Walk 2822 - Aysgarth & Castle Bolton From Askrigg
Walk Route Description
A circuit of mid-Wensleydale, starting from Askrigg and taking in all three waterfalls at Aysgarth en route to Castle Bolton. The Dales village of Askrigg will be familiar to many (older ?) viewers as the fictitious town of Darrowby from the BBC TV series "All Creatures Great And Small", adapted from the James Herriot books. A pleasant riverside walk alongside the River Ure from Askrigg leads to Aysgarth and its renowned series of waterfalls. A popular and well documented route is then followed to the imposing remains of the castle at Castle Bolton. The return is via ancient routes on the slopes of Carperby Moor.
I did this walk in mid January 2007. The day was bright but with blustery showers. In the preceding 3 - 4 weeks it is fair to say there had been a significant amount of rainfall in these parts. This led to extensive flooding of the fields near the River Ure and generally very soft ground throughout, making for hard going. The going will be firmer and easier during a normal summer, but, the falls at Aysgarth will not be so spectacular. A much shorter variant of this walk starting from Aysgarth, taking in the falls and Castle Bolton before returning via the village of Carpeby is documented in a number of walking guide books and also on display boards at Aysgarth National Park Centre.
There is space for about 10 cars on the cobbles outside St Oswalds Church in Askrigg. On a Sunday (or any other day when a service is being held), out of courtesy, please use an alternative car park (space for about 15 cars) just to the East of the village centre. With your back to the church, and looking across the square towards the Post Office-cum-General Store, the imposing town house immediately to the right of the Post Office will be familiar to many a television viewer as Skeldale House - the Vet's Surgery of Siegfried Farnon, James Herriot and Tristan Farnon from BBC's "All Creatures Great And Small".
From the village square, there are a number of routes to lead down to the banks of the River Ure and it doesn't much matter which of the options you choose. For what it is worth, I took the alleyway at the side of "Skeldale House" then, after about 125m, took the left hand of the two marked footpaths heading out to the minor road of Low Gate. Cross Low Gate and take the lane opposite, passing Thwaite Holme before arriving at a junction with 3 footpaths and the dismantled Wensleydale railway line just North of a building known as Nappa Mill.
From this junction, take the middle of the three paths to head (initially) slightly South of East on a path that tracks alongside the old railway. About 1km after setting out on this path, cross to the Southern side of the old railway bed and continue heading generally South East on a path next to the River Ure. On the day I did this walk, this section was extensively flooded but the floodwater could always be safely navigated around. On arriving at a supposed ford across the river (Grid Ref. SD 995889), with a small car park on the far bank, turn sharp left away from the river then almost immediately right on a signed footpath.
Depending on the state of the river, before having to follow the path on it's detour around Bear Park, the thundering water of High Force can be heard, even though it is still some 700+m away. The path soon leads you in to the picnic area at Aysgarth's High Force - as good a place as any to rest a while. For many, this is the most spectacular of Aysgarth's three falls. It is certainly the widest of the three.
On reaching the road crossing at Yore Bridge, for safety and convenience, leave the road and follow the secure, well made footpath to the National Park Visitor Centre, located in the old Aysgarth Station. There are toilets and café facilities here for anybody who wants them. From the visitor centre, follow the signs to the Middle and Lower falls. Although a viewing platform has been created at the Middle Falls, they are the most secluded of the three but also the ones offering the picture postcard view with Askrigg Church on the hill in the background. At the Lower Falls, attempts have been made to introduce a one way loop. In January it may not particularly matter which way you go, but in the busy tourist season, in the interest of the safety of others, please follow the requested route.
On returning back to the main path from the Lower Falls, turn right (as if heading back to descend to the river again) then at the prominent finger post sign, bear left on the path signed to Castle Bolton and Redmire. After leaving the woodland, this path crosses meadows, passes Hollins House, then climbs to a junction with another track (shown as a RUPP on OS Maps) at grid ref SE024898. Turn right along the track, which soon becomes Thoresby Lane prior to arriving at the hamlet of Low Thoresby. About 100m North of the hamlet, the lane bends sharp right. At this point take the waymarked footpath to the left (North) to head towards the imposing sight of Castle Bolton.
When this path emerges on to the road, there are three options. One is to take the minor road slightly off to the left. Alternatively, going either left or right for less than 200m will lead to paths heading North again. All three options lead to the next point of interest in the walk - the castle ruins at Castle Bolton. To the North of the castle is the second St Oswalds church of the route. For those in need of a comfort break, there are public toilets in the castle car park. After passing through a gate at the end of the road by the castle car park, the very obvious track ahead is the one we follow. The alternative, less obvious footpath signed to Aysgarth, is the one followed by anybody doing the shorter route from Aysgarth.
The track we are following climbs very gently on the slopes of Carperby Moor and offers extensive views over Wensleydale. On the day I did this walk, it was along this stretch where the wind picked up and the evil looking clouds that I had been watching for some time as they dumped snow over Cumbria whilst I enjoyed the winter sun in Yorkshire decided that they would come and drop their remains in Wensleydale. Although not high altitude by even UK fellwalking standards, there is very little shelter on this section.
The path loops round above Ponderledge Scar overlooking the village of Caperby. A while later it then passes between a disused lead mine and a woodland on Haw Bank. At the path junction just above Woodhall, bear left then right to take the bridle path signed to Newbiggin. This path climbs steadily throughout until arriving at a disused quarry. Here, leave the more obvious path and take the footpath signed to Askrigg, descending Stony Bank to emerge on to a minor road. Turn left along the road for the short walk back through Askrigg to the car.