Carlton-in-Coverdale to West Scrafton & Horsehouse

"I should like to commend quiet Coverdale to any reader who has not tasted its delights", writes AJ Brown in his 'Fair North Riding' of 1952. His words have merit today for this, at 12 miles, the longest of Wensleydale's tributaries, is still a peaceful dale of tiny villages and scattered farms, flanked by moors that rise gently to over 1,500ft.

Distance: 6.5 miles (add 1 mile for the Arkleside loop)

Time: 3 hours

Grade: easy

Conditions: field paths and bridleways, some 15 squeeze through stiles

Refreshments: Carlton, Horsehouse

OS Explorer Map OL30

Originally published: 28 January 2011

Our six and a half mile walk explores the middle section, starting in Carlton, the largest village. We cross to the southern side before continuing to the edge of Swineside Moor, returning to the valley floor at Horsehouse. The return is made by the beautiful riverside path.


We start from the public car park at the village hall (GR 067847), 100 yards below the Foresters' Arms. Walk back down the village street and opposite Coverley House turn right down Quaker lane, signed to the River Cover. Beyond Quaker Garth the path takes to the fields and glorious views open up of the upper valley, a landscape of green fields with, in the far distance, the looming outline of Great Whernside, at 2,310ft.


Only a mile away, on the other side of the dale, is West Scrafton and, below the houses, the distinctive medieval lynchet terraces once used for arable farming. The path now descends to bridges over Goodman's Gill and the river before climbing steeply up Caygill and into West Scrafton.


Cross the green and follow Caygill on the signed village path up to Bow Bridge where the 16th century arch of a packhorse bridge has survived under a later widening. Do not cross the bridge but turn right, leaving Bridge End Farm on your left. Among the huddled houses at the core of the village is The Chantry with a 15th century east wall with a Perpendicular window which may have been part of a grange of Coverham Abbey.


In some 200 yards from the bridge bear left on the lane to Swineside. Traffic free, it climbs gently for a mile, the views down into the valley and back down the dale improving with every step. Turn right after a cattle grid to Swineside. Bear left past the houses to join a path signed to Hindlethwaite Hall, visible in the trees just over a mile below.


As you cross the first two fields a panorama of the upper valley unfolds, of pastureland, tiny hamlets  and the moors beyond. The path then swings to the left, following a cattle track to a gate in the fence ahead. Well signed, it then bears right down to another gate and crosses two gills before passing through a tiny copse. The track to the imposing 18th century hall is then crossed to reach a footbridge over the Cover. 


From here I've mapped a little used path which runs close to the river to Arkleside on the Hindlethwaite bank, providing a little circular route into Horsehouse. It's well signed and is marked in the second field by large wooden posts. It then crosses the access tracks to Brackenrigg and Sowerside farms and goes straight over the last field before Arkleside instead of bearing up left to the houses as indicated on the OS map. The hamlet is worth a stroll to admire its rugged buildings. Look out for the finely wrought door lintel of 1684 of what used to be an inn in packhorse days. Then return past a large 19th century lime kiln to Arkleside bridge where turn right into Horsehouse.


The direct path from Hindlethwaite crosses the footbridge and goes left across three fields. The main village of upper Coverdale Horsehouse once had two inns to cater for the coal miners who worked in the Fleensop mines high up on the moors. From the village a bridleway still crosses Arkleside Moor into Nidderdale and was once used by packhorse trains and drovers. More important is the valley road through the village which from the middle ages linked Skipton and the south with Middleham. It even features as part of the route from London to Richmond as mapped by John Ogilby in his 'Britannia Depicta' of 1675.


In the village centre is the Victorian parish church of St. Botolph, built as a chapel of ease for the huge parish of Coverham. Nearby is the Thwaite Arms, open at 12 noon.


From Horsehouse return to the Hindlethwaite footbridge and, without crossing, continue along the riverbank, a delightful path with the busy Cover as your companion and the possibility of seeing dippers, as I did.


In half a mile the Cover bends to the right. You can either take the direct path to Gammersgill, signed over the fields or continue along the river via two squeeze through stiles. After the second bear left away from the river up to a large metal gate and cross one more field into Gammersgill.


The tiny hamlet takes its name from the Norse 'Gamel's hut'. Of the buildings Hall Farm on the left  when you reach the road is one of the oldest with a date of 1684 on the attached cottage and 1737 on the farmhouse itself.


Turn right along the road for about 150 yards and then go right on a path to Carlton via Turnbeck Lane, narrow walled and tree shaded, which you enter after the first field. It might just have been part of the old route through the dale. After crossing the beck the right of way continues  across fields and over the deep Howden Gill to the lane between Carlton and West Scrafton.


Turn left uphill for 50 yards and then right, signed Carlton 1 mile. It's now easy going across open grassland  with a good view, to the left, to the mound or motte of a castle which was possibly an outpost of Middleham Castle. The path then crosses Goodman's Gill and forks. Go left up the beckside to emerge in Carlton  a few yards below the Foresters' Arms, named for the local branch of the Ancient Order of Foresters, formed in 1816.


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