Post image for High Dales Hike Day 1: Skipton to Malham

High Dales Hike Day 1: Skipton to Malham

February 1, 2015 · 12 comments


Date walked: 12th September 2014

Distance: 13 miles

Map required: OS Explorer OL2 – Yorkshire Dales, Southern and Western areas

A Dales High Way Companion by Tony and Chris Grogan


I had hoped to have been doing this walk with my dear friend Bob but his mother’s death meant that he had had to abandon the trip. We’d not seen each other for a while so I was very glad that he decided that he could meet up for a night in Skipton and give us a chance to catch up.

Having given careful consideration to all the pubs in the town we decided that The Castle Inn deserved the largest part of our custom.

The Castle Inn in Skipton, photographed by Charles Hawes

The food was good too, but I can’t remember what I ate

We gave of our pockets freely and in keeping with tradition, towards the end of the evening I moved from Timothy Taylor’s excellent beer to Drambuie. I became inexplicably emotional in the pub which was a bit out of order as it wasn’t my mother that had died; Bob thought the barmaid was a bit nonplussed. We agreed that it would be rude not to have a drink before turning in at The Woolley Sheep, where we were staying.

My recollection of breakfast is a bit hazy. After saying goodbye to Bob,  I made my solitary way north out of Skipton up Park Hill.  The views were as hazy as my brain seemed to be; I could barely see the other side of Skipton from the top of the hill.

View over Skipton from Park Hill, photographed from The Dales High way by Charles Hawes

I think I may still have been intoxicated at this point

I was following the route of the Dales High Way, which crossed the A59 and then took a minor road and then a track heading for the hill called Sharp Haw. I was struck by the sheep (not literally, of course), who had black and white faces and horns that curved around their ears.

Soay Cross sheep in the Yorkshire Dales, photographed from the Dales High Way by Charles Hawes

Somebody suggested that they are a Soay Cross. Any better ideas?

The rough track heads for the top of the hill….

View to Sharp Haw photographed from The Dales High Way by Charles Hawes

Nothing too taxing, which was just as well

….passing near the top a rather beaten up memorial seat.

memorial seat below Sharp Haw, photographed from The Dales High Way by Charles Hawes

Beyond repair I fear

From the Trig Point (1,171 feet) I could only see around half a mile over the valley below.

View from Sharp Haw, Yorkshire Dales, photographed by Charles Hawes

A pleasant view, nevertheless

I took a path that came off the hill through the wood and then entered a dense rhododendron tunnel (on my map the official route runs north of these woods).

Rhododendron tunnel near Sharp Haw, Yorkshire Dales, photographed by Charles Hawes

It was even darker than this in there

The rhododendron had largely been eliminated from the mixed broad-leaved wood that followed the tunnel. Here was a most assertive and contemporary looking memorial seat.

Seat below Sharp Haw, photographed by Charles Hawes

Maybe just a bit too bling?

At the hills’ bottom the little settlement of Flasby was dominated by the farm that extends on either side of the eponymous beck.

Farm building in Flasby, Yorkshire Dales, photographed from The Dales High Way by Charles Hawes

Do you like my abstract composition?

Re-joining the Dales High Way, the path crosses the bridge over the beck and then follows its banks for half a mile or so.

In the field was a ram of  breathtaking ugliness (see the lead pic for the post) , resting with a couple of his mates.

Rams in field near Flasby, photographed from The Dales High Way by Charles Hawes

Shagged out?

Flasby Beck appears to become Hetton Beck. I missed the path, which heads for  Hetton village, and ended up climbing over a fence by the sewage works, losing, I found out afterwards, my rather useful little route booklet in the process.

Hetton was also very quiet. The Angel Inn (visited by Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in the TV series “The Trip”)  was open but I usually refrain from lunch time drinking and after last nights indulgences I didn’t give it a second thought.

The Angel Inn, Hetton, photographed by Charles Hawes

No hair of the dog for me today

On re-reading Tony and Chris Grogan’s guide, they point out that this part of the world was made famous by the Rylstone and District Womens Institute’s nude calendar, which inspired that great feel-good film, Calender Girls. 

Two fully clothed women walkers had passed me as I fiddled around in my pack (looking for the lost booklet), leading the way down the very straight Moor Lane.

Moor Lane, photographed from The Dales  Way by Charles Hawes

A good long, easy, plod

My pace was slightly faster than theirs but rather than slowly catch them up I stopped after half a mile and had a sit and a banana. The stony track became a grassy one as it approached Winterburn Reservoir.

Moor Lane near Winterburn reservoir, photographed from The Dales High Way by Charles Hawes

You can’t see this but the Hawthorne hedges were laden with berries

My fellow walkers were chomping their lunch and taking in the view of the reservoir, so I whisked by and began the gentle climb up Hetton Common.

Winterburn reservoir, photographed from The Dales High Way by Charles Hawes

Needs a bit of rain to top it up

For the next mile and a half up to Hetton Common Head squawking pheasants and alarmed grouse scattered around me. The grouse seemed the sillier, running before me on the path and through the coarse grass whilst the pheasants reluctantly took flight.

Grouse on The Dales High way in Hetton Common, photographed by Charles Hawes

From a distance Grouse and Pheasant look quite similar

Looking back, an isolated stone barn was a reminder that I was now in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Barn on Hetton Common, photographed from The Dales High Way by Charles Hawes

The classic Yorkshire Dales barn pic

The sky was clearing a little,  so that  from the highest point of the day’s walk, at Weets Top (1358 feet), the view may not have been astounding, but I could at least make out the limestone hills that I would be walking over the next day.

View  north from Weets Top,  to limestone hills photographed from The Dales High Way by Charles Hawes

Completely different scenery ahead

Just after Weets Top, the path joined the little Hawthorns Lane that descends steeply to Malham.

