Wensleydale – West Witton to West Burton 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.
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. 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. Fishermen love this river for its brown trout, grayling and it also has the nationally rare native white-clawed crayfish.
West Witton just within the Yorkshire Dales National Park looks down onto the River Ure and has wonderful views of the valley. Penhill the prominent concave shaped hill above West Witton was formed during the last ice age when glaciers carved the valley into a U-shape. The beacon on the summit, built to warn of a Spanish invasion, is accessible by bridleway or by foot over open access land. This small village houses a shop and two pubs the Wensleydale Heifer and the Fox and Hounds. The Wensleydale Heifer is rather an unusual pub with luxury themed en-suite rooms and a quality restaurant specialising in seafood, it is well worth a visit. The Old Star once a 17th century coaching inn is now a family run B&B. The village is famous locally for its “Burning of Bartle” where a larger than life effigy of “Bartle” complete with glowing eyes is paraded around the village accompanied by repeated chants of the Bartle doggerel before finally being burnt at Grassgill End to the singing and cheers of the assembled crowd. The Doggerel being “On Penhill Crags he tore his rags, Hunters Thorn he blew his horn, Capplebank Stee happened a misfortune and brak’ his knee, Grisgill Beck he brak’ his neck, Wadhams End he couldn’t fend, Grassgill End we’ll mak’ his end. Shout, lads, Shout. This ancient ritual takes place on the Saturday night closest to St. Bartholomew’s Day on the 24th August. The Witton Fell race takes place the day before and the Witton Feast, a fun day with lots of activities and things going on, takes place the day after. The Burning of Bartle Trail, developed in 2005, is a 4 mile walk around the village marked by a series of mosaics embedded in the stone walls, each created by children and adults from the village. The original church of St .Bartholomew dates back to Saxon times and went under major restoration in 1875 leaving only the Saxon north wall and 16th century bell tower. During the restoration a Saxon carved stone cross was uncovered in the church wall, which is now displayed above the pulpit. The old vicarage, a Grade II listed building parts of which date back 300 years, is now a B&B. Kagram is a very small hamlet adjacent to West Witton.
West Burton in Wensleydale is said to be one of the most beautiful villages in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It lies in a deep sheltered valley at the junction of Walden Dale, Bishopdale and Wensleydale just off the B6160 road, which eventually leads to Addingham. There are two no through roads that leave the village at the far end, but one only leads to the hamlets of Walden and Walden Head. The steep sided hills that surround this jewel of a village form a spectacular setting and on climbing can give fantastic panoramas of the surrounding dales and distant views of the Vale of York and North York Moors. West Burton has a broad village green, centred by an ancient market cross, and the green also offers a children’s play area and plenty of benches to sit and relax and watch the world go by. There is also a pub, the Fox and Hounds Inn, a post office/shop, tearoom/gallery and a butchers shop as well as The Old Smithy Antiques, Moorside Designs Cat Pottery and Aardvark picture framers to keep the visitors entertained. Walden Beck skirts the village and descends over rocky outcrops to form a small but spectacular waterfall and visitors have been drawn to West Burton’s Cauldron Falls since the famous artist J.M.W Turner captured its wonderful magic. When the falls are in full spate in the winter or after a lot of rain you can actually walk behind it.
The Penhill Preceptory of the Knights Templar is the remains of the walls and graves uncovered in 1840, belonging to the chapel built in 1200. It is a Grade II listed building situated on the northern flanks of Penhill.
From the lay-by we head forward into West Witton and take the minor road on the left sign posted Melmerby and Carlton. We follow the road uphill until it levels out a bit and take the track on the right sign posted Kagram. We keep heading forward and just before the second barn we turn left over the gated stile and head straight forward to a track called High Lane. We turn right and keep following the track for about 2 miles and take the path on the left uphill sign posted West Burton. At the top and a cairn there are wonderful views of the valley. We continue on the path for about ½ mile go through a gate and then take the footpath on right downhill past a cairn. The path then zigzags downhill quite steeply and when we reach a gate on our left we go through and head forward to go through a gate next to a barn and continue ahead. Immediately before the bridge we turn left to view the waterfall then walk back to the bridge cross over and turn right and follow the lane into the village of West Burton. We turn left up the village to find a bench for a cup of tea. We then head back through the village with the green on our right and follow the road to the river. We continue with the river on our right for a short way then bear right over a bridge and follow the minor road which soon becomes a track at the last farm. We keep heading uphill through the trees, ignore the first path off to the left, we turn left on the second path and head forward following the tree line on our left. When we come to a track we cross straight over, through the gated stiles. We take a look at the remains of the Penhill Preceptory then continue in the same direction. We cross over another track and head forward through the fields until we reach the road. We do not go onto the road but turn right uphill through the field to go over the stile in the wall then bear slightly right towards the telegraph pole. We go over a stile and head forward with the fence on our right for a short way then turn right through the stile and then immediate left to take us to the road. At the road we turn right and follow the road back to our car.
This is an easy to moderate walk on grass, gravel and tarmac paths/tracks/minor road. There are some stiles, gates, incline and declines.
Elevation: approx lowest point 154m (505.25ft) approx highest point 353.10m (1158.46ft) approx ascent 428.70m (1406.50ft).
Distance and Start Point
Approx 8.9 miles allow 3½ – 4 hours using OS Explorer Map OL30, The Yorkshire Dales, Northern and Central areas, Wensleydale and Swaledale. This walk is done clockwise.
Start point: Lay-by on the A684 just east of West Witton.
West Witton is situated on the A684 between Layburn and Aysgarth in Wensleydale in the Yorkshire Dales.
Directions and Parking
From the A1 take the A684 to Bedale. At the cross roads turn right still on the A684 to Layburn. Turn left at the roundabout still on the A684 through Wensley and West Witton is approx another 2 miles. The lay-by car parking is on the left just before the village.
Parking: Free lay-by on the A684 just east of West Witton. There is also plenty of free roadside parking at West Burton.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are no public toilets. For refreshments in West Witton there is a shop and two pubs the Fox and Hounds and the Wensleydale Heifer with B&B accommodation. In West Burton there is the Fox and Hounds Inn with B&B accommodation, post office/general store, tea room and a butcher shop.