Which direction would you recommend walking it in?
Although it may seem illogical, the Swale Way is best walked in an upstream direction, from the end of the river to its source. The beginning of the walk is fairly flat, but will help get your legs in training for the more undulating sections towards the end of the walk. You are also walking towards the stunning scenery of the Yorkshire Dales; something no-one should be made to walk away from, unless you’re planning on joining the Swale Way with the Yoredale Way. Together these two walks form a 160-mile circular walk, but either one can be walked in isolation.
What are the highlights?
Although there is much to be admired in the scenery and history in the sections from Boroughbridge to Richmond, the scenery dial is turned right up to 11 once we enter the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The path into Keld beside the river is particularly special, as is the sight of the cairns that make up the Nine Standards on the final day, into Kirkby Stephen.
What is it you love about this trail?
Although the Swale Way is primarily a low level walk, beside the river, the route passes through a diverse array of scenery and even the relatively modest climbs it makes result in some fantastic vistas. The river of course if the star of the walk and we see it in so many states; from slow meanders to crashing white water as it spills over the many waterfalls along its length.
Any history or background worth mentioning?
It would be hard not to find historical interest in any 77-mile walk in England, but the Swale Way seems to have more than its fair share. Battle sites, castles, country estates, an abbey, many lead mining remains and a White Horse to name just a few. The book covers all these in more detail and offers side trips to any that are not directly on the path.
How challenging is it?
Experienced long distance walkers will not be troubled by any of the stages on the Swale Way. Although a couple of sections are quite long, these days are fairly flat and the hilly sections are generally shorter in length. Navigation is typically fairly simple, using established paths and rights of way wherever possible. The ability to walk for six consecutive days will usually be the biggest shock to the system for someone new to long distance walking.
What’s the accommodation and transport like generally?
Each section finishes in close proximity to accommodation, or to public transport links that can be used to reach accommodation. Most stages finish in a town or village where you will be able to find a B&B, inn or hotel. Public transport links along the route are generally good. Kirkby Stephen at the end of the Way, has a train station and good bus links to get you back home, or you could turn round and follow the Yoredale Way back to the start!
If you could only do one day-walk on the trail which one would it be?
This is quite a subjective question and really depends on your walking preferences. Personally, the section between Reeth and Keld is my favourite; there’s even a bus service that runs between the two. The Swale valley north of Muker is absolutely stunning and as you progress deeper into the gorge, before reaching Keld, the river runs over a series of splendid waterfalls. Walk in the direction of the guide book for the best experience.
If you prefer hills, then the last day into Kirkby Stephen offers an ascent of the iconic Nine Standards Rigg; the peat haggs (bogs) you must cross have now been tamed by flag stones, thanks to the popularity of the route as part of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk.