Route Synopsis

Section 1: Boroughbridge to Thirsk

Distance:                   Approx 16 miles (26 km) 
Height Gain:             300 ft (90 m)          
Walking Time:         6 to 8 hours

Our walk begins beside the River Ure, which we follow until we reach the confluence with the Swale. From here we use riverside paths and quiet lanes to cross the flat expanse of the Vale of York. A lack of suitable footpaths forces us away from the Swale for a while, so we use a tributary, Cod Beck to continue north. Arable field boundaries, farm tracks and some stretches of tarmac are all employed to deliver us to Thirsk.

Section 2: Thirsk to Morton-on-Swale

Distance:                   Approx 12 miles (19 km) 
Height Gain:             300 ft (90 m)          
Walking Time:         5 to 6½ hours

Today we continue beside the picturesque Cod Beck for a while, through woodland and beside field boundaries, avoiding tarmac as much as possible. We cross parkland and walk through small villages before finally being reunited with the River Swale just outside Maunby. A grassy riverside embankment and quiet farm tracks, offering expansive views, bring us to the village of Morton-on-Swale.

Section 3: Morton-on-Swale to Richmond

Distance:                   Approx 15 miles (24 km) 
Height Gain:             900 ft (275 m)        
Walking Time:         6 to 8 hours

A little more up and down than the last two days, today’s walk begins to ease us into the hills of tomorrow. Sticking close to the Swale as much as possible, we use field boundaries and riverside paths for most of the day, only resorting to tarmac for a couple of unavoidable sections. We visit the grave of a man reputed to have lived for 169 years and reach the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales, Richmond; with its towering castle and our first waterfalls of the Swale

Section 4: Richmond to Reeth

Distance:                   Approx 12½ miles (20 km)          
Height Gain:             2300 ft (700 m)      
Walking Time:         6½ to 8 hours

Today’s walk begins beside the Swale with an undulating walk through some lovely woodland, followed by a steep climb, on steps, up to the open moorland on the way into Downholme. Here we can stop for lunch in the Bolton Arms before we head out on one of the finest moorland paths anywhere in the Dales, around the edge of Stainton Moor. We pass another pub, in Grinton, before our arrival in the busy market town of Reeth.

Section 5: Reeth to Keld

Distance:                   Approx 12 miles (19 km) 
Height Gain:             1600 ft (488 m)      
Walking Time:         5½ to 7½ hours

We’re almost close enough to jump into the Swale for the first five miles of today’s walk as we leave Reeth via the “Swing Bridge” and follow riverside paths to Low Houses and Isles Bridge. We climb the side of the valley to visit Smarber Chapel before dropping again into Gunnerside in time for lunch. The afternoon sees us hugging the river again using wide pastures and flood plains to reach the dramatic passage through Kisdon Gorge and the gentle climb up to the tiny, time-locked village of Keld.

Section 6: Keld to Kirkby Stephen

Distance:                   12½ miles (20 km)
Height Gain:             1800 ft (549 m)      
Walking Time:         6 to 8 hours

Leaving Keld we use farm tracks, field paths, old bridges and a short road section to help us achieve our goal of reaching the source of the Swale, in a remote junction of valleys. Another short road section, along the quiet and picturesque B6270, brings us to a moorland path and the long, steady ascent of Nine Standards Rigg, up to the iconic cairns that sit atop it. Here we can soak in the views before beginning the descent into Kirkby Stephen and journey’s end.

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