A taste of West Yorkshire moorland from the village of Burley in Wharfedale.
Distance 4 miles (6.4km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Ascent/gradient 560ft (170m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Good tracks and moorland paths, 5 stiles
Landscape Moor and arable land
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale
Start/finish SE 163457
Dog friendliness Can be off lead but watch for grazing sheep
Parking Burley in Wharfedale Station car park
Public toilets At railway station
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1 From the station car park, cross the line via a footbridge and go left along a quiet lane. Follow the lane past houses and between fields up to Hag Farm.
2 When the track wheels right, into the farmyard, keep left on a track to a stile and a gate. Accompany a wall downhill; after 100yds (91m) take a gap stile in the wall. Bear off sharply to the right, to follow a stream up to another wall and gap stile. Follow a fence uphill to take another stile, cross the stream on a footbridge and join the approach road to a group of houses. Walk uphill to meet the Guiseley-Ilkley road. (To visit the Hermit pub you would need to go right here, for ¼ mile/400m.) Cross the road and continue on a stony track ahead. After just 50yds (46m), ford a stream and follow a path uphill through woodland, onto a path hemmed in by hedges. Out onto open pasture you come to a gate. Follow the wall to your right, soon leaving it to take an indistinct path uphill.
3 Meet a stony track and follow it to the right, along the moorland edge. Follow a wall to a stile by a gate. Immediately after, keep right when the track forks. Keep right again as you approach a small brick building. Route-finding is now easy, as the track wheels around a farm. Keep left at the next farm (called York View because, on a clear day, you can see York Minster from here) to make a slow descent, following a wall on your right. As you approach a third farm, look out for two barns and a gate, on the right. Take an indistinct path to the left here, passing a small quarry. Enjoy level walking through bracken with great views over Lower Wharfedale. Go steeply down a little ravine and cross a beck; continue up the other side. Before you reach the top, bear right and follow a path downhill to meet a road by a sharp bend.
4 Walk 100yds (91m) down the road, to another sharp right-hand bend. Bear left here (signed 'Ilkley Moor Garden Centre'). Keep left of the garden centre itself, by continuing down the stony track. Keep left of a house, the Lodge; when the track bears sharp left towards a farm, your route is to the right, through a kissing gate, to follow a field path downhill with woodland to the left. After another kissing gate, follow a fence - then a wall - on the right. Beyond a third kissing gate and another gate, you join a tree-lined track heading to the right.
5 Meet a road and walk downhill back to the railway station car park.
According to the legend, a giant by the name of Rombald used to live in these parts. While striding across the moor that now bears his name (in some versions of the story he was being chased by his angry wife) he dislodged a stone from a gritstone outcrop, and thus created the Calf, of the Cow and Calf rocks. Giants such as Rombald and Wade - and even the Devil himself - were apparently busy all over Yorkshire, dropping stones or creating big holes in the ground. It was perhaps an appealing way of accounting for some of the more unusual features of the landscape.
Rombalds Moor is pitted with old quarries, from which good quality stone was won. The Cow and Calf rocks used to be a complete family unit, but the rock known as the Bull was broken up to provide building stone.
At Burley Woodhead a public house called the Hermit commemorates Job Senior, a local character with a chequered career. Job worked as a farm labourer, before succumbing to the demon drink. He met an elderly widow of independent means, who lived in a cottage at Coldstream Beck, on the edge of Rombalds Moor. Thinking he might get his hands on her money and home, Job married the old crone. Though she died soon after, Job took no profit. The family of her first husband pulled the cottage down, in Job's absence, leaving him homeless and penniless once more.
Enraged, he built himself a tiny hovel from the ruins of the house. Here he lived in filth and squalor on a diet of home-grown potatoes, which he roasted on a peat fire. He cut a strange figure, with a coat of multi-coloured patches and trousers held up with twine. He had long, lank hair, a matted beard and his legs were bandaged with straw. He made slow, rheumatic progress around Rombalds Moor with the aid of two crooked sticks.
His eccentric lifestyle soon had people flocking to see him. He offered weather predictions, and even advised visitors about their love lives. The possessor of a remarkable voice, he 'sang for his supper' as he lay on his bed of dried bracken and heather. These impromptu performances encourarged Job to sing in nearby villages, and even in the theatres of Leeds and Bradford. His speciality was sacred songs, which he would deliver with great feeling. Nevertheless, his unwashed appearance meant that accommodation was never forthcoming, forcing him to bed down in barns or outhouses.
It was while staying in a barn that he was struck down with cholera. He was taken to Carlton Workhouse, where he died in 1857, aged 77. A huge crowd of people gathered at his funeral. Job Senior, the hermit of Rombalds Moor, was buried in the churchyard of Burley in Wharfedale. He's commorated in the old sign hanging over the entrance at the Hermit Inn.
The Hermit is a welcoming stone-built pub in Burley Woodhead, whose name recalls an eccentric local character. During the walk it is easy to make a short detour to the inn, with its oak-panelled and beamed rooms and views of Wharfedale. Alternatively, the village of Burley in Wharfedale also boasts a number of places to get a bite to eat.
Visit Harry Ramsden's in nearby Guiseley: not just a fish-and-chip restaurant, but also a Yorkshire institution. There are Harry Ramsden's restaurants elsewhere now, but this is the real thing, the original. It was founded here, in a little hut, in 1928 by the eponymous Harry Ramsden. A Bradford-based fish frier of some repute, Harry had been forced to sell up and move to the country by his wife's tuberculosis. The location, at the terminus of tram routes from both Bradford and Leeds, proved to be a profitable one and the chain now stretches from the Epcott Centre in Florida to motorway services on the M40.