The Yoredale Way is a 73-mile, six day long distance walk that follows the course of the River Ure, from its source on the high fells in the Yorkshire Dales National Park above Kirkby Stephen, to the village of Boroughbridge.
The walk starts beside another great river, the Eden, as we leave Kirkby Stephen and climb up to the ridge above the Mallerstang valley to find the source of both the Eden and, more importantly to us, the Ure. The Way then runs through beautiful Wensleydale, one of the most famous of all the Yorkshire Dales and home to the world-renowned cheese of the same name.
An option is provided to climb out of the valley to the site of an old beacon on Penhill, and look down onto the twisting Ure below. We visit the castle of Richard III in Middleham and one of the great brewing centres of northern England in Masham, home to Theakston’s and Black Sheep.
The River Ure
For the majority of the Way, we are never far from the Ure as it winds though woodland and beside wide pastures, quaint villages and the parks of stately homes. In Ripon we find the modern bright lights and grand ecclesiastical architecture, side by side in a bustling city, with the Ure calmly sliding by it all. A final stretch of riverside path brings us to journey’s end in Boroughbridge, where you could turn around and follow the Swale Way back to 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.
Yoredale Way Products
Section 1: Kirkby Stephen to Garsdale Head – High Route
Distance: AppApprox 14 miles (23 km) (via Source)
Height Gain: Approx 2,600 ft (795 m)
Walking Time: 6 to 8 hours
We leave Kirkby Stephen following the River Eden for a short distance to Nateby. From here we climb the pathless slope of High Pike Hill to reach the ridge above Mallerstang. We follow this stunning high path, across High Seat and Hugh Seat to seek out the source of the Ure on Sails Fell. We then follow the young river as it runs downhill towards the valley below. We rejoin the low route near Hell Gill and follow a good path along The High Way and down to our first night’s stop at Garsdale Head.
Section 1: Kirkby Stephen to Garsdale Head – Low Route
Distance: Approx 13 miles (21 km)
Height Gain: Approx 1,800 ft (550 m)
Walking Time: 5½ to 7 hours
We leave Kirkby Stephen following the River Eden, through Nateby and out into the splendour of the Mallerstang Valley. We pass fortified manor houses and old castles, entwined with ancient legends, before climbing up the lower slopes of the Mallerstang ridge, home to the source of the Rivers Ure and Eden. An airy walk along a lofty plateau provide great views down into the valley before reaching Hell Gill, also steeped in myth. The high route joins us here and together we follow a good path along The High Way and down to our first night’s stop at Garsdale Head.
Section 2: Garsdale Head to Askrigg
Distance: Approx 12 miles (19 km)
Height Gain: Approx 900 ft (275 m)
Walking Time: 5 to 7 hours
Today we enter Upper Wensleydale proper; initially through rough sheep pasture, following the Ure as best we can before dropping down to cross the main road in the valley and pick up a riverside path into Hawes, the highest market town in England. In the afternoon, we cross to the other side of the Ure and use hay meadows bright with flowers in the summer, quiet tracks and a disused railway line to make our way to Askrigg, famous for its James Herriot connections.
Section 3: Askrigg to Middleham
The first half of today’s walk is shared by both the high and low routes into Middleham. We leave Askrigg and continue to use the old railway line that served Wensleydale, before leaving it in favour of a path that hugs the Ure, through sheep pastures and hay meadows. At Aysgarth we find white water in the Falls and a little further on we make a decision; high or low.
Distance: Approx 15 miles (24 km) (via Penhill)
Height Gain: Approx 1800 ft (550 m)
Walking Time: 6½ to 8½ hours
An ascent to the old beacon on Penhill is rewarded with incredible views up and down the valley. After walking along the edge of Penhill, we begin a gentle descent across the horse racing gallops on the moors above Middleham, into the village where we find the castle of the young Richard III.
Distance: Approx 14 miles (23 km) (via River Ure)
Height Gain: Approx 800 ft (245 m)
Walking Time: 5½ to 7½ hours
The path through the valley, beside the river is splendid and we see aspects of the river not evident anywhere else. The river looks remote and rugged, yet our path is easily navigable and safe in even the worst weather. We visit shady woods and pass the village of Wensley, the place that gave the valley its name, before arriving in Middleham, famous for its castle and its association with race horses.
