From Lofthouse to Ramsgill and Middlesmoor in the valley of the River Nidd.
Distance 7 miles (11.3km)
Minimum time 3hrs
Ascent/gradient 656ft (200m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Mostly field paths and tracks; may be muddy, 20 stiles
Landscape Rich farmland and moorland, wide views from Middlesmoor
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL30 Yorkshire Dales - Northern & Central
Start/finish SE 101734
Dog friendliness Can be off lead on walled section between Studfold Farm and Stean, but should be on lead for rest of walk
Parking Car park by Memorial Hall in Lofthouse
Public toilets None on route
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1 Walk downhill past the Crown Hotel to the main road and turn left. Just beyond High Lofthouse farm go right, through a stile. Follow the track to a waymarked stile, then bear left to another stile. After it head half right to go through a gate in the field corner. Turn left, then immediately right through the next gate. Follow the fence to another stile on to a road.
2 Cross the road and go through a gate. Follow the wire fence to a stile, then walk along the farm track. Before the next gateway, go left over a stile, then immediately right over another. Bear left and ascend, following the path through three gates to a track. Turn right, down through a gate. At the next junction take the right-hand track, go left of the farmhouse, though a gate and to a stile. Follow the waymarkers to a wooden gate. Bear right, go over a wooden bridge, through a metal gate and ahead. Bear right past the house to a gravelled track and a metalled road.
3 Bear right down the road to a T-junction. Turn left, over the bridge. Take the next track right, by the triangular green, then bear right again signed 'Stean'. Go through a gate on to a track, and over four cattle grids to where the track bends left up to Grindstone Hill House.
4 Go straight on, over four stiles. At West House Farm go over a stile between the farm and a bungalow, cross the farm road, follow the waymarked posts and continue through two gates and over a ladder stile to descend to a signpost near a barn. Continue into a wooded valley and over a small bridge.
5 At a T-junction of tracks, turn left, uphill, and follow the walled track as it bends right. Beyond the farm entrance the track becomes grassy. In 100yds (91m), after a track joins from the left, turn right. At the bottom, bend left above the houses and descend in to Stean.
6 The track becomes metalled. Bear right, pass the telephone box, then take a stile on the left signed 'Middlesmoor'. Go through another stile, down steps, over a bridge and up steps. After the gate at the top, follow signs through three stiles on to the road. Turn left towards Middlesmoor. Near the hilltop turn right beside the Wesleyan chapel to the gateway of the parish church.
7 Turn right before the gate, through a stile signed 'Lofthouse'. Go down steps then through a stile and two gateways by Halfway House. Continue through a stile, then go diagonally left to a gate in the corner. In the lay-by go left though a gate, then right of the buildings to another gate. Cross the lane and go over a bridge, then bear right to the centre of Lofthouse. Turn right to the car park.
Much of upper Nidderdale was proposed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1947 - but official designation happened only in 1994. There were discussions as to whether the area should be included as part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park but Nidderdale was designated separately. It is an area of moorland wildness and deep, farmed valleys. In the late 19th and 20th centuries parts of the dale were dammed as a chain of reservoirs - Angram, Scar House and Gouthwaite - was constructed to supply water to the city of Bradford.
Throughout Nidderdale are small, stone-built settlements like those visited on the walk - many of them of considerable antiquity. The monks of Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, founded the attractive village of Lofthouse as a grange in the Middles Ages. It was one of the bases from which they controlled their vast farming interests in Nidderdale. Lofthouse today now consists mainly of 19th-century cottages. Ramsgill, at the southern end of the route, is at the head of Gouthwaite Reservoir, which was opened in 1899 and is renowned for its spectacular bird life. The village was the birthplace, in 1704, of Eugene Aram, scholar and murderer, who arranged for the slaughter of his wife's lover and was hanged in Knaresborough for the crime - a deed retold by both Bulwer Lytton and the poet Thomas Hood. The village was also used in the feature film Fairy Tale: A True Story (1997) about two Yorkshire girls who hoaxed many - including Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini - into believing they had photographed fairies in Cottingley near Bradford. In the third village, Middlesmoor, with its spectacular hilltop setting, the head of an Anglo-Saxon cross with its inscription to St Cedd in the church again indicates the age of a settlement which today seems to date mainly from the last two centuries.
It was once possible to travel from Pateley Bridge up the dale on Britain's only corporation-run light railway. The Nidd Valley Light Railway, originally laid as a narrow-gauge line by the builders of Angram Reservoir, was taken over by Bradford Corporation in 1907 and re-laid as standard gauge. It ran regular passenger services from Pateley Bridge (where it connected with the North Eastern Railway's line) to Lofthouse, with stations at Wath and what was called Ramsgill (but was really at Bouthwaite). It closed to passengers in 1929, but the track is still visible on much of the route.
A visit to the attractive town of Pateley Bridge will prove rewarding. There are many fascinating small shops, as well as walks by the River Nidd and the interesting Nidderdale Museum in King Street, housed in a former workhouse.
For top-of-the-range meals, the Yorke Arms in Ramsgill has an enviable reputation. There are also two Crown Hotels on or near the route, one in Lofthouse and another in Middlesmoor.
Oil beetles have been sighted at Middlesmoor. Thought to be the most common of the seven species of oil beetle in Britain this was meloë proscarabaeus. Unlike other beetles, their wing cases do not overlap, making them look as if they are wearing waistcoats. They also have kinked antennae - the male beetle's end with blobs. Oil beetles get their name from an oily fluid they secrete from their leg joints if they're disturbed. It deters predators and can cause blistering on human skin.