Dales and Lakeland Walk 2008

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 2 - Home to Skipton then Kettlewell

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Day 0 - Monday 16th June

N.B. The calculation of ascent is a rather inexact science; different figures tend to come out depending what methods are used. The figures I have given are based on my own measurements and my own counting of contour lines, but should only be used as a rough guide.
The GPS mileage figure is what I recorded from accommodation to accommodation, and includes any small detours, meandering around boggy sections, and errors in route finding. In general this is about 5% to 15% greater than the mileage calculated from the map, depending upon the type of terrain.

Home to Skipton (B&B)

The time had now arrived for me to set off on my walk. All my kit was checked out and packed, watched intently by the dog, who gets very excited at the sight of anything to do with walking such as boots, maps, rucksacks and, most of all, sandwich boxes. Somehow, though, he seemed to sense that things were not quite right. It was a larger rucksack that I was packing, it was a different colour, and I was putting in all sorts of things that I wouldn't normally take. When it came to setting off and he was told that he wasn't going with me, he seemed resigned to his fate and got back onto his bed, but then he will probably sulk for the whole of the time that I am away. My younger daughter insisted on driving me to Rhyl railway station even though a bus, that could take me there for free with my bus pass, stops just across the road. Such is her contempt of public transport and, in particular, of buses that she wouldn't see her father having to use one, even though I have no qualms about doing so.

I had to change at Manchester and Leeds on the way to Skipton, so was a little worried when the train was running 10 minutes late, as that was the amount of time I had for my connection in Manchester. However, my mind was set at ease when the ticket inspector informed someone nearby that both trains used the same platform so, unless it found some way of overtaking us, it was bound to be behind us, however long the delay.

The journey was rather uneventful, at first following the North Wales coast and the Dee estuary, which is always a pleasant sight, especially on a sunny day like today. Then followed a less picturesque part of the journey into Manchester via some of its less attractive parts. A quick change to the Leeds train saw me soon heading out of Manchester and into the attractive hills and moors of the Pennines, until a long tunnel took us through to the Yorkshire side on the way to Huddersfield and Leeds. Although this part of Yorkshire is quite industrialised in many parts, the buildings are mainly of Yorkshire stone and fit in well with the landscape, especially once the soot and grime has either been cleaned off, or has eventually weathered away.

Leeds is the place where I was born, though I lived in the village of Rawdon, seven miles to the west, on the road to Ilkley. Like most cities, Leeds has undergone many changes and there are parts that have changed beyond recognition, though much of the city centre is still the same, not that there is too much of it to see from the train. Leeds station is quite large and I had to cross from one side to the other for the Skipton train, though there was no problem as I had 15 minutes to make the connection.

As we headed out towards Skipton, passing through places I knew quite well from my earlier years, the scenery gradually changed from that of the more built-up areas of the old Yorkshire woollen mill towns to that of open countryside on the fringes of the Yorkshire Dales, all looking very beautiful in the bright summer sunshine. I arrived in Skipton, the self-proclaimed 'Gateway to the Dales', just after 16.00 and headed off to find my B&B armed with a street map that they sent me.

Skipton is an old market town with a castle that has managed to retain its roof when many others have been left to go to ruins. The Leeds Liverpool canal runs through the centre, and there is an offshoot going near to the castle where there was a limestone wharf. All this plus the buildings built mainly of Yorkshire stone make it very attractive and a popular tourist destination.

I found my B&B quite easily, a little way from the town centre, and deposited my things there before setting off to make the most of the good weather. I wandered up the road past the Holy Trinity church and the castle entrance, then took a seat in the church grounds to write up my diary. At 18.00, a man, who was probably the verger, approached me and said that he was going to lock the gates. After a short chat, he suggested I took a walk along the canal round the back of the castle towards Skipton Woods.

The view of the castle, as I had been promised, was quite spectacular, as the back of it was built on the edge of a vertical cliff, making it impregnable from that side. The path ran between the canal and the river until the canal terminated at the limestone quay, from where the locally quarried stone was shipped. Further along, the path led upwards through the woods with sunlight streaming through the trees, and there were various water engineering works associated with the canal along the way. Higher up above the river and the trees, Embsay Moor, the start of my walk, could be seen highlighted by sunshine and presenting a fine prospect for the day ahead.

