A Winters Day in Nidderdale – Middlesmoor to Ramsgill via Lofthouse round

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North Yorkshire is England’s largest county and one of the most rural comprising of the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors, Vale of York and the coastal regions and they all have their own distinctive natural beauty. The county covers an area of 3,341 square miles and 40% of this area is covered by National Parks and with stunning moorland, beautiful dramatic to rolling hills, ancient woodland, a spectacular coastline, splendid waterfalls, many attractive villages and hamlets and many historic sites such as abbeys, castles, priories, stately homes and traditional pubs there is something for everyone of all ages to explore.

The Yorkshire Dales is an upland area of Northern England spanning westwards from the Vale of York, over the Pennines and into Cumbria. Known mainly as The Dales it has outstanding scenery, a diversity of wildlife habitats, a rich cultural heritage and peacefulness. The Yorkshire Dales National Park, created in 1954 and one of fifteen National Parks in Britain, has over twenty main dales each with their own unique character and atmosphere.  Most of the dales are named after their river or stream except Wensleydale which is named after the small village and former market town of Wensley rather than the River Ure. The Northern Dales are rugged and the Southern Dales are less remote but the dales, so beautiful, are littered and scared with ancient settlement sites, disused mineral workings, dry-stone walls and barns. The U and V shaped valleys, formed by glaciers, are mainly grazed by sheep and cattle and provides the hills for walkers and climbers and the valley bottoms for strollers and amblers.

Nidderdale, being one of the dales in the Yorkshire Dales, is the upper valley of the River Nidd but it does not lie within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Pateley Bridge is Nidderdale’s only town but the villages of Wath, Ramsgill, Lofthouse and Middlesmoor lie above the town and below there are the villages of Bewerley, Glasshouses, Summerbridge, Dacre, Darley, Birstwith, Hampswaite and Kettlesing. Nidderdale was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1994, and is really a stunning valley with the picturesque Scar House Reservoir just above Lofthouse, Stean and Middlesmoor. The dramatic landscape provides excellent walking, cycling, horse riding, llama trekking, bird watching or you can just relax and soak up the scenery. For the walker there are 820 km of public footpaths and bridleways from long distant routes such as the Nidderdale Way to easy strolls. For the cyclist there is a good network of quiet lanes and off road tracks as well as a section of The National Byway Britain’s heritage cycling route and there are also miles and miles of tracks for mountain bike riding. The new right of access came into force in 2005 and has allowed 200 square kilometres of access land to be walked freely. For the horse rider there is a bridleway network covering more than 170km. Llama Trekking is an unforgettable experience and Nidderdale Llamas run guided treks from two hour sessions to a full day trek. For the birdwatcher the habitats from moorlands and reservoirs to woodlands attract a great range of garden and passerine birds, wildfowl and waders. So the dale has much to offer to suit everyone’s ability and interest.

Middlesmoor is a small unspoilt tranquil village with cobblestones situated on a hill at the head of the Nidderdale valley. The village pub, the Crown Hotel, with breathtaking views of the Nidderdale valley offers bed & breakfast, a cosy cottage or campsite accommodation.   The village church of St Chad’s also overlooking the Nidderdale valley is said to have one of the best views from any church in England. The present church, dating from 1866, is a Grade II listed building.

Lofthouse, a small village about a mile south of Middlesmoor, has a primary school, memorial village hall and like Middlesmoor has a pub also called the Crown Hotel which offers en-suit accommodation. The hotel is situated on the Nidderdale Way in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Nidderdale Caves lie just north of the village. The River Nidd runs underground through the caves and emerges at Nidd Heads just south of the village. The normally dry surface bed of the river passes the village to the west. Lofthouse had a railway station between 1907 and 1929.

Ramsgill is a small village near the northern end of Gouthwaite Reservoir. The Yorke Arms, a Michelin- starred restaurant, situated on the village green takes its name from the lords of the manor, the Yorke family, who once lived in nearby Gouthwaite Hall. The village Church of St Mary the Virgin was built in 1842 near to the remains of a Grade II listed medieval chapel which was originally part of a large grange built by the monks of Byland Abbey. Ramsgill had a railway station on the Nidd Valley Light Railway, located in the hamlet of Bouthwaite near Ramsgill. It opened in 1907 and closed in 1930. The Nidderdale Way and Six Dales Trail both pass through Bouthwaite. In the village of Wath at the southern end of Gouthwaite Reservoir you will find the Sportsman’s Arms Inn and a small Methodist chapel, built in 1859, which has an unusual 5 sided shape. The ford over the River Nidd was replaced by a bridge, Wath Bridge, by the 16th century. The present bridge, a narrow road bridge, dates from the early 19th century and is a Grade II listed building. Wath also had a railway station in the early 20th century on the Nidd Valley Light Railway.

The Nidderdale Way is a 53 mile circular walk starting and finishing in Pateley Bridge. The route, with its own unique symbol seen on finger posts and waymarks, takes you through beautiful and contrasting countryside from the spectacular uplands around Scar House Reservoir to the more gentle rolling pasture and river valleys along the course of the Nidd.  Pateley Bridge takes its name from ‘Pate’ an old Yorkshire dialect word for ‘Badger’. In August 1849 a Nidderdale Omnibus started operating between Pateley Bridge and Ripley Station and until 1964 Pateley Bridge was the terminus of the Nidd Valley Railway, opened by the North Eastern Railway in 1862, which ran from Nidd Valley Junction near Harrogate.