Section 4: Middleham to Masham
Distance: Approx 11 miles (18 km)
Height Gain: Approx 600 ft (180 m)
Walking Time: 4 to 5½ hours
We leave Wensleydale behind today, following the Ure through lush pastures and rich farmland, shady woodland and historic parkland. We start beside the River Cover before joining the Ure again to discover historic Jervaulx Abbey. Riverside paths are in short supply and there are many wide meanders, so we use side tracks and get occasional brushes with the Ure until we step out of High Mains Farm and rejoin it in some style, all the way into the Yorkshire brewing hotspot of Masham.
Section 5: Masham to Ripon
Distance: Approx 13 miles (21 km)
Height Gain: Approx 700 ft (215 m)
Walking Time: 5 to 7 hours
Unlike yesterday, we spend a good part of today with sight of, or within a stones-throw of the river. We enjoy lovely riverside paths all the way to Hackfall Woods where the river becomes a sideshow compared to the lovely woodland. A spot of lunch in West Tanfield is followed by more riverside paths, at least until they run out. We then continue along quite farm tracks and little used tarmac lanes to meet the river again for the last couple of miles into Ripon.
Section 6: Ripon to Boroughbridge
Distance: Approx 8 miles (13 km)
Height Gain: Approx 100 ft (30 m)
Walking Time: 3 to 4 hours
A short final section into the historic market town of Boroughbridge begins beside the Ripon Canal, a worthy stand-in for the Ure which is mostly inaccessible to walkers at this point. As soon as we can we are reunited though and today’s riverside paths are some of the best, with views to a historic country estate and more wonderful woodland. The lack of a bridge means we have to finish through the quiet village of Roecliffe and a visit to the ancient standing stones of the Devil’s Arrows, before arriving at journey’s end.
These are some of the most frequently asked questions about this walk, with answers.
There are a couple of reasons to walk the Yoredale Way from Kirkby Stephen to Boroughbridge rather than the other way round. Firstly, this way we are walking downstream which means we are generally walking downhill, once we’ve climbed up to the source of course. There’s something special about finding the first trickles of a river and watching it grow to become one of the major English watercourses. The second reason is to be able to link it to the Swale Way, should you wish to. Taken together, these two walks form a 150-mile circular walk, but either one can be walked in isolation.
The River Ure runs through some splendid scenery, especially in Wensleydale and passes some wonderful ancient buildings, like Middleham Castle and Ripon Cathedral, but the highlight of the Yoredale Way has to be the river itself. It is a river of many moods; wide and slow in places with deep pools, much loved by anglers, it can be a raging torrent as it crashes over the series of limestone steps that form Aysgarth Falls and harnessed and tamed in other places to provide power to water mills.
The Ure has always been an important northern river and it’s inevitable that places and items of historical interest will be found along its length. If you enjoy historical buildings then there are the castles at Bolton Castle, Middleham, Lammerside and Pendragon, then there are the ruins of Jervaulx Abbey, and Ripon Cathedral is one of the most important Christian structures anywhere in England. Going back even further in history, the Devil’s Arrows are a series of standing stones, located outside Boroughbridge, which can be dated back to the late Neolithic period. Old bridges, important country houses and a range of other point of interest can be discovered on the Yoredale Way.
Experienced long distance walkers will not be troubled by any of the stages on the Yoredale Way. Although a couple of sections are quite long and can include a reasonable amount of height gain as we climb up to find the source for example, or the ascent of Penhill to visit the old signal beacon, these are not difficult or arduous days. Navigation is typically fairly simple, using established paths and rights of way wherever possible and low level alternatives are provided for the high routes where route-finding could be tricky in bad weather. The ability to walk for six consecutive days will usually be the biggest shock to the system for someone new to long distance walking.
Each section finishes in close proximity to accommodation, or to public transport links that can be used to reach additional accommodation. Each stage finishes in a village or settlement 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 start of the Way, has a train station and Boroughbridge has good bus links to get you back home from the end, or you could turn round and follow the Swale Way back to the start!
This is quite a subjective question and really depends on your walking preferences. Personally, the section between Askrigg and Middleham, via the high route up and over Penhill is my favourite. The climb is quite modest but the rewarding views of Wensleydale more than compensate for the effort. The descent across the High and Low Moors of Middleham into the village with its hugely impressive Royal castle is one of the best afternoon’s walking anywhere in the country.
If you prefer lower level walking, with an option for a pub lunch, then the walk from Garsdale Head to Askrigg will be more to your taste. About half way along the section we visit Hawes and a wide choice of options for lunch. For “A Grand Day Out” you can even visit the Wensleydale Creamery, for some “crackin’ cheese”. The route follows the Ure quite closely for much of the day.