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Entrance to Skipton Castle
Entrance to Skipton Castle
Pub by Offshoot of Leeds-Liverpool Canal at Skipton, leading to Limestone Quay
Pub by Canal at Skipton

I walked as far as the end of the woods and then back down into town, by which time I was ready to find somewhere to eat and drink. Like most market towns, Skipton has pubs all over the place, so I was spoiled for choice, but I eventually settled for the Royal Shepherd overlooking the canal. They served several Copper Dragon ales, brewed locally, and I settled on their 1816 ale, which was extremely good. It was still quite warm outside in the sunshine despite the rather chilly wind that had been blowing, so I drank my pint outside, overlooking the canal. At 19.15, after my first pint, I went inside to see about ordering some food, only to find that they had already stopped serving, so I wandered down the road to see if there were any other places still doing meals.

As I was walking around, I noticed a large fish and chip shop, also with a place for eating indoors. The thought then struck me that I might be able to get some of the real Yorkshire fish and chips that I knew from my youth. There were only certain parts of Yorkshire where the best fish and chips were to be had, and I was brought up in one of them. Fish and chips in most other places were generally a disappointment. This is not just nostalgia, as I lived only three miles from where Harry Ramsden opened his first fish and chip shop, which later became a restaurant. Now there is a chain of Harry Ramsden's fish and chip restaurants stretching around the globe. We seldom went there, however, as they were more expensive than other places that were equally good and nearer home. Fish was always haddock with the skin removed, the chips firm and crisp, and the batter made to a recipe that was a closely guarded secret, the whole lot being fried in beef dripping. In those days, smaller fish and chip shops, like the one we had just up the road, served just fish and chips plus a few soft drinks, but there was always a long queue during the limited hours that they opened. Occasionally, one or two other things were on offer such as fish cakes. These were not he ones made out of mashed up fish and potato, but two thin slices of potato with scraps of fish sandwiched in between before being dipped in batter and deep-fried. On other occasions they served scallops - not the shellfish variety, but just thin slices of potato, battered and fried.

The fish and chip shop in Skipton had cod as its standard fish, but also served a large haddock to special order. Unfortunately this did not quite live up to expectations, lacking some of the freshness of taste that I had hoped for, but everything else: the batter, the chips and the peas were very good so I wasn't altogether disappointed.

I returned to the Royal Shepherd for another pint of their 1816 ale, sitting outside again, but with the sun now fading, the chill wind was getting the better of me, so I drank up and left. I needed to get a few things for tomorrow's lunch, so made my way to Tesco's, which I had passed earlier on my way from the station, then returned to my B&B, where I watched television for a while. I intended to catch the news and weather, but ended up falling asleep before the weather came on, which left me none the wiser.

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Day 1 - Tuesday 17th June - GPS 14.5 miles - 2,500 ft ascent

Skipton to Kettlewell (YHA) via Embsay Moor, Grassington and Dales Way

I awoke quite early but lay in bed for a while until it was nearer to breakfast time, which I had arranged for 8.00. There were a large number of items on offer, but I had crossed out a few from the list, not because I didn't like them, but because I didn't want such a big breakfast. Even so, it was still quite large with egg, bacon, two sausages, beans and mushrooms, all very nicely cooked, plus cereals, fruit juice and toast. There were a few others who came down to breakfast, all of them looking as if they were on business.

I managed to get myself off at 8.40, as I had packed most of my things before breakfast, so I only needed to change into my shorts and boots and I was ready. The forecast was for cloud today and showers tomorrow, but the sun was trying to come through as I set off down the road into town, though it didn't last for long. The only reasonable route to Embsay was along the road unless I took a rather devious route to find footpaths. I don't particularly like walking along roads, but there was a pavement for most of the way and there was not a lot of traffic. From Embsay, a minor road leads up to the reservoir and the views gradually improve as it climbs up towards the moor. The small reservoir is also the home to a sailing club, and there is parking there, which is useful for walkers.

