Swale Way

Swale Way cover - swing bridge outside ReethThe Swale Way is the first book in the Rivers Trilogy.

The 80-mile, six day Swale Way follows the length of the River Swale in North Yorkshire from its confluence with the River Ure near Boroughbridge to its source at the head of Swaledale, where Birkdale Beck and Great Sleddale Beck meet, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is a walk of contrasts – along the way it passes through the historic market towns of Boroughbridge, Thirsk and Richmond with their numerous tourist attractions. It passes famous battle sites and historic parkland; through lush meadows and dramatic gorges and travels the length of Swaledale, considered by many to be the most beautiful of all the Yorkshire Dales.

The Swale Way was originally conceived by John Brock of the Ramblers Association in 1995. The route was then revised by members of the Walkers are Welcome towns of Boroughbridge, Thirsk and Kirkby Stephen. Now a brand new guide book is available, drawing heavily on these original sources. It makes use of new paths that have been opened up by the Open Access legislation and permissive paths from landowners such as the Ministry of Defence, to trace a route through one of Yorkshire’s most iconic landscapes.


By taking advantage of little known paths on the south of the river between Richmond and Keld, the Swale Way manages to avoid the crowds of the Coast to Coast, which also runs through the valley. The views of Swaledale are expansive as the Way climbs away from the river to follow the path around Stainton Moor to Haggs Gill and down through the hay meadows into Grinton and Reeth. From there the Way crosses the suspension bridge and uses quiet paths beside the Swale before crossing back to pass through Gunnerside and the spectacular Kisdon Gorge to reach Keld. From there, a short walk brings the Way to Birkdale and the start of the Swale. Job done; river followed from end to start, the Way climbs to the iconic cairns on Nine Standards Rigg and then drops down into Kirkby Stephen.

The new guide book includes a planning section with accommodation guide, town facilities, advice and guidance. It includes a detailed route guide with walking directions and a set of annotated maps. The book is peppered with items of local and historical interest, helping to add context to the buildings, bridges and villages along the Way.

The other Rivers Trilogy books can be found on this page.

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