Tan Hill to Ravenseat and West Stonesdale 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.
Swaledale is a very beautiful and typical limestone Yorkshire Dale with a narrow valley bottom road, the unpredictable River Swale, green meadows, fellside fields, white stone walls, limestone barns and lots of sheep. It runs broadly from west to east from the high moors of the Cumbria–Yorkshire boundary at the watershed of Northern England, where Nine Standards Rigg rises, to the market town of Richmond. A number of small dales to the south of the rigg join to form the narrow valley of Upper Swaledale at the small village of keld then at the village of Thwaite the valley slowly broadens out to take in the villages of Muker, Gunnerside and Reeth before reaching Richmond. Swaledale is home to many types of flora and fauna. Over the last few years the national park has been restoring 495 acres of upland and lowland to bring the traditional hay meadows back to their former glory, as part of the Hay Time Project. The process of not cutting the grass for hay or silage until wild plants have seeded provides a profusion of wild flowers in the spring and summer. Tourism has become very important in Swaledale attracting thousands of visitors a year especially with walkers as The Coast to Coast Walk passes through the valley and there are many public rights of way and open access land for all the family to explore and enjoy in this wonderful dale of Swaledale.
The Tan Hill Inn is the highest inn in the British Isles at 528 m (1,732 feet) above sea level. The building located in Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales dates to the 17th century and is unusual for its isolation but used to be surrounded by miners’ cottages. After the closure of the last coal mine in 1929 the cottages, used as a hostelry by the workers digging coal pits, were demolished but the inn remained open due to the custom of local farmers and the development of the motor car. The world famous inn is also known internationally for where walkers and cyclists meet and became the first public house in the UK to be granted a licence to hold weddings and civil ceremonies after new laws were brought in to allow couples to marry in other places other than churches or register offices. The inn is a free house and serves a range of beers from the Black Sheep and Theakston breweries. During the 1980’s the inn appeared in an advert starring Ted Moult for the Everest window fitting company and in the first Vodafone advert broadcast during the 1990’s.
Ravenseat is a remote hill top farm that sits by the Whitsundale Beck at the head of the River Swale west of Keld, the halfway point in the Coast-to-Coast footpath. It is a working farm specialising in Swaledale sheep and is the home of the Yorkshire Shepherdess. Amanda Owen the 41 year old shepherdess is married to Clive who is 61 years old. They rise at 6am every morning come rain, shine or driving sleeting snow to tend their 1,000 sheep, hundreds of lambs, forty cows, two pigs, dozens of chickens, three dogs and a bad tempered peacock on their 2,000 acres of rugged, peaty and acid land. She also runs a holiday let, sells cream teas all summer to walkers who pass her front door, does the VAT returns and accounts, and constantly bakes and cooks for her nine children. She has even written two books on life at Ravenseat. Her first book “The Yorkshire Shepherdess” reached the bestseller top 10 in 2014 and her second book being promoted is “A year in the life of the Yorkshire Shepherdess”. The farm offers a welcome break from trudging through peat bogs, whether you just want a cuppa, a cream tea with freshly home-baked scones or you’d like to rest a little longer with an overnight stay in their Shepherd’s Hut, that the Shepherdess has restored herself.
West Stonesdale is a small secluded hamlet near Keld to the south and Tan Hill to the north. Close-by there is the site of an abandoned lead mine, with some well preserved old buildings and mine workings, which operated between 1850 and 1861.
The Pennine Way often referred to as the back bone of England is 268 miles long. The Old Naggs Head in Edale in the Derbyshire Peak District, once the village blacksmiths dating back to 1577, is the official start of the Pennine Way. The National Trail heads north along the Pennine Hills passing through the Yorkshire Dales and the Northumberland National Park ending at Kirk Yetholm just inside the Scottish Border. The Pennine Way, very popular with walkers for many years, has 535 access points where it intersects with other public rights of way and crosses many roads and passes through many villages and towns with good public transport making it easier to be able to do long or short walks. The Pennine Way is not accessible to cyclists or horse riders but the more or less parallel Pennine Bridleway is open to all except motorised vehicles.
With the Tan Hill Inn on our right we head forward and take the road on the left sign posted Keld. After a short way we take the footpath on the right sign posted Ravenseat. We follow the path downhill to the bottom crossing a stream then bear left to pass a sheepfold and stream. We continue forward to a wooden hut then turn right at the footpath sign crossing over the stream. We now make our way uphill with the gorge on our right to the footpath sign at the top. We now turn left and continue for about a mile or so passing through some boggy ground until we reach a fence. We cross over the stile and head forwards. As we head downhill we can see Ravenseat farm in the distance. At the bottom we go through a gate next to the stream then left through the next gate. We now follow the path through the fields and between a barn and a house. We turn right for a look at Ravenseat Farm and cafe then return to the footpath to continue forward through a tiny gate with the stream on our right. We start to go uphill to the stone barns ahead of us following the footpath. We walk to the left of the next stone barn and continue forward to a gate. We go through the gate and continue forward following the wall. At the end of the wall head forward to the footpath sign we bear left here slightly uphill on a faint path, not on the wide path to Keld. We keep following the path to a short wall on our right and keep heading forwards on the faint path through some rocks to bear to the right of the second telegraph pole slightly downhill. We come to a wall on our right and we keep following the wall until we reach a second barn the path now bears left. As we come over the top we can see West Stonesdale down below. We make our way downhill to the road with the gully on our left. At the road we turn left past the telephone box then just past the post box we go through the gate on the right of the building in front. We head forward then turn right in the next field downhill to the stream at the bottom. At the telegraph pole we turn right through a little gate to cross the stream. We now turn left and follow the stream on our left through two fields until we come to a wall and a barn just up on our right. We head to the right of the building and go through the gate. We follow the path uphill until we meet the wall and a stile at the side of the last telegraph pole. We go over the stile and turn left uphill. We soon come to a track the Pennine Way we turn left through the gate and continue forward on the level. When we come to an old railway carriage we bear right uphill. At the top we bear left and continue on the Pennine Way back to Tan Hill Inn.
This is a moderate walk on unlevel grass paths, good gravel tracks and some tarmac minor road. There are a number of gates and stiles and some steep inclines and declines.
Elevation: approx lowest point 350.90m (1151.25ft) approx highest point 542.50m (1779.86ft) approx ascent 387.70m (1271.98ft).
Distance and Start Point
Approx 8.7 miles allow 4 hours using OS Explorer Map OL30, Yorkshire Dales Northern and Central areas. This walk is done anti-clockwise.
Start point: the Tan Hill Inn
Tan Hill is in Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales.
Directions and Parking
From the A1(M) take the A66. After passing the turn off for Bowes continue for approx 12 miles and take the minor road on the left with a dog leg(can be seen from the A66) towards Barras and follow the brown signs for Tan Hill.
Parking: Free parking opposite the Tan Hill Inn.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are no public toilets on route. The only toilets are at the Inn and the nearest public ones are at Keld. For refreshments there is the Tan Hill Inn and at the cafe at Ravenseat.