Bishopdale & Stake Fell

Walk Summary

An extended walk from Thoralby walking almost the full length of Bishopdale before returning over the Kidstones Pass and the vast sweep of Stake Fell.

Distance: 14.0 miles
Total ascent: 1960ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: Village hall, Thoralby
Route: Download Route [GPX]

Photo Gallery

Walk Report

With two exceptions, the bridleway climbing up to Floutgate Scar from Newbiggin and the path alongside Bishopdale Beck between Eshington Bridge and Hestholme Bridge, I have barely set foot in Bishopdale. Considering I've been walking regularly in the Dales for over 13 years this is perhaps quite surprising. On the other hand it is a valley that few people seem to head for. Whilst there is quite a network of paths around Thoralby there are few paths further up the valley to help create a good circular walk.

In fact the conclusion I'd come to was that the only real option for a proper exploration of Bishopdale was this extended route almost the entire length of the valley. Without wanting to retrace my steps I plotted a return back over Stake Moss and Stake Fell.

"Apart from a couple of vehicles making use of the byway I saw absolutely no one, it was just me and my new walking stick which I'd named, with a complete lack of originality 'Stick Man'."

A perfect opportunity for trying this walk came with the Tour de Yorkshire which was closing the roads near me for the better part of a day. Knowing, that if I was going to go for a walk it would need to be a long one, I set off to Thoralby for the first time to finally visit Bishopdale.

Although not particularly well signposted there is a small car park around the back of the village hall. It is supposed to be for visitors to the village but I suspect there were a few residents parked there as well as I arrived early and I got the last space in the car park.

From the car park I turned left to head out to the western end of the village. At a fork in the road I took the left hand option, Westfield Lane, which dropped down to Littleburn Bridge. Built in 1814 the inside of the parapet contains a long Latin inscription. According to the Historic England website the inscription commemorates the Duke of Wellington's victories together with a description of the destructive power of water. Presumably the previous bridge had been washed away in a flood.

I continued along Westfield Lane for almost a mile as it gradually deteriorated from a metalled road to a track. At the end of the lane the next stage was not particularly well signposted but eventually I found my way to another track passing Crooksby Barn and Thoralby Barn to reach the access road to the farm at Howeskye.

Between Howeskye and New Farm I crossed a number of quiet sheep pastures. On the opposite side of the dale were the steep flanks of Naughtberry Hill while above me to the right were patches of woodland dotted with limestone scars. By the time I reached New Farm patches of blue sky were beginning to appear overhead and for a while it looked like I was going to enjoy plenty of sunshine.

From New Farm I turned left to reach the road. Turning left a short distance I crossed the road to take a path from Ribba Hall to Myers Garth and up to the farm at Smelter. As the path climbed up above the latter I enjoyed some excellent views back down the length of Bishopdale.

Continuing on I crossed a narrow little gill which looked like it might be interesting to explore on a future occasion. On the other side of the gill the path continued above the intake walls. This section was all the more enjoyable because I suspect very few people ever walk along it.

Eventually I reached the house at Howgill to gain the long driveway that passes Dale Head Farm, crosses Kidstone Beck and finally reaches the road again on Kidstones Bank. Turning left I climbed steadily up the road. Although it is the Country Code to walk on the right hand side of the road towards oncoming traffic I generally stuck to the left where there was a wider verge to escape on to.

At the top of the road I briefly crossed the watershed separating Bishopdale from Wharfedale as I continued below Kidstones Scar and on the flatter section of road called The Causeway. At a bend in the road I took a broad track climbing up between limestone scars. Known as Gilbert Lane this is one of a number of byways that cross the vast expanse of Stake Fell which I was now entering.

There is not a huge amount to say about the next few miles of walking. After the initial ascent it was virtually flat throughout. With the exception of a couple of places where there was a nice view down to the head of Raydale backed by Wether Fell views were largely restricted. On the other hand, apart from a couple of vehicles making use of the byway I saw absolutely no one, it was just me and my new walking stick which I'd named, with a complete lack of originality 'Stick Man'.

Just before the byway began its descent into Cragdale I forked right on to another byway, Busk Lane. Five minutes or so later I in turn left this lane for a much fainter bridleway, passing a cairn overlooking Addlebrough. Another seemingly endless and largely featureless path, it eventually firmed up as it merged into Stake Road.

Eventually the path began to descend and not long after I made a small detour to visit a reed fringed tarn fifty metres or so to the left of the track. After this brief excursion I rejoined Stake Road for a few more minutes before branching right yet again below the minor eminence called Brown-a-Haw. Whilst descending this initially faint path the views of Bishopdale began to open up again, a welcome return after the crossing of Stake Fell.

The faint bridleway eventually brought me to a broad track called Side Lane, turning left on this it was a simple one and half mile stroll back into Thoralby.

Although long I thoroughly enjoyed this walk. Every single step I took was on a path that I'd not trodden before, something that I can rarely say now for a walk in the Yorkshire Dales. It was nice to finally explore Bishopdale and I will probably make use of the path leading up the valley as an approach to Naughtberry Hill in the future.

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