Pocket Routes

The Herriot Way

The Herriot Way walk is a 52-mile, circular walk that runs through some of the best scenery in the Yorkshire Dales and visits many of the places associated with the world-famous vet, known to all his fans as James Herriot. It is typically walked over four days, of approximately equal length. The guide book describes a clockwise walk starting and finishing in Aysgarth and with overnight stops in Hawes, Keld and Reeth.

The walk is named after James Herriot; the fictional name given to the real-life veterinary surgeon who lived and worked in the Dales for many years. In life James Herriot was really Alf Wight and the Herriot Way is based on a walking holiday he took with his son Jimmy, around the Youth Hostels of Aysgarth, Grinton and Keld. Along its length the Herriot Way visits beautiful valleys, high, open fells and rolling, heather-clad moorland. The route crosses one of the highest points in Yorkshire, visits historic monuments and passes through a barren industrial wilderness; laid bare through lead mining. Anyone walking the Herriot Way will have had a fantastic introduction to the Yorkshire Dales.

As a circular walk you could start at any point along the route and the guide book supports this just as well as a start at Aysgarth. Many walkers have found the accommodation service provided by Butt House to be incredibly useful. The hosts at the lovely B&B in Keld will transport your party to the start of each days section and collect you from the end, returning you to the B&B each night. More details of this service can be found on their website.

The Herriot Way was featured in The Guardian

Herriot Way Guide Book

The route is described in detail in the “Walking the Herriot Way” guide book. You can order a copy of this pocket-sized paperback, using the [Buy me] button.

Route Overview

Day One:
Aysgarth to Hawes

Distance: Approx 12 mls / 19 km
Height Gain: Approx 900 ft / 274 m
High Point: Above Skell Gill (983 ft / 300 m)
Refreshments: Askrigg (5 mls / 8 km)

Day Two:
Hawes to Keld

Distance: Approx 12½ mls / 20 km
Height Gain: Approx 2,800ft / 853 m
High Point: Gt Shunner Fell (2,349 ft / 716 m)
Refreshments: Thwaite (8 mls / 13 km)

Day Three:
Keld to Reeth (High)

Distance: Approx 11 mls / 18 km
Height Gain: Approx 2,000ft / 610 m
High Point: Melbecks Moor (1,898 ft / 579 m)
Refreshments: None

Day Three:
Keld to Reeth (Low)

Distance: Approx 12 mls / 19 km
Height Gain: Approx 1,300ft / 396 m
High Point: Kisdon Side (1,121 ft / 342 m)
Refreshments: Gunnerside (5 mls / 8 km)

Day Four:
Reeth to Aysgarth

Distance: Approx 14 mls / 23 km
Height Gain: Approx 2,100ft / 640 m
High Point: Apedale Head (1,804 ft / 550 m)
Refreshments: Castle Bolton (10 mls / 16 km)

Herriot Way Route Map

Photo Gallery

The gallery includes a selection of images from the route. The photos have been taken over a number of years, at different times of year and in varying weather conditions. They present the many aspects of the walk you can expect to see when you walk it. Click an image to open a larger slideshow.

Frequently Asked Questions

These are some of the most frequently asked questions about this walk, with answers.

The Herriot Way is a circular walk, so you could walk it in either direction. However, the guide book describes the walk in a clockwise direction, following the path of the original walk by James Herriot. This is also the direction supported by the walking holiday providers and baggage transfer services.

So few people walked the anti-clockwise route that it became impractical to continue supporting it. Rather than continue to provide route notes and maps that have not been updated for several years, the decision has been made to drop support for an anti-clockwise guide.

If the weather is fine use the traditional high route through Swinner Gill and lead mining remains above Gunnerside. In bad weather you may want to use the low route, beside the Swale. You could do both of course, making for a 5-day walk, and the book has instructions on how you can extend your walk to accomplish this.

There is something to delight all walkers on the Herriot Way. If you love walking beside rivers there is the wonderful section beside the River Ure in Wensleydale. If high remote hills are your idea of heaven then the ascent of Great Shunner Fell will be your highlight. Lovers of grouse-filled, heather moorland will revel in the crossing of Melbecks and Harkerside Moors.

The diversity of the scenery encountered along the relatively short 52 miles of the Herriot Way are what set it apart from the other long walks in the UK. The feeling of remoteness while still being within easy reach of civilisation every day and the mix of easy strolling through the dales and the strenuous ascent of Great Shunner Fell make it a perfect candidate for your first long distance walk.

Walkers will visit a diverse array of remains from the Lead Mining industry that was prevalent through this area of the Dales for many years. Subtle information boards provide an insight into how hundreds of miners lived and worked in this desolate environment, changing and shaping it forever.

The Herriot Way is the perfect walk for a first-time long distance walker, or for an experienced walker looking for a leg-stretcher. The 52 miles are broken into four approximately equal 13 mile days, each one ending in villages with plentiful local amenities.

