A super walk starting from Stainforth in Ribblesdale to Feizor via the limestone ridge of Smearsett Scar with a nice riverbank return via Stainforth Force.
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Smearsett Scar is the highest point of a super little limestone ridge between Little Staniforth in Ribblesdale and Austwick at the foot of Crummackdale. It is a superb viewpoint, however my first visit (way back in 2006) was on a very hot and hazy summer’s day and visibility wasn’t great. My second visit was on a glorious wintry day in 2015. The snow covered summit was fantastic, the only problem was that the higher fells were obscured by patchy low cloud.
This then was my chief motivation on going back to Smearsett Scar, to see if it would be third time lucky for long distance views. I also knew it would be a good walk for my friends Sam and Tony who were joining me on this walk and who hadn’t visited Smearsett Scar before.
“Having enjoyed something to eat (sausage and egg sandwich and a pot of tea for me!) we set off on the return leg of our walk. After the shelter afforded by Elaine’s the wind was soon buffeting us again.”
We started from the village of Stainforth which sits just off the main road from Settle to Horton. An underpass from the car park took us under the road and then to a bridge crossing the railway. A little path then led us to the top of the little lane, Dog Hill Brow, dropping down to Stainforth Bridge. Turning left we walked down to the bridge and, leaving the delights of Stainforth Force to the end of the walk, continued up the lane to Little Stainforth.
Crossing over Stainforth Lane we then continued straight on a track leading past an old barn and on to the open hillside. The track soon deteriorated and the upland pastures beneath our feet were quite muddy. Although we hadn’t yet gained that much height there were already tremendous views up the valley towards Pen-y-Ghent.
Upon reaching a brow Smearsett Scar, which had been out of sight since we’d dropped down Dog Hill Brow, suddenly reappeared ahead of us. A shaft of sunlight travelled quickly from Pot Scar to the left to Smearsett Scar and then disappeared. This was the only patch of sunshine we enjoyed on what had turned into an overcast and very windy day.
Descending a short way we crossed a stile over a wall. We then left the main path heading for Feizor to follow the outside of the wall, keeping it on our right, as we made our way to the top of Smearsett Scar. A handily placed stile enabled us to cross an intervening wall. We then continued up to the highest point of the wall then zig-zagged our way up to our left to reach the summit of Smearsett Scar.
At only 363m above sea level it is one of lowest summits in the Yorkshire Dales. It does however have over 100m in prominence and a neat little summit, one of the most compact of any in the Dales. The summit is topped by an Ordnance Survey trig point and a rather dilapidated cairn. Although the skies were very overcast I did finally get the view I’d hoped for. All the famous Three Peaks were present and correct. Also prominent to the east was Fountains Fell. Meanwhile, to the south there was the unmistakeable outline of Pendle Hill. Further to the right there was also the great mass of Bowland moors.
Although it is not marked on the map there is a fine little path traversing much of the limestone ridge ahead of us. Setting off along this the only real obstacle was a small limestone scar less than a quarter of a mile along the path. Whilst I took a path that slanted down below the crag and then across some scattered boulders, Sam and Tony took an easier route around to the north of it. Another handily placed wall stile then led us to the top of Smearsett Scar’s neighbour Pot Scar.
The top of Pot Scar was dominated by a huge sprawling hollow cairn which featured a great view of Ingleborough. Continuing on to the stile in the next wall we looked back for a dramatic view of the sheer limestone cliffs below the summit. Once over this stile the path swung around to the north-west away from the edge. There was some nice limestone pavement along this section made all the more dramatic by the odd tree standing amongst it. Due to the cloudy conditions I’d taken a lot of photos with the dramatic tone setting on my camera. At this point I got one in black and white that I was particularly pleased with – a solitary tree with Pen-y-Ghent in the distance.
After crossing a final stile we dropped down through an area of more scattered trees to reach a track. Turning left a short way we passed through a gate and on to a firmer path. Turning left again we then passed over Feizor Nick and then followed the winding path down into the little hamlet of Feizor. Without doubt the main visitor attraction to Feizor is Elaine’s Tea Rooms. A friendly and very popular café and restaurant we were lucky enough to get a seat.
Having enjoyed something to eat (sausage and egg sandwich and a pot of tea for me!) we set off on the return leg of our walk. After the shelter afforded by Elaine’s the wind was soon buffeting us again. We soon got back into our stride though as we made our way along the path from Feizor to Stackhouse. The path itself wasn’t always clear but, with one minor wrong turn, we eventually dropped down to the woods above Stackhouse.
Following a muddy track down to Stainforth Lane we turned sharp left along the road to pass below Stackhouse. We then took a path on our right down to the river. At the head of the path, alongside a house, keep an eye out for the Stackhouse Weather Forecasting Stone. Arriving at the river at a weir we turned left to head upstream. The following mile and a half back to Stainforth Bridge was largely trouble free with the exception of a bad smell hanging around the area near a mill on the opposite bank.
After passing the mill we came across a couple of waterfalls dropping down into the river. One on the opposite bank was particularly fine. The one on our side of the bank was from a short-lived stream which emerged out of the ground just above the path. The highlight of this part of the walk though was undoubtedly Stainforth Force. This was my fourth visit to this waterfall. On the first occasion in the summer the area was packed with picnickers. The second two times were both during the autumn where it is a popular spot for watching salmon leaping the falls. This time it was just myself, Sam and Tony.
After taking a few photos we then made our way to Stainforth Bridge. Re-crossing the bridge all that was left was to trace our earlier steps back up Dog Hill Brow and the path to the car park. All in all this had been a cracking walk, despite the wind and general lack of sunshine. The Smearsett Scar ridge really is an unsung gem of the Yorkshire Dales – highly recommended!