north along the side of Dodd Fell, the wind was fierce. We finally dropped down to Hawes, and the White Hart Inn.

It was raining again the following day. I took some photos of the flagstones on the path up Great Shunner Fell, to give an idea of what the path would have been like if they hadn't been there. Piles of stones like those in the last photo are a common sight, as many more sections will eventually be flagged.

 
     
 

At the top of Great Shunner Fell is a typical plus-sign-shaped stone wind-break. We walked around it and found the section with the best wind protection, and enjoyed our lunch. These structures are quite effective. When I stepped out of our corner to take the picture, I was amazed at how strong the wind still was. We had been snugly comfortable in our little corner!

The path down from Great Shunner Fell is another "corpse road." These were used in past centuries to carry the dead to the nearest church, which was often many miles away. The path, eventually a walled lane, led to Thwaite. We had wonderful views of the valley of Thwaite Beck, which leads to Swaledale.

We stood for a good while watching a sheep farmer with his crook, and his dogs, checking on his sheep. Later he passed us in his tractor, with dogs behind in a cage, going very slowly down the lane.

 

At about this point, I looked at my watch, and saw that we'd better hurry. We were to spend the night at Doreen Whitehead's, in Keld, which was still several miles away, over Kisdon Hill. We had stayed with her when we did the Coast to Coast Walk, and the thought of her buttery scones and tea, which we might miss, had us charging up the hill. We still had time, though, to enjoy the wonderful views from Kisdon Hill.

We had an hour the next morning before the rain started again. This view back to Keld includes the Whiteheads' house, Butt House, at left center, with the village itself at the right.

For a while we were on a farm road, and the scenes were pleasant.

 

Then the rain came again, and it became once again marshy walking. We were drenched and soggy by the time we reached Tan Hill Inn. We could see well-dressed people when we looked in the window, so we didn't go in for a pint. We've heard since that we could and should have, in spite of our looks.

Immediately after Tan Hill, the Pennine Way leaves Yorkshire and enters County Durham. We took the "Bowes Loop", which adds a few miles, but makes accommodations easier to arrange. As we walked to Bowes, the sun came out and the walking was easy, through farmland. Our stay at the Ancient Unicorn Inn was most enjoyable, including a drive into Barnard Castle the following morning for a quick tour.

 

 

Previous Stage   Next Stage   Home Page