Hackfall from Masham via the River Ure round

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Masham is a very attractive small market town situated in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire. The countryside around Masham is stunning and there is plenty of walking and places to visit. Mashams large market place, which is also a car park, is surrounded by beautiful Georgian houses and was the site for the annual Sheep Fairs with animals coming in from Fountains and Jervaulx Abbeys. The tradition continues on a smaller scale each September and the plaque by the medieval market cross commemorates the first market charter granted in 1250 followed by two more in 1328 and 1393. The town today is still well known for sheep farming. There are three pubs and various shops in the Market Place and market days are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays which are popular with both visitors and locals. Masham is famous for its Black Sheep Brewery and visitors centre and is well worth a visit. The visitors centre is open Sunday to Wednesday 10.30am till 4.30pm and Thursday to Saturday 10.30am till 11pm. There is a lift for the disabled prior to booking and they take bookings for venues too. The brewery has its own pub the White Bear and the centre has a Bistro and shop. The brewery delivered its first casks of beer to pubs in and around the dales in October 1992. Masham is situated on the River Ure and is 74 miles long and is one of many rivers that flow into the River Ouse. The River Ure which begins at Ure Head and ends at Boroughbridge is the main river that flows through Wensleydale.

The construction of Swinton Park, only half a mile outside Masham, began in 1695 by Sir Abstrupus Danby and his successors built the stable block and the gatehouse and during the 1760’s planted the parkland and created the chain of five lakes. William Danby almost rebuilt the house altering and extending the house giving it a gothic look that remains today and he also added turrets and battlements to give the appearance of a castle. From 1882 Swinton Park became the ancestral home of the Cunliffe-Lister family. It is now a luxury castle hotel with 30 rooms and guests have access to the 200 acres of parkland, rivers, lakes, gardens and the beautiful countryside that surrounds the family estate.

Hackfall is a wonderful wood and appears to be natural but is actually man made designed and work undertaken by the Aislabies. John Aislabie who is famous for his landscaping work at nearby Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal bought Hackfall wood for £906 in 1731. He built follies, created grottoes, waterfalls and a fountain many of which can be seen today. In the 1930,s due to logging operations causing damage to the footpaths and disruption of the many types of trees the wood went through a period of decline and nature took over. In the 1980’s the Woodland Trust and the newly formed Hackfall Trust rescued the wood, clearing out the dead wood, managing the trees and restoring many of the footpaths. Hackfall is now classed as a Grade 1 listed garden. In 2007 the Heritage Lottery Fund granted £1 million to the major restoration project to restore and preserve the buildings, dredge and restore water features, improve footpaths and open up the vistas. There is a new car park at the Masham end of Hackfall Wood to accommodate and welcome visitors who wish to explore and enjoy this unique and wonderful landscape for free. The information board at the entrance to the car park carries some leaflets and a map of Hackfall wood there are many follies and features to explore and we only visited a few. Once you have picked up a map you can create your own walk. Listed below are the ones we looked at.

The follies and features we visited.

Fisher’s Hall, repaired between October 1996 and early 1997, is a folly and it is not known whether it is named after Aislabies gardener, William Fisher or if it is a fisherman’s rest building because of its position next to the river. Fisher’s Hall is a Grade II listed building.

Mobray Castle is a mock ruin thought to have been designed and built for William Aislabie sometime between 1750 and 1767 as an eye catcher to be seen from a distance and not visited close up. 250 years later the locally quarried sandstone castle was becoming eroded by wind and rain. The core of the wall was damaged due to the lime mortar being washed away. In July 2007 it was rescued by a team of specialist masons over seen by architect Linda Locket who set about reinstating the structural integrity and stabilising of the building. It is now hoped that the repairs will enable the castle to remain standing for another hundred years and has been listed a Grade II building.

Kent’s Seat is a grotto probably named after William Kent the great garden designer. Although it had completed fallen down it was partially reconstructed in autumn 2008, using old photographs. The seat is opposite the Alum Springs giving a wonderful view of the series of cascades that pour out of the rocks.
The Banqueting House at Mowbray Point is a building that was designed with surprises. Visitors would be taken to the house by a route from which the view was hidden and their first impression was a simple gothic building with a simple but elegant interior. When the doors onto the terrace were opened they were faced with a magnificent view of the Vale of York. Once on the terrace if the visitors turned to look back at the building they would see a facade in the form of a mock roman ruin. The Banqueting House, owned by the Landmark Trust, has been fully restored and is available as a holiday cottage. The terrace is open to the public between the hours of 11am and 3pm so that residents have some privacy.

