#50 – Upper Wharfedale and Littondale – Wandering with a purpose

Heading for Arncliffe in Littondale

 It was Chris who, a few years ago, introduced me to the idea of walking from valley to valley.  After almost thirty years of walking, scrambling and climbing up pointy peaks, I had asked the question, “Why”?  She could have explained her walking preferences at length, but instead she went straight to the point – “You can visit a pub halfway round”.  You can’t really argue with logic like that, which is how I started wandering with a purpose.

'The Falcon' at Arncliffe

Kettlewell from Gate Close Scar

 One of our ‘wanderings’ is from Kettlewell to Arncliffe and back.  As wanderings go it’s a pleasant outing, going from Kettlewell in Upper Wharfedale to Arncliffe in Littondale.  Adding the pub to the equation is easy, with a choice of the Blue Bell, King’s Head and Racehorses in Kettlewell, but I quite like the quirky Falcon (featured in blog #18) just over the hill at Arncliffe in Littondale.

Approaching Gate Cote Scar

The cleft through the scar seen from below

Looking down the cleft

 The first time I did this walk I thought that there might also be a bit of rock scrambling involved – not long after setting out from Kettlewell the path goes up steeply to the limestone crag of Gate Cote Scar, which appears to bar the way, but this is the Yorkshire Dales, not the Dolomites.  The path ducks into a narrow cleft in the crag which gives easy access to the top, and from there it’s a steady trek upwards.

Looking back towards Great Whernside, with Kettlewell below

Upper Wharfedale looking north towards Buckden Pike

Despite the early dabbling with limestone crags, the walking is fairly uneventful – it’s the landscape that provides the main interest, with some great views towards Great Whernside sprawled above Kettlewell (blog #8), and Buckden Pike near the head of Wharfedale.  In no time at all, or so it seems, the path crosses the high point at a mere 490 metres, and starts to descend to Littondale.

The high point at 490 metres

The start of the descent into Littondale

Looking south down Littondale and the River Skirfare

From the high point it’s more of the same really, but in reverse order – the slope starts downhill very gradually, with a different but similar landscape, this time with views across to Fountains Fell (blog #32) and down to the River Skirfare in Littondale.  The reverse order carries on all the way down to Arncliffe, including another small limestone crag that the path negotiates without any problems.

The small limestone crag on the descent to Arncliffe

Chris and ‘Mist’ by the village stocks

St Oswald’s church, Arncliffe

Arncliffe is an attractive small village, full of character, in fact it is so typically ‘Yorkshire Dales’ that it was the original outdoors location for the fictitious Beckindale in ITV’s soap opera, Emmerdale Farm.   Village features include a traditional green, old restored stocks, St Oswald’s church and ‘The Falcon’, which is quirky to the edge of being eccentric – the beer is still dispensed from barrel to glass via a jug, whilst the landlord also dispenses his own unique charm!

The return via the River Skirfare

The footbridge at Hawkswick

‘Mist’ weighing up some of the locals

From Arncliffe our route followed the River Skirfare, which we crossed by the footbridge at Hawkswick before heading back over the ridge.  The weather was just on the turn as we left the river, and soon we had the waterproofs out for the first time in a long time.  Back at Kettlewell there were still three pubs beckoning, but time didn’t allow.  Instead we made use of a useful feature for walkers – an outside tap and scrubbing brush for cleaning boots.  It’s just the right size for an adult (muddy) Border collie.

Bath time for ‘Mist’

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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6 Responses to #50 – Upper Wharfedale and Littondale – Wandering with a purpose

  1. nittylizzyrozzy says:

    grassy paths and panoramic views – just my sort of walk 🙂


  2. Pubs at start, finish and halfway through – just MY sort of walk…hic!


  3. nittylizzyrozzy says:

    not a very straight walk then…


  4. Hmmm – I’m embarrassed to admit that, although I’m pretty much a local to that area, I never knew anything about the very interesting-looking Gate Cote Scar! I don’t generally walk in the Dales but do like the limestone areas.

    The Falcon also sounds interesting. My walking buddy Richard is a real-ale fan so must have been there – I’ll have to see if he wants a return visit. The fetching the beer in a jug and filling glasses is something which used to be done until very recently at the Blacksmiths at Broughton Mills in South Lakes – that’s another nice pub.


  5. Pingback: #51 – Wet Sleddale, Swindale and Mosedale- more purposeful wandering | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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