1. Ingleborough in its full glory
In this author’s opinion, the finest way to approach this finest of Yorkshire peaks is not from the clichés of Ingleton or Chapel-le-Dale, but instead from Clapham. A climb of Ingleborough via its south-east flank, glimpsing the cavernous underworld at Gaping Gill, before returning via the wild limestone pavement of Moughton and the glacial erratics of Norber, does full justice to the mountain’s remarkable limestone and glacial geology.
Start/finish Clapham (GR: SD745692)
Distance 14 miles
Time 4-6 hours
2. The ‘other’ Yorkshire Three Peaks
If the crowds on the ‘official’ Yorkshire Three Peaks don’t appeal, why not try the Wharfedale alternative? Starting at Kettlewell, head over the long ridge of Old Cote Moor Top to Birks Fell, then descend to Langstrothdale, walk around the spectacular top of the valley to Cray, ascend Buckden Pike, then brave the sting-in-the-tail climb up Great Whernside before descending via Hag Dyke. Save for a day with good visibility to make the most of the high-level views.
Start/finish Kettlewell (GR: SD968723)
Distance 23 miles
Time 8–11 hours
3. Not-to-be-forgotten Nidderdale
Nidderdale was left out of the Yorkshire Dales National Park upon its creation, but in its upper reaches you’d never know. How Stean Gorge is a limestone wonder (now with added via ferrata), while the walk over In Moor to Scar House Reservoir, then following the Nidderdale Way around the head of the valley, is a route to equal anything in the National Park.
Start/finish Lofthouse (GR: SE100728)
Distance 9 miles
Time 4 hours
4. The wonders of Lower Wharfedale
Bolton Abbey is well worth a visit, but expect crowds at weekends. Luckily they are easily escaped with elevation. Beginning at Posforth Bridge (there are usually vacant verges to park in), take the lower route through the misleadingly named Valley of Desolation before heading over Barden Moor to reach the great gritstone fortress of Simon’s Seat. Descend to Dalehead farm and walk back along the River Wharfe, past the booming Strid and through the lush ancient forest surrounding it.
Start/finish Posforth Bridge (GR: SE075557)
Distance 10 miles
Time 4–5 hours
5. Malham magic
The limestone scenery of the Dales at its most jaw-dropping. Malham Cove is famous but Gordale Scar is equally impressive, a sheer-sided gorge of vertiginous scale. A short but thrilling scramble up tufa and waterfalls leads to a wild land of limestone pavement and lonely trees, leading to the even-lonelier Malham Tarn. From there walk back via Ing Scar to emerge above Malham Cove itself, where even the birds seem wary of the huge space beneath them.
Start/finish Malham (GR: SD901629)
Distance 10 miles
Time 4-5 hours
6. Peace and pastoral beauty in Swaledale
Swaledale is less accessible than Wharfedale or Ribblesdale, but the pay-off is a sense of world-apart tranquillity. From Hoggarths head over Keld Side to Angram, walk over Kisdon to Muker, then around the east flank of Kisdon to pass a triplet of waterfalls: Kisdon Force, Catrake Force and Wain Wath Force. Best in spring when Swaledale’s famous wildflower meadows are in full bloom.
Start/finish Hoggarths (GR: NY870013)
Distance 8 miles
Time 4- 5 hours
7. Haworth to Hebden Bridge: “It’s me, Cathy”
Experience the land of Catherine, Heathcliff and that Kate Bush song. Starting from Haworth, follow the Brontë Way to the remains of Top Withens (possible inspiration for Wuthering Heights) following helpful signs in both English and Japanese. From there pick up the Pennine Way for a while, follow the permissive path over Wadsworth Moor, then descend into the wonderful woods, crags and mills of Hebden Dale to return to Hebden Bridge. The number 500 bus gets you back to Haworth.
Start Haworth (GR: SE030372)
Finish Hebden Bridge (GR: SD965246)
Distance 12 miles
Time 4-6 hours
8. Captain Cook country
The mountain-in-miniature of Roseberry Topping is a highlight here. It’s said the young James Cook walked in the area, glimpsing the North Sea and dreaming of what might be. Follow in his footsteps by starting at Great Ayton, climbing Roseberry Topping, walking around the escarpment of Newton Moor to reach Cook’s monument before returning to the start.
Start/finish Great Ayton (GR: NZ562109)
Distance 7 miles
Time 3-4 hours