This is the sweetest little circuit on the northern edge of Leeds, so close to the beating, busy, bustling heart of the big city and yet so far.
Such is the quiet nature of the countryside that it seems improbable that Leeds City Square could be only five miles away as the crow flies.
At this time of year, this is a vibrant green landscape of burgeoning hedgerows, wayside wild flowers and rich pasture. The route is blessed with good paths and waymarking and with fine views westwards to the distant Aire valley. All you need to make this a family walk to remember is a day of blue skies. Good luck!
Bramhope, now one of the most popular – and smartest - commuter villages serving Leeds, has a history pre-dating the Domesday Book. The Conqueror’s exhaustive land survey of 1086 tells us that the manor was held by the Saxon lord, Ulchil, at the time the Normans landed at Hastings in 1066.
By the middle of the 13th century, the Bramhope estate was in monastic hands, being shared between the Abbot of Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds, and St Leonard’s Hospital at York. Records of 1274 show a bitter dispute between the two religious orders over land ownership.
At the Dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, Bramhope reverted to the Crown and was sold to Henry Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, of Skipton Castle, for £2,490, a huge sum for those times. For his money, Clifford also received the adjoining manors of Rawdon and Yeadon.
In 1546, the Cliffords sold off part of Bramhope to the Dyneleys, a family connected with the village for more than 500 years from about 1300 to the middle of the 19th century when the last Dyneley left Bramhope. The family name lives on in the hostelry at the crossroads at the top of Pool Bank.
BRAMHOPE and CRAG HILL
5 ¼ miles: Allow 2 – 3 hours. Map: O/S Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale
Use the free car park (toilets) in Old Lane, Bramhope, which runs up the side of the Fox and Hounds pub in the centre of the village. From the car park, re-enter Old Lane and turn left to the crossroads – Fox and Hounds on your left – and go straight ahead along Eastgate.
Follow this street all the way to emerge in the A660 Leeds-Otley road and turn right along pavement to arrive – eventually – at an optician’s on your right and a fingerpost. Take this path to escape the A660. On emerging in The Poplars, take the path opposite and continue to The Birches and then continue along A660 (pavement) to the mini-roundabout and turn right along The Sycamores.
After 180 yards, turn left through kissing gate and walk along left edge of field for the journey over Breary Marsh (but no marsh!). Go over three fields, then cross the Marsh Beck and go straight on, now along right edge of field.
At field end, enter vehicle track and go straight ahead, the track becoming tarred at Rushes Farm and a pair of semis. This is now Pinfold Lane - press on.
On emerging in road (Otley Old Road), cross over and turn right along pavement and keep going to the Leeds Modernians club house and playing fields. Cross Cookridge Avenue to the last house on your left, enter the road on your right (nameplate: Cookridge Lane) for a couple of yards and turn left at fingerpost.
1 Follow the good grass path for 100 yards or so – stay alert! - to spot a fence/wall corner on your right (bungalow garden to your left) and, here, turn right to a stile within 50 yards. Continue up right edge of field, over a stile, and onward to arrive at a metal gate. Pass to its left to gain a 3-sided fingerpost at a tarred access road at Crag House Farm (farm shop/granary).
To your right – at a dizzy 600ft above sea level! – is the high point of the walk, Crag Hill.
Cross the road half right to a grass track to the left of a vehicle barrier. This path narrows and becomes semi-overgrown, but is always prominent over the ground. When it breaks clear of the vegetation, go straight ahead to arrive in vehicle track with gate to your left and stile ahead.
Cross the stile and press on along left edge of field on a delightful section, soon descending and then passing an air shaft on your left for the Bramhope Tunnel on the Leeds-Harrogate railway.
The Bramhope Tunnel was a tremendous feat of engineering by the builders of the Leeds-Harrogate-Thirsk railway which opened in 1849. The engineers were not only presented with the problem of driving a two-mile-long tunnel to the north of Leeds, but they also had to contend with the River Wharfe, which was eventually spanned by the 21 graceful arches of the Arthington Viaduct.
These mammoth building projects took a heavy toll on the workforce – as a poignant and mainly-forgotten memorial in Otley churchyard testifies. The monument, in Caen stone, remembers the 23 navvies who lost their lives during the construction of the Bramhope Tunnel between 1845 and 1849. The rail line still serves commuters on the Harrogate-Leeds run, but no longer continues to Thirsk.
Go through a rusty metal gate and stride out to enter Otley Old Road. Note: This road can be quite busy and requires care, particularly on the first 100 yards. Turn left along the road, single file and facing the traffic, and taking particular care on the slight righthand bend where – thankfully! - a grass verge opens up for use on your right.
Go past St Helena’s Caravan Park and up the slope with None-Go-Buy farm on your left. Stay on the grass verge at all times. At top of hill, when grass becomes overgrown, switch to left side of road and continue in safety along the verge, passing High Trees Garden Centre.
2 Just past the garden centre, at road sign for Horsforth, turn right across the road to a fingerpost and go through vegetation to enter a field and go down its left edge. At field bottom, cross a footbridge over the Bramhope Beck and go straight ahead along wire fence towards Woodlands Farm.
At a temporary fence barring the way, turn right along it and then go across to a kissing gate with yellow tape. Go straight ahead for 40 yards, past an open stable on your left, and turn first left up to a kissing gate to left of metal gate and then go straight on through kissing gate to enter Moorland Road.
Turn left for a few yards and then sweep right with the road and follow it for a quarter of a mile to a 30 mph road sign on your right and, here, turn right over stone stile. This pleasant path leads over a stile and continues alongside temporary tape fencing to the next stile. Now go straight across field on a well-worn path.
Cross a stile and footbridge and go a quarter left, leaving fence, to the next stile, cross it and then cross the footbridge and the stile ahead (stile broken, so take care). Go diagonally over the field aiming to the left of a prominent stable/shed with two openings.
Go past left edge of stables, over a stile and onwards along a fine path through a “tunnel” of trees. On emerging in vehicle track with barn over your right shoulder, turn left and continue out to Old Lane, Bramhope. Turn right along pavement to the car park and the finish.