Upper Wensleydale – Sedbusk to Hardraw round
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.
Upper Wensleydale lies within the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the River Ure runs through the valley. The River Ure flows 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 and Wensleydale is the only dale named after a village called Wensley rather than its river. 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.
Sedbusk is a small attractive village in Upper Wensleydale situated half way up a fell on the south facing side of the valley providing wonderful views over Wensleydale.
Hardraw, north of Hawes, is a hamlet which takes its name from Hardraw Force waterfall. The old school house which is now a bunkhouse was built in 1875 and the Pennine Way runs past the west side of the building. Hardraw Church, dedicated in honour of St Mary and St John, is a Grade II listed building and doubles as Darrowby Church in the TV series ‘All Creatures Great and Small’. In the village centre a little further up the road there is the Green Dragon Inn where Hardraw Force waterfall can be accessed through the inn. There is a fee of £2.50 per adult and £1.50 per child (under 5’s free) to visit the waterfall. Hardraw Force is a wonderful single 100 foot waterfall dropping from a rocky overhang and is one of the highest unbroken waterfalls in England. The force is situated on Hardraw Beck in Hardraw Scar, which is a limestone gorge. The scar is a natural amphitheatre and is the site of an annual brass band entertainment contest. The contest was first held in 1884 and lapsed between 1927 and 1976 and has been held since on the second Sunday in September. Over the last few years two other musical events have taken place here the Hardraw Bash a Folk Rock concert in early July and the Hardraw Gathering which is a three day festival of traditional music at the end of July.
Hawes is a picturesque small market town, with the River Ure running though its centre. Situated at the head of Wensleydale Hawes is England’s highest market town and along with the dale it is one of the biggest honey-pot tourist attractions of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Market day is Tuesday attracting many visitors and gives the locals the chance to get together at the auction mart and stock up with provisions at the indoor and outdoor markets. The town has other attractions such as the Dales Countryside Museum and National Park Centre located in the former railway station, a rope makers where you can see how church bell ropes, halters, skipping ropes and washing lines are made using traditional methods to produce a wide variety of rope products and the Wensleydale Creamery where you can see how the famous Wensleydale cheese is made by hand, to a time-honoured recipe, using milk from local farms where the cows graze the sweet limestone meadows that are rich in wild flowers, herbs and grasses. It is this herbage that gives the milk, and hence the cheese, its special flavour. The cheese has been made in Wensleydale since 1150 when Cistercian monks settled in the dale and established a monastery at Fors just 4 miles away from Hawes. There is also a Pottery and nearby is a children’s playground. Hawes is also a great place for walkers and hikers with many footpaths to choose from including the Pennine Way which is the UK’s first National Trail. Hawes is nestled between the hills of Great Shunner Fell and Lovely Seat to the North and Wether Fell and Dodd Fell to the south.
We take the minor road uphill signposted Sedbusk. At the end of the village green we turn right taking the track uphill. When we reach an iron gate across the track we turn left through the wooden gate. We head uphill and bear left just above a clump of trees and continue to a gate in the wall. We go through the gate and keep ahead on the faint path to go through the next gate in the wall. We continue on the path uphill to the top of the hill in front of us bearing slightly left at an arrow on a wooden post. We keep following the path until we reach a gravel track. We now turn left and follow the gravel track on the level which eventually bears left downhill to the road. We turn left over the cattle grid and continue downhill for a short way and pick up the footpath on the right signposted High Shaw. We walk to the right of the barn go through the gate and turn immediate left downhill following the wall to the river. We then follow the river on our right and we soon turn left over a ladder stile and keep heading forward on the faint path through the fields. When we come to a gate at some buildings we take the grass path just to the right of a gate. At the tarmac track we turn left then at the road we turn right. We continue on the road for a short way and just before the red telephone box and the Simonstone sign we turn right following the footpath sign for Hardraw. After passing through the gate we head forward downhill on the track to the right of a farm then through the field towards the houses until we reach the road at Hardraw. We turn right then almost immediate left at the telephone box and head forward through a gate. We continue ahead through the fields using the stiles and gates until we come to a road. We turn right and where the river reaches the road we turn left at the footpath sign through the gated stile. We continue forward crossing a little footbridge then after crossing a stile we follow the slabs to some trees in the corner of the field. We cross the stile turn right and follow the road back to the car.
This is a moderate walk on grass/gravel and stone paths and tracks and some tarmac road. There are some gates and stiles and steep inclines and declines.
Elevation: approx lowest point 223.30m (732.61ft) approx highest point 532.20m (1746.06ft) approx ascent 391.50m (1284.45ft)
Distance and Start Point
Approx 5.5 miles allow 2½-3 hours using OS Explorer Map OL19, Howgill Fells and Upper Eden Valley. This walk is done anti-clockwise.
Start point: At the turn off/ junction for Sedbusk on the Askrigg to Hardraw road.
Sebusk and Hardraw are in Upper Wensleydale in the Yorkshire Dales.
Directions and Parking
From the A1(M) take the junction for Bedale, Leyburn. At the roundabout take the 2nd exit at the next roundabout take the 2nd exit onto the A684 to Layburn. At the roundabout in Layburn take the 1st exit. Continue on the A684 through Wensley, West Witton, Aysgarth to Bainbridge. In Bainbridge take the right turn past the play park towards Askrigg. Cross over the river and at the t-junction turn left. Continue for about 3½ miles and Sedbusk is a turn off on the right. Do not go up into Sedbusk there is no parking.
Parking: limited parking on the road side at the turn off/ junction for Sedbusk on the Askrigg to Hardraw road.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are no public toilets the nearest ones are in the Market Place near the car park in Hawes. For refreshments there is the Green Dragon at Hardraw otherwise there are shops, tearooms, cafes, an excellent fish and chip shop and four pubs The Crown, The Fountain and The Old Board Inn in the Market Place and The White Hart Inn in Main Street.