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.
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)
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)
Distance: Approx 11 mls / 18 km
Height Gain: Approx 2,000ft / 610 m
High Point: Melbecks Moor (1,898 ft / 579 m)
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)
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)
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.
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!
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