Accommodation is plentiful at the end of each of the 13 mile sections and some days have villages perfectly positioned for a pub lunch. The route could be wild-camped or make use of camp sites along the way. Some sections are supported by local bus services but the nearest train station is about 8 miles from the route, so getting to the start by public transport requires planning, which is aided by the planning section of the guide book.

If you don’t see the answer to your question above, or in the comments below, then please feel free to ask it. All questions will get a response and even if you’re completely new to multi-day walks, there’s no such thing as a silly question, so please ask away!

Tell Us About Your Walk

If you’ve walked any of our routes, please share your experience with other walkers, or tell us of any issues with a book or the route notes! Use the comments form below.

14 Responses

  1. Just completed the Herriot Way yesterday with a couple of friends. Absolutely brilliant walk and stunning weather. The book was absolutely fabulous for most of the walk with so much detail. The only bit we got caught out on was the short cut on day four which was the least detailed, however combined with the os map for that part no problems were encountered. Thank you so much !!! Definetly would recommend anyone to buy this book prior to the walk!

  2. We completed the Herriot Way over the Easter Bank holiday weekend. What an excellent walk! As seasoned long distance walkers we have been looking for some shorter, yet still challenging, long distance walks and we thoroughly enjoyed this one! The book was brilliant and described every section in detail that, despite walking through quite a lot of snow ( 2 out of the 4 days were in heavy blizzard conditions!) we had no problems navigating as the descriptions in the book were so clear and concise. Although we had the OS map, we used the book as our main source of navigation. Can highly recommend this book and the walk!

  3. My wife and I have just completed The Herriot Way using the Kindle book download and taking four days on the walk
    We started at Aysgarth. The directions and the attention to detail within was outstanding.
    Only had to look at OL30 once!
    The only part we struggled with was actually locating grouse butts 7 and 8 after High Harker Hill. They are very well hidden.
    Day 3 is also hard work if you take the high route through the lead mines from Keld to Reeth.
    We both thoroughly enjoyed the experience and are now planning our second LDW.
    My wife wants to know if you’ll do directions for every other trail?!!
    Thanks and well done on the guide.
    Kevin & Margaret Duncombe

  4. Just wanted to say the book was great. Myself and Julie found we needed only to follow the book and not the OS map.

  5. This walk is an ideal pre-season warm up for a regular long distance walker or in my case an ideal one if your other half isn’t as keen a walker as you are. My wife and I completed it last week and the scenery is truly stunning and the waterfalls, due to recent rain, were in full spate and spectacular. There are ideal lunch stops on all 4 days and plenty of other pubs/tea rooms along the way to keep the missus happy. Stayed at Cornlee guest house at the start, youth hostels at Hawes and Grinton and even a Yurt at Keld which was great. Took a OS map with me but didn’t really need it as guide book is so easy to follow and fits nicely into a jacket pocket. On day 3 we did take the low level route as described in the C2C guidebook as weather was a bit iffy and wanted to visit Muker and Gunnerside where tea and cake is plentiful.

  6. My wife and I have done the Herriot Way twice now, and enjoyed both equally. Your superb guide was invaluable , never went wrong and the information made the walks really interesting. Thanks for the hard work you have put into the guidebook, I can not compliment it highly enough. I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

  7. I did the Herriot Way as my first solo walking trip and could not have done it without this excellent, invaluable book. Not one wrong turn, which for me is a miracle! Contemplating doing the longer Dales Way next. Stuart, have you a similar guide/route for the Dales Way?

  8. It was the end of July 2014. The weather was great: sunshine, dramatic clouds, a few drops of rain one afternoon. The walk was unsurpassable. I promise you I could not have done it without the book. You read ahead 3 or four next stages, then stuff the book in your pocket and forge ahead with confidence, fully trusting the guide, enjoying the scenery, taking pictures of a bird or rock or sheep or barn or grand vista… Until you need to get your bearings again. A rare experience.

  9. This book gave me the confidence to do my first multi day walk, it was so detailed i did’nt use
    my maps at all. Just bought the second book By Stuart The Tributaries Walk, hoping to do it in October.

  10. This book is fantastic and is a’ must have’ for this walk. The book was so easy to follow, keeping us on the right path. While I have no doubt we would have got between the four main points, your book took us along some paths that I don’t think we would have found. At times it felt you were the 5th member of our team!
    For anyone thinking of doing the Herriot way – take this book!
    Many thanks, Chris

  11. Stuart, your book is just fabulous!
    I found it so detailed and with the maps I always felt confident and safe on the Herriot way, especially around those grouse butts where it can be really hard to see any path. I look forward to using it again another time.
    Well done.

  12. I have to pay you a big compliment for your nice book. There’s a lot of work standing behind it and it shows from every page how much you care about the Herriot Way.

  13. Your book is so incredibly detailed, down to the last blade of grass and yet with the maps, you get a complete overview of the walk and only need to look at the text intermittently.

  14. I wanted to say how good we found the book – it really is excellent. The accompanying maps are great and ensured we found our way through the grouse butts on Greets Hill! I cannot speak highly enough of your book. The narrative was excellent with many hidden gems of ‘inside information’. The attention to detail made it an invaluable guide

    Thank you!

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