Yorkshire Dales Walk - Arncliffe and Kettlewell
PUBLISHED: 12:12 11 June 2014 | UPDATED: 16:34 14 August 2018
Take these moorland tracks and riverside paths for a perfect early summer walk
Setting off to deliberately climb the same hill twice, especially on a relatively short walk, may seem a little masochistic but when the reward is a visit to two of Yorkshire’s finest dales and two beautiful rivers with a brace of attractive and contrasting villages thrown in as well it suddenly seems rather a small price to pay. And the hill is, thankfully, not all that big either. This walk sets off from unspoiled Arncliffe in Littondale before crossing Old Cote Moor to drop into bustling Kettlewell in Wharfedale. It is scarcely possible to imagine two communities so close together geographically yet so far apart in terms of atmosphere. Arncliffe, largely bypassed by most Dales visitors, is happy to sit quietly in its side valley while Kettlewell throws open its doors to welcome them by the thousand every weekend. Both have enjoyed an earlier and slightly different life, however. Arncliffe was the original Beckindale in the TV soap, Emmerdale (Littondale’s other name is Ammerdale) while Kettlewell was once a thriving centre of lead mining.
From Arncliffe’s idyllically spacious village green with its cluster of protective stone cottages and traditional red telephone box take the lane in the corner, signed to Litton and Settle. Pass the village hall, school and church to cross the stone bridge over the Skirfare and immediately go through a gate in the wall on the right, signed to Kettlewell. The path follows the riverside to the far corner where it climbs a flight of steps and then crosses the lane before angling rightwards up the fellside. It climbs across fields to a band of woodland and through an escarpment onto the open moor above, still heading diagonally rightwards. After a kissing gate the angle eases a little and the views down Littondale into Wharfedale are superb. This is the start of the moorland crossing that will eventually lead to Kettlewell.
At the top of the moor the path meets a stile in a wall. Cross this and 100 yards further on it meets a wall running the length of the ridge dividing the valleys. Those looking for a shorter outing could follow this wall southwards downhill to meet the return route lower down the ridge. To the east the hills above Wharfedale come into view. The main route, however, crosses the wall and then continues away from the wall and within another 100 yards Kettlewell comes into view in the valley below. The path heads towards the village which is reached after clambering down a rocky gully to emerge on Kettlewell Bridge. The main route does not actually enter the village but if you have already worked up a thirst or an appetite Kettlewell offers plenty of cafés and two pubs for a mid-way stop.
Having explored Kettlewell, re-cross the bridge and within a few paces down dale of where we left the fell take the permissive footpath on the right signed to Hawkswick. This comparatively recent addition to the network initially runs alongside the road, replacing what was for many years a rather disconcerting bit of road walking, especially on busy weekends.
When it reaches a gate the path begins to climb diagonally up the slope. It passes through a wood and jinks a little to the right into a walled enclosure before resuming its leftward climb to the ridge. It crosses the watershed at a ladder stile from the top of which the great prow of Kilnsey Crag further down Wharfedale comes into view. This is the point at which anyone who has taken the shortcut rejoins the walk. The path heads away from the wall before curling back to the right to begin a long, gentle descent on a broad grassy shelf to Hawkswick.
When it joins a cart track continue heading downhill into the hamlet, which, thanks to its position off the main Littondale road, is a contender for the quietest in the entire national park. When the track reaches the lane turn right and carry on for 100 yards past the last houses before crossing a footbridge on the left and immediately on the other side turn rightwards to follow the Skirfare as far as a large loop. Here the path leaves the riverbank, guided by a series of stiles and signposts, until it approaches Arncliffe. Here it is directed back to the riverside at a stile in the corner of a field for the last few hundred yards to the village, which it re-enters by an attractive stone house close to the church. At the lane turn left back to the village green.
Height gain: 1,391ft/428m
Time: 3-4 hours
Terrain: Riverside paths, moorland tracks and a steep descent down a gully to Kettlewell
Parking: In the village or a on the northern outskirts
Refreshments: Pub in Arncliffe, cafés and pubs in Kettlewell
Map: OS Explorer OL30 Yorkshire Dales Northern and Central