6 of Yorkshire’s happiest walks

PUBLISHED: 17:10 24 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:02 27 August 2020

Matt and Helen Coppin and their family hope to spread a love of the Yorkshire Dales with walkers of all abilities

Matt and Helen Coppin and their family hope to spread a love of the Yorkshire Dales with walkers of all abilities


Matt and Helen Coppin quit the ‘rat race’ to launch Muddy Boots walking holidays in Yorkshire – these are their favourite spots for a stroll

MalhamTarn, a calm space in a popular areaMalhamTarn, a calm space in a popular area

Months of lockdown have definitely created an appetite for the outdoors. For which Matt and Helen Coppin are breathing a very outdoorsy sigh of relief.

Having given up big jobs in law for a new life in the country some years ago, they recently launched a self-guided walking business called Muddy Boots aimed at people with a passion for walking and for Yorkshire.

But doing so just before Covid-19 hit seemed like unlucky timing. The reality though, is that after months of venturing no further than the corner shop or local park, people are now desperate to get their boots muddy and wander into the wilderness.

The Coppins made their home in lovely West Burton in the Dales seven years ago after travelling the world and turning their backs on legal careers in London.

Escape to the fields between Keld and ThwaiteEscape to the fields between Keld and Thwaite

They first set up a tour business aimed at organising self-drive holidays across Britain to overseas visitors. Keen to find a way of working with local businesses, they then established Muddy Boots just as the Covid-19 lockdown began. Now however they’re hoping to tap into the nation’s new-found interest in walking and nature as part of a staycation and the demand for finding quieter places away from the traditional visitor honeypots.

‘We’ve spent a large proportion of lockdown fine tuning our initial itineraries that enable guests to explore beautifully remote areas and quieter spots such as Arkengarthdale, Coverdale and Bishopdale as well as finding the less-trodden paths towards well-known highlights such as Malham’s limestone pavement.

‘We’re working with some fantastic country pubs and small hotels so that guests can have a rewarding hike each day and still have all the comforts that make so much difference to the experience. Many people, including a younger age group, have discovered the simple delights of walking in beautiful countryside during lockdown and so we’re hoping to show that the Yorkshire Dales offers much more than the beauty spots that normally draw the crowds,’ she says.

The initial Muddy Boots itineraries focus on Wensleydale and its tributaries, Swaledale and Arkengarthdale and the southern Dales around Malham and Burnsall. More routes are in the offing including itineraries exploring the lesser-known Westmorland stretch of the Dales and family holiday packages that include adventure walks for youngsters.

A heart-shaped stone in the River Wharfe, near HubberholmeA heart-shaped stone in the River Wharfe, near Hubberholme

Helen’s ‘happy hikes’

We think most walks in the Dales would qualify as ‘happy hikes’, says Helen. ‘But our top six hikes are designed to appeal to a wide cross-section of people and include the essentials for a ‘Happy Hike’ - charming Dales scenery, far-reaching views and great places to refuel during or at the end of the walk!’

Sedbergh is within the Yorkshire Dales National Park and has lots to offer, from walks to eateries to bookshopsSedbergh is within the Yorkshire Dales National Park and has lots to offer, from walks to eateries to bookshops

Malham landscape circular – for spectacular geology

It’s popular but this seven-mile walk has to be one of the best for the spectacle and variety of walking. The vast amphitheatre of Malham Cove and view over the southern Dales from the top are highlights along with the scramble up the waterfall at Gordale Scar. In between there’s much to enjoy by following the quieter paths as you head over limestone-strewn moorland to the peaceful Malham Tarn and descend through the ‘dry valley’ of Watlowes. It is hard to find a better country pub than the Lister Arms to relax in when you return – cosy nooks and crannies, great food and a wide drinks selection.

