THE A65 may be the obvious way to travel between Gargrave and Skipton (the Gateway to the Dales) but to each side and out of view and earshot lies some fascinating countryside. The flanks of Sharp Haw offer some great views while the towpath on the Leeds Liverpool canal is delightful.

There is a small carpark in Gargrave near the canal. Cross the river, turn immediately right and join the Eshton Road, complete with a welcome pavement. The road passes through farmland with the eye drawn to an impressive building to the left. This is Eshton Hall, a fine country house perched on the hillside with sweeping gardens leading down to the road. It has now (sadly) been converted in to apartments but the views are still very impressive.

About 100 metres after the road crosses Eshton Beck, a footpath leads off to the right in to the lands of another old country house, Flasby Hall. The path passes through farmland before a short climb and descent brings you to the small settlement of Flasby. It is an attractive little hamlet, primarily famous for the discovery of an iron age sword but also for a famous resident of the past, one Fred Trueman, the famous Yorkshire cricketer. On entering the hamlet just next to the hall gates cross the river and turn right after 50 metres on a track leading through a farm. The track climbs for 200 metres before bending south east, past some more farm buildings, through two gates and into some woodland. When the rhododendrons are out this is glorious, a passage through a fiesta of colour.

The next stage of the walk follows a wide forest track which has improved immeasurably over the last few years. Five years ago it was a desolate landscape of half cut conifers but now the new growth is starting to come through. The views over Airdale to the west are impressive with Pendle Hill clearly seen in the distance. The higher ground to the left is Sharp Haw, a fell of over 1,000 feet, the distinctive shape of which is a feature of the views from Skipton.

After one mile, the forest track bends to the left and 200 metres later sharply north. Take the path through a stile in the wall and head across open fields in an east and then south east direction. Some buildings appear after ½ a mile, this is Tarn House. Turn left on to the road and head downhill to Stirton, turn right and in to Thorlby. Carry on the right fork till you come to the A65.

Cross the A65 and follow the footpath to the canal and a small bridge. Cross the bridge and turn right on to the tow path which continues for two miles back to Gargrave. The walking alongside the canal is very pleasant. This is part of the 127-mile-long Leeds Liverpool canal so there are usually boats on the water which I always find interesting. There is often people trying to negotiate the Gargrave lock which can be quite amusing. Surely there is no more relaxing holiday than a canal boat cruise… except perhaps a walking holiday!

Fact Box:

Distance: Roughly 9 miles.

Height to climb: 220m (720 feet)

Start: SD 932543. There is some free parking near the canal (behind the Dalesman café).

Difficulty: Medium. The fields near Flasby and Tarn House are a little rough and the path is indistinct in places but the remainder of the walk is easy on good paths, tracks or quiet roads.

Refreshments: There are three pubs in Gargrave and the excellent Dalesman cafe.

Be Prepared: The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map (O/S Explorer OL26) and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass. You must also wear the correct clothing and footwear for the outdoors. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers head out at their own risk.

Please observe the Countryside Code and park sensibly.

Jonathan Smith runs Where2walk, a walking company in the Yorkshire Dales:

• Jonathan has written his own book, the “Dales 30” which describes the highest mountains in the Dales

• He also runs 1 Day Navigation Courses for Beginners and Intermediates

• Join his Learn a Skill, Climb a Hill Weekend (one in June, one in October)

To find out more details on any of the above and details of many more walks in the area visit his popular website: