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.
Wharfedale is a beautiful lush green valley in the Yorkshire Dales of North Yorkshire running from north to south. It is one of the longest valleys in The Dales evolving near the villages of Cray and Buckden in Upper Wharfedale where the meandering River Wharfe and the rocky limestone outcrops, gives this dale a different type of attractiveness to other dales valleys. Wharfe is a Celtic name meaning “twisting, winding”. The valley from Upper Wharfedale to Lower Wharfedale takes in some of the most prettiest and popular Dales villages, such as Starbotton, Kettlewell, Conistone, Kilnsey, Grassington, Bolton Abbey, Hebden, Ilkley, Burley-in-Wharfedale, Otley, Pool-in-Wharfedale, Arthington, Collingham before opening out into the Vale of York beyond Wetherby.
Grassington is a wonderful market town situated in Wharfedale in the Yorkshire Dales and is surrounded by limestone scenery. Grassington was granted a Royal Charter for a market and fair in 1282 and the market was held regularly until 1860. Grassington only started to thrive during the late 18th and early 19th century. The opening of the Yorkshire Dales Railway to nearby Threshfield in 1901 brought many new visitors who settled and found work in Skipton or in the developing limestone quarries. Linton Falls on the River Wharfe, just south of Grassington, can be reached from the back of the car park. The falls are spectacular and in 1909 a hydroelectric plant at the falls supplied Grassington with its first electricity and operated until 1948. The plant is now being restored, through an English Heritage project, using two Archimedean screw turbines to produce 510,000 kilowatt hours per year. Today Grassington is a popular tourist place and centred round its cobbled square are a good selection of shops offering food, drinks, clothing and gifts. There are three pubs the Black Horse Hotel, the Devonshire Hotel and the Foresters Arms all of which have accommodation along with some guest houses and there is the Tourist Information Centre in Grassington car park.
Conistone is a small pretty village in Upper Wharfedale situated beside the River Wharfe. The village 3 miles north of Grassington is set into the limestone landscape below the hillside of Conistone Moor at 496 m. Conistone with no shop or pub is home to the long established horse and pony Trekking Centre and St. Mary’s Church. The church was built in the 11th or 12th century and probably the oldest building in the district. In 1846 it was rebuilt adding the chancel under the supervision of the Lancaster architects Sharpe and Paley who maintained its original Norman style. It is built in limestone rubble with grit stone dressings and a stone slate roof and in September 1954 was granted a Grade II listed building along with two 18th century chest tombs in the churchyard. The oak pews made by Mousey Thompson of Kilburn were installed in 1957. To the east of the village is The Dib which is a narrow dry gorge created by post glacial floodwater and leads upwards from the village green through Gurgling Trough to an area of spectacular limestone scenery where Moss dale Caverns lie within Moss dale Scar.
The distinctive knoll of Conistone Pie situated on the Dales Way can be seen to the north east of Conistone and a climb to the top provides wonderful views of the valley and hills and Capplestone Gate is a gate opening out onto the top of Conistone Moor where also the views of the surrounding hills and Wharfedale are fantastic.
The famous Kilnsey Crag dominating the landscape to the west of Conistone is a large limestone cliff of around 170 feet with a challenging overhang of 40 foot attracting many climbers all year round. The village of Kilnsey has a pub and Kilnsey Park, another popular tourist attraction for both the young and the old, has a restaurant.
The Dales Way is an 84 mile Long Distance Footpath from Ilkley in West Yorkshire to Bowness-on-Windermere in Cumbria and passes through the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Lake District National Park. The route, being mostly along river valleys, is shorter and less strenuous than the more well known Pennine Way and Coast to Coast Walk even though the first section in Upper Wharfedale from the Watershed at Cam Houses in Langstrothdale down into Ribblesdale is very steep going, up and down. The next section follows the river valleys of Dentdale, the River Mint and River Kent before descending to the shores of Windermere.
We turn left out of the car park then at the bend in the road we turn right and follow the road to the left of the market place. At the cross roads we turn left on to Chapel Street then when the road splits we bear left. At Bank Lane we turn right and follow the track which bears left uphill. At some trees and the signpost Dales Way Footpath to Kettlewell we turn left through the gate into the field and head forwards. We go over a stile bear left to a gated stile then turn right heading forwards following the Dales Way over the field. We go over a stile and keep heading forwards ignoring any paths going off, until we reach the wall on our right. We keep bearing slightly right over the walls following the distinct path of the Dales Way. We pass a kiln on our left then go through a gated stile and keep heading forwards until we come to the Dib, a steep gorge. We take the little gate on the left and turn immediate left steeply downhill to go through a little gate. We follow the path downhill through the fields then pass between the steep rock formations to the bottom and into Conistone. At the road we turn left for a short way and take the footpath on the left signposted Grassington. We follow the path bearing right with the wall on our right. When we come to a gate next to a stone barn we head towards the post in the distance. At the post we head forward through a wall then follow the wall on our right towards the trees and a gully. The path bears left uphill alongside the gully and at the top we turn right. We head forwards to go over the gated stile in the wall. We follow the path uphill with a wall on our left. We go through an iron gate on the left then follow the wide grassy path until we meet the Dales Way. We turn right and retrace our steps back into Grassington.
This is a moderate walk on stony and grass paths and tracks mainly through fields with a few steep inclines and declines. There are some gates and stiles and also a small stretch of tarmac road through Grassington. This walk is Anti-clockwise.
Elevation: approx lowest point 191.5m (628.3ft) approx highest point 322m (1056.5ft) approx ascent 376m (1233.3ft)
Distance and Start Point
Approx 7 miles allow 3 to 3½ hours using OS Explorer Map OL2, Yorkshire Dales, Southern and Western areas. This walk is anti clockwise.
Start point: Grassington pay and display car park.
Grassington and Conistone are in the valley of Wharfedale in the Yorkshire Dales.
Directions and Parking
From the A1 take the A61 to Ripon. At Ripon take the B6265 through Pateley Bridge, past Hebden then continue to Grassington. The car park is on the left on entering the village.
Parking: Grassington pay and display car park £4.50 for all day and some limited free parking in the village market place and side streets.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are public toilets situated next to the Tourist Information Centre in Grassington car park. For refreshments there are three pubs, cafes, tea rooms, a fish and chip shop and many shops to browse around Grassington market place. There are no public toilets, pubs or shops in Conistone.