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Embsay Moor Reservoir and Embsay Crag
Embsay Moor Reservoir
Sharp Haw & Rough Haw, West from Embsay Moor
West from Embsay Moor

As I passed by, I met a chap who was just putting on his boots. He was planning a circular walk of about eleven miles around the edge of the moors, possibly extending it to fifteen miles with a diversion if he felt like it. By the head of the reservoir, several paths lead off to the right, some making their way towards Embsay Crag to the east, but the one I wanted kept to the left heading for the western edge of Embsay Moor. The chap I had met earlier was following behind me and, when I stopped for a rest near the top of the moor, he caught up with me and advised me on the route to take for the best views. There was quite a cool breeze blowing so, even though I had got warm climbing, I put on my fleece whilst I had a rest and wrote up my diary. Setting off again, I crossed over the wall at a stile, as suggested, onto the gritstone edge with numerous rock formations sculpted by the wind and rain. On this side of the wall, there were open views across the valley to the west with gentle rolling hills and higher moors in the distance, whilst to the right was open heather moorland. The going wasn't easy along the edge, the path twisting and turning round rocks and boulders and in and out of the heather, but it didn't go on for long like this before it reached the trig point where it crossed back over the wall again.

For a while, trees at the edge of a forest obscured the view, but this didn't last for long, and two landmarks then came into view ahead. The first was the Rylstone Cross and the second the war memorial on the highest point of the moor. Further along, the deep valley of Waterfall Gill Beck cuts into the edge of the moor and the path has to drop down some way then climb steeply back up the other side. I am not sure of the history of Rylstone Cross; all I know is that it commands a fine view across the valley and that it was rebuilt out of stone in 1995 with the help of several organisations, the original cross having been made of wood. There was a stiff, cool breeze blowing by the cross itself but the wall offered some shelter.

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Waterfall Gill Beck, Embsay Moor
Waterfall Gill Beck
Rylstone Cross on Embsay Moor - Rebuilt 1995
Rylstone Cross, Embsay Moor

About a mile further on was the war memorial, which seemed like a good place to stop for an early lunch break at 11.50. It offered a good view across to what I think was Ingleborough, but the cool wind at the top of the moor soon made me seek the shelter of some large rocks nearby. I could see a band of rain spreading across to the north, but the weather to the south was still quite bright. Apart from a few spots of rain, the bad weather passed me by, and the sky started to look a lot brighter, though there were still a few areas of dark cloud around. A couple passed by as I was having my lunch, but apart from that, there were not many people about.

The going was easier now, with a smoother path and a slight downhill slope. This led to a track and then, by a renovated barn, was a footpath running down off the moor towards Thorpe. This is an area of old mining activity, so there were several paths around and it was sometimes hard to tell which was the one marked on the map. As I descended from the moor, I was treated to a welcome patch of sunshine to light up the landscape, but it only lasted for about ten minutes. There was no real option but to follow minor roads for a while until I picked up the footpath down towards Linton.

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Thorpe Village from Embsay Moor
Thorpe Village
Waterfalls at Linton - River Wharfe is very low
Waterfalls at Linton
Weirs at Linton on River Wharfe
Weirs at Linton

Linton is a small village in a very attractive position beside waterfalls, with a footbridge running right above them to cross the River Wharfe. There are also two weirs and various other water works from an old mill nearby. The village has been expanded somewhat with more houses, but they all blend in well with those of the original village. I can remember back over forty years ago when my father first discovered Linton on driving around the Dales in his Reliant Robin three-wheeler car. I generally did most of the driving on sightseeing trips, as he was very much lacking in confidence, having taken up driving late in life, but he did manage to venture out sometimes with my mother. He was, therefore, very pleased with himself for finding this lovely place that we had not noticed before, despite having passed by on a number of occasions. From then onwards, whenever we had any visitors, he would always want to show them Linton, glowing with pride at his discovery.

