Many of my favourite walks in the Yorkshire Dales I have found whilst exploring the side valleys which lead from Wharfedale, Wensleydale and Swaledale. The walking in these smaller dales has all the advantages that peace and silence brings to a walk; the birds and wildlife are fabulous, the villages and farms more traditional and ‘James Herriott like’ and they are full of surprises that you can discover on your own. There are 3 which I would urge anyone visiting their parent valleys to visit and walk in; Littondale near Kettlewell, Semer Water and Raydale in upper Wensleydale and Arkengarthdale near Reeth.
1. Littondale. Two of my most enjoyable walks are from the small hamlets of Litton and Arncliffe – both climb the beautiful south facing slopes out of the dale on lovely paths (of a sensible gradient) and enjoy great views across the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. One walk dives down into Kettlewell but my favourite heads north to Yockenthwaite and a lovely stroll along the Upper reaches of the River Wharfe. Littondale is a perfect microcosm of what I have always imagined the Yorkshire Dales should be; pretty villages made from thick Yorkshire stone, a winding bubbling stream, isolated barns and limestone walls but more than anything open, far reaching views of the rolling fells and vast skies.
Walks: Hidden valleys of Wharfedale & Arncliffe Circular
2. Semer Water & Raydale. Semer Water was a real surprise to me. As I walked over the brow of the hill at Countersett this perfect stretch of water was laid out in front of me; totally alien in many ways as only at Malham is another stretch of naturally forming water in the Yorkshire Dales of any similar size. The surrounding higher land is typically Dales and is simply explored via farm tracks and good bridleways. The upper reaches of Raydale are a little more wild but no worse for it and I found adds to the easy walk round the lake. I also like the fact that the lake is available for recreation, although it is an area of conservation managed by the Wildlife Trust, and there was a school party in their canoes enjoying the area when I last passed.
Walks: Hidden Semer Water
3. Arkengarthdale near Reeth. I could live in Langthwaite which is in an idyllic spot a few miles north of Reeth. Arkle Beck runs the length of the dale and is probably my favourite stretch of riverside within the Dales, particularly that which runs north of Langthwaite and up to Whaw. The dale is not as open as some but this seems to enhance the valley and give it a certain separateness of character many of the other dales do not have. With lovely Reeth sat at the bottom of Arkengathdale I can think of little better than being sat in one of its fine, traditional ale houses having spent the day walking Arkle Beck and venturing a little further afield on to the moors above it.
Walks: Discovering Arkengarthdale & Arkengarthdale & Reeth Low Moor
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