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Horsehouse and Coverdale

A moorside and riverside walk in one of the loveliest valleys in the Dales.

Distance 6.4 miles (10.4km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 459ft (140m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Field, moorland and riverside paths and tracks, 31 stiles

Landscape Farmed valley and moorland, with River Cover

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL30 Yorkshire Dales - Northern & Central

Start/finish SE 047813

Dog friendliness Sheep in fields, so keep dogs on lead

Parking Roadside parking below former school in Horsehouse

Public toilets None on route

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1 Walk past the Thwaite Arms, then curve behind it on a track. Turn right down a signed track, go through two gates, then bend left to a third gate. Beyond it bear half right to a gate and footbridge.

2 Cross the bridge and bear left. Go over a stile signed 'Swineside', cross a small field to another stile then bear half right. Cross a track and follow a wall to a stile. Bear left, eventually on a track, through two stiles, then go half left to a signed stile. Climb the grassy path to a gap in the wall, then take the lower path towards buildings. Go through a stile and a gateway, then bend right to a gate, to the right of the buildings.

3 After the gate, follow the track past the farmhouse then right, uphill. At the top, go over a cattle grid and follow the metalled lane for 1½ miles (2.4km) into West Scrafton. In the village take a track to the left signed 'No Through Road'. Turn left signed 'Carlton', then turn right. After a gate and a walled section, turn left down the field. Go through a kissing gate and right of a barn, towards Caygill Bridge. Bear right, following the wooded valley, though a gate and down to two footbridges.

4 After the bridges, go through a gate and ascend steeply, past a signpost. At the top bear right alongside a wall and on to a gate. Follow the footpath sign left, eventually reaching Carlton. Turn left along the road passing the Forester's Arms. Where it widens, bear left between cottages following a footpath sign to a stile. Continue through six more stiles to a road.

5 Turn left and go immediately though a gate. Descend to a stile, bear right above a barn to another stile and follow a wall to a stile on to a road. Turn left. At a left bend, go right, over a stile signed 'Gammersgill'. Go over two more stiles and cross a stream to a waymarked gate. Cross the fields, going over a stile and a wooden footbridge, and through a gate. Where the walled lane bends right, go ahead through a stile, then bear right to a stile on to the road.

6 Turn left into Gammersgill, cross the bridge, then turn left though a gate signed 'Swineside'. Bear right to another gate, then cross to a stile beside a gate. Bear half left to the field corner and go over a stile. Now follow the river over five more stiles and past a stone bridge. After another stile reach the footbridge crossed near the start of the walk. Retrace your steps back to Horsehouse.

It seems hard to believe that the quiet village of Horsehouse was once a place bustling with traffic, as stagecoaches and packhorse trains passed through it on one of the main coaching routes from London to the North. The two inns that existed in the village served the travellers on their way to and from Richmond, one of the region's principal coaching centres. Beyond Horsehouse, to the south west, Coverdale grows steeper and wilder before the vertiginous descent down Park Rash into Kettlewell in Wharfedale - a journey that must have deeply scared many 17th- and 18th-century travellers. Trains of up to 40 packhorses also used the route, bringing goods to the valley and taking lead and other minerals from the mines on the moors above. Bells jingling on the harness of the leading horse signalled their presence.

Pedlars, too, followed the routes, and some at least seem to have met a gruesome end; three headless corpses were found by a side road into Nidderdale. The local constable initiated enquiries and the evidence suggested that they were Scottish pedlars, killed for their money and goods. Their heads were not found - nor were their murderers, though the local finger of suspicion pointed strongly at a Horsehouse innkeeper and her daughter.

West Scrafton, a tiny village set beside Great Gill as it tumbles towards the River Cover below, is dominated by the heights of Great Roova Crags (1549ft/472m). Before the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s, the village was owned by the monks of Jervaulx Abbey. Much of the land was subsequently in the hands of the Earl of Lennox - and West Scrafton Manor House is said to have been the birthplace of his son Lord Darnley, murdered second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots and father of King James I and VI. Carlton-in-Coverdale, the next village on the walk is the largest of all the dale's settlements, with some good houses lining the main street and the motte of a small castle visible south of the main street. Flatts Farm at the west end of the village has an inscription to Henry Constantine 'The Coverdale Poet'.

Miles Coverdale, the first man to translate the whole Bible into English, was born in the valley - no one knows exactly where - in 1488. After some time as a friar in Cambridge, his reforming zeal meant he was forced to live abroad. The first edition of his bible was published in Paris in 1535, and a revised version, known as the Great Bible, in 1538. From 1551 he was Bishop of Exeter, but he was imprisoned under Mary Tudor. In Elizabeth's reign he lived and preached in London until his death in 1568.

While you're there

Visit the Forbidden Corner, a fantasy garden full of follies, tunnels, secret chambers and passages offering intrigue and unexpected discoveries. Built by a former British Ambassador to Ecuador at Tupgill, 3 miles (4.8km) east of Carlton, the Forbidden Corner is open by timed ticket in advance only - phone 01969 640638 or call in at the tourist information centre in Leyburn.

What to look for

Like Middleham at the end of the valley, Coverdale is much given over to horses, with riding schools and livery stables throughout the dale. This is not a recent phenomenon - in Daniel Defoe's day the whole area was geared to the horse; in the third volume of his Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain published in 1726, he wrote that 'all this country is full of jockeys, that is to say, dealers in horses, and breeders of horses?'

Where to eat and drink

The Thwaite Arms in Horsehouse serves meals and has a reputation for its friendly atmosphere. The Forester's Arms in Carlton-in-Coverdale is famous for its fine meals and is worth a special journey.

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