Yorkshire Dales walk - Stainforth
PUBLISHED: 18:31 10 January 2016 | UPDATED: 16:34 14 August 2018
A favourite Yorkshire Dales walk for a bright winter’s day. Words and photographs by Terry Fletcher
Stainforth is delightful village near Settle in the Yorkshire Dales though its charms will be lost to drivers rushing past on the mini-bypass which steers the lorries that serve the quarries further up the dale and away from the centre. A diversion into the village reveals elegant houses, small cottages and a welcoming pub. Yet none of these are its chief claim to fame, which instead lies tucked away on the other side of the main road towards the satellite hamlet of Knight Stainforth on the opposite bank of the Ribble.
The two are linked by an elegant 17th century packhorse bridge, which itself replaced a long-used ford just a few yards upstream from Stainforth Force. This is not a single fall but, like so many others in the Dales, is a procession of limestone steps over which the river tumbles and charges in a series of cataracts. In spate the force is a daunting sight, and is especially spectacular in the autumn when migrating salmon burst out of the water, flashing silver, as they attempt to leap the falls to reach their spawning grounds in the Upper Ribble. On gentler summer days it is a popular picnic spot with young families. The walk crosses the bridge twice on its way to and from the tiny hamlet of Feizor.
From the national park car park by the main road, go under the road bridge. From the other side of the underpass follow the bridleway rightwards to a gate and out onto a lane, where you turn left to cross the railway bridge over the Settle-Carlisle line and then take the bridleway rightwards parallel to the tracks.
At the end turn left down the lane which winds down to Stainforth Bridge.
Immediately on the other side take the stile or gate on the left and follow the riverbank. Carry on downstream for well over a mile as the Ribble makes its now more placid way through woods and fields to arrive at a metal footbridge and weir just above Langcliffe village on the opposite bank. Do not cross the river but instead turn right up the narrow enclosed track to the secluded community of Stackhouse, which seems to enjoy its rather aloof position on the quiet side of the valley, spared the traffic on the opposite bank of the Ribble. At the road turn left then immediately right on an unsurfaced lane leading further into the hamlet. At a junction carry straight on between the houses and as the track becomes rougher, immediately after the last house, take a gate on the left into the open fields.
Climb the field, leaving it by a ladder stile and at the next boundary go through the right hand of two gates and continue uphill parallel with a wall on the left. At the top go through a gate to pass two small ponds and up a shallow valley. At the next gate bear left up the valley to emerge on a broad plateau. Carry on along the path to where it converges with a wall. Go through the right hand of two gates still following the track.
Soon the flat-topped summit of Ingleborough comes into view and Wharfe Woods appear ahead, marking the way to Feizor, still hidden in the valley below them. Soon a three-armed signpost promises Feizor in half a mile and the track drops down to this charming little hamlet, which is supplied with a popular café.
When you reach Feizor, turn right for a few yards. Opposite Elaine’s Tea Rooms, turn right following a sign pointing back to Stainforth, which it claims to be a rather optimistic 1.5 miles away. Go through the car park and take the signed path with the climbing crags of Pot Scar on the left hand skyline. The path climbs before crossing several walls. At the last one a ladder stile crosses by a fingerpost pointing away rightwards along the wall to Stainforth. As you top a small rise Penyghent comes into view and as the watershed is crossed Stainforth itself appears below.
Follow the track downhill past a farm to arrive at Knight Stainforth, also known as Little Stainforth. Like its larger counterpart across the river, where the walk started, this village also stands well back from the Ribble. Its centrepiece is the impressive, white-painted Knight Stainforth Hall. This is the grandest building in either of the Stainforths. The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book and the hall has had a colourful past, playing a part in failed insurrections against the Crown and also as an early Quaker Meeting House. Today it has a more placid role as a caravan site. Continue downhill past the hall and the large caravan site to arrive back at Stainforth Bridge and retrace your steps to the car park.
Start/finish: Stainforth, near Settle
Height gain: 650ft/200m
Time: 3-4 hours
Terrain: Field and fell paths.Two climbs
Parking: National park pay and display
Refreshment: Tea shop at Feizor, pub at Stainforth. Wide choice in Settle
Map: OS OL41 Forest of Bowland and Ribblesdale