Hackfall Fountain was created in 1756 and stopped working in the early 1800’s. The pond became almost completely filled with silt and vegetation. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund the fountain was carefully restored to its former glory. The fountain can be viewed from the Banqueting House Terrace and from a view point at a seat near to the Banqueting House and also from the Rustic Temple down below at the side of the pond. The fountain spurts up every 15 to 20 minutes and lasts for about a minute.

The Walk

We park at the cricket club and make our way across the field and up the steps (toilets are at the top on the right) to the Market Place. From the Market Place we walk to the left and walk down Millgate passing the school on the left and heading towards the River Ure. We go over the cattle grid and follow the way marked path “Ripon Rowel” forwards through a metal gate with the sewage works on the left. We follow the track with the river on our left and after some shallow steps we go into the woods bearing to the right we now follow the River Burn, a tributary, to the road. We turn left over the road bridge and left again and follow the River Burn on our left passing a stone barn back to the River Ure. We follow the River Ure over a footbridge and two stiles. We cross a large open meadow and on the hillside to the right is Nutwith Cote Farm with the remains of a dove cote on top of the hill. We head forwards over another stile and follow the path on a little higher ground to the woodland in front of us. We go through the gate into the estate woodland and walk uphill and when the path bends to the right we go through a kissing gate, cross over the stream and turn left. We head forwards over the meadow and go through a kissing gate into Hackfall. We bear left and follow the signs uphill for Limehouse Hill viewpoint at the top next to a seat look to the right to see two follies on the hillside in the distance and then look back to admire the view of the river and Masham church spire in the distance. From the top turn left down some steps back to the river. We now turn right and head forwards between two stone pillars with a seat on the right. At the y-junction we take the left fork following the river path and then at the bend in the river we can see Fisher’s Hall on our right. We carry on for a little further and take the steps uphill, just before a small stream over the path, to the folly. We then go back down the steps and cross the steam and head forwards crossing a few more small streams for about half a mile. We then take the steep steps on the right to Mobray Castle. We then continue forward downhill and turn right at the sign post Kent’s Seat and Follies just before a small stream going over the path. We continue downhill on the narrow path and cross over some stepping stones at a weir to Kent’s Seat. Sitting on the seat Alum Springs is in front of us. From the stepping stones we turn right (or left from the seat) and follow the track to the t-junction where we turn left going uphill sign posted the ruin, car park and Grewelthorpe and then we turn right at the dog leg. We continue on the track until we come to the ruin or the Banqueting House at Mobray Point. We go through the gate onto the terrace to view the Vale of York (the terrace is only viewable between 11am and 3pm before and after these times there is an alternative path round the back of the building). We then continue on the path passing the steps going downhill. At the seat on the left look down to see the pond where the waterfall spurts out every 10 to 15 minutes, worth waiting for. We carry on heading forwards to the car park and the road where we turn left and then almost immediately right into the wood of Nutwith Common. We follow the track to a t-junction and turn right leading us to the road we turn left here on the path to the left of the road (do not cross over the road). We then take the small road going off to the left to Roomer Farm. After passing the farm we continue on Roomer Lane for about half a mile and take the public footpath on the right and go over the stiles of five fields. Swinton Park tower is visible on our left. After the sixth stile with a narrow footbridge we turn left along field edge and after a short way we turn left over the ladder stile onto the road. Swinton Park is in front of us and we turn right and head down the road down. We cross over the bridge and past the golf course and clubhouse. At the t-junction turn left then take the next right and back to the Market Place.


This is an easy to moderate walk by the river and on woodland paths with a few short steep inclines and declines.


Approx 8.5 miles using OS maps 298 Nidderdale and Explorer 302 Northallerton and Thirsk.


Masham is in Wensleydale in the North Yorkshire Dales. There is a car park with an honesty box at the cricket club which is just over the bridge and there is parking in the Market Place and also some road side parking.


From Thirsk take the A61 at the roundabout take the second exit to Skipton-on-Swale. Go through the traffic lights and take the first right towards the A1. At the roundabout take the second exit signposted Masham the B6267. At the t-junction with the A6180 turn right go over the bridge into Masham.

Toilets and Refreshments

There are public toilets in Masham next to the Bruce Arms near the Market Place. For refreshments there are three pubs around the Market Place, the Kings Head Hotel, the Bay Horse and the Bruce Arms. There are also two pubs near the Black Sheep Brewery the White Bear and the Black Bull. There is also a tearoom, fish and chip shop and many shops.

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