Yorkshire walks - Soak up the joys of a wander in Wensleydale

Bolton Castle makes an impressive start to this circuit of Wensleydale.
Bolton Castle makes an impressive start to this circuit of Wensleydale.
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Here is a top-quality outing through the heart of glorious Wensleydale with spectacular views at every twist and turn.

But beware! Although this circuit stays well clear of the surrounding hills, it is no pushover with plenty of uphill-and-down-dale. Your legs will know all about it at the finish - so keep something in the tank for the back half.

The tiny hamlet of Castle Bolton is completely overshadowed by Bolton Castle, the perfect image of a medieval castle, standing four-square in a commanding position on the northern flank of Wensleydale. The fortress was built between 1378 and 1396 by Richard, 1st Lord Scrope, Chancellor to Richard II, and a member of one of the leading families of the medieval England.

The Scropes held two earldoms and 20 baronetcys and members of the family shaped the future of England in their roles as High Treasurers, Lord Chancellors, Chief Justices, archbishops and bishops.

Bolton Castle gained notoriety for its association with Mary, Queen of Scots, who was imprisoned there for six months from July 1568 to January 1569, a small part of the 19 years of captivity she suffered at the hands of her cousin, Elizabeth of England, before Elizabeth had her put to death beneath the executioner’s axe. Mary lived at the castle in some splendour with 40 retainers.

The castle has only seen one bout of serious action in its 620-year history and that was during the Civil War. It held out for the king in a prolonged siege in 1645. The garrison was reduced to eating its horses before surrendering. In 1647, the arch destroyer, Oliver Cromwell, made the castle untenable and it fell into ruin. The castle is now owned by Lord Bolton, a descendant of the Scropes. Alongside is St Oswald’s Church which pre-dates the castle by 75 years or so.

CASTLE BOLTON AND PRESTON SPRING WOOD

7 miles: Allow 3 – 4 hours. Map: O/S OL30 Yorkshire Dales Northern and Central areas

Use the car park (£3 all day) at Castle Bolton – the car park is situated a few yards west of Bolton Castle. Exit car park along the road by which you entered, go past castle and church, and straight ahead along a dirt access road with village green on your right and cottages on your left.

At end of this dirt road, enter road (East Lane) and bear left along it and follow it for three-quarters of a mile – almost totally traffic free! - to arrive in the Reeth-Redmire road, cross it half left to a gate and fingerpost and stride out along a rarely-used tarred lane.

After about 250 yards, spot a fingerpost ahead pointing leftwards – ignore it! About 20 yards before the fingerpost turn RIGHT down the field (no path) with a broken wall and line of hawthorns to your left.

Walk down through a wide grassy runnel to a wall/fence ahead and spot the stile a few yards to your left at right side of a gate. Continue down left edge of next field and then straight down next field, passing to right of a field barn and left of a power pole. There is a stile in field corner just beyond the barn.

Cross it, descend through wood and cross the Wensleydale Railway (take care!) which finishes just to your right. Redmire Station to your left.

The Wensleydale Railway runs for 22 miles between Northallerton and Redmire and is part of the line built in the 1850s which once ran the length of Wensleydale to join the Settle-Carlisle railway at Garsdale Head. The line closed to passengers in 1954, but continued to carry out limestone and was then used by the Army to transport armoured vehicles from Catterick. Rail enthusiasts succeeded in reinstating passenger services in 2003.

Drop straight down to a stile to left of a corrugated shed and then straight down next field, passing to right of the tree, to a gated stile on the edge of Redmire. Go straight down the vehicle track to emerge at village green. Turn left to the road and take the fingerpost opposite down a short walled track between properties to enter a field and follow wall on your right.

When wall turns right, go straight on through a gap in hedge line and across the next field to gain trees and a broken wall and turn left along the wall and follow it up to the Leyburn-Redmire road.

Turn right for 40 yards to where the road sweeps left at the Redmire nameplate and, here, go off right along access drive and follow it up to a fingerpost on your right just before holiday cabins and go off right.

