Deep into the far reaches of Nidderdale, at Scar House Reservoir, there was but one other car. I asked the occupants which way they were going round the water. They thought anticlockwise. Using the plughole principle, and being in the Northern Hemisphere, I set of clockwise, for the best I think.

The early 20th century dam is a splendid structure, with ten overflow arches and a castellated valve tower.

A straight third-of-a-mile of sandstone wall holds back a mile or more of water that curls like a bent finger, out of sight.

A seagull skimmed the surface, three ducks pushed out from a skirt of shingle and I moseyed along the tarmac of the access road. Up ahead dark rain clouds brushed the massive Great Whernside, and the adjacent Little Whernside, that at 2000ft is 300ft lower. We are in one of the most impressive parts of the Nidderdale 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'.

After a wet and dry hour I reached Angram, the header dam of the sequence on the River Nidd. Angram is a scaled down version of Scar House, and the reservoir forks to take the Nidd at one side and a mix of becks the other. Yorkshire Water, a landowner to cherish, is planning exciting new routes, an encirclement of Angram and a route tracing the Nidd to its source i.e. up Great Whernside.

Talking of other routes, I had intended an angle up Little Whernside, but a slightly-tweaked leg muscle put me off. However, today's effort has the advantage of requiring but a single short enquiry to a TIC, should you feel the need to confirm that access has not changed. Question: "Am I legally allowed to walk around Scar House Reservoir?" Answer: (cross fingers) "Yes".

After crossing Angram dam we take grass to the Nidderdale Way, a stone track. Now you traverse the lower levels of the great concave slope of Little Whernside and Scar House Reservoir is revealed below. And then you are back for a final dawdle over the dam. Downstream the flanks of Nidderdale curve away.


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

1. From dam, tarmac access road beside reservoir all way to next dam.

2. Right over dam.

3. Right at end of dam, faint path and maintain height. After about 150 yards an old wall -- keep to left of this. Path becomes stony/grassy track. Stile, ladderstile by gateway.

4. Ladderstile/fieldgate and left and immediately stile/fieldgate, uphill on walled track for 100 yards, track on right at sheepfold and back to first dam. Option. From 4, right to a lower level path, signed.

Fact file

Distance: Nearly four miles.

Time: Two hours.

General Location: The Dales, 15 miles west of Ripon.

Start: Scar House Dam.

Right of way: The complete route is along legal and permissive routes.

Date walked: Saturday, August 4, 2001.

Road route: Lofthouse is six miles north of Pateley Bridge on the Nidderdale road. Leave Lofthouse on the Middlesmoor road, immediately bridge and right at Yorkshire Water signs.

Car Parking: Plenty and free.

Lavatories: Car park.

Refreshments: None.

Tourist & Public Transport Information: Grassington TIC 01756 752774.

Map: Based on Ordnance Survey OL 30 Yorkshire Dales Northern & Central areas.

Terrain: Flat, big hills all around.

Points of interest: Reservoirs, superb views. Walkers shelter with swallows.

Difficulty: Moderate/easy.

Dogs: Suitable.

Weather Forecast: Evening Press and recorded forecast 0891 500 418

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

Click here to view a map of the walk