After dropping down from the moors, the scenery changed from heather and gritstone to the more characteristic limestone scenery of the Dales. Today there was very little water flowing over the limestone falls, as there had been very little rainfall in Northern England and Scotland for many weeks. I crossed over the footbridge to join the Dales Way for the short walk into Grassington, which, like most of the Dales villages, has turned heavily to tourism for much of its income. It was quite busy, despite the rather dull weather, or perhaps because of the rather dull weather, so I didn't linger but pressed on through, thinking I would take a rest once I got back out into the open countryside. With all the little lanes and back streets, it wasn't easy to make out which road to take for the Dales Way, but a chap who saw my looking at my map soon pointed me in the right direction.

I was quite pleased to see a sign saying Kettlewell 5˝ miles, as I thought I had further than that still to go. As I climbed steadily up towards the limestone area north of Grassington, I suddenly noticed that my fleece was missing. With all the changes of weather between cold wind in exposed places and more shelter in others, I kept wearing it then taking it off again and, rather than pack it in my rucksack every time, I just tucked it behind the two fastening straps, which were not very tight. The last time I did this was about two or three miles back and, since then, I had been through a number of very awkward squeeze stiles and kissing gates, so it must have got caught in one of those and dragged out of the straps. I couldn't afford the time to go back looking for it now, so I would just have to manage without it for the rest of the walk. I had only had it for about 18 months, so it was a pity to lose it before I had had full use out of it.

This section of upland walking is one of the few where the Dales Way deviates from following the valley bottom. It is an excellent walk over a velvet carpet of grass, with wide views of the surrounding hills and dales, as well stretches of limestone pavement and limestone escarpments on the hillsides. I stopped for a drink and a rest, but soon it started raining, so I put on my waterproof jacket and continued on my way. The rain continued on and off for about half an hour, then brightened up, so I stopped again for a while until the rain returned. There was one very heavy shower with large raindrops that looked almost like melting hailstones, but fortunately it didn't last very long. The rest of the way into Kettlewell was sprinkled with light showers, but it didn't spoil the walk too much, as there was still quite good visibility most of the time, and there were some good views on the way. For some time I had been able to see the war memorial across on Embsay Moor, and now there was a fine view of Kilnsey Crags in the valley below. I also passed a beautiful dry valley running from the path down the hillside. The thing that I dislike most about the dull, wet weather is that it is very bad for taking photographs. The views are often quite good to the naked eye, but are rather lacklustre when photographed, and when there is rain, I tend to pack away the camera to stop it from getting wet, so then miss out on some shots that I might otherwise have taken.

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Wharfedale towards Kettlewell from Dales Way
Wharfedale near Kettlewell

Eventually Kettlewell came into view and the route dropped down to meet the road for a while, before cutting through a series of fields, then emerging at the top end of the village. Kettlewell Youth Hostel is also the Post Office. I wasn't sure whether the youth hostel had taken over the post office building or whether the post office services were now being administered from the youth hostel, but the latter appears to be the case. In many rural communities, where there is not enough business to justify the retention of a dedicated post office, the services are often administered from some other business in this way. I have even seen pubs taking on the services of the post office - this is the only way that many local services can survive these days.

I checked into the youth hostel at 17.30, ordering an evening meal and packed lunch as well as the bed and breakfast that I had already booked online. Dinner was at 19.00 and breakfast from 7.45 to 09.00. There was no reception on my mobile phone, only a message saying Emergency Calls Only, meaning that there was a signal on another network but not on mine. Most hostels have payphones, so I was able to call home using that, which was a situation I found in most places throughout the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. In many places there is not even the ability to make emergency calls, as there is no reception from any of the networks. The situation is often better on the tops of hills or mountains, where there may be line of sight to larger towns or other places with masts, though this can by no means be relied upon.