Hawthorne Lane, near Malham. photographed by Charles Hawes

At this stage of the day I was glad to be walking downhill

At the bottom of the hill, a wide path heads up towards Gordale Scar, and a campsite enjoys this most dramatic of  valleys.

Lane into Gordale Scar, photographed from The High Dales way by Charles Hawes

Fabulous spot to camp

The Dales High Way leaves the road just afterwards at Gordale Bridge, where a portable cafe tempted me to an ice-cream and a 5 minute sit down.

I had accommodation booked in Malham that night but rather than stay on the lane to the village I took the footpath that follows a steep-sided little valley passed a waterfall called Janet’s Foss.

janet's Foss, near Malham, photographed by Charles Hawes

Foss is a nordic word for waterfall

It was a charming walk through this wooded valley , the limestone rock having been made shiny by the pedestrian  traffic. By the little stream called Gordale Beck was a tree trunk embedded with hundreds of coins. I last came across one of these intriguing “wishing trees” in Exmoor by the River Barle.  Its time I started adding to the tradition.

Wish Tree by Gordale Beck, phootographed by Charles Hawes

Wish trees – could be a photographic project for the future

The valley opens up to become a marshy area, where I was very taken with some lush grasses.

Boggy area near Gordale Beck, Malham, photographed by Charles Hawes

The the river Aire emerges from an underground passage from Malham Tarn is just south of this point at Aire Head but my path headed north by Malham Beck. I had telephoned ahead to ask where the B&B was located and was told that it would be the first place I would come to, and so it was, its large sign rather loudly announcing itself in the front garden.

Skipton to Malham-31

There was nothing I liked about Miresfield.  The “can I help you” I received as  I approached the house seemed mildly irritated. I was shown in through  the breakfast room, where open dishes of marmalade and jam sat uncovered on the tables (this was around 3pm). My room was shabby, in a poor state of repair, and furnished and decorated by someone who clearly couldn’t care less what anything looked like.  Others have had worse to say about the place on Tripadvisor.

I ate that night in the excellent Lister Arms in the village. The beer was great, the atmosphere buzzing and although my ribeye steak was underdone and a little chewy and the chips wangy, I would gladly go back. I sat and read Larkin, trying to commit to memory “They Fuck you up”, and sad that I was not contemplating a night in one of their smart rooms.

The next morning and for the next 6 days my bags were picked up and transported to my next destination by Brigantes walking Holidays. They did a great job.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne Wareham February 1, 2015 at 11:17 am

Love this trip to the North and the old familiar names, places and expressions. I guess if we left Wales I’d feel that way about Welsh names and terms. I think though that your liver ought to get a comment in on these posts sometimes. It’s sadly neglected and abused….


Charles February 2, 2015 at 6:26 pm

That’s nice, though I wasn’t aware of using any particular vernacular. If I have, I’ve probably picked it up from you! My liver does like a good walk. It’s just the evenings that it’s not so sure about.


Paul Steer February 1, 2015 at 2:53 pm

I’m glad you’re capable of emotion – God forbid the day when we become unemotional. I appreciated the abstract composition and the Foss.


Charles February 2, 2015 at 6:27 pm

True, true. I love a good cry. Glad you liked the pic. Looking at it again on the bigger screen, I am rather pleased with it.


Julia February 1, 2015 at 7:58 pm

Flabberghasted by the ugly ram and many females would know what I mean. Flabberghasted by the appalling frontage of The Angel Inn – most unattractive invitation to enter. Do they want guests? However R Brydon + S Coogan are equally unattractive so they wouldn’t notice. Flabberghasted that you are out of Wales but still walking in a damp, cold and grey countryside. Brrr. Think about the South Downs . . .


Charles February 2, 2015 at 6:37 pm

Heh Heh, I don’t think that I have flabbergasted you before, so to do so three times in one post feels something of a triumph! I’m sure that Rare Breed enthusiasts would be equally appalled at my assessment, but I reckon these breeds are rare for a reason. I am quite happy to have the occasional walk in a gale or downpour or any other weather extreme, really, but damp and dull just doesn’t do it for me. Still, this is the UK…..
I do know the South Downs a bit as I was brought up in the South-East and born in Shoreham-on-Sea. Mum and I have had quite a few walks up by Jack and Jill.


rob grover February 5, 2015 at 6:43 pm

Yes, I particularly like your abstract composition, partly because there’s no green in it. There’s something about a colour photo with very little colour in it, don’t you think?


Charles February 6, 2015 at 6:46 pm

Interesting about green isn’t it. It’s the colour that looks most out of place in the countryside on man- made things. Although my bright orange jacket is a bit lurid but I’m only temporarily blotting the landsacape.


David Marsden February 9, 2015 at 6:45 pm

Exciting to be setting out on a new adventure, Charles. But walking with a hangover? I’m disappointed in you. I would never, ever do that (cough, cough). Your photos are making me wistful for the Dales again and this looks like a great path. Your soay-cross sheep are, I believe Swaledales and the very ugly ram indeed a Texel. The ugliest breed, I think. Dave


Charles February 10, 2015 at 6:24 am

Yes, I usually feel a real uplift at the beginning of a good trek but this time I did feel sad that Bob was not with me. Hangover’s are an occupational hazard in his company. Thanks for the sheep-spotting. I hereby appoint you my Sheep Expert (John can be the expert in everything else).


Lee July 26, 2015 at 12:47 pm

I ne’er saw a sheep as mean looking as that…I’m planning to walk there soon..and now I’m scared ^^


Charles July 26, 2015 at 1:05 pm

With cause. Maybe you should go in disguise.


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