Barden Reservoirs

  • Victorian Engineering at the Barden Reservoirs
  • Moorland walking on good tracks
  • A less well known walk near Skipton

The Barden Reservoirs lie in the centre of a large area of bleak moorland. You would expect the proximity to Skipton, coupled with the easy access to the area, to make the Barden Reservoirs a popular walk. It does not! The moors may not be alive with people but they are with birdlife. Both waders on the 2 reservoirs and the grouse in the surrounding moors.

Upper and Lower Barden Reservoir were built in the late 19th century and the water corporation(later to become Yorkshire Water) ran the water down towards Bolton Abbey before pumping it in to Chalker Reservoir. Chalker is one of the reservoirs which supplies Bradford and the reservoir always looks full to me.

Back to the Barden Reservoirs. I last walked them in a fairly bleak December day. There was some snow on the ground but the walking was still good. The surprise element of the walk though is the two gothic style buildings next to the dams of each reservoir. Why turrets and battlements were deemed necessary by the original water authorities is anyone’s guess.


A visit to Brass Castle just above Lower Barden Reservoir. Here there is a (non brass) shelter complete with table, benches and a turf roof. Take your thermos and ponder why it was ever built.

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OS Map: O/S 1.25,000. OL2 Yorkshire Dales South & West YD South & West OL2 Buy Map
Start Point: SE 038555. Park at the cattle grid just to the east of the high point between Embsay and Barden Mill.
Height to Climb: 160m (525 feet)
Terrain: The water board and the grouse shooters have left clear tracks to follow. In bad weather though the area is distinctly bleak.
Eating & Drinking: Head west to Embsay or east to Bolton Abbey, both little more than 3 miles away.
Similar Walks Nearby: Embsay Reservoir & Crag
Places to Stay: