The lower reaches of the Wharfe valley – so handy for the people of Leeds - offer as green and as pleasant an outlook as you will find in many a more remote location.
This circuit is not to be taken lightly as it has one or two steep surprises in store - although they should not really come as a surprise if you begin a walk at the highest point (in this case Almscliff Crag), rush head-long down into the valley and then climb back to the finish. Keep something in the tank for the climbing on the back half.
Almscliff Crag has been a magnet for rock climbers since the earliest days of the sport; indeed, some of the first rock climbs recorded in Britain were pioneered at Almscliff in the 1870s.
The leading light at that time was the great Victorian alpinist W. Cecil Slingsby, of Skipton, who honed his skills at Almscliff before making an impact in the mountaineering world with numerous first ascents in the Alps and Norway.
Since then, Almscliff has taken its rightful place as one of the leading climbing grounds in the country, its brutal, rounded cracks – yes, I’ve ripped my hands on them! - giving it a reputation for difficulty second to none.
Here, at a seemingly-innocuous lump of 60ft-high Yorkshire gritstone, are to be found some of the most difficult rock problems in the country.
ALMSCLIFF CRAG and GRAVELLY HILL
6 miles: Allow 3 – 3 ½ hours. Map: O/S Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale.
Park by the side of the road (Merrybank Lane) at the right-angled bend below Almscliff Crag, taking care not to block any gateways. Do NOT park in the vicinity of Crag Farm.
Set out along Merrybank Lane in a southerly direction for about 50 yards and then turn first left along Crag Lane and stride out with Almscliff Crag on your left and passing Crag Farm on your right.
After about 250 yards, you will encounter stone houses on either side of road. Immediately on passing the house on your right (Cliff House), turn right through a walkers’ gate to the right of a bigger gate (both have mesh fencing) and go down a concrete drive to fingerpost and then go down the field half right.
Cross stile to left of gate and turn left along field edge, over a stile at field bottom, and then straight down the next field (arrow out of line). Go through a gate and on by hedge on your left, through a gate and onward along vehicle track with flagstones, passing a wood.
On arriving at gate across the track with “Warning” notice, cross the stile to your left (to left of a gate) and then turn right along hedge to a stile, cross it and follow the short enclosed path, go over next stile, and through the small farmyard to a stile opposite. Now sweep right with houses and house drive to your right.
Follow the wide green path as it turns left – ignore stile into drive on your right – and keep straight on between wire fence on your left and hedge on your right along a line of small trees. Continue through a wood into road (Crag Lane) and turn left to the A658 Harrogate-Poole road, cross with care and take Woodgate Lane opposite, using the footway.
1: After about 500 yards, just past Weeton Grange on your right and Mill Green on your left, turn right at old box-top footpath sign, through kissing gate and over stile and go straight on along right edge of field. Pass into next field and onward by the hedge. At field end, cross the Leeds-Harrogate railway – STOP! LOOK! LISTEN! - to emerge, once more, in the A658, cross with care and take the path opposite.
Follow the well-worn path up the field, eventually crossing a stile and then go a quarter left towards a house with conservatory. Exit field into a well-worn path at a bend and bear left, soon over a stone stile and continue along enclosed path to enter street (Strait Lane) on edge of Huby.
Cross the street half right to a box-top sign, follow the enclosed path into a narrow field and go straight ahead, over stile, and drop down the field to regain the A658 at fingerpost and turn right along pavement.
After 100 yards, turn left across the road – with care – to a box-top sign, enter field and go up its left edge. Go through a redundant kissing gate at top of field and straight up next field, over stile, and straight on to the next stile. Squeeze through the vegetation, go through a waymarked gate and straight on to pass between a tiny stone building and a pile of rubble and then turn right, past another small building, and along wooden fence to emerge in Wescoe Hill Lane.
Turn right and follow the road to enter Castley Lane and turn right to the A658 and cross it for the fourth and final time!
Turn left along pavement for 40 yards and then turn right into a house drive (Newby Manor) and immediately bear left through a walkers’ gate to left of the main gate (sign on gate: Thieves beware). Now follow the black metal fence on your right to pass to left of all the buildings. When the black fence turns right, go straight across the field to a waymarked gate.
Continue over the field slightly left to close with the hedge on your left and spot the waymarked stile ahead. Cross it and go half right up towards barns on the hill to gain a metal gate with stile to its left (blue arrow) just before the barns.
2: Follow an enclosed path up the slope for a few yards, go through gate and bear right, through next gate, into access road at Gravelly Hill and turn left. Go through a gate across the road (sign for Bogridge Farm) and press on along the farm track with Round Hill to your right and Bogridge Farm appearing down to your front left.
Stay alert! When the farm track sweeps left down to the farm, leave it and turn RIGHT up the grass with a broken wall and a line of telegraph wires on your left. There is a wood (Bailey’s Whins) ahead.
When the wall on your left turns left, turn left with it and climb up to a telegraph pole on skyline. Go through gate at telegraph pole and turn left along wall. On arriving in field corner, turn right along wall. When wall turns left, turn left with it into the next wall corner and turn right and follow the wall all the way, finally bearing left through a waymarked rusty metal gate.
Go past a pond and along the well-trodden path through a gate. Now leave the wall and go straight across the field – just to right of power pole – to gain the far hedge and turn left (blue arrow).
Go down the fields in a straight line – no description needed – to arrive at the almost-dry East Beck. Cross it and the stone stile and continue with ditch on your right for 60 yards and then turn right over a stone stile with yellow tape (awkward!).
Go slightly left up the field towards buildings on skyline to a gate to left of a large tree, passing to right of a telegraph pole. Go through gate (stile to its right) and then go up field half left to a hedge corner (line of telegraph wires to left of hedge corner). Go round the hedge corner and up to a box-top sign to right of a new stone house.
Enter the road (Low Lane) on the edge of Stainburn, turn right and follow the quiet lane for three-quarters of a mile back to your vehicle at Almscliff Crag.