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Yorkshire Dales Walk - Airton

PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 January 2018

The Pennine Way shadows the river upstream

The Pennine Way shadows the river upstream

Terry Fletcher

Farm and field paths, quiet lanes and a delightful stretch of river make a lovely Yorkshire Dales outing

Airton Mill, now apartments, was originally owned by Bolton Priory until the Dissolution of Monastries by Henry VIII Airton Mill, now apartments, was originally owned by Bolton Priory until the Dissolution of Monastries by Henry VIII

This easily-accessible walk is a pleasant ramble demanding not too much by way of effort, being almost entirely flat other than for the brief climb to Haw Crag above Bell Busk, making it an ideal family-friendly outing for blowing away any remaining festive cobwebs.

It starts from Airton in Malhamdale, a quiet community that was mentioned in the Domesday Book, which today sits huddled around its village green and seems quite happy to let the bulk of visitors carry on up the dale to Malham. Airton by contrast with is bustling neighbour boasts no pub though it does have a tea shop. Nor does it have a church, for that you will have to make your way to Kirby Malham though, as an early Quaker village, it does still boast a Friends Meeting House.


1. From the village green head eastwards along the road signed to Otterburn and as it leaves the village turn left along the lane signposted to Bell Busk. After 250 yards fork right along a track to Kirk Syke Farm. Carry on along this passing the farm until the hardened track ends by a barn. Here carry on straight ahead along the now more grassy track following more or less the same line through a succession of pastures and gates waymarked with yellow and blue arrows.

Along the way there are extensive views leftwards to the tops of Sharp Haw and Rough Haw near Skipton and the eagle-eyed may also be able to pick out the landmark of Rylstone Cross on the skyline. The track eventually goes through a signposted gate, still aiming for Bell Busk. Follow it past a barn to a road and here turn left.

Bell Busk must now vie for the title of the most peaceful hamlet in the Yorkshire Dales but once it had a huge silk mill and at weekends after World War II was busy with ramblers since its now long-closed railway station served the popular landscape around Malham. The station also enjoyed a brief moment in the limelight in 1951 when it was used as a location for a film, Another Man’s Poison, starring the formidable Bette Davies. However, neither Hollywood glamour nor muddy boots could save it and the station was closed for good in 1959.

2. At the junction turn left over the bridge and then immediately fork right over another bridge, which crosses the juvenile River Aire. Continue up the lane, ignoring a track on the left signed to the Thack, and instead carry on up the road passing farms and cottages. As the track rises towards the summit of Haw Crag, crowned with a trig point, there are views across the fields to where the top of Malham Cove briefly peeps above distant trees.

3. Follow the track to where it turns sharp right but carry on straight ahead through a signposted gate and follow the tractor path as it skirts a quarry and the summit of Haw Crag, which marks the highest point of the walk and the end of serious effort. When the path reaches a gate and stile in the top of the field again carry on straight ahead into the field for another 100 yards to where a clearer path crosses the field. Turn left along this and drop down to a pair of gates in the field corner where an acorn sign confirms that you are now on the Pennine Way long distance trail, which will be followed all the way back to Airton. Once through the gates carry on straight ahead, initially following a wall until it veers off leftwards. Here carry on along the marked track.

4. When the route reaches the main Malhamdale road – itself little more than a lane – the Pennine Way follows a series of cunning diversions to avoid both the tarmac and soggiest ground to reach Newfield Bridge. Cross this and immediately take the Pennine Way signed on the left, the liberally-waymarked path shadows the river upstream until it reaches the next major stone bridge, which is dominated by Airton Mill. Now apartments, the mill was originally owned by Bolton Priory until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII. It later became a cotton mill before switching to its present use. At the bridge turn left up the lane to return to Airton’s village green.


Start/finish: Airton

Distance: 5 miles/8kms

Ascent: 250ft/75m

Terrain: Farm and field paths, quiet lanes and a delightful stretch of river

Time: 2.5 – 3 hours

Parking: Roadside in Airton. More limited space by Airton bridge

Refreshment: Team shop in Airton, pub in Kirkby Malham

Map: OS OL2 North Yorkshire Dales Southern and Western

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