The Best Yorkshire Dales Walks
The Dales isn’t nick-named God’s Own County for nothing, with rambling hills, sweeping views and amazing natural formations the Dales is a walker’s paradise. With over 2,179 km to explore, picking a Yorkshire walk can be overwhelming so to make it easy for you we’ve pulled together eight of the best walks in the Yorkshire Dales.
Bolton Abbey Village to the Cavendish – 1 hour, easy
Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the riverside path, with meadow views and great opportunities to spot herons, dippers and kingfishers. The Cavendish Pavilion which is halfway round the route is also the perfect pit-stop for a refreshing drink and slab of homemade cake. This is a popular circular walk in the Yorkshire Dales and the start and finish is Bolton Abbey village, and keep your eye out for the Memorial Fountain on your loopback.
Malham Cove, Gordale Scar & Janet’s Foss – 3 hours, moderate
Malham Cove walks in the Yorkshire Dales prove to be a firm favourite. The walk starts in the village of Malham and follows Malham Beck and Gordale Beck before passing through a lovely, wooded area to Janet’s Foss waterfall. After the obligatory waterfall photo stop, the walk carries on to reveal Gordale Scar—a gorge with majestic limestone cliffs.
The footpath then leads onto Malham Cove; where you can enjoy its amphitheatre-shaped splendour from the base or if you are feeling energetic, you can climb the 400 irregular stone steps to the uneven limestone pavement at the top. As well as the unusual formations to discover, the views down towards Malham and beyond are pretty special too. The signposted route then swings you back around to the village along the Pennine Way (keep an eye out for circling Peregrine Falcons overhead). Once back in Malham, The Lister Arms is a lovely spot for a post-walk pit stop.
Cavendish Pavilion to Barden Bridge – 2.20 hours, easy
Pick up some light refreshments at The Cavendish Pavilion before starting out this 4.7-mile walk. This walk is great for pushchair accessibility if you are visiting with young ones, and the lovely trail takes you through a forest of trees beside the river Wharfe – perfect for nature spotting.
Start from the Bolton Abbey riverside carpark and pass the Cavendish Pavilion towards Strid Wood. The riverside pathway leads onto Barden Bridge, which is a lovely place to stop for a breather and enjoy the view down the river. There are also plenty of lovely riverside spots to stop for a picnic if you want to make a day of it.
After the bridge, the circular route will lead you back to the Pavilion, where you can spend some time exploring the gorgeous Bolton Abbey before heading home. Or better still why not spend the night to make the most of your walking holiday in the Yorkshire Dales? The Devonshire Arms Hotel and Spa, is a short drive away and is the perfect place to end a day of exploring in the Yorkshire Dales. You can rest your weary feet and unwind in the Devonshire Spa, before enjoying a three-course dinner at our 3 AA rosette fine dining restaurant The Burlington.
Aysgarth Falls – 1-2 hours, easy
The three stepped waterfalls at Aysgarth Falls is one of many loved Yorkshire Dales waterfalls walks. The Falls have been a popular visitor attraction for decades and were famously featured in the blockbuster movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. They are most impressive after heavy rain where thousands of gallons of water cascade over the series of limestone steps.
The walk takes in a woodland reserve and rolling farmland, with lovely views of Bolton Castle thrown in there for good measure too. We recommend starting from the Aysgarth Falls National Park Centre and following the signposted route.
The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge – 12 hours, hard
The Yorkshire Three Peaks has to be the ultimate hiking in the Yorkshire Dales challenge. It’s a sweat-inducing 25 miles that sees walkers scale three of the highest mountains in Yorkshire: Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. The starting point is Horton-in-Ribblesdale, and Pen-y-Ghent is the first peak to be ascended. Paths are clearly marked, but if you are unsure follow the crowd.
Once you’ve hit the top, the pathway leads you across the Dales, past landmarks such as Hull Pot and the Ribblehead Viaduct and on towards Ingleborough. Ingleborough is the second highest of the peaks and offers some fantastic limestone scenery. Then it’s onto Whernside which is not only the highest of the peaks but also the highest point in Yorkshire. The ascent is tough, but on a clear day, there are fabulous views out across to Howgills, the Lake District and Morecambe Bay.
Although an incredible challenge, with equal amounts of descending as climbing, the walk offers spectacular scenery and fantastic walking opportunities for avid walkers. It is also a great place to spend a few days and soak up the scenery, so why not book a stay at The Devonshire Fell in Burnsall. This perfect hideaway overlooks the beautiful Yorkshire Dales and blends countryside charm with contemporary comfort. Enjoy a well-deserved meal in The Fell Restaurant, before retiring to one of the 16 individually furnished rooms for a peaceful night’s rest.
Beamsley Beacon Circular, - 4 hours, moderate
Another favourite circular walk in the Yorkshire Dales is the Beamsley Beacon Circular. Start this walk from the village of Beamsley on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The trail is perfect for flora and fauna spotting and there is an abundance of colour if you visit during the summer months. There’s a steep climb to Beamsley Beacon as you start out, but once at the top the views are worth it, and you can enjoy a well-earned rest as you take them in. The descent and route back take in Kex Beck and Beamsley Moor, and the wonderfully round Beamsley Hospital. Originally built in 1593 for the poorest women in the area to live a devout life, the building has seven rooms radiating from a central Puritan Chapel and its unusual shape makes it a worthwhile pit stop.
The Valley of Desolation Walk – 7 hours, hard
In complete contradiction to what the name suggests, this walk is pretty incredible. The valley got its name after a violent storm in 1826 ripped down trees and caused a landslide, thankfully there is little evidence of that destruction today.
You’ll start at the historic ruins of Bolton Abbey before heading off to the highest point of 485m at Simon’s Seat – on a clear day the views are incredible. On the way, you’ll cross paths with Posforth Gill—one of the most magical Yorkshire Dales waterfalls—where you can enjoy some quiet time as the sound of the cascade hits the lower pool. The downhill section takes in Parcevall Hall, Troller’s Gill and the village of Appletreewick, before weaving your way through the majestic Strid Wood.
Whernside from Ribblehead Viaduct – 3.40 hours, hard
This popular circular walk is one of the most rewarding things to do in the Yorkshire Dales. It takes on one of the summits from the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge and follows the Three Peaks route for most of the way. This walk is the classic way to climb the highest mountain in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (Whernside), and there are stunning views to be enjoyed all the way around.
The starting point for the walk is a rather unglamorous road layby on the B6255. However, once you leave the roadside behind, it’s not long before you’ll hit the 24-arch Ribblehead viaduct. A Grade II listed structure, its imposing grandeur alongside the sweeping views of the moors is a remarkable sight. From there it’s onwards to Hare Gill and Little Dale Beck via the footbridge, before starting the climb up to the Whernside summit. The views from the top are glorious and you’ll almost feel like you are on top of the world. The route back to the carpark will take you through various countryside farms and winding foot trails — a great opportunity to take in some good clean country air.
Book your Yorkshire Dales Walking Holiday
With such a variety of Yorkshire Dales walks out there, sometimes one day just isn’t enough so if you would like to make a stay of it, we have a Walk The Dales package which provides everything you need for a perfect Yorkshire Dales walking holiday. Plus, if you find yourself a little further south in the Peak District, there are plenty of stunning walks of all abilities and more than a few great places to eat and stay.