The route heads north out of Aysgarth village, down to the River Ure, which it follows closely along wide meadows and a disused railway track until turning into Askrigg. This is the village that was used to film the James Herriot TV series. From Askrigg the route travels down the Wensleydale valley, through lush green fields, down narrow, secluded lanes to the village of Hardraw with its famous waterfall and then into Hawes, the highest market town in Yorkshire.
Leaving Hawes the Way climbs up the side of Great Shunner Fell, the third highest mountain in Yorkshire, following the mostly paved footpath of the Pennine Way, to the summit shelter with wide-ranging views across the surrounding dales and hills and then down into Thwaite. From here the path skirts the lower slopes of Kisdon and then drops down again into the tiny settlement of Keld.
Beyond Keld the path says goodbye to rolling green fells and fields and climbs into the bleak and blasted landscape of Gunnerside Moor, changed forever by the lead mining industry that ranged across the moors for decades. The heather however, remains a glorious site despite the industry and now supports the new “industry” of grouse shooting. The Way soon returns to the valley and the wonderful River Swale at Healaugh, before the short walk through fields into Reeth.
New option for the 4th Edition: From leaving Keld to arriving in Reeth we are never far from the banks of the River Swale and often we are walking hand-in-hand with this iconic river. We drop down through Kisdon Gorge at the head of Swaledale and use paths through the hay meadows to reach Gunnerside. Beyond we cross the Swale and follow riverside paths until we cross again, on Reeth’s wonderful footbridge before arriving in the village itself.
Just beyond Reeth stands the Youth Hostel at Grinton Lodge, sitting right on the edge of the moors and a short hop takes the path into the glorious heather and open moorland around Gibbon Hill and then along the rough but easy Apedale Road. After Dent’s Houses the path drops steeply down to the village of Castle Bolton and the atmospheric remains of the castle. More fields and back lanes lead to the very impressive falls at Aysgarth and then to the village itself.