COLSTERDALE is an intimate little Dales valley squeezed between Wensleydale and Nidderdale and five miles west of Masham. There's no through road and hardly anyone lives there. I would guess that rock climbers and grouse shooters would be the most frequent visitors.

The valley lane is narrow, so to avoid cursing and reversing, take note of the three parking areas, they diminish in size the further you go. We had the place to ourselves so avoided the lead-in from the hamlet of Gollinglith Foot, but this is not a bad three-quarter mile, by the River Burn in part.

Our walking started with a 300-foot climb, a taster of the Slipstone Crags and then we were on Agra Moor Tops and cruising a track through the heather. The business here is grouse shooting on a grand scale.

That's not all though, the views are long and sombre to the western fells, but brighter to the east across the plains to the North York Moors.

After about a mile over the tops, the track takes a twist and a dip and its surface changes. This is now a route that is marked on the Ordnance Survey map, the rest is clear on Google Maps.

Here the butts are round and tufted with heather. The shooting box is hexagonal with leaded lights and heather thatch. We hunkered down behind the more prosaic gamekeepers' hut, chewed our sandwiches and took in the view north to Wensleydale.

A 360 degree viewpoint is from the hillock near the shooting box.

Stage two of the walk is along the divide between the moor and the pasture, again the track is good.

Stage three, the way back across Agra Moor, is rather different, not so smooth but not slow or tricky or invisible.

The moor holds water here which is good for the wildlife. Geese were noisy somewhere and every now and then a few flew over. Curlews trilled beautifully, lapwings did their distracting aerobatics. A wader flew fast and high, circling and calling and it wasn't until it landed that we realised it was a golden plover.

A sharply pointed stone marks a onetime land boundary. These days land ownership is not easy to research, but in the late nineteenth century after the 1872 Return of Owners of Land anyone could easily find out who owned what. It's a fair guess that Agra Moor is part of the Swinton Estate.

The high hills to the southwest probably include Great Whernside, but it's the near rock that is compelling. A long arc of gritstone buttresses named Slipstone Crags offer tricky rock climbs that you can read about on

The crags are of tough stone and similarly the boulders that have rolled down but a length of path is deeply cut by water and you can see how fragile is the sandy subsoil.


When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.

1 Left from parking area with phone box in Gollinglith and along road for half mile. Ignore stone track on right at small parking area.

2 Old metal fieldgate on right near road to grassy path/track uphill.

3 Metal fieldgate to moor and immediately right uphill beside wall.

4 From top wall/wood corner, angle left 50 yards to join good sandy track across the moor. After a mile bends right towards fields then left beside them.

5 Shooting huts, 200 yards, fork right, it's alright to fork left for a slightly shorter route.

6 Left to track beside wall to your right.

7 At fieldgate on right and 50 yards before a ladderstile, dirt track on left. Waymarked post after third of mile. Track watery and rutted in places. Rejoins outward route.

fact file

Distance: Six-and-a-half miles maximum.
General location: The Yorkshire Dales.
Start: Colsterdale.
Right of way: Access land.
Map: Drawn from OS Explorers 30 and 302.
Dogs: Illegal.
Date walked: March 2008.
Road route: From Masham take the A6108
Leyburn road then, still in Masham, a left signed Fearby, Healey and Leighton'. Half a mile after Healey, right turn signed Colsterdale' and dead-end. Then one and half miles to Gollinglith.
Car parking: Various places.
Lavatories: None.
Refreshments: The Black Bull at Fearby.
Tourist and public transport information: Masham TIC 01765 680200.
Terrain: Mostly moor.
Points of interest: Masham market days Wednesday and Saturday.
Difficulty: Easy navigation.

Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.