Brimham Rocks from Pateley Bridge 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.

Pateley Bridge is an attractive market town in Nidderdale in the Borough of Harrogate, North Yorkshire. This market town 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. Pateley Bridge takes its name from ‘Pate’ an old Yorkshire dialect word for ‘Badger’ and until 1964 was the terminus of the railway line running up Nidderdale from Nidd Valley Junction near Harrogate.

Brimham Rocks are an amazing collection of weird and wonderful rock formations scattered across 50 acres of moorland east of Pateley Bridge. These unusual rock formations have been sculpted over centuries by ice, wind and rain. Geologists have dated the rocks at around 320 million years old. The weird and wonderful rocks standing at a height of nearly 30 feet over time have been nicknamed such as the Sphinx, the Eagle, the Watch Dog, the Gorilla, Idol Rock, the Turtle, the Camel and the Dancing Bear. The rocks shapes we see today were most likely formed by erosion during the last glacial period which occurred around 110,000 to 10,000 years ago. The site was recognized as being a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1958. The children’s television programme “Rodger and the Rottentrolls” was filmed here and the site was featured in the video for the Bee Gees’ song “You Win Again”.   Brimham Rocks cared for by the National Trust is a great day out for families, climbers, walkers and those wanting to simply enjoy the fresh air and magnificent views. The rocks are open all year round from 8 am to dusk entry is free but there is a car parking fee for non-members of the National Trust. There is a refreshment kiosk and a shop on site open during the main season and picnic tables for all year use.

Glasshouses is a small village 1 mile south east of Pateley Bridge on the east side of Nidderdale and houses the Birch Tree Inn situated on the main road from Harrogate to Pateley Bridge. The bridge across the River Nidd has been recently rebuilt and the old Twine Mill on the banks of the River Nidd now houses a number of small businesses. May Day is celebrated every year with traditional May Pole dancing and the crowning of the Queen Mary on the village green.

The Nidderdale Way is a 53 mile circular long distance footpath within the Nidderdale area of outstanding beauty. It route starts and finishes in Pateley Bridge following the River Nidd and leads up the valley above Scar House reservoir before heading back down through the village of Ripley. Although the footpath is a low level route it does climb the valley sides to follow grit stone edges and moorland fringes for rewarding views. Along the way attractions include the wind weathered grit stones rocks of Brimham Rocks, How Stean Gorge a spectacular limestone gorge, Yorke’s Folly built to resemble a window arch from an abbey and Ripley Castle with its deer park and gardens laid out by Capability Brown. It also passes through some attractive villages such as Middlesmoor, Ramsgill, Lofthouse, Darley, Summerbridge and Ripley.

The Walk

We turn right out of the car park entrance, cross over the bridge and head forward to the top of the High Street and follow the road round to the right. Just after the church we take the foot path on the left up the steps signposted Panorama Walk. We follow the lane, the Nidderdale Way, uphill calling in at the church on the left for a quick look before continuing on the left hand path uphill still following the Nidderdale Way. We cross straight over at the crossroads. When the road bears right downhill we head straight forward on the gravel track. We pass a house on our right then when the path splits we follow the blue arrow to the right downhill. When we come to the road we turn left then right at the footpath sign behind a row of houses. We head forwards on the track until we meet a road we turn left uphill and when the road bears left we keep heading forward on the path between two walls. We soon come to another road we turn right downhill then as the road bends sharp right we turn left onto a gravel track, signposted Kiln Farm. We head forward and at the farm we go through the gate and take the path on the left uphill. We soon go through another gate on the left and keep heading forward to a crossroads. We head straight over and follow the path soon coming to some houses where we turn right over a stile. We head forward downhill through the fields then at the bottom we take the footpath on the left crossing diagonally across the field to the track then turn left. At the end of the track we turn right downhill then at the bottom we cross over the footbridge at the ford and continue uphill on the track passing through a couple of gates. We cross over a ladder stile then bear left to cross over a stile and head forward on the track to go over another stile. At the top of the field we go through the gate and turn left to go through a second gate then almost immediately right over a stile. We head uphill into Brimham Rocks and wander around before making our way to the shop, kiosk and picnic area. We then head along the track to pass the car park on our left go through a gate way and bear left to the main road. We now turn right uphill to the brow and turn right at the footpath sign. We head forward to go through the gate on the right and continue with wire fence on our left. We walk through the trees ignoring the paths going off left or right until we reach Low Wood House. We turn left along the track then at the road we turn left for a short way then right onto a gravel track. We head forward downhill until we come to the road and the Ye Old Oak Inn at Low Laithe. We turn right then left at the footpath sign and head down to the River Nidd. At the river we turn right then after a short way we cross the footbridge to the other side and turn right. We now follow the river on our right passing under an old railway bridge until we reach the road at Glasshouses. We turn right over the bridge then left to continue past the reservoir and to follow the river on our left all the way back to Pateley Bridge.


This is an easy to moderate walk on grass and gravel tracks and paths. There are short distances of tarmac road and a number of gates and stiles.

Elevation: approx lowest point 100.60m (330.05ft) approx highest point 294.20m (965.22ft) approx ascent 368.20m (1208ft).

Distance and Start Point

Approx 8.75 miles allow 4 hours using OS Explorer Map 298 Nidderdale, Fountains Abbey, Ripon and Pateley Bridge. This walk is done clock-wise.

Start point: show ground car park Pateley Bridge pay and display £1.80 all day.


Pateley Bridge is in Nidderdale in the Yorkshire Dales.

Directions and Parking

From York head towards Ripon and then take the B6265 into Pateley Bridge OR head towards Knaresborough and then take the B6165 into Pateley Bridge. There are three car parks in Pateley Bridge.

Parking: show ground car park pay and display £1.80 all day and the Nidd Walk car park pay and display over 4 hours £1.40.

Toilets and Refreshments

There are public toilets located in the park area also in the short stay car park behind the High Street and at Brimham Rocks. For refreshments there are shops, pubs, cafes, butcher’s Tree and a fish and chip shop in Pateley Bridge. In Glasshouses there is a public house, The Birch Inn. At Brimham Rocks the National Trust offers a visitor centre, shop and kiosk.

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