How Stean Gorge

How Stean Gorge & Woodale Moss

Walk Summary

A visit to the remarkable How Stean Gorge combined with a nice ramble up How Stean Beck before heading up on to the bracing moorland height of Woodale Moss.

Distance: 5.5 miles
Total ascent: 960ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: How Stean Gorge car park
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

Time does fly and somewhat surprisingly almost 11 years had gone by since I’d last visited How Stean Gorge, the limestone gorge that is one of the finest natural features in Nidderdale. In truth a visit to the gorge doesn’t in itself take a huge amount of time so I planned a route so that I could revisit the top of Woodale Moss and the nearby trig point on Rain Stang.

Joining me on the walk was my friend Paul. Indeed it was mainly due to Paul being at a loose end for several hours, while his wife attended an art class in Harrogate, that had me thinking about relatively short walks in the local area.

“There followed an adventurous and, if I’m honest, rather nervy walk along the ledge holding on tight to a cable to reach another equally slippery rock staircase which climbed back up to the path.”

Having parked at the visitor car park and paid the required admission price we collected our hard hats and went off to explore the gorge. Almost immediately I noticed a few embellishments since my last visit in some rather bizarre attempt to link the gorge with ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. A pretend wardrobe door led into the gorge while we also came across a Narnian lamp post and a carved wooden Aslan.

These were rather unnecessary additions to what is a quite wonderfully colourful steep sided gorge with the rock worn down into all sorts of smooth shapes. Having viewed the cave entrance (flooded) at the western end of the gorge we descended some very worn and slippery steps to a rocky ledge just above the beck. There followed an adventurous and, if I’m honest, rather nervy walk along the ledge holding on tight to a cable to reach another equally slippery rock staircase which climbed back up to the path.

Doubling back we walked below the bridge and visitor centre to reach a footbridge taking us on to the other side of the gorge where we walked through Tom Taylor’s Cave. Reputedly once the lair of the highwayman Tom Taylor, hard hats and torches are a must. With these safety precautions it is possible to walk through the cave to emerge via Cat Hole on the far side of the car park.

The cave completed are exploration of How Stean Gorge so we left the car park by a grassy path heading away west through a couple of pastures until the path dropped back down to the beck. The next mile or so was a lovely beck side walk which included first Cliff Wood Falls and then How Stean Force. Neither waterfall is marked on the map and though quite modest they are both attractive in their own way.

After visiting How Stean Force we retraced our steps a short way before taking a path climbing up past the ruined farm at Ruscoe and then the still active Intake Farm. Just above the farm we briefly joined the track that heads for the shooting house at Kay Head Allotment. We’d not gone far before we left on another shooting track which climbed up to the enclosed In Moor Lane.

Turning left on In Moor Lane we continued on for just under half a mile before turning right off the track to make our way to the top of Woodale Moss. The summit was marked by a large stake in an area of tussocky moorland. Surrounded as it is by higher moors and fells to the west, north and east, Woodale Moss is a fine viewpoint for the heights of upper Nidderdale.

Turning south-east we carefully crossed the nearby wall before heading for the Rain Stang Hill trig point which is situated on a small moorland rise just six metres lower than the top of Woodale Moss. From the trig point we dropped to a gate and back on to In Moor Lane. Once back on In Moor Lane it was then a nice stroll along the track to Middlesmoor from where it was a simple descent across a couple of fields back to the start.

Considering the relatively short distance we packed a lot into this walk; a gorge, cave, two waterfalls, a moorland top and a trig point. All in all a fine way to spend a few hours!

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