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Surprise View and Otley Chevin

Enjoy woodland walks and panoramic views across the Wharfe Valley.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 328ft (100m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Easy walking on good paths and forestry tracks, no stiles

Landscape Heath and woodland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale

Start/finish SE 205431

Dog friendliness Dogs can run free all over the Chevin

Parking Beacon House car park on Yorkgate, opposite Royalty Inn

Public toilets None on route

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1 From the far end of the car park you have access to the Chevin Ridge, with its splendid birds-eye view of Otley and Lower Wharfedale. Join the obvious path, going to the right, which is also a section of the Dales Way. Follow the wall on your right, walking gradually downhill and through a gate. Keep left, still downhill, on a track which descends to meet a road by a house (Danefield House). Walk right, up the road, for about 200yds (183m) to reach another car park.

2 Go left here, to a fork of good forestry tracks by an information board. Take the right-hand option, to enjoy easy walking on a sandy track through, predominantly conifer woodland. Beyond a little bridge, keep left at another choice of tracks. As you leave the woods you come to a meeting of tracks, with a gate and kissing gate on the left. Go through the kissing gate and keep left on a path that soon rewards you with a view over the valley, and Caley Crags - popular with novice climbers - immediately below you.

3 Keep left, to walk through mixed woodland. Go through a kissing gate and continue on a good sandy track. Where the track forks keep left, descending to cross a beck on a wooden footbridge. Follow the track uphill, to the car park. From here you retrace your steps, that is: go right, down the road for 200yds (183m), and bear left by Danefield House. Follow the track uphill, then bear right, squeezing past a gate, to rejoin the ridge-top track. Soon you are back at Surprise View; take a last look at that inspiring view before you find your car, or enjoy a drink at the nearby Royalty Inn.

This walk begins at Surprise View and, if this is your first visit, you will have a surprise indeed. By strolling just a few paces from your car you can enjoy a breathtaking panorama across Lower Wharfedale. Almscliffe Crag is a prominent landmark in the valley. On a clear day, you may be able to see Simon's Seat, and even the famous White Horse carved into the hillside at Kilburn. With so much to see, it's easy to forget that you are only a mile (1.6km) away from the bustle of the Leeds-Bradford Airport.

The Chevin has traditionally been a popular destination for walkers and picnickers. In 1944 Major Fawkes of Farnley Hall gave a piece of land on the Chevin to the people of Otley. By 1989, when it was designated a local nature reserve, the Chevin Forest Park had grown to 700 acres (283ha) of woodland, heath and gritstone crags. Local people come here to walk their dogs, and the broad forest tracks are ideal for horse riders and mountain bikers. The walk featured here is merely one - short - possibility; the park is criss-crossed by good waymarked paths.

Immediately below the Chevin is the market town of Otley, straddling the River Wharfe, and well worth visiting in its own right. Wharfemeadows Park offers riverside strolls and rowing boats for hire. Thomas Chippendale, the famous furniture maker, was born in Otley in 1710.

Otley was granted its market charter back in 1222, and the cobbled market square still occupies the centre of town. On market days (Fridays and Saturdays) the stalls overflow along the main street of Kirkgate. There are weekly livestock markets too and Otley Show, each spring, is a big date in the local calendar. The Otley Folk Festival attracts music lovers every autumn; over a long weekend you can hardly move for mummers and morris dancers. Otley is famous - or perhaps infamous - for having more pubs per head of population than anywhere else in Yorkshire. Even though a by-pass now keeps a lot of traffic away, it's still a busy little town.

What to look for

Otley Chevin is a favourite place for radio-controlled glider enthusiasts to fly their aircraft. The shape of the hill creates a series of thermals which give uplift, allowing the fliers to perform aerobatic manoeuvres without the irritating buzz of little motors.

While you're there

Visit Otley, a characterful little market town by the River Wharfe. The litle nooks and corners are well worth investigating. In the churchyard you will find an elaborate memorial to the 23 workers who were killed during the construction of the nearby Bramhope railway tunnel between 1845 and 1849.

Where to eat and drink

The Royalty sits in solitary splendour, high on the top of Otley Chevin, just a few paces from the start of this walk. And Otley, down in the valley below you has a wealth of refreshment opportunities from traditional pubs and chip shops, to cafés and tea shops.

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