From West Burton to Aysgarth and back, via the famous Aysgarth Falls and some unusual farm buildings.
Distance 4 miles (6.4km)
Minimum time 1hr 30min
Ascent/gradient 394ft (120m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Field and riverside paths and tracks, 35 stiles
Landscape Two typical dales villages, fields and falls on the River Ure
Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 30 Yorkshire Dales - Northern & Central
Start/finish SE 017867
Dog friendliness Dogs should be on leads
Parking Centre of West Burton, by (but not on) the Green
Public toilets None on route; Aysgarth National Park visitor centre is close
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1 Leave the Green near the Village Shop. Opposite 'Meadowcroft' go left, signed 'Eshington Bridge'. Cross the road, turn right then left, through a gate and down steps. Pass the barn, go through a gateway and across the field. Go through a gap in the wall with a stile beyond, then bend right to a stile on to the road.
2 Turn left, go over the bridge and ahead up the narrow lane. As it bends left go ahead through a stile, signed 'Aysgarth', then on through a gated stile. Go ahead to a gap in the fence near a barn, then through a gate. Bend left to a gate in the field corner, go through a gateway and on to a stile. Turn right and descend to a signpost.
3 Go ahead to a stile in the field corner. Follow the signpost uphill to a gateway and go through a stile on the right. Cross the field half left to go through a gated stile on to a lane. Turn left, then almost immediately right through a stile, signed 'Aysgarth'. Go through three stiles to a road.
4 Turn right into the village, past the George and Dragon. At the left bend, go ahead toward the chapel, then right at the green, and follow the lane. Go through a stile by Field House and to another stile, turning left along the track. Follow the path through eight stiles to the road.
5 Go ahead into the churchyard, pass right of the church and go through two stiles, through woodland, then over another stile. Follow the path downhill towards the river, descending steps to a gate, then a stile. When the footpath reaches the river bank, take a signed stile right.
6 Follow the path over two stiles to a signpost, bending right across the field to a road. Turn left over the bridge, turning right into woodland a few paces beyond, signed 'Edgley'. Go over a stile and cross the field to a gate on to the road.
7 Turn right. About 150yds (137m) along, go left over a stile, signed 'Flanders Hall'. Walk below the follies on the ridge to a footpath sign, cross a track and go uphill to a stile with steps to it.
8 Opposite a stone barn go right, through a gate, and go downhill through two more gates, then over three stiles to a lane. Turn right and go over a bridge to join the village road. Turn left, back to the Green.
Many people regard West Burton as the prettiest village in the Dales. Its wide, irregular green, with a fat obelisk of 1820, is surrounded by small stone cottages, formerly homes to the quarrymen and miners of the district - but no church. Villagers had to make the trek to Aysgarth for services. West Burton has always been an important centre. It is at the entrance to Bishopdale, with its road link to Wharfedale. South is the road to Walden Head, now a dead end for motorists, but for walkers an alternative route to Starbotton and Kettlewell. At the end of the walk you'll travel for a short time, near Flanders Hall, along Morpeth Gate, the old packhorse route to Middleham.
After crossing the wide flood plain of Bishopdale Beck, and crossing Eshington Bridge, you climb across the hill to descend into Aysgarth. A village of two halves, the larger part, which you come to first, is set along the main A684 road. The walk takes you along the traditional field path from this part of the village to its other half, set around St Andrew's Church. It's worth looking inside; it contains the spectacular choir screen brought here from Jervaulx Abbey, down the dale, when it was closed by Henry VIII. Like the elaborate stall beside it, it was carved by the renowned Ripon workshops.
Beyond the church, the path follows the river beside Aysgarth's Middle and Lower Falls. The Falls were formed by the Ure eating away at the underlying limestone as it descends from Upper Wensleydale to join the deeper Bishopdale. They are now one of the most popular tourist sights in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Upper Falls, by the bridge, featured in the film Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. Robin (Kevin Costner) fought Little John here with long staves.
On the return leg of the walk, you pass two oddities in the parkland behind the house at Sorrellsykes Park. These two follies were built in the 18th century by Mrs Sykes and no one seems to knows why. One is a round tower, with a narrowing waist like a diabolo. The other, sitting like Thunderbird 3 ready for lift-off, is known to local people as the 'Rocket Ship'. It is of no practical use, except for minimal shelter in the square room in its base, but it is just one of many folly cones throughout Britain. None of the others, however, have this elaborate arrangement of fins - presumably added because the builder had doubts about its stability.
In Aysgarth the George and Dragon is a good family pub serving meals. Up the road from the church, just off the route of the walk, Palmer Flatt Hotel has bar meals and a restaurant, as well as a beer garden with distant views. In West Burton, the Fox and Hounds is a traditional village pub serving meals. Aysgarth Falls National Park Centre, across the river from the church, has a good coffee shop.
Visit the Yorkshire Carriage Museum by the bridge below the church in Aysgarth. Housed in a former cotton mill that wove cloth for Garibaldi's 'Red Shirts', the revolutionary army of 19th-century Italy, the museum has a fascinating display of old-time transport, from carriages and carts to hearses and fire engines.
The woods around Aysgarth have long been used for the production of hazel poles, and there is evidence of this trade on the walk, with the now-overgrown stumps of the hazel trees sprouting many branches, some of them of considerable age. In Freeholders' Wood beside the Middle and Lower Falls, on the opposite side of the River Ure from the route of the walk, the National Park Authority has restarted this ancient craft of coppicing. The name comes from the French couper, meaning to cut. Each year the hazel trees are cut back to a stump - called a stool - from which new shoots are allowed to grow. As long as they are protected from grazing cattle, the shoots develop into poles, and can be harvested after around seven years' growth. Hazel poles are traditionally used for making woven hurdles, and the thinner stems for basket-weaving.