The Mrs's Dales Diary

This page follows the Dales Way down Upper Wharfedale.  


Upper Wharfedale

Stage 11:  Buckden to Kettlewell

Ninety-nine miles driving for a four-mile walk might strike some as a little lacking in the reward to effort ratio.  Or perhaps as economic madness.  Or as ecologically irresponsible.  However that misses the point.  One of the joys of doing the Dales Way in chunks like this is that the travelling becomes part of the experience and we get to see places and sights of which we would otherwise have remained pretty ignorant.

I don't know which way Snockers would have taken us to Kettlewell, left to her own devices.  I have learned the hard way that you have to give her a fairly detailed briefing if you want to get off the main roads.  So, politely, I asked her if she could kindly guide is via Langcliffe, Malham Tarn and Arncliffe and, just as politely she acceded.

And what a journey!  Langlciffe and Arncliffe are two delightful typical dales villages, both of which cried out for a more serious exploration than we had time for today.  The road over the hills past Malham Tarn provides splendid views of Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-Ghent before running alongside the dramatic Cowside Beck ravine to drop down to Littondale and Arncliffe.  

Ingleborough, Whernside, Pen-y-ghent and Fountains Fell

From here to Kettlewell was not very far in theory but then we discovered that actually they have long miles in this part of the Dales.  Still, eventually we arrived at Kettlewell and parked near the river for £1.50.  D'ye hear that, Dent ????? £1.50 !!!!!!!  Pay (on trust) at the local garage.  And you can see washing from the car park!

Pay the garage man for parking

First Kettlewell washing

The plan was to take the bus up to Buckden but we had an hour to spare so first we broke the cardinal rule of walkers and ate our packed lunch in the car.  Next we went for a little wander round this lovely little village.  

The first thing that struck us was how busy it was quickly followed by how old the people were.

Inevitably Margaret was lured by the galleries but the wallet came out relatively unscathed.  We spotted the Village Hall that had been used for the W.I. meeting in the Calendar Girls film but sadly there was no sign of a naked Helen Mirren, nor for that matter of any other naked ladies.  Helen Mirren, clothed, was however to be found on the cover of various items in the gifty shops.

And did those feet....?

Pretty Kettlewell yard.  Plus more washing!

The bus arrived a few minutes late and presumably this is why the driver decided no prisoners were to be taken as he hurtled our way to Buckden up the narrow valley road, missing cars (some of whom had the sense to pull in their mirrors, sharpish, like) by millimetres,

King of the road

Dales Exhibition in Buckden

Before rejoining the Way, we had a look at the National Trust exhibition by the car park. It excellently describes, in large type and a few short, well illustrated paragraphs, the geological, political and economic history of the Dales.

As a result, as we strolled along the wide flat bottomed Wharfedale, we could learnedly contrast this glacially carved valley with other valleys, narrow and V shaped, that had been shaped by running water.  

Flat bottomed, glacially carved Upper Wharfedale

And also observe how the dissolution of the monasteries had given rise to the field structure and the wealth of individual farmers.  Each enclosure had its own barn that in winter housed the cattle downstairs and the fodder upstairs.  And no doubt served the same magic purpose as the barns in the alps- very different construction but used similarly, agriculturally, and described as magic because very often two people went in and three came out.

Multi purpose barns

Gate, bridge, ash tree and Way

Sadly there was no wildlife to be seen on the river- the nearest to it being a white bag that we stalked thinking it might be a heron.  Quite a contrast to DW10, in the report of which I forgot to mention my race with a heron.  It was playing cat and mouse with me as I cycled up alongside the beck.  It would let me get to about 20 yards away then it would take off again and challenge me to catch as it flew upstream for a hundred yards or so.

Perhaps the dullness of the day had driven the creatures away.  The sun did come out for short periods but it was not the day that we had hoped for when we set out.

It had not driven away the walkers, however.  Again we were taken aback at how we were significantly reducing the average age.  We wondered if we were trespassing, having failed to qualify for the minimum years attained to obtain a valid pass?  Perhaps we ought not have been surprised as firstly it was weekend, secondly we were now in the part of the Dales that is more readily accessible to the large urban conurbations and thirdly the terrain is unchallenging, being fairly level and very easy going.

Halfway along the stage we passed the intriguingly named hamlet of Starbotton but as it was on the other side, did not cross over for exploration.  The bridge however showed signs of an earlier, bigger specimen and and even earlier ford.

Bridge and ford to Starbotton

Team  picture near Starbotton

At the risk of being called a pervert, I must say they have some very pretty sheep round here, with their long curly coats, almost hanging down in ringlets.  As I typed this, I had to stop myself bursting into song and adding "at the dawning of the day!"  John S. will understand if no-one else.

And her hair humg down in ring-a-lets...

Gate Coate Scar above Kettlewell

As we neared Kettlewell we saw the bus once again on the other side of the river, not rushing this time.  He had made up so much time that he had actually left the village ahead of schedule.  There's a warning to us for future stages- the time table is only an approximation and the bus may go early.

Just before the bridge we discovered a massive bramble bush and as Margaret had fortunately put her lippy and make-up in a plastic bag to bring with her, we were able to use it (the bag, not the lippy) to forage for our supper.

Kettlewell bridge

Blackberries for supper

Kettlewell nestles under Gate Cote Scar on one side and, on the other, Great Whernside.  How it has that name is a bit of a mystery as it is not as Great as the other, unadjectively appended, Whernside.  But then it is not that small either, being higher than Pen-y-Ghent.