Go past play area to enter vehicle track and go straight ahead to pass a final building on your left. Just beyond, the vehicle track passes through a stone gateway and descends – don’t! Instead, take the path (arrow) to left of the stone gateway, go through wire fence ahead and straight on over field.

1: Go through a gate and half left across the field towards a barn when you will spot a ladder stile at side of railway. Cross the line at this point (footbridge) and turn right to the next ladder stile.

Cross it, put your back to the stile and go half right up the field – to the right of the barn and a huge tree – on an obvious green path. Go through a gate and on in the same line, across the field corner, to root out an ancient stone gap stile at a section of wooden fencing.

Pass through the stile and turn right and follow the good path which soon goes diagonally up through trees to emerge in a field. Turn right, through gated stile at a gate and half left over next field to another stone gap stile and on in the same line to close with wall to your left at a fingerpost and yet another gap stile.

Enter the Leyburn-Redmire road and turn LEFT, taking great care and walking single file, facing the traffic and using the grass verge for safety whenever possible. After about 500 yards – it feels longer! – turn right along the Catterick Garrison road and continue single file, facing the traffic, uphill for about 400 yards to a prominent fingerpost on your right and, here, turn right for the pleasant journey through Preston Spring Wood. Penhill on right skyline.

The stout path through edge of the wood needs no description. It emerges in a vehicle track – turn left into edge of Preston-under-Scar. Go past bungalows to an immediate fingerpost on your right and take this path through red metal gate.

Start the descent by the wall on your left and then go diagonally right to a ladder stile at field bottom. Cross it and go down left side of next field to enter road, turn right for about 200 yards to a fingerpost on your left and take this path along a green lane. When wall on your right turns right, turn right with it for about 50 yards and then go diagonal left down a cutting to regain our old friend, the railway, and cross it for the third time.

Go through gate on far side of line and half right, passing through a broken wall, to gain a wall corner and continue in same line to a fence and turn LEFT along it, ignoring anything that looks like a stile on your right. At bottom of field, go through a walkers’ gate (yellow tape) just to left of a tiny barn.

Now go half right – tiny barn on right – through a five-barred gate and on in the same line, passing to left of a barn to a gated gap stile at left end of a wall (or bypass it on the left).

2: Continue in same diagonal line, aiming to the right of the large farm (Wood End) on hillside ahead, to gain the field corner below the farm where you will find two gates. Go through righthand gate (arrow) and follow wall on your left and then the hedge/fence to a gate and then go half left over final field to a stile and fingerpost to enter a vehicle track (Wood End Lane) and turn right.

The track soon becomes tarred. Go past St Mary’s Church (on left) to arrive at a fingerpost on your right just before Redmire. Take this path. Go straight up field, passing to left of stables, to a stile at top of field and go straight on to a fence across the path and take the stile to your front left.

Put your back against the stile and go half right across field, aiming to right of a low, ramshackle barn to find a stile, cross it and turn left, through gate, into road in centre of Redmire.

Take the road opposite (sign for Bolton Arms) and follow the road as it sweeps right past the pub to soon arrive at fingerpost on either side of road. Turn left, between houses, over stile and turn left round garden wall and immediately go half right to a stile which pops into view.

Go straight across field, through gap stile and turn right to cross a footbridge over the Apedale Beck. Now go straight ahead on a well-worn grass path with Bolton Castle ahead. On crossing field, the obvious path goes half right up towards the castle.

At top of field, cross the bed of the old Wensleydale Railway half left to a footbridge and fingerpost and then sweep right up the field to gain a bench with a gap stile just beyond. Go through the stile and half left over the next field, aiming just right of the castle, to root out a gated stile and then go straight ahead for the castle to the next gap stile, pass through and turn right (fingerpost) along a wall.

Go through a gap stile, past barns, to emerge in Castle Bolton. Turn left to enter road and follow this to the castle - or use the dirt road of the outward leg just to your right. Pass to right of the castle to the car park and the finish.