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)
The walk begins in Aysgarth, home to the world-famous waterfalls, and heads immediately north to find the River Ure, which it follows closely through wide meadows and along a disused railway track into the lovely village of Askrigg. Here we find TV’s version of Skeldale House, as well as a shop, tea room and pub. Beyond Askrigg the path climbs gently above the river through lush green fields, down narrow, secluded lanes and eventually into the tiny settlement of Hardraw with its famous waterfall and anther tea room and pub. A final wander through the fields and the path arrives in Hawes, the highest market town in Yorkshire. The town has plenty of accommodation, shops, cafes and pubs – everything a weary walker may need!
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)
Yesterday was mostly flat and eased walkers gently into the Herriot Way. Today is likely to be more challenging with a couple of big climbs, but the path mostly follows the Pennine Way today, so navigation should be fairly simple. The path leaves Hawes and uses field paths to reach the lower slopes of Great Shunner Fell – Yorkshire’s third highest mountain. A good track takes the path upwards and an obvious paved path leads all the way to the summit shelter and views across the whole of Yorkshire, and beyond. A long steady descent, still on obvious paths bring the Way into Thwaite where a tea room and a pub offer refreshments before heading up and around the slopes of Kisdon Hill into the tiny hamlet of Keld, one of the most picturesque settlements in the Dales.
Distance: Approx 11 mls / 18 km
Height Gain: Approx 2,000ft / 610 m
High Point: Melbecks Moor (1,898 ft / 579 m)
After yesterday’s exertions over Shunner the Herriot Way offers a choice of routes to reach Reeth. This traditional route climbs away from Keld using an old miners track, up the glorious Swinner Gill and onto Melbecks Moor. A wide shooting track leads across the moor before the Way drops down through the heather to find the remains of the lead mining buildings at Blakethwaite and a perfect spot for lunch. After another short climb the path soon begins to descend gently, past more ruined buildings from the lead mining days along Old Gang Beck and down to Surrender Bridge. From here the path returns to open pasture land more gentle riverside paths beside the River Swale and into Reeth, the heart of Swaledale.
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)
After yesterday’s exertions over Shunner the Herriot Way offers a choice of routes to reach Reeth. This alternative route is slightly longer but much easier on the legs and involves a lot more ‘greenery’ than the higher route. From Keld the path descends almost immediately to reach the River Swale and passes through the famous Swaledale hay meadows, close beside the river all the way into Gunnerside. Here a choice of tea rooms and pub may provide an early lunch. Beyond Gunnerside the path climbs away from the river for a while, providing some stunning views along the length of the valley and visiting an old ruined chapel. At Isles Bridge the path rejoins the Swale and uses river side paths through lush meadows to reach the famous ‘swing bridge’ outside Reeth. A short hop across the bridge and the pubs, shops and even an ice-cream parlour await in Reeth.
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)
From Reeth we must leave Swaledale and climb across the moors back into Wensleydale. Hay meadows, a riot of colour in early summer, take the path to Grinton and it’s famous Youth Hostel, on the edge of Harkerside Moor. The Herriot Way uses good tracks to gain height gently and then cuts through the heather on Whitaside Moor, past the grouse butts and into Apedale. Another good track leads the Way down the valley to Dent’s Houses, which will provide some shelter in bad weather. The path is back through fields now, passing the impressive ramparts of Bolton Castle and down to Aysgarth Falls. After heavy rain these are an impressive sight and worth spending some time visiting – the Way is almost complete and a short walk through more green pastures is all that separates the Falls from the village and the termination of the Herriot Way.
If you’ve found a mistake in the book, the route notes or the maps then please report it here. You can also report anything you may have spotted along the way that could affect future walkers.