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Buckden to Cray & Yockenthwaite

Buckden, where the Wharfe turns south after flowing eastwards through Langstrothdale, has some of the finest scenic walking in the dales. Our 7 mile route climbs directly from the car park to Cray before following a 3 mile long limestone terrace west to Yockenthwaite. The return is made along the riverside through Hubberholme.

Distance: 7 miles

Time: 4 hours

Grade: easy (in fine weather)

Conditions: one steep climb from Buckden, well signed field paths and lanes

Refreshments: Buckden,  Hubberholme, Cray

OS Explorer Map OL30

Originally published: 9 October 2015

Buckden was established by the medieval Percys as the headquarters of their hunting forest of Langstroth Chase. The Buck Inn serves as a reminder of those days. Today the village is the headquarters of the National Trust's extensive estate which includes much of the former hunting park.

The Trust's Town Head Barn is our starting point (GR 942773). Cross the adjacent car park to a gate and follow the steep stony track up through Rakes Wood. Remarkably this was originally engineered by the Romans probably to connect their forts at Bainbridge and Ilkley, though there is little evidence of it south of Buckden. The bedrock limestone acts as the road surface in places and in the wood the track is cut directly from the scree slopes.

Until the present B 6160 was built in the 19th century the road was the main link between Wharfedale and Wensleydale. One seasoned traveller who used it in the 1660s was the redoubtable Lady Anne Clifford who, in a horse litter and with her retinue of officials and servants in coaches or on horseback, came this way from her castle at Skipton to visit her estates in Westmorland. "And this was the first time I was ever in Kettlewell dale or went over this Buckden Rakes or the Stake, yet God pleased to preserve me in that journey", she wrote in 1663.

With or without divine protection you should reach the top of the Rake in about 20 minutes unless of course you stop to admire the outstanding views to the west up Langstrothdale. The track then flattens out and soon passes the path leading up to the 2,302ft Buckden Pike to the right. After another 250 yards we leave the Roman road which continues ahead over Stake Moss into Wensleydale. Look out for a gate in the wall on the left. From it a path drops steeply to the hamlet of Cray. There are stepping stones over Cray Gill just before the White Lion on the B 6160.

Cross the road and take the path to Yockenthwaite. One of the highlights of the walk this close cropped grassy promenade of nearly three miles offers a constantly changing panorama of the U shaped valley of the Wharfe and the moors beyond. After nearly two miles you reach the 17th century Scar House, rebuilt in 1875 and set in a gap in the scar. In 1652 George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, visited the house and it later became a Quaker meeting place.

At this point you could shorten the walk by some 2 miles by following the access track, left, past the house direct down to Hubberholme.

Our main route continues above the house, crossing a section of water worn limestone pavement made up of blocks (clints) and cracks (grykes). After passing  through a small wood there are further examples of clint and gryke pavement before the path joins a farm lane. Follow it left down to the distant hamlet of Yockenthwaite with its three houses and a packhorse bridge. Like so many of the local place names this is Scandinavian in origin and means Eogan's clearing. Eogan is an Irish name so the settlers probably came from the Viking settlement of Dublin.

If you enjoy prehistory then turn right on the long distance Dales Way by the river for two fields to a Bronze Age stone circle more than 3,000 years old. Although modest in scale the 20 stones are proof of the valley's settlement 2,000 years  before the arrival of the Vikings.

In Yockenthwaite we turn left across the green in front of a handsome 18th century farmhouse and follow the Dales Way down river for three miles back to Buckden. It's easy walking with the infant Wharfe for company ( and a busy stoat in one field when I prospected the route).

At the half way point you come to Hubberholme and its parish church of St. Michael. It was built as a chapel for the Percys in the 12th century and extended in the 16th century Its tower is Norman and inside, over the chancel arch, is a rare rood loft (built to carry a carved crucifixion). Dated to 1558 it is one of the very few to have escaped destruction in Elizabeth's reign. The pews, many carved with his mouse symbol were made by Thompson of Kilburn. Look out too for the memorial window to George Hobson, pictured with the bridge he built over the Zambezi at Victoria Falls. Outside is a sundial restored by the Langstroths of the USA in memory of their ancestors.

We now cross the river and go left, following the road past the George Inn. In 200 yards on the left Kirkgill Manor was formerly the vicarage. It was restored in 1893 in memory of Bishop Heber of Calcutta, author of the hymn 'From Greenland's icy mountains'.

In a similar distance follow the Dales Way where it turns left back to the river bank and continues downstream to Buckden Bridge. Turn left over the Wharfe and past the Manor House of 1691 to the green.


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