PLAN B it had to be, because the dales' moors were erased by cloud. So we dropped down into Lofthouse, donned our waterproofs and set off for five safe miles, almost every step the Nidderdale Way. We met other walkers: this is a pleasant and popular walk, useful in the winter.

A farmer kindly showed us where to start. Boggy bits slowed us for the first half mile, then we hit the pastures down by the river, connected with the embankment of the disused railway line and picked up speed. We had decided to go down the river first, on account of car parking. Either way there is an inn at each end.

From the map it looks as though the route could be road noisy, but it isn't, certainly at this time of the year. Just the occasional farmer's 4x 4 passed by. You'll see more of the river's dark alder-lined curves than Tarmac as you funnel along the valley.

A little climb brought sight of the top end of Gouthwaite Reservoir and in no time we were sitting on a bench by its reed fringed water, gazing at the ducks, eating our sandwiches and pulling off waterproof trousers.

We had a look at the village of Ramsgill and its Yorke Arms, but this is more Les Routiers than The Inn Way. I stop here when clean. So we left the private green with its red telephone box, fancy horse trough and snowberries - but unfortunately no snow.

The return leg down the other side of the river was mostly on firm track. Buzzards provided the day's treat, three soaring and 'playing'. Well two were, the third was ushered off leaving the pair to nudge each other in the sky and serenade with high-pitched mews.

A hundred starlings did their telepathic synchronised flying and a hundred tons of handsome tan-coloured beef grazed calm and solemn.

The last mile or so is very good for the view, over Lofthouse and to Middlesmoor perched on a hill. Closer by, the route passes some super old farmyards and barns, one has recesses for beehives. Side-streams snake down in gullies.

A shooting party was moving down Blayshaw Gill so we didn't hang around long there, but do look over the bridge as there is a good narrowing of the water, a hint of the strangeness of the rivers. From the next bridge one can see some more sculpted rock, and round the corner the river was dry in this wettest of seasons. How Stean Gorge is five minutes from here.

Back at the car we dumped our messy gear and sampled the snugness of the Crown Hotel.

Fact file

Distance: Five and a half miles.

Time: Three hours.

General location: The Yorkshire Dales.

Start: Lofthouse car park.

Right of way: The complete route is along public rights of way.

Date walked: Saturday, December 7, 2002.

Road Route: Via Masham or Pateley Bridge.

Car parking: Car park in Lofthouse, free. More near How Stean Gorge.

Lavatories: In Lofthouse, by road junction.

Refreshments: Inn in Lofthouse and Ramsgill.

Tourist & public transport Information: Pateley Bridge TIC 01423 711147, closed until April 5, answerphone. Ripon TIC 01765 604625.

Map: Based on OS Explorer 298 Nidderdale.

Terrain: Valley side.

Points of interest: Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Difficulty: Moderate, some muddy patches, some large ladder stiles.

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.


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

1. Farm access drive immediately below car park, 50 yards, squeezer on right, left (skirt any new fencing), squeezer on left, right to path beside wall. Squeezer, squeezer and left to road.

2. Squeezer on right, 11 o'clock across field, squeezer, 11 o'clock for 50 yards, squeezer/wall stile, 1 o'clock for 25 yards then join old railway track bed (stiles).

3. Cross road, gate and right, wall stile, left to grassy path uphill which curves right after 50 yards, 200 yards, angle 11 o'clock.

4. Fieldgate to path below wood, pass close above large house, track, 100 yards, fieldgate on left to track, 100 yards, fork left uphill, 150 yards, fieldgate on right, downhill to corner of cottage, left to path. Ladderstile. Stony track downhill, fieldgate, bridge, straight through farmyard, right in Bouthwaite. (Dog-leg left along tarmac in Bouthwaite for viewbench by reservoir- signed).

5. Left to main road, track on right before bridge, 25 yards, fieldgate to track by house (signed).

6. At sharp left-hand bend, carry straight on to grassy track. Becomes stone track again. Skirt farmyard via stile to path between farmyard and new house on right then 11 o'clock across grass to rejoin track.

7. Pass barn in field to your left, 100 yards, ladderstile/fieldgate, 50 yards, track descends, pass old buildings.

8. Right at tracks T-junction, 200 yards downhill, left between farm buildings. At bridge, right to road.

Click here to view a map of the walk

Updated: 17:16 Friday, December 13, 2002