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davidx Grassington - A travel report by David
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Grassington,  United Kingdom - flag United Kingdom
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davidx's travel reports

Wharfedale and tributary dales

  15 votes
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Wharfedale is certainly one of the longest and most imposing of all the dales in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Grassington is the site of a National Park Information Centre.

Hubberholme Church 1
Hubberholme Church 1
Whereas in general ‘dale’ simply means ‘valley’, nobody would refer to the lower stretches of the Wharfe, as it moves towards its junction with the Ouse, as being in ‘Wharfedale’. I shall choose Bolton Bridge on the A59 as a convenient southern start for Wharfedale. The dale is called Langstrothdale above Buckden, even though it’s the same river. The only important tributary dale [if there is such a thing] is Littondale. How can I convey to people who think of the Grand Canyon or even the Verdun Gorge in France the delights of Wharfedale? Obviously they aren’t the same but there is a sort of intimacy inherent in the farmed land topped by grouse shooting and there is history associated with such places as Bolton Priory and Barden Tower or the later industrial remains of lead mining. Even the barns, subtly different from those of other dales, form an essential part of the scenery. I shall make no attempt to cover all the sights but pick out favourites. First comes Bolton Priory. The nave of the building was used as the parish church and thus survived the destruction at the time of monastery dissolution [16th C] to be used today, with the other parts of the original priory adjacent and ruined. It’s a lovely place, hardly commercialised, with grass slopes falling to the Wharfe. A footbridge leads to a fine walk to Simon’s Seat [no dogs]. Continuing upstream on the footpath you reach the Strid, a narrow, scenic but potentially very dangerous stretch. Not far on you reach Barden Tower, a 15th century castle of the Clifford family and from here a bridge crosses to a road leading to the quaintly named village of Appletreewick. The village lives up to its name and is situated near to idyllic Parceval Hall and Gardens, from where a path leads to the wonderful [and supposedly sinister] Troller’s Ghyll. [See sights section below for continuation]

Favourite spots:
Hubberholme Church 2 - from churchyard
Hubberholme Church 2 - from churchyard
I’ve had so many enjoyable drives in Wharfedale but favourite here has to mean walking. One favourite is from Buckden to Kettlewell and back. If different levels of the hill are chosen for the two directions, you can enjoy splendid limestone scenery one way and millstone grit the other. I think the ideal centre is Buckden. The triangular walk from here through Cray, on the main road, and Hubberholme is utterly delightful and there are ample opportunities for taking on scenic crossing into Littondale and returning by another track, followed by a magical riverside stretch back to Buckden. The ascent of Buckden Pike is best, except when it’s icy, by going straight up by the waterfalls from the carpark. In winter you may prefer to ascend by the longer [obvious] route and go along the crest of the hills to drop into nearby Starbotton. Before any of these walks, make good use of swebsite/getamap/

What's really great:
Littondale is somehow very different from Wharfedale. The river is smaller, of course, but it’s more than that. Arncliffe is the only village of any size and both it and the smaller Litton [the river is called Skirfare, although I’m sure many Yorkshire residents don’t know that!] give the impression of timelessness. The road leaves the river at the tiny village of Halton Gill, though it’s a good walk to follow it even further, and pursues a scenic route to Stainforth on the Ribble, while a truly splendid tortuous little road, once involving much opening of gates, leads from Arncliffe to Malham. [Separate report] Grassington itself, though very pretty and a place for starting good walks [favourites] is perhaps something of a tourist trap now but nearby Grass Wood is a botanists’ Paradise and the little village of Linton with its Youth Hostel is very attractive and hardly spoilt. Thorpe is very much a ‘real’ village too. [Noticeably these two are a bit away from the river.]

Langstrothdale above Hubberholme -water a mere trickle
Langstrothdale above Hubberholme -water a mere trickle
[Continued from general description]
From Grass Wood special above] we jump to Kettlewell. On the way we shall have noticed the huge overhang of Kilnsey Crag and the junction where Littondale joins Wharfedale. From Kettlewell there is a very scenic minor road going steeply over the hills to Middleham [Wensleydale report coming soon!]
Sadly the next stretch of the main road from Kettlewell to Buckden road doesn’t quite have enough width for coaches to meet – and in season there are plenty.. [see favourites for walks round here]
From Buckden there’s a main road over to Aysgarth in Wensleydale but we go right up a minor road past the marvellously atmospheric village of Hubberholme. The church has a very rare rood loft and is sufficient on its own to bring you a long way. I said this long before the Yorkshire writer, J.B. Priestley, chose to have his ashes deposited there. Then we reach a delightful part where children love to paddle and build dams among the limestone.

Fox and Hounds, Starbotton
Fox and Hounds, Starbotton
It’s hard to distinguish pubs from restaurants in this area. I’ll keep one place for the next section because it’s a rather special eating place. I’ve been to all these [not on a single pub crawl!] but the ones with an astrisk are personal favourites.
Black Horse, Grassington
Tennant Arms, Kilnsey
Falcon, Arncliffe
Queen’s Arms, Litton*
Bluebell, King’s Head and Racehorses – all 3 in Kettlewell
Fox and Hounds, Starbotton*
Buck, Buckden*
George, Hubberholme*
White Lion, Cray

Detail of water erosion above Hubberholme
Detail of water erosion above Hubberholme
The Angel Inn at Hetton, just a short distance from Wharfedale, near Grassington, is a wonderful place to eat – ‘Heaven on a plate’ as my friend calls it. It’s a bit pricey but great for birthdays or other special occasions. Particularly good on Fridays when they have fresh fish. Booking advisable. I’ll let their website speak for itself:

Other recommendations:
Though short and not cheap, the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway can be a thrill for children.

Skipton, not far from Bolton Abbey is a substantial town on the Leeds Liverpool Canal with a castle, an old church, museum and a good street market. [M,W,F and Saturday]

From Buckden both roads over to Wensleydale are well worth seeing. The main road goes by Cray and over to Aysgarth [falls and info. centre.] The other, my favourite, goes over to Gayle, near Hawes, past Hubberholme.

Published on Tuesday March 15th, 2005

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Wed, Jul 27 2005 - 12:03 PM rating by eirekay

David, lovely report - I especially enoy the idea of "a truly splendid tortuous little road"! Conjures up images of a leisurely walk through green fields as I look from my 5th story window out onto hazy so thick I can't see hills a mere 10 miles away....

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