For walkers Grassington is indisputably the capital of upper Wharfedale. A tight network of paths and tracks developed during its industrial past radiate from it across the outstanding sandstone and limestone countryside.
Our 10 mile route starts from the National Park Centre on the B 6265, the road to Hebden. From the entrance go right and then right again down Sedber Lane which follows the edge of the car park before becoming a well worn paved causeway which descends to the metal 'Tin Bridge' over the Wharfe. This is still the shortest route between the town and its church which is in the parish of Linton and another quarter of a mile downstream.
Distance: 10 miles
Time: 6 hours, but worth a day
Conditions: well signed with no steep climb
Refreshments: Grassington, Threshfield, Kilnsey
OS Explorer Map OL2
Originally published: 7 September 2007
Cross the bridge and, ignoring the pretty, hump backed Bow Bridge on the right, continue to a tarred lane where go right. In 50 yards turn right at a junction and follow the lane to Threshfield School, housed in the fine former grammar school building of 1674. Go left at the school gate on a bridleway which is regularly used by children from the village half a mile distant. We cross the track of the former Yorkshire Dales Railway, which ran between 1902 and 1930, and reach the B 6160 where turn right. In 200 yards go left to the centre of Threshfield with its many 17th century sandstone cottages. On the right look out especially for Park Grange of 1645, just before the crossroads.
Go straight over the B 6265, keeping the Old Park Inn on your left. A rather obscure sign to Skirethorns point down a dark lane towards a stile. After a second stile the path crosses the next field to a wall on the left and continues along it to the next stile. The route is then well marked and easy to follow to Skirethorns Lane where turn left.
You are now following a former monastic track to Bordley. In 200 yards we turn right at a crossroads where there is a welcoming seat and an old West Riding signpost, carefully restored and repainted, proclaiming 'Malham 5'.
Continue up the lane for another 200 yards before going left into the drive of Wood Nook. Our path passes the house and crosses the adjoining caravan site to the top left hand corner. From here the way to Bordley is a delight, accompanied at first through bracken by the sound of the rushing waters of Rowley Beck. The path climbs below a rock covered hillside and along the edge of the scraggy Cow Close Wood before emerging on to rough pasture land by Height House. Two fields later and you reach Height Laithe.
Pass between the two barns before turning left up through boulders to the green lane between Kilnsey and Boss Moor. The route continues ahead over open pastures as wide views of Bordley and the moors appear to the west.. Do not be tempted by another green track which swings to the right at a water trough but go straight downhill, following a wall line for half a mile to the cluster of buildings at Bordley.
The oldest of these, a barn, has a date of 1664, but the settlement is monastic is origin, being once the highest grange of Fountains Abbey, (at over 1000 feet). Hay meadows and pastureland still predominate. Our way passes the house, and turns sharp right by the barn. After a gate on the edge of the hamlet turn right on a stony track and head to the right of the prominent Kealcup Plantation. In about 300 yards you come to the green turfed Mastiles Lane which once formed a section of the still traceable route which linked Fountains with its vast estates in Craven and the Lake District.
It is an exhilarating 2 mile walk to the left from here to Malham Tarn, if of course you have the time and energy. Our walk, however, turns right and follows the lane for 3 miles to Kilnsey. In medieval times the track was open for the accompanying boundary walls were only added in the 18th century. You reach the summit of Kilnsey Moor after a gentle climb of about a mile and are rewarded with a panoramic view of the U shaped valley of the Wharfe and its intricate field pattern.
The lane now drops steeply into Kilnsey which is entered past the 17th century Old Hall. Next to it is a small outbuilding, the sole surviving part of the 15th century gatehouse of the huge grange and workshops operated here by Fountains. When you reach the Tennant Arms on the main road turn left for the short walk to the limestone Kilnsey Crag, one of the dale's most distinctive natural features. It was created by the undercutting effects of the glacier which once filled the valley.
Opposite the crag a path leads across the meadows to Conistone Bridge which replaced an earlier one built by Fountains. Cross the Wharfe and follow the lane through the 17th century houses of Conistone village and then down the valley. In about a mile look out for a path on the left which cuts off a corner. The lane is rejoined where it enters Grass Wood. A return to Grassington is possible by taking the first path on the left through the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's Nature Reserve. Our mapped route, however, continues along the lane for another 200 yards before going right, through a gate and down to the riverside.
The mile and a half to Grassington Bridge is in complete contrast to the first part of the walk. The path at first follows a terrace through the trees with a broad view of the rushing peaty waters below. It then descends and becomes a walk through a succession of meadows at the water's edge, the highlight being Ghaistrill's Strid, where the roaring main stream is compressed into a rocky chasm some 10 feet across. Like its more famous namesake some 6 miles downstream it is not to be trifled with and is best contemplated from a nearby seat.
In another half a mile the path reaches the sturdy, late 18th century Grassington Bridge. Turn left here up into the town.