Walking: It’s Yorkshire Dales walking at its very best

Simon's Seat from the descent path to Appletreewick.
Simon's Seat from the descent path to Appletreewick.
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This happy, uplifting journey from Burnsall to the heights and wide open spaces of Appletreewick Pasture is outstanding.

This is the true heart of Wharfedale – Yorkshire’s most attractive dale - and the scenery and views are exceptional from the first footfall with the rugged aspects of Simon’s Seat and Burnsall Fell taking pride of place.

Burnsall can trace its history back to the 7th century when a wooden church was established by St Wilfrid of Ripon on the site of the present building to bring Christianity to the pagan-worshipping locals.

Before he built his church, Wilfrid is said to have preached from a rock overlooking the Wharfe, known locally as St Wilfrid’s Pulpit and marked on the O/S maps of today as Wilfrid’s Scar. It is a few hundred yards upriver from the village.

The present St Wilfrid’s Church dates, in part, from the 12th century, but it contains relics - a Norse-Danish font and Viking hog-back tombstones - from an earlier house of worship, one probably used by the original Norse settlers.

Burnsall is linked to the “Dick Whittington of the Dales”, Sir William Craven, who was born into a poor family at nearby Appletreewick in 1548 and who was packed off to London on the back of a cart at the age of 14 to start his apprenticeship with a London cloth merchant.

Craven rose to become Lord Mayor of London in 1610. Despite his lofty status, he never forgot his roots - he founded the grammar school at Burnsall in 1602 (it is sited just below St Wilfrid’s Church) and paid for the restoration of Burnsall Bridge in 1612. His son climbed a few rungs higher up the aristocratic ladder when he was created 1st Earl of Craven by Charles 1, a reward for marrying the king’s widowed sister, the Queen of Bohemia.

PARKING: Park by the roadside in the centre of Burnsall opposite Wharfe View Cafe or, if full, turn left along the road signposted Grassington and park in the vicinity of the church after a couple of hundred yards.



6 ½ miles: Allow 3 – 4 hours. Map: O/S OL2 Yorkshire Dales Southern and Western areas.

From wherever you park in Burnsall, make your way to the Red Lion at Burnsall Bridge, cross the bridge over the Wharfe (road sign: Appletreewick) and, after 80 yards, take the signposted path on your right for the Dales Way, Appletreewick etc and go diagonally over the field with stone toilet block and then two benches on your left.

Continue for half a mile to a footbridge just before the large farm complex at Woodhouse. On crossing footbridge, continue by wall for 30 yards to enter the farm access track and TURN LEFT – do not enter the farm yard - out to the Burnsall-Appletreewick road.

Cross it and take the track opposite (the unmade Kail Lane). As you ascend this fine track, Hartlington Hall appears half hidden in the trees to your left.

The hall was built in 1894 by Col. R.H. Dawson, a member of a well-known Dales dynasty. It rests on the site of the original medieval manor house of the de Hertlington (Hartlington) family whose red lion coat-of-arms lives on in the name of the hotel in Burnsall. Hartlington, now no more than a house or two alongside the Appletreewick road, was once a Saxon village - the farmstead of Heortla’s people.

In the years following the Conquest, the manor came into the hands of the Hertlingtons, who adopted the village name as their own, and who stayed until the end of the 15th century. It was to Hartlington Hall that the boys of Leeds Grammar School were evacuated during the Second World War.

At a fork just beyond Hartlington Hall, take the right (stronger) branch and follow it up to a huge barn complex, Kail Gate Laithe. Go through gate and bear left up the walled track on to Appletreewick Pasture and continue to fingerposts on either side of the track. Ignore fingerpost pointing right for Appletreewick – keep on along vehicle track, through the next gate, and spot the wall corner ahead with fingerpost.

Leave the vehicle track to gain the fingerpost and take the path for New Road and Appletreewick with wall on your right and the rocky summit of Simon’s Seat ahead.

1: Just before end of field – gate just ahead – cross the gated stone-step stile on your right and then go half left to a ladder stile. Do NOT cross it, but turn right down the wall (fingerpost: Appletreewick), over a stone stile and on by the wall.

After 60 yards, cross a stone stile on your left and then go half right, as per fingerpost, gradually closing with a broken wall on your left to arrive at a fingerpost. Go half right, through the broken wall, and down the field to a lone stone gate post and press on to a gate and fingerpost to enter a walled track.

Follow this down to the eastern edge of Appletreewick with the path becoming tarred on the approach to the village – stay alert! At the first house – black garage door on your right – turn left at fingerpost for New Road.

Go straight ahead by garden hedge/fence to a gated stile ahead just to left of a small stone building. Follow a line of stiles over the fields. The third stile can be avoided on its left (pile of rubble). Now go straight ahead towards the summit of Simon’s Seat, descending the field on a good sheep trod, and passing a section of wall on your left. Now spot the next stile in the wall ahead to left of a telegraph pole.

Cross it and go half left to gap in wall and then half left again to the next gap stile. Now turn right to the next gap stile just to the right of an opening in wall and on to the next gap stile. Go half left up the field to a stile (very awkward!) to the right of a large tree (barns visible beyond).

Continue in the same diagonal line up the field aiming for the left side of the barns – the tempting gate which appears to your right, used by many, is not an official right of way. Root out the stile and fingerpost in the wall to left of barns, enter New Road, turn right and march briskly downhill.

At the sharp righthand bend at the first building, turn left along the road for Skyreholme. After 150 yards, turn right (fingerpost: Stangs Lane) into Howarth Farm and take the right fork down to a gate with “No fires” notice.

Pass through and press on along vehicle track which, eventually, descends towards caravans. When the track turns sharp left down to the caravans (parking area), go straight on by wall on your right to cross a stile. Go straight ahead by the fence/wall above the valley of the Fir Beck.

2: When fence on your left dives steeply downhill, go slightly right along a lovely grass sward passing the gable end of a field barn (Stangs Laithe) on your right. There is a cabin down to your left. Go over the brow, descend and take either of the grassy tracks ahead – they soon join up at a wall corner.

Continue by the wall to a stile just before house, enter Stangs Lane and turn left. After about 150 yards, just before a road bridge, turn right (fingerpost: Dales Way, Appletreewick and Burnsall), soon through a gate and then sweeping right across a meadow and passing a plaque to a diver who died in the River Wharfe in 1960.

Press on along the riverside path for a cracking final leg, passing below Appletreewick after half a mile. Keep on with no route-finding problems to regain the farm at Woodhouse.

The 17th-century manor house and farm at Woodhouse are all that remain of a lost village of the Dales established in the early Middle Ages when this area belonged to the priory of Marton-in-Cleveland. Records of 1653 show many houses in the vicinity. Even at the beginning of the 1800s, the dwellings numbered more than a dozen. The manor house was occupied for centuries by the Blands, of whom Admiral Lord Nelson’s maternal grandmother was one, she having been born at Woodhouse manor.

Go through a gated stile to right of a gate, through the farmyard and then bear left along the wall (the link-up with the outward leg). Cross the footbridge and retrace your steps to Burnsall and the finish.