To go home, we decided to stick to the bigger roads so went south, past the spectacular Kilnsey Crags to Grassington which looked delightful, and then over to Gargrave and the A65.  Next time, we will be more eco-friendly (possibly), demonstrate greater economic sanity (perhaps) and enjoy a greater reward to effort ratio (definitely).  Two longer stages in consecutive days, separated by a night out in Grassington.  Roll on- we are really looking forward to it!

Don, 22nd September 2007

miles with 269 feet of climbing and net descent of 145 feet

Cumulative 63.2 miles



On seeing the above, JPL wrote:


After reading the report re Buckden to Kettlewell, Gill and I visited the area last Thursday (by car not on foot!).

Went to Hawes then straight up through Gayle  -thats going from about 200 ft to just under 2000 in about one mile and half.

Drop down to Langstrothdale on the other sidepicking up the Wharfe almost at its source- great views and then through Starbotton to Kettlewell. Had lunch in the Racehorses Hotel (casseroled Hunny Bunny) and on leaving car park had to brake sharpish to avoid your deranged bus driver as he virtually did a hand brake turn round the corner.  If he had had any passenger in they would have all been on the floor.

Down the road towards Kilnsey then sharp right to Arncliffe then left to Malham. On the hairpin section did you notice the grit bins at each hairpin?  The council workmen were filling them with sand/salt so must be expecting an early winter - swung right at Malham Tarn to Settle --which Gill said she hadn't been to since meeting up with you to pass over the supply of Training Shoes manufactured by Willy Lamb of Bottomboat

It's a brilliant run---bearing in mind that you are no more than 40 miles from the Leeds/Bradford conurbation, you feel as if you are the the only people  in the world---interesting to see that there were a number of strange cattle roaming free -not just the Highland but ones with curving horns --seemed friendly - I swear that if I had had the window open they would have given me a lick

John, 15th October 2007

Stage 12:  Kettlewell to Grassington

5th October 2007

Well, that was not entirely what we expected.  Having spent much of the last three stages accompanying the slowly developing Wharfe, I naively assumed that now we were down into Wharfedale proper where the river is bigger and the valley wide, this section would be another easy saunter.  Far from it.  We saw remarkably little of the river and for much of the time we were out on the moors, which, in parts, seemed nearly as remote as when we came over from Dentdale.

Our original intention was to put two sections together, punctuated by an indulgent night at the Ashfield House Hotel in the centre of Grassington.  However other commitments got in the way so once again we had a non eco-friendly car-to-walk miles ratio (although 50% better than last time out).  However I don't why I got so hung up about this.  It's no worse in reality than in the early stages when the travelling distances were smaller but two cars were involved.  And in financial terms, I suspect it proved rather cheaper than the night away.

We parked at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Centre at Grassington and caught the mid afternoon bus to Kettlewell.  I wanted to take some pictures of Kilnsey Crags as I knew we would not be close to them on the way back.  However the driver had been to the same school as the one on the last stage.  It was rather a challenge as he rattled along so I didn't really get a good snap of the overhanging cliffs.

Kilnsey Crag from the bus

And again!

We alighted at Kettlewell.  Once again there were no naked ladies to greet us, despite the sunny weather. It must have been the slightly chilly breeze that inhibited them.

The Way lost no time in getting away from the river.  Up we went, beyond the church to a footpath that ran parallel the valley but was interrupted with great frequency by stiles and gates in order to pass through the medieval field enclosures and past countless sheep. Margaret wondered how many we had seen so far on the Way?    

Medieval strips

A fine specimen

Eventually this brought us back to the valley road and to Scargill House.  Not Arthur's home but a Christian Centre "exploring and celebrating an inclusive world".  Shortly afterwards, at Highgate Leys Lane, the Way starts to do a serious bit of climbing up towards the moor.  

The climb to the first stop

The sun was shining strongly and the wind was absorbed by a wood so it was hot work and as a result we decided on a two stop strategy.

Once up on the moor, just below Swineber scar, the wind rejoined us.  There were good views, particularly up Wharfedale.

Upper Wharfedale

 However Kilnsey Crag was in shade.

Kilnsey Crag in shade

Coniston Pie

Eventually the intriguingly named "Coniston Pie" came into view, looking initially like a huge barn on the hill side but on closer examination a limestone outcrop and excellent viewpoint, directly opposite Littondale.

Linttondale and upper Wharfedale from Coniston Pie

Beyond Scot Gate Lane and a pleasant little ravine, the Way seems increasingly remote. No sign of the Dale remains and only the extensive stone wall systems remind you that you are not really that far from civilisation.  

Nameless ravine

Lime Kiln

A lonely Margaret

A no longer lonely Margaret

A large lime kiln is passed and eventually the edge of the moor is reached where Grassington comes into view.  We had our second stop before dropping down into Grassington in the late afternoon sun.  

Second stop#

Stone walls in the evening sun

Despite the fine weather, we had hardly seen a soul all afternoon- a marked contrast to the previous section.  Also we had seen no washing.  At a farm just before Grassington, there was a line with pegs glowing in the evening light but it was not until we entered the town itself that we finally managed to get our washing picture!

Grassington Washing!

Methodist Chapel

It is an interesting old place.  The Methodist Chapel has some unusual and attractive paintings over the windows (see above and below).  We had time for a bit of a nosey round the town before reaching the car just as the sun was setting.

Grassington Cottages

Sunset at Car Park

 And then the Friday night, A65 convoy home to Kendal!  Indulgence will have to wait.

Don, 5th October 2007


miles with 787 feet of climbing and net descent of 72 feet

Cumulative 69.8 miles






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The Mrs's Dales Diary

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Upper Wharfedale

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Upper Wharfedale

Stage 11:
Buckden to Kettlewell

Stage 12:
Kettlewell to Grassington



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