Yorkshire Dales Walk - Wharfedale and Burnsall
PUBLISHED: 12:35 13 September 2011 | UPDATED: 16:35 14 August 2018
Risk a meeting with a ghoulish hound to experience a wonderful panorama of woodland, moor, pasture and rocky outcrops. Terry Fletcher is your guide
Leave the village green at Burnsall and cross the impressive five-arched bridge and after 100 yards take a signposted path on the right across a field. This is the start of a two-mile section to Howgill, shadowing the Wharfe and the match of anything to be found anywhere in the Dales with the rocky tor of Simon’s Seat standing like a medieval fortress on the skyline.
The path weaves through woods and across pastures before it eventually reaches a minor road at Howgill. Turn left up the road for about 150 yards until a signposted stile on the right signals the way to Skyreholme. This path crosses fields high above the mini-gorge the beck has carved and eventually emerges onto a farm track which is followed to a narrow lane. Turn right and follow it through the straggling village and on to a T-junction. Turn left, following the sign to Parceval Hall.
Just before a sturdy wooden road bridge go through a farm gate on the left and follow the sign to New Road. The path climbs beside the beck and beyond a ladder-stile the valley opens out and the limestone rock makes its presence felt.
After the next stile there is a choice of routes. By far the more interesting continues straight ahead into Trollers Gill but the going underfoot can be slippery, especially after rain.
Those wishing to avoid the gill and a possible appointment with the Barguest can take a rising track on the left which winds its way up to the road.
However the better and more adventurous route continues along the valley floor towards the rocks. Within a couple of hundred yards the track crosses another stile and enters the narrow portals of Trollers Gill. This section demands care, involving boulder hopping which can be slippery after rain or when the stream is in spate. It is best to wait for any sightseeing until you are standing still. Walking writer Alfred Wainwright might have had this very spot in mind when he warned his readers to watch where they were putting their feet.
On a sunny afternoon this is a spectacular spot and the playground of modern rock climbers but as twilight falls it is easy to imagine those saucer-like eyes are watching you from one of the caves.
As the path begins to emerge from the gorge, cross one final ladder-stile and then look out for another stile about 20 yards further up on the left on the other side of the stream.
Cross this and climb the slope to then follow a broad grass track and marker posts through the tussocks to join the broad sinuous track taken by the easier alternative route. At a sharp right hand bend in the track carry on straight ahead along an unmarked narrow path to reach the road. Staying on the broad track will bring you to the same stretch of Tarmac.
The road turns left. Follow it round a sharp bend and on for another 100 yards to where a wooden finger post on the right points the way to Hartlington. This broad bridleway heads across the moor until it crests the hill and the whole of middle Wharfedale comes into view in a truly glorious panorama which includes woodland, moor, pasture and rocky outcrops.
At a fork, take the right hand branch, passing through two gates and aiming for Burnsall in the valley below. Beyond farm buildings the track becomes a green lane as it weaves its way down to the valley.
At the foot of the hill, it crosses a road. Continue downhill for 100 yards to where it meets the Dales Way path used at the start of the walk. Turn right and head back to Burnsall.
Length: 7 miles/11km
Map: OS Explorer OL2 Yorkshire Dales South and West
Terrain: Field paths and moorland tracks. One rough section in Trollers Gill
Refreshments: Pub and café in Burnsall, tea shop at Parceval Hall.
The print version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Yorkshire Life
We can deliver a copy direct to your door – order online here
Some walks place a strain on the sinews, others make different demands. This outing might be said to be not for those of a nervous disposition. Although it starts from one of the Yorkshire Dales’ prettiest and most photographed villages and takes in a particularly delectable stretch of the Wharfe, it then goes in search of one of the national park’s most fearsome ghosts, plunging into the lair of the hideous Barguest.
This huge spectral hound, with dripping fangs and yellow eyes the size of saucers, is said to prey on those who dare to brave the depths of its hunting ground in Trollers Gill. But before that there are gentler delights to enjoy.