After a shower, which I needed more to warm me up than to get me clean, having never got to the point of sweating all day, I had a rest and then went to dinner. I had ordered a steak and ale pie followed by sticky toffee pudding and had a bottle of Black Sheep ale with which to wash it down. The ever-changing format of the YHA over recent years has seen moves from the original, basic but cheap, catering to a much more up-market format. Instead of having uniform prices throughout all hostels, every hostel is free to set its own standards and prices. This means that some of the more adventurous hostels offer a service much more like that of a bistro, whilst others stick to basic food. In either case, prices have gone up considerably since the days of a fixed price, three-course meal, even allowing for inflation. These days, as I get older, I usually find that three courses are too much, so I just opt for two, though I often find that just one course in a pub can be as filling as two courses in a hostel and may well work out cheaper. Tea and coffee used to be included in the price of an evening meal, but, from this year, it has to be paid for as an extra; just another way of trying to squeeze a little more money out of hostellers.

Most hostels now sell alcohol to consume with meals, and some are licensed to sell it at other times as well, so some hostels have a reasonably sized wine and drinks list. They always make a point of saying that their licences do not allow hostellers to consume their own alcoholic drinks on the premises, though I am never sure whether this is just a ploy to make more money, or whether it really is the case. I must admit that it is very much better to have drinks available in hostels, especially when they are in out of the way places and a long distance from any pubs, though I do find that some hostels charge rather high prices for their drinks, which are often more costly than they are in pubs.

The hostel was quite busy, with five out of the six bunks in my dormitory occupied, and there was some debate between the people in there as to what the forecast was for tomorrow's weather. One chap had heard that there could be 50mm of rain, whilst someone else had heard that it was just showers. Either way, it wasn't particularly good weather for walking, though I don't mind coping with a few showers, even if they are heavy ones, so long as there is chance to dry out in between.

One chap in the dormitory was near to completing all the Nuttalls; the mountain tops of England and Wales more than 2,000 ft above sea level with a clear dip of 50 ft all around. He had already completed all of the Welsh ones and had only a few of the English ones left to do. Tomorrow, he was planning to climb some more of these, which would leave him only one more in the north and two more on Dartmoor before he would have completed the lot. The whole thing had taken him several years to achieve, though he had only started working through the list a few years ago, having first ticked off ones that he had already done in the past. I have looked at the lists myself and ticked off the ones I have already done, which is about half of the English ones and two thirds of the Welsh ones, but I couldn't really work up the enthusiasm to venture all over the country seeking out obscure hills, sometimes little trodden, with flat, boggy tops just to say I have done them. If I am doing a walk near a Nuttall that I have not climbed, I may well try to encompass it in the walk, and I have also done a few walks, not too far from home in North Wales, with the deliberate intention of seeking out some Nuttalls, but this has been more from the point of view of finding new walks rather than just to tick them off from the list.

Having looked at John and Anne Nuttall’s website recently, I discovered that there have been recent amendments to the list, after more accurate surveying has been undertaken to check the qualifying requirements. This has resulted in some tops being dropped from the list, but also new tops being added to the list. I told the chap this, which was, perhaps not the best thing to have done when he thought that he was almost finished. It may mean that he is left with a few new tops, scattered all over the place, that he has not done because he didn't know that they qualified. Some of them he may have done whilst walking between others, but there are bound to be some that he has missed. For anyone wishing to see the Welsh Nuttalls in Google Earth, I have produced a file marking the summits as accurately as I can, often pinpointing a summit cairn or other landmark. These have been submitted to the Google Earth Community Forum, but have not yet been approved by a moderator. If they are approved then they will appear for everyone to see if they have the Google Earth Community layer ticked under Geographic Web, otherwise they are still visible to anyone who opens the Welsh Mountain Tops.kmz (28 kb) file in Google Earth.

I had intended to go down to the pub later, but I was still feeling rather full from my meal and rather weary from my day's walking, so I just stayed in the hostel. My measurement of the route from the maps showed it to be 17 miles that I had walked today, though my GPS showed it to be over 18 miles. It is quite normal for GPS mileages to be greater that map measurements, as they take into account all the meandering and zigzagging of footpaths that are difficult to measure on a map. The South West Coast Path gained over 60 miles when the route was measured by GPS! Over some terrain there can be well over 10% difference, whereas where paths are straighter the difference may only be about 5%. Either way, this was quite a long distance for the first day of a walk, before I had got used to carrying the extra weight of a large pack. It is generally preferable to aim for shorter distances in the first few days, but this doesn't always work out with accommodation.

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