From busy Hawes to Hardraw, with a visit to the famous waterfall.
Distance 5 miles (8km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Ascent/gradient 426ft (130m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Field and moorland paths, may be muddy, 44 stiles
Landscape Moorland and farmland
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL30 Yorkshire Dales - Northern & Central
Start/finish SD 870898
Dog friendliness Dogs under close control throughout; lots of stiles
Parking Pay-and-display car park off Gayle Lane at west of Hawes
Public toilets At car park
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1 From the car park turn left, then go right over a stile signed 'Youth Hostel'. Follow a track, bending uphill to a stile. Pass a barn, cross six stiles and a lane, to a road. Turn left then right through a gate signed 'Thorney Mire House'. Follow the path for ½ mile (800m) to a gate on to a lane. Turn right. Follow this for ¾ mile (1.2km), passing under the viaduct to the road at Appersett.
2 Turn left across the bridge. Follow the road and cross the next bridge, then bend left to the junction. Go through a stile, signed 'Bluebell Hill'. Cross the field, go through a gate and over a bridge, then bear half left uphill. Go through a gate and continue to a crossroads signpost.
3 Turn right and follow the valley to a stile (Bob's Stile). Cross the field beyond, go over a stile then turn left to a ladder stile over a wall. Cross the field towards Hardraw, going over wooden stile, then over a ladder stile into a lane.
4 Turn right then left at the main road and cross the bridge. Hardraw Force entrance is through the Green Dragon pub. Immediately beyond the pub, turn left and go right through a signed gap in the wall, through a courtyard and over a stile. Follow the flagged path over another stile, steeply uphill, over a stile and up steps. By the house, go through a stile and right of the stables, then through two more stiles on to a lane by the Simonstone Hall Hotel.
5 Turn right then left along the road. Almost immediately turn right though a stile signed 'Sedbusk'. Follow the track through a metal gate and over two ladder stiles and another gateway then through 14 stiles into Sedbusk.
6 Turn right along the road, bend left near the post-box and go downhill. Go right, over a stile signed 'Haylands Bridge'. Cross the field, bend right to a stile in a crossing wall, then down to a stile on to a road. Cross to another stile and follow the path, cross a stream, go over a stile then bear right over a humpback bridge. Go through a gated stile on to a road.
7 Turn left. Cross Haylands Bridge and beyond go right through a kissing gate signed 'Hawes'. Follow the path, go over a stile, then turn left, then right on to the main road. At the junction cross and turn right past the post office. Follow the main road through Hawes, turning left after the school to the car park.
For many people, Hawes means two things - Wensleydale cheese and motorcyclists. The bikers use the town as a base at summer weekends and bank holidays, enjoying a friendly drink in the pubs and spectacular rides on the surrounding roads. However, it is the Wensleydale Creamery that attracts other visitors. Just above the car park in Gayle Lane, the Creamery offers tours and tastings, as well as the chance to buy a traditional Wensleydale.
Cheese has been made in Wensleydale since French monks brought the skill here in 1150. After centuries of farm production, a factory was started in Hawes in 1897. It was saved from closure in the 1930s by local man Kit Calvert, and again in 1992, when the local managers bought the creamery from Dairy Crest. It is now a thriving business and a vital part of the Hawes economy.
The walk gives you the chance - which you should take - to visit the famous Hardraw Force, a 90ft (27m) waterfall in a deep and narrow valley. There is a modest entrance charge, payable in the Green Dragon pub in Hardraw village, and a short, pleasant walk to the fall. Despite appearances, what you see isn't entirely natural. On 12 July 1889 an unprecedented deluge on the hill above caused a wall of water to descend Hardraw Beck and through the valley, destroying buildings in the village and washing away bridges. It also devastated the waterfall, reducing it to a mudslide. After seeing to the clearing up in the village and the welfare of his tenants, the local landowner, Lord Wharncliffe, arranged for his workmen to reconstruct the lip of the fall, pinning together the blocks of shattered stone. This he did so successfully that today's visitors have no idea of the disaster that happened more than a century ago.
On the way to and from Hardraw Force you will pass the circular bandstand for the annual Hardraw Scar Brass Band Contest, usually held in September. It was founded in 1881, and is reputed to be the second oldest brass band competition in the world. Bands from throughout the North of England - and beyond - compete in the championship, cheered on by supporters who crowd the valley floor and hillsides of this natural amphitheatre.
From the tiny village of Sedbusk, near the end of the walk, came the area's first-known rope maker, John Brenkley, who died in 1725. The tradition is continued today in Hawes by W R Outhwaite and Son in their Hawes Ropeworks. Visitors can see work in progress on ropes of all types, including ropes for bells, barriers and banisters, as well as dog leads and braids.
To find out more about life in the Dales, visit the Dales Countryside Museum in the Station Yard at Hawes. Here you can walk through a Time Tunnel that takes you back through 10,000 years of Dales' history, and see how life has changed over the centuries. Also included in the admission charge is a trip 'down' a lead mine, a visit to an old doctor's surgery, and the nostalgia of a kitchen in the Dales from the last century.
There is plenty of choice in Hawes with its pubs, cafés and tea rooms, as well as a fish and chip shop. The Green Dragon at Hardraw offers meals and snacks, while more upmarket is the Simonstone Hall Hotel, on the walk between Hardraw and Sedbusk.
Redshank and widgeon are among the birds that you may see on the walk, especially around the pond by the New Bridge near Appersett (the second one you cross here). The wading redshank, with its long legs, has a characteristic alarm call and nests in grass, laying four eggs during the breeding season from April to July. Look out for the characteristic white bar across its wings. Widgeon, members of the duck family, graze on wet meadowland, often in huge flocks. The male has a rusty-red head with an orange crown, while the female is plainer, though of a distinctive dull orange colour.