Nidderdale – Pateley Bridge to Wath and Gouthwaite Reservoir 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.

Pateley Bridge situated on the River Nidd 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 showground is situated on the west side of the village on the other side of the river and opposite the showground is the village green and play park.

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.

Wath, known as Wath-in-Nidderdale to distinguish from other places called Wath is a village close to Gouthwaite Reservoir 3 miles north of Pateley Bridge. Wath is home to Wath Mill a 19th century built on the site of an earlier 16th century mill. The mill is situated near the pub and a large mill pond is located above the mill. The building is two storeys high and five bays long. Much of the machinery within the mill is still intact. On one of the cast iron girders is stamped ‘Mill rebuilt 1880’. The mill is open to the public on set days during the summer, for open day times please see Nidderdale AONB’s website and look under events. The village has a pub The Sportsman’s Arms with a restaurant and bed and breakfast accommodation.

Gouthwaite Reservoir was constructed between 1893 and 1901 as a compensation reservoir for the River Nidd, therefore maintaining the downstream flow of the river during periods of lower rainfall. The Elizabethan manor house, Gouthwaite Hall, the ancient home of the Yorke family, was submerged beneath its waters. Gouthwaite White Hall was rebuilt beside the reservoir with materials from the old hall and is now a Grade II listed building. Gouthwaite Reservoir, one of a many reservoirs in the Nidderdale area, is a Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The reservoir attracts a wide range of wetland birds, small birds, waders, migrants and birds of prey. Tree and shrub cover along the shoreline provides the habitat for small birds such as willow warbler and black cap. Woodland birds like the great spotted woodpecker and nuthatch have been recorded. King Fishers are often seen when the water level is low and green woodpeckers live at the northern end of the reservoir. Canada Geese, mallards, Oyster Catchers and other waterfowl are common with regular visits in the autumn and winter from Gooseanders, Tufted Duck and from Iceland the Whooper Swan. Winter is also a good time to see Red Kite and Buzzard flying above the reservoir and the surrounding moorland and other birds of prey have often been sighted on passage. In the summer months the water level drops providing ideal breeding and feeding grounds for waders. The reservoir is owned by Yorkshire Water who has created three viewing areas for bird watchers on the western edge of the reservoir. Gouthwaite Reservoir is the reservoir featured on the opening credits of the UK soap drama, Emmerdale.

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 Walk

We walk out of the car park entrance, cross the road and turn right crossing the bridge over the River Nidd then immediate left at the signpost onto the Nidderdale Way. We head up the little lane and follow the footpath sign. We soon start to follow the River Nidd on our left. We pass the bridge on the left and continue ahead through the gate. We just keep heading forward on what was once the railway line through the fields going through gates and over stiles and past some ponds. Two fields from Wath we leave the old railway line on the faint grass path bearing left over the field to cross a stile in the wall. In the next field we keep heading in the same direction to the corner then cross over a tiny wooden footbridge and turn right up the road to the village of Wath. We pass what was the old railway station on the right, the Sportsman’s Arms and the disused Wath Mill on the left. When the road bends to the right we turn left and follow the track uphill. At the t-junction at the top we bear left and continue past an old farm and soon arrive at the quarry on our right. We keep following the track and we soon get our first glimpse of Gouthwaite Reservoir on the left. We go through a gate and soon go through another gate on the left at a footpath sign. We head downhill to the head of the reservoir go through a tiny gate and continue ahead through the fields until we reach the road with Wath on our left. We cross the tiny footbridge opposite into the field and now retrace our steps until we arrive back at the big footbridge over the river. We cross the bridge and turn immediate left and walk between the river on our left and the caravan park on our right. We soon arrive at the village green with a play park in Pateley Bridge. We head forward crossing over the main road back into the car park.


This is an easy walk on grass/gravel paths and tracks with gates and stiles and a short distance of minor tarmac road with one short incline and decline.

Elevation: approx lowest point 114m (373ft) approx highest point 198m (649ft) approx ascent 108m (353ft).

Distance and Start Point

Approx 5 miles allow 1¾ to 2½ hours using OS Explorer Map 298, Nidderdale, Fountains Abbey, Ripon and Pateley Bridge. This walk is done anti-clockwise from Wath.

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


Pateley Bridge is in the Nidderdale valley 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 £1.40 for over 4 hours.

Toilets and Refreshments

There are public toilets located in the park area also in the short stay car park behind the High Street. For refreshments there are shops, pubs, cafes, butcher’s and a fish and chip shop in Pateley Bridge. En- route there is the Sportsman’s arms at Wath.

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