From Pateley Bridge, Nidderdale's tiny stone built 'capital', a wide variety of outstanding walks can be devised.
One of the best is this 8 and a half mile route of contrasts which uses ancient paths and tracks to climb through farmland on the fertile northern slopes of the dale up to the extraordinary gritstone outcrops of Brimham Rocks. The return leg drops into the wooded valley of Fell Beck before following the Nidd for the final 2 miles.
Our walk starts from the bridge in Pateley and climbs the attractive, narrow main street. At the top follow the B 6265 to the right and in about 200 yards look out for a flight of steps on the left, signed Panorama Walk. The path, part of the Nidderdale Way which we follow for the next 3 miles, is one of the local favourites. It climbs past the cemetery and continues as a narrow, tarred lane up to the hamlet of Knott. Your exertions are rewarded by spectacular views of the dale and especially of the brooding crags of Guise Cliff on the far side of the valley where the 'Two Stoops' of Yorke's Folly of 1800 are easily recognisable. Look back up the dale too, to the shining waters of Gouthwaite Reservoir.
Distance: 8.5 miles
Time: 5 hours
Grade: moderate, with gentle climbs
Conditions: well signed and maintained paths and tracks
Refreshments: Pateley Bridge, Brimham Rocks (seasonal)
OS Explorer Map 26
Originally published: 19 September 2008
Beyond Knott the Nidderdale Way continues as a track and then a path to the B 6265. Turn left here for some 200 yards to Blazefield where go right on a lane, passing in front of a long row of houses. The hamlet and other clusters of buildings along this part of the route are part of the township of Bishopside which, in the Middle Ages, belonged to the archbishops of York.
At the next junction, where there is a well placed seat, turn left up a tarred lane. In another 300 yards the Way bears right again as a narrow path to reach Raikes Lane. Turn right, down a steep bank before going left at a sharp bend on to the track leading to Kiln Farm.
For the next 2 miles our walk is dominated by the jagged walls of Brimham Rocks outlined on the skyline ahead. Go straight ahead at White Houses and, after following a narrow, over grown lane for some 250 yards, turn right at the next hamlet.
Our route now descends across fields into the trees covering the steep slopes of the valley of the Fell Beck. Near the stream we pass the former Fell Beck Mill, once a corn mill which was converted to hemp spinning and rope making in the 19th century.
On the far side of the footbridge we leave the Nidderdale Way and go left over a stile. To the left is the mill dam. Our walk now climbs steadily up a farm track and then across fields to High North Pasture Farm at the foot of Brimham Rocks. The right of way is well signed past the buildings and on to the access track.
Where the track bends to the left, cross a stile on the right and continue up the last short, steep ascent through scattered rocks and on to the well used gravel path which links all the main features.
You should emerge close to the Idol, one of Brimham's weirdest examples of the erosion caused by the sandblasting effects of fierce winds during the Ice Age. it weighs some 200 tons and rests on a base of only about 1 foot in diameter.
Turn right along the path, passing the Druid's Writing Desk and the Dancing Bear among other strangely sculpted shapes, to reach the National Trust information centre in Brimham House. Nearby is a seasonal cafe. From here our walk continues through a landscape of more bizarre rocks to the car park.
A few yards further, by the entrance to the site, turned right on a track signed to the Druids' Cave Farm. After 200 yards go left down a lane to some farm buildings. Turn left again into an a venerable oak wood carpeted with moss covered stones. Look out for the large boulder bearing the inscription 'Adam's Ale', where a spring emerges from the rocks.
Now cross a small field to enter High Wood where turn right on a broad track, a good example of the network of monastic routes which linked the granges of Fountains Abbey which farmed much of the dale in medieval times. In places it becomes a hollow way and there are even traces of stone paving.
After half a mile join the access road to Low Wood House and in another 250 yards go right, into Smelthouses where lead ore from monastic mines was once smelted. Here too in 1795 was sited the dale's first flax mill.
Our route goes left down a lane just before the lofty bridge over Fell Beck. It passes the water powered Little Mill which made bobbins for the textile industry and then Knox Mill which once produced twine and later became a sawmill. Go straight ahead over the B 6165 on a path which crosses Fell Beck to reach the river. Continue upstream and cross the first footbridge.
The 2 mile return to Pateley Bridge is a delight with the ever present tree lined river a constant but ever changing companion as it rushes through a series of rocky channels between a succession of long, placid pools. There are herons, wagtails and dippers to look out for too.
You soon pass under a forlorn arch of the former Nidd Valley Railway which operated between 1862 and 1964, and in another half mile reach Glasshouses, dominated by its huge mill, one of the largest of the 40 which used to operate in the dale. Once a corn mill, in 1812 it was converted to spinning flax and when it closed in 1970 it was producing rope and string.
Cross the bridge here and then go left past the large mill reservoir of 1850. Our starting point is reached in about a mile along a pleasant riverside path.