The River Nidd rises in Nidderdale at Nidd Head Spring on the slopes of Great Whernside in the Yorkshire Dales and flows for approximately 58¾ miles before it joins the River Ouse at Nun Munkton. In its first few miles the river is dammed three times to create Angram Reservoir, Scar House Reservoir and Gouthwaite Reservoir. In dry weather the river disappears underground into the sink hole known as Manchester Hole flows through the caves and reappears at the rising Nidd Head to the south of Lofthouse. In wet weather the Nidd can cause the reservoirs to overflow and the underground caves in the valley become flooded which allows the river to flow along the normally dry river bed past Lofthouse through to Gouthwaite Reservoir. The river then continues through Pateley Bridge then meanders past Glasshouses, Summerbridge, Dacre Banks, Darley, Birstwith, Hampswaite, Scotton Banks, Knaresborough, Little Ribston, Cowthorpe, Cattal, Moor Monkton before reaching its destination.

Pateley Bridge is an attractive market town in Nidderdale in the Borough of Harrogate, North Yorkshire. This market town, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, with its spring and summer floral displays has won the Britain in Bloom competition twice and the River Nidd flowing through it enhances its beauty. There are many signs of 18th and early 19th century buildings and shops along the steep narrow main High Street including the oldest sweet shop in England and the best butchers shop in Yorkshire. Pateley Bridge originally relied on lead mining, stone quarrying and flax which can be seen in the Nidderdale Museum. Also well worth seeing in the craft workshops is the glassblower, a potter and a jeweller and there is the Pateley Playhouse ‘Little Theatre of the Dales’. Nidderdale Festival and one of the best Agricultural Shows are held annually on the showground and car boot sales are held on Sundays.

The Walk

We did this walk after the bad snow storms from the Beast of the East.

From Middlesmoor car park we turn left downhill into the village and turn left opposite the telephone box to the church. At the church entrance gate we turn right to cross over a stile. We go down the steps then head forward downhill through the field to the farm ahead. We pass through the centre of the farm and follow the arrow slightly right downhill. At the clump of trees we bear right following the wall to pass through the stile. We head forward to the right of the barn and cross another stile marked with yellow. We cross the field and go through a gate to meet the road. We turn immediate left and walk between the fence lines to meet a tarmac track. We cross straight over, fire station on our right, and go through a gate to cross the bridge over the river. We follow the path through a gate in to Lofthouse. At the road we bear right. At the car park you can turn left and take the Pennine Way which meets up with the road just beyond the village but we head forward through the village to see what’s there. At the t-junction we bear left along the road. The footpath on the left is the one that joins the road from the car park. We keep heading forward and take the footpath on the right, The Pennine Way, across the fields until we meet the road. We cross straight over and bear half right uphill to the wood. With the wood on our left we head forward past a building and when the path splits we take the right path. At the next building we go through the gate on the left and continue ahead through the fields to a farm at Bouthwaite. We cross over a little bridge pass through the farm and follow the track bearing right. We turn right again and follow the tarmac track to the road. At the t-junction we turn left over the bridge. Just as we enter the village of Ramsgill we turn right following the footpath sign through a gate at the side of a house. We continue on the Pennine Way with the river on our right through the fields to West House Farm. At the farm we ignore the stile on the right and go through the gate and farmyard, to a gate at the far side with a blue arrow. We continue forward with the wall on our left and continue through the fields to the left of a stone barn to pick up a track. We bear right crossing the bridge over the gill and keep following the track until we come to a t-junction. We turn right downhill towards the caravan site. At the bottom we turn left with following the stream on our right. When we meet the road we keep heading straight forward with the stream still on our right. We now keep following the no-through road passing How Stean Gorge on the right towards the village of Stean. Before we reach the village we turn right at the footpath sign at the side of a stone barn. We go through the stile and head downhill to cross over the gill at the bottom then we head forward uphill making our way through the fields towards the church at Middlesmoor. At the road we turn left and follow the road through Middlesmoor to the car park.


This is a moderate walk on the Nidderdale Way through grass fields, on gravel/grass paths/tracks and some minor tarmac road. There are some steep inclines and declines.

Elevation: approx lowest point 139.20m (456.69ft) approx highest point 300.40m (985.56ft) approx ascent 356.00m (1167.98ft)

Distance and Start Point

Approx 6.6 miles allow 3 – 3½ hours using OS Explorer Map 298, Nidderdale, Fountains Abbey, Ripon and Pateley Bridge. This walk is done clockwise.

Start point: Free car park at Middlesmoor.


Middlesmoor, north-west of Pateley Bridge, is in the Nidderdale valley in the Yorkshire Dales.

Directions and Parking

In Pateley Bridge take the road opposite the show ground passing between the garage and the park area. Follow the road passing Wath on the right and continue following the road at the side of Gouthwaite Reservoir. Pass through Ramsgill then past Lofthouse to arrive at Middlesmoor. Continue through the village and the car park in on the right.

Parking: Free car park at Middlesmoor.

Toilets and Refreshments

There are public toilets at Middlesmoor, Lofthouse and Pateley Bridge. For refreshments there is a pub at Middlesmoor the Crown Hotel, a pub at Lofthouse also called the Crown Hotel and a pub at Ramsgill, the Yorke Arms. There is also the Sportsmans Arms at Wath. For more choice there are shops, pubs and cafes in Pateley Bridge.

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