Apedale & Pickerstone Ridge

Walk Summary

An extended walk from Castle Bolton to the hidden valley of Apedale via Redmire Scar and Cobscar Mill then returning via Pickerstone Ridge and Bobscar Rake.

Note: There are access issues connecting the public rights of way either side of Redmire Quarry. To avoid this section will result in a lengthy walk up Hargill Lane from Redmire.

Distance: 12.5 miles
Total ascent: 2160ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: Bolton Castle, car park
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

My first and only previous visit to the hidden valley of Apedale was 11 years and 51 weeks ago. On that occasion I'd written that it was an interesting little dale and that I'd like to explore it further. Sometimes it just takes me a long time to go back!

On that previous occasion I'd dropped down into Apedale via Swaledale. As Apedale is actually a side valley of Wensleydale I wanted to find a route from the south instead. In the end I came up with this route. For the most part it is on good paths and tracks but there are access issues around Redmire Quarry. There is also a section of pathless moorland across the top of Pickerstone Ridge that would be best avoided in low cloud.

"As we approached Leathgill Bridge the cloud finally began to lift from Randygill Top. Unfortunately by the time we'd hauled ourselves up the steep path on the other side the cloud had once again dropped."

The walk started from the car park for Bolton Castle in the similarly named village of Castle Bolton. Parking cost a rather hefty £7. For just an extra £1.50 I could also have had entry to Bolton Castle. However, I was starting the walk just before lunchtime and I rightly guessed I wouldn't have time to visit the castle properly at the end of the walk.

From the car park I set off east through the village. I was initially going to walk all the way along East Lane to meet Hargill Lane. However, I instead took a path at the far end of the village heading for Redmire so that I could visit the waterfall of Nelly Force. This proved to be fairly easy to reach from the nearby public footpath but as far as waterfalls go was nothing particularly special.

Just south of Nelly Force I briefly walked east on the embankment of the old Wensleydale railway. Continuing on a thinner path immediately to the north of it I crossed a footbridge over Apedale Beck to reach a road. Turning left I walked a quarter of a mile uphill along the road to reach a staggered junction. To avoid Redmire Quarry it is necessary at this point to continue for another mile and a half up the road before turning off on to Apedale Road.

I however walked a few yards down the minor road on the right to take a thin path climbing to the left. This passed through a large pasture containing almost a hundred sheep. Beyond this the path became very faint as it climbed up to reach a grassy gill. This featured some very modest falls below a larger waterfall over Low Scar.

Just above Low Scar I came to a stile over a fence. Next to the stile was a 'Danger - Stay Out' sign. The right of way does however continue beyond the fence, climbing up to reach a very broad track. This runs between the top of the quarry and Redmire Scar. As can be seen from the map the right of way would have continued heading north-east but an 800ft length of the path has been quarried away.

As the right of way could not be followed I turned right along the broad track. This ran superbly along the top of Redmire Scar with some quite stunning views over Wensleydale and beyond to the lesser valleys of Bishopdale and Waldendale. When I reached the eastern end of the track to join another right of way there were signs up saying no public access. This is a real shame, the track is so wide that it is quite safe and as mentioned the views are quite superb.

It would be great if Redmire Quarry could receive the same treatment as Threshfield Quarry in Wharfedale. Threshfield Quarry is also a disused quarry but rather than putting no access signs up around it signposted permissive paths have been created.

Back to the walk I was now once again on a right of way. Turning north this passed between the disused quarry on the left and the very much still in use quarry to the right. At the end the path crossed over into an area of bracken and young trees. The path became difficult to follow and I had to bash through some bracken to find the stile exiting out on to the moorland.

Rather than continuing along the path I turned north-west to walk alongside the collapsed flue. This led me to the remains of Cobscar Smelt Mill from where I made a brief detour to visit the large chimney above. Returning to the track running below I turned right to follow it for just under a mile to reach the road once again.

With Apedale below me to the left I walked up the road for just under half a mile to reach a cattle grid. Just beyond I left the surfaced road to join a track on the left. Called Apedale Road this track was to be my path for the next three miles.

Dropping down very gradually the track came to a crossroads near a strange corrugated structure next to which was a tiny stone building with a chimney. Just across Apedale Beck to the left were a couple of shooting houses. Meanwhile just before the bridge were the clear foundations of another building. I assumed that these were the Dent's Houses marked on the map.

Continuing up the valley I soon came across old tips, the remains of former mining activity. Perhaps one of the most interesting features of Apedale are the narrow limestone ravines just above the path either side of Jingle Pot Gill. These are, I assume, the result of old quarry workings.

Having had a brief exploration of these I continued up the track to reach Apedale Head. The weather was forecast to get better as the afternoon went on. Instead it had steadily got cloudier as I walked up Apedale. By the time I left the top of the track to follow the fence towards Pickerstone Ridge it had begun to rain.

After a half mile of bog trotting I reached the unmarked 565m 'summit' of Pickerstone Ridge. From Pickerstone Ridge I next made for the top of a track that I'd spotted on the map about a further half mile away to the south west. This was found in an area of tips and grouse butts. Indeed this section of the walk was punctuated by the sound of firing from a grouse shoot near the Greenhaw Hut a mile away to the south-west.

As I followed the track the sun began to break out again and at one point I enjoyed the sight of a half rainbow over Apedale. Eventually the track dropped down to the wall running along Bobscar Rake. Continuing in a generally easterly direction this finally led to the bridleway crossing Black Hill. To finish the walk I passed through the gate on the right for an easy and pleasant descent through a long pasture to reach an enclosed track back into Castle Bolton.

Overall I really enjoyed this walk. Sadly the best section, along the top of Redmire Scar, is an issue in terms of public access. Apedale is an interesting place but I'd hesitate to recommend the walk wholeheartedly. This is not just because of the access issues above Redmire Scar but also because of the mile or so of pathless walking over Pickerstone Ridge. It is the kind of thing I enjoy but is not the kind of walking that is for everyone.

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