Nidderdale inc Pateley Bridge & Masham

Jonathan’s View

“The mark of man has created a unique landscape of water & moorland.”

The Dale

Despite being outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Nidderdale has many similarities and would be a sensible and welcome addition. It is at present an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) but being in the National Park would bring further protection. Having now completed a number of walks through the Upper and Lower parts of the dale it is certainly worth protecting. Up dale from Pateley Bridge the landscape is dominated by the 3 large reservoirs but this is a welcome difference that does the dale little harm. The waters that fill the reservoirs flow off the massif of Great Whernside which links Nidderdale with Wharfedale.

Pateley Bridge is the ‘capital’ of Nidderdale and divides the characteristics of the upper and lower dale. To the north and the Upper Nidd the land is wilder and more untamed whilst to the south it is rolling and more farmland than rough ground. Masham itself makes some claim to Nidderdale as does the historically significant Fountain’s Abbey. So I have included them in this section.

Pateley Bridge

Throstle Nest under the Nabs
Throstle Nest under the Nabs

I am always pleasantly surprised by Pateley Bridge when I visit, the main street having plenty of character. Originally Pateley Bridge was a lead mining centre but now tourism dominates with the pretty main street leading up a hillside with a good selection of shops, art galleries and old fashioned shops including the ‘oldest sweet shop in England’ and the ‘best butchers’. A good base to explore and return to after a good walk. Brimham Rocks is one of the popular attraction close by. There are plenty of places to stay including a large and popular camping area.

Up the dale from Pateley Bridge, Middlesmoor, Ramsgill and Wath are all pretty villages. Each offers a much quiet stay and each has excellent pubs/inns. Middlesmoor stands at the head of the road and clings to the sides of the moor whilst Ramsgill and Wath are further down the valley bordering Gouthwaite Reservoir. Ramsgill is a short stroll from the renowned Bird Sanctuary whilst Wath is approached by an attractive stone bridge and is dominated by a fine hotel. There is no road access from the upper end of the dale, the only way out is a hard slog over rough moors in to Upper Wharfedale. How Stean Gorge offers a worthwhile walk (described below) in a unique setting.

Downstream from Pateley Bridge is a rolling landscape of little villages, isolated farms and quiet lanes. The walking is generally much easier than up the dale but it is pleasant rather than exciting. Even further downstream Ripley Castle and the remains of Fountain’s Abbey are superb and add a lot of character to the area.


Moors above Masham
Moors above Masham

Masham boasts the largest market square in Yorkshire (the Sheep Fair at the end of September is quite a sight) and defines the character of the town. The impressive Georgian façade suggests a historically thriving town and from the late 18th century this was the case, due in no small part to the sheep market. Walk from the town along the River Ure and the abbey of Jervaulx makes a great stop as do the follies nearby.

There are some fine old shops and excellent walks from the town but Masham is probably most famous for being the ‘home of brewing’. The thriving Black Sheep Brewery is set near the town centre, the older Theakston Brewery nearby and both have some excellent tours. Theakston’s was the original brewery but two sons both wanted to carry on the tradition so it seemed easiest to open a second brewery. I was interested to hear that the beer Theakston’s Old Peculiar comes from name given by an archbishop who rarely made the journey north and referred to the town as ‘a Peculiar’ – it stuck!


Jervaulx Abbey
Jervaulx Abbey

The history of Nidderdale is dominated by the Cistercian monks of Fountain’s Abbey, at least up to its dissolution in 1536. They introduced sheep farming, collected the tithes, worked the land and set up a series of smaller cottage industries. Much of their wealth came from the wool trade which outlasted the monks and continues to be a main feature of the dale and its life. Woollen mills sprung up during the industrial revolution, resulting in the damming of many of the streams and tributaries in Nidderdale.  It was in the 20th century that the large reservoirs however changed the landscape forever and are now its most noticeable feature.

Scar House and Angram were built during the early part of the century with Bradford the destination for their water whilst Gouthwaite was built a little later. The reservoirs make Nidderdale unique with its large nature reserve and good walking on some of the higher moors.

The Best Walks

My favourite walks in Nidderdale are detailed below, simply click the link for further details.

Easy Walks

Brimham Rocks. Explore the unique rock formation of Brimham Rocks near Pateley Bridge.

The beautiful River Nidd. Below Pateley Bridge Nidderdale offers a more tranquil and beautiful face.

How Stean Gorge. An extraordinary section of a tributary valley which travels through a deep, spectacular gorge.

Fountains Abbey & Studley Park. A walk though the grounds of this splendid abbey and the neighbouring royal park.

Thruscross Reservoir. Circle this attractive reservoir lying near Harrogate and Blubberhouses.

Lower Nidd at Dacre Banks . A lovely section of riverside walking between Dacre Banks & Darley.

Ripley Castle. Without entering the grounds this walk has appeal and views over the countryside of Ripley.

Lands near Burton Leonard. Low level walk visiting 2 or 3 attractive villages amongst estate lands.

Moderate Walks

Countryside of Pateley Bridge. A mid length walk to the west of Pateley Bridge visiting some ancient workings.

The River Ure at Jervaulx Abbey. A 7 mile walk starting in the Jervaulx estate with delightful stretches of riverside walking.

Lost world of Dallowgill. I was unaware of the existence of this lovely area of woodland and pasture near Kirkby Malzeard.

Hackfall Woods from Masham. Explore these beautiful woods and gardens from Masham and via the banks of the River Ure.

Studley Park from Ripon . A pleasant walk through the deer park followed by a lovely riverside stroll.

Druids Temple at Masham. The countryside near Masham holds many secrets including the Druid’s Temple.

Hard Walks

Discovering the Upper Nidd. An 11 mile airy walk past 2 reservoirs and moorland of Upper Nidderdale.

Dacre Heights near Harrogate A long walk linking Thruscross Reservoir with the lower River Nidd.

Weather Forecast


Other Things to do

Stump Cross Caverns. Highly popular and reasonably priced these caves near Pateley Bridge are well worth a visit.

Nidderdale Llamas. Take a llama for a walk, an unusual experience. It will even carry your picnic bag!

Black Sheep Brewery. An interesting tour of this relatively new brewery in Masham is renowned as one of the best in Britain. The beer is excellent too.

Nidderdale Museum.. An historical journey through past and present times within the valley of Nidderdale. Based in Pateley Bridge

  • B Jackson says:

    My wife and love areas around pately bridge walking we like but not treks as my wife has health problems and we are looking for walks around 5miles and places to stay we would appreciate any help you could advise.

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