- Start: Lay-by off A61 1.5miles/2.2km south of Harewood
- End: Lay-by off A61 1.5miles/2.2km south of Harewood
- Country: England
- County: NorthYorkshire
- Type: Country
- Nearest pub: Pub in Harewood
- Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale
- Difficulty: Medium
Enjoy some of the most inspiring countryside between Leeds and Harrogate
When Edwin Lascelles commissioned Harewood House in the late 18th century amid the rolling countryside between Harrogate and Leeds he created not only one of England’s finest stately homes but also magnificent grounds and parkland. This walk takes in some of the finest sections, landscaped by Capability Brown, before going on into open farmland with wide views across the lower Wharfe Valley and makes an ideal choice to blow away the Christmas and New Year cobwebs.
It starts from an unsurfaced car park just off the main A61 Leeds-Harrogate road at the first junction on the left a mile and half on the Leeds side of Harewood village.
From the car park cross the A61 with care and go through the tall iron gates into the Harewood Estate then press through another wooden gate to take a broad hardened track through tree-dotted parkland with fine views of the impressive house, now the home of the Earl and Countess of Harewood, across the shallow valley. This is one of the many places along the walk where it is often possible to spot red kites.
These stunning birds with their five foot wingspan and distinctive forked tails were once a common sight in English cities where they scavenged for food. But they were persecuted to extinction until only a small population clung on in Wales. A series of RSPB reintroduction schemes, including one at Harewood, bringing chicks from elsewhere in the country and abroad, is making them an increasingly regular sight in Yorkshire skies. It’s just one of several conservation projects based on the estate which is also trying to encourage barn owls to breed there and many miles of new hedgerows have been planted to help wildlife.
Eventually the track drops downhill to go through a gate into woodland where it crosses an elaborate stone bridge. Immediately on the other side of this turn left on a signed bridleway which climbs up through the trees. Carry on along this wide track for about three quarters of a mile until it comes to a crossroads of paths. Here turn right downhill and after 100 yards, right again. As the bridleway nears the bottom of the hill it forks left, and continues through a gate and on past a farmhouse until Harewood’s ornamental lake comes into view.
The bridleway jinks slightly left before climbing the hill in front beside a tall brick wall to join a metalled track. Here turn left. At the next crossroads go straight on to cross a bridge and climb the hill past the former Home Farm which, like several other redundant buildings on the estate, has been converted to offices.
At the top of the hill pass through the tall fence into the deer park and carry with a wide sweep of Lower Wharfedale coming into view. Go through a line of tree and at the junction immediately beyond turn right to join a lane which is followed all the way to the main A61 in Harewood village, a pleasing collection of mostly stone houses. If you want refreshments this is the only place you will find them along the route.
If you want a shorter walk it is possible to turn along the A61 and past the main gates to the House by the traffic lights. A few paces beyond a wooden gate set into the high wall gives access to a path which can be followed parallel to the A61 to reach the gates through which the estate was entered.
To appreciate the full variety of the countryside, however, cross the A61 and take the metalled lane immediately before the Harewood Arms pub and follow it until it ends. Climb over the stile and continue in the same line across two fields. Towards the far side of the second one take the permissive bridleway to the right. When it reaches a road turn left for about 50 yards before crossing to take another bridleway on the right, which leads to New Laithe Farm. Pass to the left of the buildings and follow the farm track down to the bottom of the valley.
Go through a gate and then aim half left up the field, which can be very wet underfoot, to pass again to the left of Hollin Hall and a pond behind it. Just beyond the track curls leftwards to skirt behind a wood and carries on uphill to two gates in quick succession. Follow the hedgerow straight ahead with the path becoming enclosed before reaching a T-junction. Here turn right and carry on through a gate at the next junction. This is followed pleasantly to reach a road. Turn right to get back to the car.
Start/Finish: Lay-by off A61 1.5miles/2.2km south of Harewood
Distance: 7miles 11.5kms
Time: 3-4 hours
Terrain: Estate tracks and farm paths
Map: OS Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale
Refreshments: Pub in Harewood