6 wild adventures in the Yorkshire Dales
PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 June 2016
Try these six super ideas for finding excitement and getting away from the crowds in the Dales
Hell Gill, Garsdale Head
The soluble natural limestone landscape of the Yorkshire Dales contains a mysterious underworld of sinuous gills deep within the rock. Near Garsdale Head station, high on the moors, the adventurous can descend into one of the more accessible of these cave gorges. Climb down through the watery bowels of Hell Gill, a 400m-long slot canyon. It’s like going into Jonah’s whale as you scramble through the passages. Satan himself is said to have created this gash which in places is only a yard wide. Ash trees cast shadows from the cliffs above and almost touch in places, the water gushes in narrow chasms and the pools below are heard rather than seen.
Form the Moorcock Inn, LA10 5PU, 01969 667488 follow B6259 north. After 2½ miles, at the Cumbria border sign, turn right onto a track. The gill is above Hell Gill farm and runs through the woodland above. Do not enter if heavy rain is expected. You can also ascend from the bottom and there is a huge waterfall below the farm on the track too.
Jervaulx Abbey ruins and wild garden
Founded in 1156, Jervaulx Abbey was once a great Cistercian monastery but was pillaged during the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. The superb abbey ruins are now beautifully planted in a semi-wild fashion, surrounded by a landscape of parkland and ancient trees. Yorkshire abounds with abbey ruins but Jervaulx feels lost in time and the lack of visitor centre, and its free entry, make this feel place feel magical. Look out for the impressive old beech tree avenue in the car park opposite.
Signed between Middleham and Masham on A6108 (HG4 4PH). There are pleasant tea rooms adjacent (01677 460391).
Loup Scar, Burnsall
This fantastic stretch of grassy riverside is one of the best places in the Dales for wild swimming. Enjoy grassy riverside meadow with beaches for children and then the famous limestone cliff of Loup Scar. There’s a pretty terrifying jump here, out into a deep plunge pool in the river. In summer it’s fun to watch brave locals leap, or you can continue upstream to quieter stretches.
Follow the riverside path upstream from the village bridge/Red Lion (BD23 6BU, 01756 720204), about ½ mile (10 minutes) past the church to reach the meadows and Loup Scar gorge beyond.
Castle Dykes Henge, Aysgarth
In a corner of a forgotten moorland field, well away from any roads and with sweeping views, the distinctive circular outline of Castle Dykes Henge appears, a near-perfect mound-and-ditch circle some 60m across. Undisturbed, except by sheep and occasional archaeologists, this is a remote and peaceful Neolithic site, more than 4,000 years old. There are other remains scattered across the fields too, including burial mounds, roundhouse foundations and the outlines of settlements. The henge had ritual and worshipping functions, to do with the passing of the seasons, but was also a social and meeting place, for exchanging goods and finding marriage partners.
Leaving Aysgarth west on the A684, take the left turn past DL8 3AJ and continue for half a mile, then turn left up the track by the stone barn. Follow the track round sharp right bend; it’s easiest to park where it splits. Walk on right for three quarters of a mile, looking out for the banked rise in the field on your left at the end. The henge is about 150m from the track.
Muker hay meadows
These are some of the best traditional hay meadows in the Dales, especially in early summer. Find orchids, lady’s mantle, cat’s ear and wood crane’s bill, as well as a sea of buttercups. Traditional farming techniques have helped save these meadows, partly due to the difficult terrain which prevents too much mechanisation or fertilisers. The locally bred Swaledale sheep leave the meadows in May and return after the grass has been cut in July.
From Muker village (DL11 6QQ) head north between the postbox and millstone and follow the public footpath towards and then parallel to the river. Don’t forget to visit the legendary Farmers Arms too (01748 886297).
Gordale Scar from Mastiles
Like its sister at Malham Cove, this is one of the of most impressive gorges in Britain. The retreating ice sheet and meltwater eroded the edge of the cliff far back to form a giant cavern which collapsed to create a ravine. Most people approach from the bottom, through the busy campsite, but a much wilder route is from above, from the north and the old Roman camp at Mastiles Lane. This brings you along the beck and then down a steep path to the top of the waterfall. You can see the fossilised remains of tree stumps and a scramble takes you right down the face of the waterfall itself.
From Malham Tarn, head east for a mile. Go straight over the rough crossroads to reach a gate in a wall and a signboard for the Roman camp. Follow the path for three quarters of a mile to the stream, then head downstream a mile. To approach from below, enter via Gordale Scar campsite at B23 4DL.
Go wild: The Wild Guide to the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales by Daniel Start will be published on June 1 2016 (£15.99, Wild Things Publishing) and contains over 800 wild and hidden places to explore, plus the best local food and wilder accommodation.
For 30 per cent off and free P&P go towildthingspublishing.com and use discount coupon ‘life’ at the checkout.