Walk: Charming route through four delightful villages

A map of the route. Walk courtesy of The Walking Englishman
A map of the route. Walk courtesy of The Walking Englishman

The Nidderdale countryside north of Harrogate is beautiful. The valley is at a transition point in the area around Ripley, Hampsthwaite and Birstwith. Upstream to the source of the river the valley narrows with prominent moors above the hillsides north of Pateley Bridge and thereafter the valley widens as the river passes Summerbridge, Dacre Banks and Darley. Downstream there is the drama of Nidd Gorge followed by a meandering course towards its end when it flows into the River Ouse at Nun Monkton.

The walk does not start by the river but a half mile north at the village cross in the historic village of Ripley. The village is most known for its castle which has been the home of the Ingleby family since the 14th century.

Set off from the village cross and amble out of Ripley along the Nidderdale Way by way of the Hollybank Lane footpath running alongside the south side of the castle grounds on a course west towards Clint.

After precisely one mile of walking on Hollybank Lane, the last short section through Hollybank Wood, turn left and downhill on a bridleway leading away from the Nidderdale Way. The bridleway leads down on a hedged track between fields towards the river at Hampsthwaite Bridge.

Follow the road from Hampsthwaite Bridge which leads directly into the village. Now a quiet satellite village, Hampsthwaite was historically an important place. In 1304, Edward I, Hammer of the Scots granted a charter to Hampsthwaite to hold an annual market and fair on the Feast of St Thomas the Martyr.

From Hampsthwaite, continue along the side of the Birstwith road for a short distance before tracking on a path across a field to the riverside, which you follow upstream towards Birstwith village.

Not long after reaching the river, you arrive on the outskirts of Birstwith and are faced by the extraordinary beautiful setting of Birstwith Church.

Continue along the river upstream to New Bridge, where you leave the side of the river. It is only half a mile on the Nidderdale Way, which you rejoin before Hampsthwaite Bridge by bypassing the road section to Clint, but it is one of the best riverside sections of the entire Nidderdale Way.

Walk across New Bridge and away from the Nidderdale Valley by climbing the northern slopes of the dale to Catstone Wood, past Dinmore House and towards the village of Burnt Yates, After Catstone Wood and as you gain further height the views begin to open out. Look back to the river and over to the village of Darley, upstream of the river to the area of Dacre Banks and Summerbridge, and high to the south west beyond Darley to the highest point of Cote Hill trying to spot the golf balls of Menwith Hill.

After an unnoticeable 100 metres of climbing on paths alongside and across fields to Burnt Yates, you arrive in the village. Head across more fields, leading to Pye Lane which links Birstwith, Clint and Burnt Yates to the village of Shaw Mills.

Immediately cross the road to follow a couple more field sides to the farm at Hill Top, from where you follow the road to Bedlam, a small hamlet of a row of terraced houses and a couple of farms.

Cross it for a second time and follow paths across fields and down towards Ripley.