THERE are two things you should know about Middleham; it is the home of racehorse training in the Dales and it has a fabulous castle! What is less well known is that Middleham is a very attractive cobbled Yorkshire village and the ‘gallops’ have some great views across Lower Wensleydale.

There is some roadside parking in the centre of Middleham. Rather than explore the castle before the walk I tend to head out of the village on to the ‘gallops’ (a two-mile stretch of open land used by the jockeys to exercise their horses). Even on the short climb out of the west end of Middleham before reaching the gallops there is every chance that you will see thoroughbreds heading out. There have been racehorses bred in Middleham for 200 years but it is likely that the Cistercian Monks at nearby Jervaulx Abbey were breeding a long time before. It is part of the past and the future of the area.

Half a mile from the centre of Middleham, a footpath heads right, through a gate and on to the wide expanse of the gallops. As a walker you do tend to feel a little out of place (a bit like footpaths on golf courses) but the views of Lower Wensleydale are exceptional and on a breezy day this part of the walk is invigorating. Having walked on relatively flat ground, a track heads at right angles to the footpath. Turn south and drop steadily down to Tupgill Gardens and Forbidden Corner. The gardens are excellent but it is Forbidden Corner which makes this part of the Dales so popular. A labyrinth of follies, chambers and tunnels make up Forbidden Corner – worth visiting with the children.

The walk carries on south through Tupgill Gardens, turning left at the road at its foot and then soon left in to the little hamlet of Coverham. Coverham has a lovely church and the remains of an abbey (one of the many dissolved by Henry VIII in 1536. All of these abbeys have impressive ruins and worth seeing. From Coverham the path heads east to the River Cover before climbing up to the road. It is a shame that the footpath does not carry on along the river before joining the Six Trails footpath back to Middleham but it is possible to cut back to the river through the access land and join the riverside path in 200 metres.

Whichever route that is taken on the return you will arrive to be greeted by the exceptional site of Middleham Castle (the Windsor of the North). This is my favourite castle in Yorkshire (Richard III thought so too) as it has the right combination of ruggedness, completeness, and situation without being overly repaired. It somehow feels genuine to me and it is easy to picture it during its long and fascinating history. The castle is preserved impressively by English Heritage and offers a wonderful conclusion to this short walk that is packed with interest.

Fact box:

Distance: Roughly 5.5 miles.

Height to Climb: 200m (650 feet)

Start: SE 127877. There is parking in the village, just park considerately.

Difficulty: Easy/Medium. A straightforward walk on easy terrain.

Refreshments: Middleham has a choice of pubs and cafes next to its cobbled streets.

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. Whilst 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.

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