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Garsdale Station to the High Way & Hellgill

In 2012 the new Pennine Bridleway officially opened to the public. This 200 mile route stretches from Derbyshire to Ravenstonedale in Cumbria.

Distance: 8 miles

Time: 5 hours

Grade: moderate, two short climbs

Conditions: excellent walking on Pennine Bridleway, other paths well signed. A clear day needed to maximise enjoyment of magnificent scenery

Refreshments: Moorcock Inn 

OS Explorer Map OL19

Originally published: 26 August 2011

Our 8 mile walk on the borders of Yorkshire and Cumbria follows some 4 miles of the bridleway as it crosses the watershed between the Ure flowing east to the North Sea and the Eden which heads north to the Irish Sea. The return climbs over Turner Hill into the isolated valley of Grisedale, the gathering ground for streams which join to form the westward flowing River Clough.

We start from Garsdale Station on the Settle-Carlisle line, opened in 1876 and still one of the wonders of the railway network, (GR 788918). From the railway bridge walk back down the lane. Just past the row of railway houses look out for a gate on the right. From here a brand new section of the bridleway takes us under the 12 arch Dandrymire Viaduct. It was constructed when the original plan for an embankment had failed after 250,000 cubic yards of rock and soil had been tipped over 2 years into the bog and all had disappeared.

The new bridleway then crosses the A 684 to the welcoming Moorcock Inn at the junction with the B 6259 to Kirkby Stephen. The new route then crosses the B road and follows a former footpath to a bridge over the fast flowing River Ure at the point where it tumbles over a jagged limestone outcrop.

Signs now point the way to Cobbles Plantation from where the bridleway follows a newly designated route to climb some 400 feet up the valley side to a gate in a wall. Here we turn left along the High Way, the ancient route from Wensleydale into the Eden Valley. Over the centuries it was used by merchants and drovers and most famously by Lady Anne Clifford en route to her castle of Pendragon. She recorded in her diary for 1663 that "I went over Cotter" (some 400 yards away to the right), "in my coach where I think never coach went before and over Hellgill Bridge into Westmerland, yet God pleased to preserve me in that journey".

There are still traces of the original limestone pavement which acted as a natural surface for the High Way but modern hard core  makes for easy walking for much of the next two miles. There are splendid views left over these remote reaches of the Ure with the railway evident but never predominating. Beyond is the looming mass of Wild Boar Fell.

In some 300 yards we pass High Dike, a 17th century former drovers' inn. Leaders of packhorse trains used it as late as 1877. A little further and there's a 17th century lime kiln to look out for and there are one or two busy streams to ford where they dash over the limestone terrace in a hurry to join the Ure in its valley below.

The finest of all these crossings comes once we are over the watershed at Hell Gill Bridge. Here the infant Eden has scoured a 30 ft deep chasm in the limestone through which it dashes. The entire gorge is covered in trees so it's only with difficulty that from the bridge you can make out the scoured, polished rocks below, though the roaring of the river can be heard from a considerable distance.

The bridge existed in the 16th century when the traveller William Camden described the view into the gill as striking "a certain horror to as many as look down".

Over the bridge we enter the former Westmorland. At this point you could continue ahead for  8 miles to Kirkby Stephen Station, 1 mile south of the town, and return by train through Mallerstang to Garsdale. An OS map and train timetable would be essential.

For our circular walk turn immediately left over a wall stile and follow the path and then a track down to cross the river. In a few yards where the track goes right, close to a ford, walk ahead over the grass for a view of pretty Hellgill Force where the Eden drops some 20ft into a deep pool. It then turns to flow north, a rarity among English rivers.

We return to our track and recross the railway to reach Aisgill Moor Cottages and the B 6259. Turn left and in a few yards take a path over a bridge signed Grisedale 2 miles. The first mile is easy to follow from gate to gate and never more than a field away from the road.

At the ruined farm of High Shaw Paddock ignore the bridleway ahead and bear half right across a green field to a stile which gives access on to the moor which the OS names as Rowan Tree Side. From the stile an indistinct path climbs the hillside. At the top of the first short section it then bears left and remains high above the valley for some 300 yards before reaching a gate outlined on the skyline at the top of Turner Hill.

From the gate there's a glorious view ahead south across Grisedale Common into Garsdale with Whernside and flat topped Ingleborough in the distance. Our indistinct path continues ahead down across the common using Whernside as a marker before bearing right to reach the wall which marks the edge of the cultivated land of remote Grisedale. Turn right along the wall side to reach the tarred lane which links the valley's farms.

In a few yards the lane passes East House. At Moor Rigg, the next farm, a sign point left across the fields to Garsdale though you could follow the lane for a further 200 yards before going left up the track to the ruined farm of Rowantree.

Beyond the ruins the right of way is marked through stony fields to Blake Mire. It then passes to the left of the buildings on to open moorland and then stays high above the sparkling River Clough which at this point has collected all the streams of Grisedale before flowing into Garsdale. Look out for Clough Force from your vantage point.

Finally the path descends to the A 684 at its junction with the lane up to Garsdale Station.


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