Yorkshire Dales walk - Rylstone and Cracoe
PUBLISHED: 14:29 07 March 2015 | UPDATED: 16:43 14 August 2018
No apologies for featuring this favourite walk not far from the bustling market town of Skipton
Literary scholars may recognise the name of Rylstone from William Wordsworth’s narrative poem set during the Rising of the North against Elizabeth I but most modern readers are more likely to know it as the home of the Rylstone WI whose charity nude calendar created the Calendar Girls phenomenon a few years ago. So far they have raised more than £2million for leukaemia research – and spawned dozens of imitators. Walkers venturing on the moors at this time of year would be well advised to wrap up rather more warmly for this bracing and spectacular outing over the moors. Along the way it visits a historic cross and a poignant memorial to the dead of the First World War.
From the lay-by cross the road and take the metalled lane signed to Rylstone Church. Immediately after passing St Peter’s, a bit of ‘Churchwarden Victorian Gothic’ with an imposing lych gate, take a bridleway on the right, signed to Barden to Moor with Rylstone Cross, sitting on top of the ridge directly ahead. From here the whole of the escarpment followed by the walk is clearly visible. From the cross at its southern end the ridge is embossed with a series of buttresses and tors leading onwards to the squat obelisk of Cracoe War Memorial.
The track curls round to the right and then passes through one gate, followed by a second next to a copse. The bridleway soon curls rightwards through two gates to join a green lane almost back on the main road. This may seem a convoluted approach but it has the advantage of not only visiting the church but also avoiding the road, which is busy with quarry traffic during the week and visitors’ cars at the weekend. This version is much more pleasant and definitely much safer.
At the green lane turn left for about 350 yards until the clearly signed access to Barden Moor appears on the left. The first part of the route is on a public bridleway but the middle section makes use of the access area.
The track snakes uphill, passing a plantation with the cross clearly visible up to the left. After passing through a gate the path levels out before reaching another gate. Go through this and then turn left uphill by the side of the wall to reach a ladder stile giving access to the cross.
For all its historic roots as a marker post for monks crossing the moor from Bolton Priory, this particular incarnation is fairly recent, erected in 1995 after an appeal led by local farmer Jim Caygill. The previous antiquated cross was felled in mysterious circumstances in the early 1990s. It was never established if it was the victim of vandals or a lightning strike. The cross is a wonderful viewpoint up the valley and on into Upper Wharfedale. Out to the west the horizon is dominated by the vast bulk of Pendle Hill while to the north Cracoe Memorial is clearly visible along the ridge.
Cross back over the wall and turn left to follow the wall. This glorious stroll on a rough path between gritstone boulders is the highlight of the walk. To the west the hills roll away in a series of ridges with the flat top of Ingleborough peeping above them, the valley stretching ahead while to the east waves of heather drift away into the distance. Just before reaching the memorial it passes a marker stone dividing Rylstone from Cracoe.
The memorial, reached by crossing another ladder stile, is a tall rough hewn obelisk standing on a natural plinth of large gritstone boulders. The plaque on the northern side dates it as a memorial to the dead of the war of 1914-1919, taking its unusual end date as the formal Peace Treaty of Versailles rather than the more commonly-used Armistice of November 1918. It lists 13 men from the parish who gave their lives in the First World War and another three who perished in the Second.
From the memorial take the narrow track continuing along the escarpment for 100 yards or so before turning left down a green path in a shallow sunken runnel. Follow this as it traverses gently rightwards across the hillside before a steeper slope which drops through a boggy section to a cluster of sheep pens at the end of a green lane leading to Cracoe.
At the village, if you want a refreshment break carry on down to the main road for the pub and two cafés. Otherwise take the first lane on the left which weaves between cottages again avoiding the main road. Just as this delightful back lane reaches the main road turn back left along a green lane, signed public bridleway to Rylstone 1 mile. Follow this all the way back to the church and then retrace your steps back to your car.
Start/finish: Lay-by on B6265 Skipton to Grassington road about six miles north of Skipton, just after the turn off to Hetton
Distance: 6 miles/10km
Time: 3 hours
Terrain: Good paths and tracks, one stiff climb out of the valley
Parking: In the lay-by or on the nearby side road to Hetton
Refreshments: Pub and cafés in Cracoe
Map: OS OL2 Yorkshire Dales Southern and Western
Note: No dogs allowed on the Barden Moor Access Area