Aysgarth Falls are a triple flight of waterfalls carved out by the River Ure over nearly a  mile in the Yorkshire DalesAysgarth Falls are a triple flight of waterfalls carved out by the River Ure over nearly a mile in the Yorkshire Dales

Muker hay meadows and Kisdon Gorge – for wildflowers and waterfalls

The village of Muker is justifiably well-known for its wildflower meadows and when they’re in full bloom in June they are a riot of colour. This is a gorgeous area at any time of year though and there’s a seven-mile circuit from Muker to Keld that is very special. Along with the hay meadows, there’s a lovely stretch following the scenic River Swale, stunning views from the atmospheric ruins of ‘Crackpot Hall’, charming Dales villages, several waterfalls around Keld (including Kisdon Force – another spot that is tempting for a dip!), and a good bit of exercise climbing the slopes to gain stunning views down Kisdon Gorge and upper Swaledale. Back in Muker, the Farmers Arms is a classic Dales pub with hearty food and a friendly welcome; a great place for resting the legs after a rewarding day.

The Head of Wharfedale – for a bit of everything!

This seven-mile circuit takes in two lovely villages in Buckden and Hubberholme, three excellent country pubs, some stepping stones, one of the most picturesque farms in the Dales, and a charming stretch of riverside walking along the Wharf, where we have spotted kingfishers, deer and wild orchids. The views from the ridge between Cray and Yockenthwaite down upper Wharfedale are outstanding. All three pubs on route, the Buck Inn in Buckden, the White Lion in Cray and the George in Hubberholme, are worth a stop, but our pick is the White Lion for the excellent food and lovely tucked away location next to Cray Gill.

Winder from Sedburgh – for 360° views for not a lot of effort

Strictly speaking in Cumbria, but still part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the small town of Sedbergh sits tucked in the foothills of the Howgill Fells; a wonderful but less visited area for walking. There are many full day hikes into the fells but, for a taste of the area, it is hard to beat the short, four-mile hike up Winder, that sits directly behind the town. At only 473m, it is one of the lower summits of the Howgills, but its outlying position on the southern edge means the views from the top far exceed the little effort it took to get there. On a clear day you can see across to the Lakeland Fells, the Lune Valley and Morecambe Bay to the west, and across Garsdale, Dentdale and Whernside to the south and east.

We like to stock up on goodies from the excellent Three Hares café and deli before we set out then recover at the recently renovated Black Bull, an upmarket restaurant and hotel that also has a cosy bar that welcomes walkers.

West Burton and Aysgarth – for stunning waterfalls

The Dales are renowned for their beautiful waterfalls, formed as a result of the erosion of softer stones sitting on top of a limestone shelf, and a visit to one is always a highlight of any walk. This five-mile circuit begins with the famous triple cascade at Aysgarth Falls (and we have a top tip for getting the best and quietest view of the lower falls!) before some peaceful riverside walking on the quiet, southern side of the River Ure. The route takes you over classic Dales farmland scenery to the beautiful village of West Burton, which has its own lovely waterfall, Cauldron Force, tucked away on the village edge (a great spot for a paddle, or even a dip if you’re feeling brave!), before heading back to Aysgarth through sloping fields that give wonderful views down Bishopdale and Walden. Refuel with a homemade cake at the Mill Race Tearoom on the bridge by the falls.

Ingleborough from Clapham – for a classic summit

It’s always an amazing feeling to reach the top of a mountain and our pick of the Dales mountain routes is to the summit of Ingleborough from the picture-perfect village of Clapham. A long but hugely rewarding 11-mile round that takes you through tunnels, along a walled track and through a limestone gill before reaching England’s second deepest cave, with its highest unbroken waterfall pouring over the rim. Head over ‘Little Ingleborough’ to reach the broad summit plateau, home to the remains of an Iron Age fort. The descent takes you through the fantastic limestone scenery east of Ingleborough and the unusual ‘Norber Erratics’ – large boulders often balancing on small plinths that were dumped by glaciers thousands of years ago – before returning to Clapham for a well-earned rest at the 18th century coaching inn, the New Inn.

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