Muker, Thwaite, Oxnop and Ivelet - Swaledale's distinctive place names are evidence of the arrival of Norse invaders from Ireland and their mingling with the original Anglo-Saxon inhabitants. Our 7 mile walk, almost entirely on field paths and bridleways, explores the striking landscape created by these 1,000 year old settlements. The route stays below the high, open moorland and within the original limits of cultivation.
Distance: 7 miles with two short cuts
Time: 4 hours
Conditions: well signed paths and bridleways, little climbing
Refreshments: Muker, Thwaite
OS Explorer Map OL30
Originally published: 2 June 2017
We start from the car park in Muker on the B 6270 to Gunnerside (GR 911978). Cross the bridge into the village which derives its name from the Norse for small cultivated field. In 100 yards and just before the village's inn and cafe, turn right up to the parish church of St. Mary which was built in 1580 to serve the upper dale, thus splitting the huge medieval parish of Grinton.
In another 20 yards turn left, past the house called 'Westland' and almost immediately out into the first of several small fields. Much of the path is paved and leads in half a mile back to the B 6270 where turn right. In 150 yards and just before the Ushaw Gap Bridge over Straw Beck go right on a field path which heads for the houses of Thwaite (Norse for clearing). The name of the country hotel in the centre commemorates the early naturalist and photographer brothers Richard and Cherry Kearton who were born in the village. The finest building is the former chapel of 1863 overlooking one of the many waterfalls on the Thwaite Beck.
Turn left in the village, on the main road, crossing the beck and then past the junction with the road over the Buttertubs pass to Hawes. In another 50 yards bear right on a bridleway to a rough ford over Cliff Beck which at this point runs over polished rocks before disappearing into a gorge. It makes a delightful picnic spot.
Then cross the simple stone bridge below the ford and continue along the bridleway to Appletree Thwaite set in a commanding position above the valley. In another 150 yards, at a junction of tracks, turn right uphill on a green lane which climbs to the edge of Muker Side moor. Go left in 200 yards at another junction and follow a walled track along the edge of the moor. There are outstanding views along here, of the dale and its huddled settlements, dwarfed by the heights of Kisdon above Muker with the dark valley of the Swale emerging from the moors to its right.
Our stony way bears to the left in some 400 yards and drops gently back to the valley floor. In less than half a mile it bends to the left and provides the opportunity of halving the mileage by retuning directly to Muker past the houses of Hill Top ( mapped).
The main walk turns right through a gate at the bend and follows a footpath which climbs gradually along the valley side to the hamlet of Rash. Pass alongside the 17th century Rash Grange to Rash View where there's a further opportunity for reducing the walk. From the left of the house a path descends across meadows to reach the valley road less than a quarter of a mile from Muker (mapped).
The main walk follows the access lane for some 30 steps over a deep gill and then right, through a gate and up to High Rash. It continues across one field to a junction of paths by a large barn. Go right, up across one field to a yellow tipped post and then down the far side of a wall to the lane over Oxnop Scar into Wensleydale..
Turn right for some 250 yards to the first path on the left. Head for the bottom corner of Kearton's Wood below and then follow a sequence of posts to a spectacular viewpoint overlooking the valley with the high moor of Gunnerside Pasture beyond. There's also a bird's eye view of Oxnop (ox valley) Hall, one of the finest vernacular houses in the dale, dated 1685.
The right of way drops to pass between the farm on the left and the deeply incised Oxnop Gill which is covered by native woodland.
It then hugs the beckside for 100 yards before climbing over a spur and continuing down to the valley road. Turn right and then almost immediately left with the deep ravine of Oxnop Gill now on the left. The lane crosses the Swale by by Ivelet (Ivo's slope) Bridge, described by Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby in "The Yorkshire Dales" as 'this most lovely of hump backed packhorse bridges'. It was built in 1687. Set into the ground on the other side of the bridge and close to the end of the eastern parapet is a flat stone slab. According to tradition it marked a brief resting place for the wicker work coffins of the dead which were carried from the upper dale for burial in Grinton churchyard.
We now go through a gate on the left and follow the river upstream on the so called Corpse Road, the route the mourners had already followed before Ivelet. The next two miles are easy going with the river in sight or at least audible most of the way. After a mile and half the path cuts to the right over a series of meadows, leaving the river half a field distant. Don't be tempted by the path on the OS map which hints at a short cut over the Swale to Muker -there's no footbridge.
Instead continue some 500 yards past Ramps Holme Farm to Ramps Holme Bridge. On the far side a paved way brings you back to Muker in half a mile.