Middleham – River Ure – Wensley Bridge – The Gallops round

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Can anyone tell us what the squirrel is actually doing under Wensley Bridge in this video?

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.

Wensleydale lies within the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the River Ure runs through the valley for 74 miles from its source at Ure Head on Abbotside Common in the Pennines into the River Ouse at Cuddy Shaw Reach near Linton-on-Ouse, North Yorkshire where the river changes its name to the River Ouse. Wensleydale is perfect walking country with many way marked footpaths and open landscapes giving spectacular scenery all year round. Wensleydale is also renowned for hill farming, rearing many types of Sheep and cattle and the meadow grass for hay and silage is vital to the system. Its industrial past was water powered mills at Gayle, Hawes, Bainbridge, Askrigg, Thoralby, West Burton and Aysgarth which were variously used to grind corn, produce textiles (wool, cotton, linen, silk and flax), generate electricity or saw wood.

Middleham a small market town set in the beautiful countryside of Wensleydale lies on the northern side of the valley where Wensleydale and Coverdale meet. The town’s two market squares are surrounded by Georgian buildings, shops, galleries and cafes. Middleham is famous for its 12th century castle the home of King Richard III and its thriving racehorse training industry the Middleham Trainers Association. The towns first racehorse trainer was Isaac Cape in 1765 but today there are many trainers as horse racing is the number one employer and tourism the second. There are several hundred horses stabled in Middleham and can often be seen in the town or galloping across the surrounding countryside. Middleham Castle was built by Robert Fitzrandolph, 3rd lord of Middleham and Spennithorme, commencing in 1190. It was built near the site of an earlier motte and baily castle called William Hill which can be seen nearby. Even though the castle was the childhood home of King Richard III he spent little of his reign there. After the death of the king at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 the castle remained in royal hands until it was dismantled in 1646 but the keep built in the 1170’s, the 13th century chapel and the 14th century gatehouse have survived. Many of the stones of the castle were used in the buildings in the village of Middleham.

The River Ure is a typical clean river of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and is rich in wildlife, insect life and many species of birds. It flows through Wensleydale for 74 miles from its source at Ure Head on Abbotside Common to Cuddy Shaw Reach near Linton-on-Ouse where it changes name to the River Ouse. It is the only river in the Dales named after a village, the village being Wensley, rather than its river. The main tributaries of the River Ure are Bishopdale Beck and the Rivers Bain, Cover, Burn, Skell and Laver. Fishermen love the River Ure for its brown trout, grayling and it also has the nationally rare native white-clawed crayfish.

Wensley even though a very small village it gave its name to the entire dale of Wensleydale.     The village situated on the A684 about 1 mile south west of Layburn consists of a few homes, holiday cottages, an inn, a pub, a historic church and an old mill. It was once the home of the only market in the valley and remained the main local trade point until it was hit by the plague in 1563. Wensley’s Holy Trinity Church dates to 1300 and was designated a Grade I listed building by English Heritage. It is featured as the wedding venue of James and Helen Herriot in the British TV series “All Creatures Great and Small”. Wensley Mill is now home to White rose Candles where visitors can see the process of candle making and also buy a few.  There is a waterfall at Wensley situated on the River Ure which passes through the village but is hidden away from view behind the old cottage used by the candlemakers. The railway station at Wensley which closed in the 1950’s has now been converted into a holiday cottage.

Middleham Gallops are on public land a short walk from the centre of Middleham and members of the public are welcome to watch the racehorses being put through their paces and also enjoy the splendid scenic views over Wensleydale.

The Walk

With the Key Centre on our left we head forward past the school on the right towards the stables. We go through an electric gate then at the end of the stables on the left we turn right through the gate and follow the track to go through another gate into the field and turn left downhill to the left hand corner. We go through the gate into the next field and head forward to the gate in the left hand corner. We go through and follow the wall on the right. We pass a big tree then go through two red gates and head downhill towards the river. We go through a gate and turn left along the track. When the track bends slightly left we turn right through a large gap in the hedge and follow the faint path across the field towards two trees at the edge of the river. We now just keep following the river until we arrive at Wensley Bridge. We go up onto the main road and turn left then at the t-junction we turn left again onto a minor road signposted Coverdale. We continue along the road. We pass an old barn and the road soon starts to go steeply uphill. Just before the trees with a farm on the right we turn left at the footpath sign through the gate. We head forward slightly right to go through another gate then bear slightly left uphill through the trees following the yellow markers. We go through a wall into a field and head forward uphill to a wall corner. At the top of the hill we bear left along the Gallops then bear right at the dip towards the Gallops at the other side. We continue along the Gallops until we meet the road. We bear left along the road then at the bend we turn right through the gate and turn left.  We head through the fields with the hedge on our left until we arrive at the Middleham Castle. We turn left onto the track and make our way back to the Key Centre.


This is an easy to moderate walk on grass/gravel paths and tracks with gates and stiles. Some tarmac road with a steep incline between Wensley Bridge and the gallops.

Elevation: approx lowest point 102m (334ft) approx highest point 241m (791ft) approx ascent 167m (548ft).

Distance and Start Point

Approx 6.5 miles allow 2½ to 3½ hours using OS Explorer Map OL30, Yorkshire Dales, Northern and Central areas, Wensleydale and Swaledale. This walk is done anti-clockwise.

Start point: Park Lane near the Middleham Key Centre.


Middleham is in the Wensleydale valley in the Yorkshire Dales, North Yorkshire.

Directions and Parking

Travelling from the south on the A1(M) take junction 51 then at the roundabout take the second exit onto the A684.Travelling from the north on the A1(M) take junction 51 at the roundabout take the third exit then at the next roundabout take the third exit onto the A684. At the next roundabout take the second exit towards Layburn. After passing through Constable Burton take the next left. At the crossroads cross straight over. Pass over the river bridge then at the main road turn right for Middleham. When the road bends round to the right we off left past the shop on the right then at the memorial we turn right into Park Lane.

Parking: we park down Park Lane near the Middleham Key centre but there is plenty of free off road and side of the road parking in the town.

Toilets and Refreshments

There are public toilets in Middleham and for refreshments there is a shop and four pubs the Black Bull, the Dante’s Arms, the White Swan Hotel and Richard III. There are more shops and pubs in nearby Layburn.


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